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Triumph Tiger 800 Review

BY: Rod Chapman, PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Stuart Grant

Date: 15.02.2012

According to Rod Chapman, Triumph’s Tiger 800 proves a top tourer doesn’t have to be heavy.

Triumph Tiger 800 Review
Triumph Tiger 800

 

Triumph's middleweight Tigers - the Tiger 800 and its harder-edged adventure bike brother, the Tiger 800 XC - were launched to universal acclaim last March, and the sales data recently released shows they've certainly struck a chord in the marketplace.

The fact is even the standard Tiger 800 is an incredibly competent and capable machine, and it's selling its nuts off, so to speak, in Europe where there's certainly no shortage of blacktop or bends. Motorcycle Trader was recently offered a Tiger 800 that had been kitted out specifically for touring - I was eager to see how it stacked up.

 

Stars in stripes

The Tiger 800 certainly looks the part: angular, aggressive lines and a broad Neken handlebar hint at its utilitarian all-rounder nature; and I found that was backed up by its ride position once I hopped aboard. At 188cm (6ft 2in) I didn't find the boarding process too fraught, even with those chunky factory panniers on the back and the seat on the higher of its two settings, at 830mm. If this is a stretch, it's a 10-second operation to whip the seat off and shift two locating pins to lower it to 810mm, and there's an even lower perch available as an option.

Firing the bike up revealed a pleasant yet thoroughly inoffensive note from the Arrow pipe, the Tiger requiring only a small handful of revs to get proceedings underway.

The first thing to strike me about this machine was its incredibly comfy ride position: it's pretty much bolt-upright, those broad bars just a short stretch away, and there's a heap of legroom. The seat is perhaps just a little firm - Triumph does offer a 'gel' seat as an option - but this bike will definitely be an ally on any extended tour. Cutting through city traffic to more open environs, the Tiger soon proved itself to be a super-manageable affair. With a wet claimed weight of 210kg it's hardly lardy, but with those wide bars, a broad steering range and a commanding ride position, it's supremely easy to ride. Of course, the light clutch and decent shifting action of the six-speed gearbox also play their part, as does the 799cc in-line triple power plant.

In fact, it's the engine that, for me, confirms the Tiger 800's 'star' status; it's a wonderfully grunty, flexible and capable unit. There's useable torque from under 2000rpm and it pulls strongly from here all the way to its 9800rpm indicated redline. There's no discernible power band nor any peaks or troughs; just smooth, useable oomph at any point through the rev range. I kept the donk spinning in its meaty midrange probably 95 percent of the time; there seemed little point in wringing its neck when I could short shift and make the most of its torque.

At 100kph in sixth gear, it was humming along at a smidge over 4000rpm, so it's a relaxed proposition for any long-haul work. The electronic fuel-injection is right on the money: it's as crisp as you need it to be and it's never an issue to keep things smooth around town. There's good go available at highway speeds for overtaking and it was only on rare occasions that I needed to knock the gearbox back a cog to really get motoring. Across all modes of operation, the in-line triple offers a soulful, evocative exhaust note, backed by the high-pitched whir of its gear-driven cams.

Mr Manageable

When I consider the Tiger 800's nature, the term 'user-friendly' readily springs to mind. Now, the sports bike or streetfighter set might read that as a euphemism for 'boring', but the touring and adventure bike boys and girls will take that as a compliment of the highest order, as indeed it's intended here. The bike's performance stats may be relatively modest by today's sky-high standards, but the output still had me beaming. Unlike today's modern litre-class sports bikes, I can unlock far more of the potential of a bike like the Tiger 800, and on the road that translates to more enjoyment - and fewer 'sphincter-puckering' moments.

I had initially thought the bike's generous legroom would translate to limited cornering clearance through the bends, but I was wrong: it'll corner with the best of them. And though the suspension package is fairly basic in its spec - a non-adjustable fork and preload only on the rear monoshock - together with the tubular steel chassis it actually does a brilliant job over our typically less-then-perfect Kiwi roads. The brakes also reflect the Tiger 800's all-rounder focus: they're only twin-spotters on the front and, while strong enough, I'd be looking for a little more bite if I was solely going to stick to the tarmac. No doubt playing around with pad compounds and possibly upgrading to braided lines would pay dividends in this respect. Having said that, I'll still wager that, in the right hands, a Tiger 800 is capable of shaming its fair share of weekend sports bike warriors - now that's satisfaction with a capital 'S'.

