Triumph Tiger 800 – Launch Report

“It’s not easy at the top. Everyone’s always gunning for your position,” said BMW as it lay on the psychiatrist’s couch. BMW wasn’t being delusional, because in 2011 a Tiger went for the throat of its F 800 GS.

The answer to the question to who emerged as victor partly depends on your level of fanaticism towards the Blue Propellor.

Tiger XRX Caspian Blue Front 3 quarter

The Triumph Tiger XRx

MY15 Tiger XCX Caspian Blue Front 3 quarter

And the tech-loaded Triumph Tiger XCx

Blood on the floor
It’s undeniable, however, that the Tiger 800, Triumph’s first adventure bike, outsold the BMW 800 GS in some European markets. It was an overnight success. Locally the bike was well received too.

The Brit also presented a refreshing alternative to the German bike. The triple cylinder felt and sounded sportier than the Bavarian twin cylinder and was torquier and easier to keep on the boil at low revs on technical terrain.

Major surgery
Triumph didn’t bask in the glory for long, though, and created the 800’s successors, that were recently introduced to the local market. Arnold Olivier, Triumph SA’s brand manager, calls it a “significant facelift” of the first-generation. This means they didn’t mess with a pleasing formula, but made numerous improvements and some are quite extensive. Like introducing an electronic throttle for increased off-road capability through smoother power delivery. The Triumph Daytona donated its valve springs for better performance and its gear selector mechanism for easier, human-error-free shifts. The airbox was revised for easier fitment of a pre-filter, something Olivier recommends. “You can’t ride in your buddy’s dust cloud for 10 000 km and think the standard filter will take care of you,” he said.

The new 800 cc Tiger has a bigger radiator, a new alternator to better deal with heated grips, sat-navs and charging cellphones, two power sockets and a new catalytic convertor. Olivier says the cat and exhaust system are so efficient that an after-market performance exhaust will only add around 1 kW of power. A specialised pipe can still reduce overall weight and improve the sound though, he adds.

These changes also have an important combined effect: fuel consumption drops by 17 %, the manufacturer says. This means the 19-litre tank should give you a range of 335 km to 375 km, depending on your riding style.

Tiger XRX Caspian Blue LHS profile

MY15 Tiger XCX Caspian Blue LHS profile


Out with the old

Another big development is that the old tar-biased 800 and its gravel-oriented sibling, the 800XC, have each spawned two new versions upon retirement. They are called XR, XRx, XC and XCx. (The latter has no connection with the pop singer Charlie XCX.) South Africa only gets the better-equipped XRx and XCx. The reason is that accessories are more expensive when added afterwards.

But wait, there’s more

Triumph SA found that extras like bash plates, engine protection bars and centre stands are fitted by customers anyway. But the reality is that the costs aren’t recovered when the bike is sold or traded in. Subsequently the seller doesn’t only suffer depreciation, but loses the money spent on the accessories too, Olivier explained. “So the new models are more pricey than the old, but the buyer gets about R25 000 worth of extras,” he says. This means there are few boxes to tick when sitting down with the salesman: heated grips (that aren’t thicker than normal grips), fog lights and a comfort seat for the XCx, as it’s standard equipment on the XRx. These seats no longer contains the gel that heats up to a bum-frying temperature.

The main differences between the 800 and 800XC were in the wheels and seat height. The two bikes are still set on these different paths, but they are diverging, while both bikes have gained the same significant rider aids. In keeping with its Bear Grylls image, the “new” 800XC, now called XCx, gets adjustable WP high-performance suspension, where the XRx gets cheaper Showa suspension. The XCx also trumps the XRx with a radiator guard and those important engine protection bars.

Both the XCx and XRx benefit from the following additions that are new for the range: traction control, throttle modes, cruise control, self-cancelling indicators, two 12V power sockets, centre stand and adjustable riding modes. These modes are significant, as they bring the Tigers’ electronics up to the level of BMW’s bigger GS bikes.


