‘It was the first time I’d sat on a bike that actually fitted me’
Sometimes, from unlikely origins, great bikes are born. The Gold Wing, for example, was actually launched in 1975 as a superbike. While BMW’S first GS, the R80G/S of 1980, originally drew more than its fair share of ridicule and confusion.
And while not quite in the same league as those two, Triumph’s ‘junior’ Tiger, the 800, which became the first three-cylinder, middleweight ‘adventure’ bike when spawned from the 675 Street Triple in 2010, is still hugely significant. Versatile, affordable, long-legged and characterful, the Tiger 800 is not just effective and useful, its sales success has made it a mainstay of Triumph’s range, inspired a host of spin-offs and garnered a legion of loyal followers.
Reader Matt Hubbard is one of them. “I owned a Street Triple for three years and fancied a change,” he told MCN. “Then I sat on a Tiger 800 at Motorcycle Live and it fitted me perfectly. I haven’t looked back. I commute 100 miles a day and absolutely love it. ”
Triumph’s masterstroke was in taking the already brilliant 675cc three-cylinder engine from the Street Triple and beefing it up with a longer stroke to both take capacity up to 799cc but more importantly bolster its low and middle reaches to create a flexible, seamless, idiot-proof gem of a motor.
That, combined with a typically fine-handling Triumph chassis, great proportions and all-day comfortable ergonomics plus ‘on-trend’ adventure bike looks, all added up to something of a ‘no-brainer’ of a motorcycle. The cherry on top was, if you actually wanted credible off-road ability from your Triumph 800, you could have that, too, via an ‘XC’ (for ‘CrossCountry’) version with off-road wire wheels, longer travel suspension and more. In short, with the Tiger 800, you really could have your cake and eat it.
It’s perhaps no wonder, then, that Triumph’s first 800 had such wide appeal and was such a huge success. The road (‘XR’) version was affordable, a doddle to ride and versatile. The XC was a credible, off-road capable adventure bike but not as expensive nor cumbersome as many 1000cc+ rivals. Whether you were fairly inexperienced and wanted a ‘first big bike’, needed a more manageable adventure machine or simply an all-rounder with the bonus of that cracking three-cylinder engine, the Tiger 800 could be the bike for you.
Perhaps even more impressive, though, is how the Tiger 800 has remained virtually unchallenged ever since. BMW’S F800 twin can’t match the thrill of the Triumph triple; others, such as the Kawasaki Versys and Suzuki V-strom, while great bikes, are also distinctly more basic.
To help keep the Tiger on top, Triumph comprehensively updated it in 2015 with the addition of not only a new electronics package including riding modes and traction control but also a more fuel efficient engine, enhanced ergonomics and yet more equipment and options.
In fact there are now so many options, through an alphabet soup of six different road and off-road orientated variants, this is, today, the only real criticism of the Tiger 800: it’s now more difficult than ever to explain to non-owners exactly which model is which.
But that’s nit-picking. The 800 remains one of the best all-round bikes you can buy as reader Marc Ryan who bought one just six months
ago is another of them says: “I used to ride bikes through the 80s but got torpedoed by medical problems. It was 21 years before I got on a bike again then went to a bike shop for something and sat on a Tiger 800. It was the first time I'd ever sat on a bike that actually fitted me.
“I didn't want to get off. It took me five years but I now have my Tiger. Ambition achieved. I haven't been on any huge trips yet, but that's the plan for next summer.”
The Tiger 800 has that effect on people. Lots of them.
‘I absolutely love it. No other bike would be better’ MATT HUBBARD, MCN READER AND TRIUMPH TIGER 800 OWNER
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