In terms of touring, the Tiger 800 is a ripper. Its small screen does a top job that belies its size: it doesn't flick the wind over your head but it takes the force out of the blast and I experienced very little buffeting. The optional factory panniers attach/detach in seconds and they take quite a bit of gear, although the high pipe eats into the right-hand case's capacity considerably. Tying a bag down on the back is easy thanks to moulded plastic tie-down hooks (they appear to be quite sturdy) and the exposed tubular steel subframe. Pillions get a great deal: an excellent set of grabrails, a fairly low and broad perch and pillion pegs that are well clear of the panniers. The mirrors work well, the lights deliver a strong and broad beam of light with decent range, and there's an average fuel economy of 16.7km/litre, effectively delivering a working range of around 290km.

The instrumentation is easy to read and there's an on board computer that offers up a wealth of information, including the always-handy 'range to empty'. It would be nice to see bar-mounted controls to access the LCD display, as is the case on several new models these days. A quality finish rounds out the deal, with a high level of attention to detail evident throughout.

Summing up

The gripes are few and far between. Yes, I'd like stronger front stoppers, but that's just me - they'll be fine for most and they're probably perfect if you're still intent on taking your Tiger 800 on decent-quality dirt roads (of which it's entirely capable). The only other potential issue I detected was a reasonable amount of heat coming off the left-hand side of the engine. It's noticeable when wearing jeans on warmer days but wearing leathers would negate the issue.

Is the Tiger 800 New Zealand's best middleweight touring bike? That's impossible to answer as it really all depends on any individual rider's priority list. It's certainly comfy, with excellent pillion and luggage-carrying ability and a supremely flexible engine - as an all-rounder it's hard to fault. Throw in an attractive price and the option of switchable ABS and it's no wonder the new Tigers are sprinting up the sales chart.

 

Long-haul options

MTN’s Tiger 800 test bike had been decked out with touring firmly in mind and, as such, sported the following accessories…

PartPrice Engine crash bars: $579.00

Arrow pipe:  $1689.00

Hand guards: $129.00

Heated handlebar grips: $499.00

Hard panniers: $1799.00

NB: The road-legal Arrow pipe is listed in Triumph’s range of factory options and sports a carbon-fibre end cap. Triumph also offers a wide range of other factory options for the Tiger 800 - see your nearest dealer for more information.

 

In the family

 

While the Tiger 800 is pitched as a road-going machine with some dirt-road ability, the Tiger 800 XC is the marque's harder-edged dual-purpose offering. As such, the XC sports longer-travel suspension - 220mm at the front and 215mm at the rear, versus 180mm at the front and 170mm at the rear for the roadie - and is fitted with a beefier 45mm inverted front fork (as opposed to a 43mm inverted fork on the Tiger 800). The XC is significantly taller as a result, with its standard perch able to be set at either 845mm or 865mm, 35mm higher than the Tiger 800.

 

The XC rolls on spoked rims, with a 21-inch front, while the Tiger 800 has 10-spoke cast alloy wheels, the front being a 19-incher. Finally, the Tiger 800 XC comes shod with Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber, while the Tiger 800 comes with Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres.

 

The steering geometry also differs slightly - the XC has a rake of 24.3 degrees, a trail of 95.3mm and a wheelbase of 1545mm, versus 23.9 degrees, 92.4mm and 1530mm for the road bike - and the XC is 5kg heavier, with a wet weight of 215kg (versus 210kg for the Tiger 800).

 

In all other respects, the pair's chassis and engine spec remain unchanged. Switchable ABS is available as an option on both models for an extra $1000, while the Tiger XC commands a price premium of $1000 - it retails for $18,990 (plus ORC, non-ABS), versus $17,990 (plus ORC, non-ABS) for the Tiger 800.

 

Plus

Superb comfort

Light and easy to manage

Flexible engine

 

Minus

Brakes could be a little sharper

Non-adjustable front fork

Engine heat on warmer days

 

Buddha's five-star rating

Scratching ***1/2

Touring ****

Commuting ****

Grunt factor ***1/2

Pillion comfort ****

 

Specifications

Triumph Tiger 800

Engine type      799cc, liquid-cooled, 4 valves per cylinder, in-line 3-cylinder

Bore x stroke   74mm x 61.9mm

Compression ratio        11.1:1

Fuel system      Electronic fuel injection

Transmission type        6-speed

Final drive       Chain

Frame type       Tubular steel trellis

Front suspension          Showa 43mm inverted fork, non-adjustable

Rear suspension           Showa monoshock, adjustable for preload

Front brake      Twin 308mm discs with twin-piston Nissin calipers

Rear brake       Single 255mm disc with single-piston Nissin caliper

Wet weight       210kg

Seat height       810-830mm

Fuel capacity   19L

Max power: 70kW (94hp) at 9300rpm

Max torque      79Nm (58ft-lb) at 7850rpm

Colours            Phantom Black, Crystal White or Venom Yellow

Price    $17,990 ($18,990 with ABS)*

*Manufacturer’s list price excluding dealer and statutory costs

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