NEW TRIUMPH TIGER 800
Triumph’s Tiger 800 has always been a brilliant road bike, but multiple updates to the third generation model focus on off-tarmac ability. Have they worked?
Editor Wilson heads for Morocco and the first ride of the new Tiger 800.
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE a cold, wet, dark ride on slimy roads, with the additional hazards of crazy drivers, loose livestock and suicidal pedestrians to make you appreciate the qualities of the motorcycle that you are riding. And right now there aren’t many bikes I’d rather be on than a Triumph Tiger 800. It’s getting dark after a long day’s ride and our train of six bikes snakes along the slippery roads that wriggle, up, down and all around as we head back to base. Despite the conditions we’re making decent progress because the Tiger’s neutral handling, silky power delivery, slick gearbox, progressive brakes and easy to read TFT dash panel make it a doddle to ride smoothly. You just focus on the next problem, be it sheep, dog, puddle, mudslide, unlit truck or meandering pedestrian and the bike does what’s required. And on this range-topping XCA model I’ve got the benefit of quality long-travel suspension, a 21-inch front wheel and Bridgestone Battlewing tyres, so that it soaks up the road surface ripples and copes easily with the pot holes. Which is handy, because there are lots of them. As the temperature dips down towards freezing (it’s been snowing too) I’m grateful for the electrically heated seat and grips, and the adjustable screen too. The only weird thing is that we’re not in Wales or the Lake District as we splash through the puddles, negotiate hairpin bends, big climbs, steep descents and stray sheep. This is Morocco. Surely it’s not meant to be like this? Triumph’s base for the Tiger 800 launch event is Ouazgita, near to Lalla Takerkoust, south west of Marrakech. It’s a proper adventure environment, with huge open landscapes and Arabic road signs. The locals are wrapped up against the cold in ankle
‘You make a lot of small changes, but when you put them together they make a big difference’
length hooded cloaks, looking like Obi-wan Kenobi. There are lots of bikes on the road, but they’re all old Mobylettes or Chinesemade Honda Cub clones. And their lights don’t work. We’re in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and the peaks are dusted in snow. Triumph launched the Tiger 800 in 2010 and it got a significant update in 2014. They’ve sold 68,000 worldwide – it’s a well-loved model, with sweet handing, a great engine and real usability. But despite the presence in the range of an XC version with a 21-inch front wheel and longer travel suspension it’s always been a great road bike, rather than a go-anywhere adventurer. A critical part of the brief for this update is to improve its off-road capability. So the 2018 bikes have 200 changes, among them a lower first gear to improve off-road control, and lighter primary drive gears to reduce inertia and help the engine spin up more easily. There’s a new exhaust system that’s lighter, more compact, better sounding and more free breathing to help the engine turn quicker too. The electrical system is all new, from the backlit switchgear to the engine tuning maps, to the riding modes, to the LED lighting to the TFT instrument display (though not all this equipment is standard across the range). There are changes to suspension, brakes and ergonomics too. So although the frame, geometry and architecture are the same, this is a comprehensive update. And it’s really worked. ‘It’s been about making the package more refined,’ says chief engineer Stuart Wood over a meal of meatballs and cous cous, eaten in a faux Berber tent. ‘You make a lot of small changes, but when you put them together they make a big difference.’ The work that’s gone into the primary drive gears is typical. ‘We wanted to reduce inertia to make the engine more responsive,’ says Stuart. ‘The best way to do that was to take weight off the primary drive. By grading the gears they can be paired more accurately, and by changing the design of the teeth to make them engage more smoothly we’ve actually been able to remove the backlash gears completely, reducing the weight of the gears by a quarter. The inertia is reduced and the engine can rev more easily.’ On the road the difference in feel is marked, even though there
are no significant changes to the engine from the crankshaft upwards. Peak power is unchanged at 95bhp, and the torque curve is amazingly flat. Maximum torque is delivered at 8000rpm, but from 2500 to 9500rpm it only varies by about 10 lb.ft. The redline is at 10,500. The low rev fuelling is snatch free. The new Tiger feels crisper and more engaging, though these roads are so twisty and bumpy that, in a day’s riding, I only get to top gear a couple of times, and that’s to check it’s actually there. And there isn’t a straight enough road to test the improved cruise control. The Tiger 800 range is now made up of six versions, and it’s easy to get confused. Here goes… The XR models are the road biased bikes with 19in front tyre and cast alloy wheels, XC models have 21in front, wire-spoked wheels, taller suspension and taller seat height. There are four XR models and two XCS. For the launch we get to ride the two premium models – the £12,050 XRT and the £12,450 XCA, which both come equipped with comprehensive electronics including extra riding modes, LED lighting and heated seats for rider and passenger. The base XR model comes with a Spartan spec and £9100 ticket, and there is also a low seat version of the XRX. Prices are up across the range, but the improved specification allows Triumph to claim that the bikes are better value too. The new TFT screen switches formats depending on which riding mode you’re using, which seems like showing off by the instrument designers. But as it’s one of the clearest screens my failing eyes have ever used I’m happy to let them show off. The back lit switchgear (on the XRT and XCA) has a million functions, so the switch clusters on both bars are typically huge. But they are really logical and easy to use. Next day, after more rain overnight, it’s time to try the bikes off-road. The Xcas are now fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Trails, Triumph’s approved knobbly, inflated to 22psi, and there have been adjustments to handlebars, brake and clutch levers to improve the ergonomics while standing on the bike. And critically it’s the time to try the Off-road and Off-road Pro riding modes. Switching between modes is a piece of cake. The joystick control is intuitive and simple, albeit easily mistaken for the indicator switch until you are used to it. On the XCA there are six modes; Rain, Road, Sport, Off-road, Off-road Pro and Rider. Rider is a customizable option to allow you to match power delivery, ABS and traction control intervention to taste. Off-road reduces ABS intervention on the front brake, removes it from the rear (hello skids), and allows some slip on the traction control too, so that the hamfisted application of 95bhp on
‘A critical part of the brief is to improve off-road capability’
dirt allows some rear wheel spin, but needn’t end in disaster. The new Off-road Pro mode switches off TC and ABS. I tried it, but using twin disc front brakes on a trail surface without assistance is more than my skill level allows. After scaring myself a couple of times I turned it back to the standard Off-road setting. Our ride on rain soaked surfaces was very slippery. But the combination of better dynamics and that electronic safety net makes the improved Tiger manageable on dirt. The lower first gear allows superior control on tight sections, where the bike feels more balanced than the old one, and the smooth power delivery allows you to find grip. Critically, off-road ergonomics are good. You move to a standing position easily, and my 5ft 10in can stand up straight and lean forward in the perfect position. Big ally footpegs provide a good platform too, though the bike is heavier than ideal. This is a really good bike, and you don’t have to ride in Morocco to enjoy it. I can’t wait to ride one in the Brecon Beacons. Or on the journey to work.
‘This is a really good bike, and you don’t have to ride in Morocco to enjoy it’
Backlit, huge, but mercifully easy to use No adventure experience is complete without a USB
This is a great bike, but heavy if you have to pick it up. And if you ride o road, you will have to pick it up at some point
TFT screen switches formats and is one of the clearest our optically-challenged editor has seen
Conrmation, if conrmation is required
‘T’ is for Triumph, Tiger and tremendous Power – two ways Rush hour in Morocco