From analogue to digital

As before, the Anti-lock Braking System can be switched off, but this time it can be tuned at the press of a button. At the launch near Harties I set the ABS to “Road”, for the tar sections, where it functions like ABS on tar should. On the gravel sections I set the ABS to “Off-road” and it worked well. The last setting is “Off”, which turns the ABS system off completely. Since “Off-road” did the job, I didn’t bother with this setting.

The traction control (TC) also has three modes, with the same designations as the ABS modes. “Road” allows no (or minimal) rear-wheel slip and “Off-road” allows the rear wheel to spin – enough for the inexperienced to be windgat or to use the gyroscopic effect of a spinning rear wheel to aid vertical stability. The roosters will be pleased to know the TC can also be switched off entirely. Once again I just used “Off-road”.

If you want to exercise even more choices you can also adjust the effect of opening the throttle. The four options are RAIN, ROAD, SPORT and OFF-ROAD.


Keeping it simple

But since too many options cause anxiety, as Kierkegaard said, Triumph did create three overarching modes – with two of these almost like the auto setting on an SLR camera. Triumph calls them the “Road” setting and the “Off-road” setting. The former sets the ABS, TC and throttle all to ROAD. The latter sets the ABS, TC and throttle to OFF-ROAD, “thereby reducing the ABS and traction control intervention allowing for a level of slip,” the manufacturer explains.

The third of these three settings is the “Programmable rider mode” where the rider can fine tune ABS, TC and throttle each to his or her liking.

Tiger chart

What are they like to ride?

Very much like their predecessors. This means they felt light, fast, nimble, comfortable and steadfast on the muddy dirt roads of the launch route. The first noticeable difference is in the way the gears change. You can say what you want, but to me bikes generally have an unpleasant way of shifting gears. So much so that I’ve been lusting after a Honda VFR 1200 XD with its outstanding double-clutch automatic gearbox. Well, maybe the Honda will have to wait a while longer, because the new Tigers might have the sweetest ’boxes ever made. They require just a gentle squeeze up or down and then slip into the chosen gear as if magnetised. We only rode for three hours and didn’t stop much, but the ’box never disobeyed when guided into first, neutral or any other gear.

The other major difference was the traction control, which I enjoyed to provoke, just to see how it expertly reins the bike in – by limiting the slip on the rear wheel – after half a second or so.

I also provoked a little bit of head shake on a bumpy dirt road, but it could have been from riding with just one hand on the handlebar. (“Look, Ma! One hand!” is a stupid idea anyway.)

The OFF-ROAD ABS mode worked well, but we’d like to spend more time with a Tiger to see what it does on a variety of surfaces.

Tiger XCx Static 1

In conclusion

With this updated Tiger 800 range Triumph gives BMW even bigger nightmares. But in South Africa BMW’s GS range is so synonymous with dual-sport or adventure riding and the brand so strong that these brilliant bikes could remain largely undiscovered by the masses. Which gives you even more of a reason to buy one if you’re not a pack animal.

Tiger 800 XRx – R127 500 (2015) Tiger 800 XCx – R139 500  (2015)
Cast wheels (19” front) Spoked wheels (21” front)
Triumph Traction Control ( TTC) Triumph Traction Control (TTC)
Switchable ON / OFF ABS Switchable ON / OFF ABS
Trip computer High level front mudguard
Sump guard Adjustable WP front suspension
Hazard lights Adjustable WP rear suspension
Self-cancelling indicators Trip computer
Adjustable brake and clutch levers Radiator guard
12v Power socket Hazard lights
Advanced trip computer Self-cancelling indicators
Road and Off-road riding modes Adjustable brake and clutch levers
Three selectable Riding Modes 12v Power socket
Cruise control Engine protection bars
Centre stand Advanced trip computer
Hand guards Road and off-road riding modes
 Adjustable screen Three switchable Riding Modes
 Comfort rider and pillion seats Cruise control
 Additional 12V socket for pillion Centre stand
Hand guards
Aluminium sump guard
Additional 12V socket for pillion

Report by Justus Visagie





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