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?

BIKE (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Hugo Wil­son Pho­tog­ra­phy Tri­umph

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

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