THE MIDDLE ROAD
TRIUMPH TIGER 800 XCX
TRIUMPH'S TIGER 800 XCX FILLS THE GAP BETWEEN DUAL-SPORTS AND OPEN-CLASS ADVS
Turning the front wheel of the new-for-2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx toward the black sand and volcanic rocks of our favorite cinder mines near old Route 66 in the California desert was both thrilling and scary. As a lighter-than-liter-class ADV bike with a manageable middleweight-size engine, off-road-oriented wire-spoked wheels, and a suite of rider aids, the Tiger XCx had a lot of new tools to carry those big pannier boxes into this challenging territory. But 115-degree ambient temperatures and streetoriented Bridgestone Battle Wing tires on this giant black, sandy, solar-panellike piece of earth made our future seem so uncertain, so unstable, almost light-headed.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry so much. The Tiger’s many upgrades and much-improved electronics made it fully manageable in these tough middle-ofnowhere desert conditions.
New for 2015, the Tiger 800 line (including two street-oriented cast-wheel XRs and two spoked XC models) got a big overhaul. With power delivery from this 8oocc triple in a happy place, Triumph chose to refine the chassis, work on creature comforts, and boost computing power in the rider-aid package. There are a couple of reasons for this approach. First, for many of Triumph’s markets there are horsepower restrictions, and the Tiger was already close to the magic 95-crankshaft-horsepower limit for certain European countries with tiered licensing. Second, with 84 hp and 52 pound-feet of peak torque measured at the rear wheel on the Cycle World dyno, the bike already has a sweet combination of power and a great torque spread. So why mess with it? Our original intent was to pair the Tiger with BMW’s F800GS Adventure, its only natural competitor available in the US, but with the German company unable to meet our request in time, we went off the beaten path solo. After riding the XCx last year in Spain, we’ve been waiting to sample this bike on home soil, the rougher the better. Chassis tweaks, much improved electronics, and the XC’s more off-roadoriented wheel package (in dirt-friendly 21-inch front, 17-inch rear sizes) boosted the bike’s performance all around, but we wanted serious seat time to find where it stood on road and off.
We requested the “x” package for our testbike, which includes more sophisticated electronics and additional features, such as cruise control, autocanceling turn signals, additional accessory power socket (there are two here), advanced trip computer, adjustable WP suspension front and rear, aluminum skid plate, hand guards, radiator guards, and a centerstand.
As a touring bike, the Tiger 800 has improved dramatically. Little things that just a few years ago we thought we could live without have now made long rides much more relaxing and tolerable. With cruise control, a nice bubble of buffet-free air behind the manually adjustable windscreen, and an upright and comfortable seating position, rider fatigue is minimized at the end of a long day in the saddle. As for the seat itself, it actually borders on the edge of too soft, offering a cushy feel but ultimately lacking long-haul support.
Of course, this is an easy aftermarket fix. Another minor complaint is that the cruise control is too easily deactivated by rotating the throttle forward—big bumps in the road can jostle the right wrist enough to kick you out of cruise.
Triumph still needs to work on simplifying dash menu navigation. Practice here does lead to proficiency, of course, but this interface could definitely be made simpler and more intuitive. On that note, with such a small LCD screen, due to the real estate taken up by the large analog tachometer, some of the fonts on the screen are all but impossible to read in bad light or with a dark visor. Triumph, please see KTM’s menu nav setup and copy accordingly.
Another upgrade that the XCx has over its XC brother is higher-end WP suspension. Unlike the liter-plus flagships from Ducati, KTM, and BMW also featured in this issue, the XCx’s dampers are manually adjustable. Is this good or bad? We have grown accustomed to electronic suspension, and the very point of ADV touring is the ability to jump from pavement to dirt road to trail and back again at will. Electronic, semiactive suspension allows for settings to change on the fly for every inch of it. Which is why electronic suspension is sorely missed on an ADV like the Tiger—especially considering this bike’s $16,235 as-tested price—leaving you with a compromised setup most of the time. That said, there is an attraction to the simplicity and reliability that manual suspension offers.
On the highway, the Tiger’s cushy suspension offered a plush, comfortable ride, but load up the bags or throw on a passenger and you’ll be making manual preload and damping adjustments oldschool style. You’re stuck with the fork preload since it’s not adjustable, but the shock has an easy-to-use knob and works over a useful range. The fork spring rate is on the soft side, so even with very lightly loaded bags and no passenger, this Tiger tends to ride low in the stroke. On curvy mountain roads, dragging the centerstand when hitting bumps or trail braking was all but guaranteed. I cranked in some compression damping using easy-access, no-tool, fork-top clickers to slow the dive and help use less travel over bumps.
A perfect example of what an ADV bike excels at was proven to me as I rode along a particularly horrible section of old Route 66. The road approaching Ludlow, California, is one of the most beaten sections of tarmac you will ever ride, with potholes and missing pavement, the whole thing littered with gravel. But on the Triumph, cruising at 85 mph was not only possible but comfortable. A big thank-you goes out to the bike’s long-travel suspension and large-diameter wheels.
Okay, on-road touring is solid. How is it off road? There is no better test than sand, with this bike’s non-knobby tires largely defining its performance limitations. As mentioned, our primary off-road testing and photo-shoot location was an inactive cinder mine that features everything from dune-like mountains of black sand to fields of golf-ball-size, sharp, and nasty lava rock, all scorching hot under a blazing summer sun.
OTHER BIKES IN THE CLASS
KTM 690 ENDURO
BMW F800 GS/A
2016 KTM 800 ADVENTURE
After a few near crashes in the sand, I dropped the tire pressures down to a more ADV-appropriate 21 psi, which improved traction noticeably. I won’t lie: Despite weighing 40 pounds less than most of the liter-plus AD Vs (and 33 less than the old Tiger XC), the XCx was work to keep upright in this most extreme of environments. With that said, the bike feels far more at home in the soft stuff than its predecessor did. Back on hardpack, the bike was very easy to control, which has just as much to do with the chassis as the bike’s electronics package. Throw on a set of knobbies like Continental’s TKC 80s, and the possibilities open way up.
Like most of the AD Vs on the market, the Triumph offers an excellent suite of electronic rider aids. And as mentioned, the “x” model gets more sophisticated software than the standard XC. Modes include Road, Off-Road, and the customizable Rider. Each one of these modes is essentially an umbrella for a particular riding environment, with preset traction control (Road, Off-Road, or Off), throttle maps (Sport, Road, OffRoad, and Rain), and ABS settings (Road, Off-Road, or Off) for each. By going into the Rider mode you can customize a combination that suits your personal tastes. I set up Rider with Sport power delivery, no TC, and no ABS for our photo shoot and toggled back and forth between that and the Off-Road mode, depending on the situation. The latter offers reduced power, less intrusive TC, and off-roadoriented ABS (which shuts off ABS to the rear wheel). This gave me quick access to two very different motorcycle behaviors and a lot of flexibility.
This bike’s electronics represent the biggest leap forward from the old Tiger 800. The ride modes work great in their intended environments, boosting confidence and control in a way that allowed testers to get the most out of the bike in the safest manner. The standard Off-Road TC allows the rear end to step out just a bit but never lets it hang out to where the handlebar is on the steering stop. And while its ABS isn’t the sophisticated lean-angle-sensing type used on the BMW, Ducati, and KTM flagships, the Tiger’s worked well enough off road that I left it on for the majority of our dirt testing.
The many throttle maps give the XCx a good variety of power options for every type of terrain. But at the core, this 8oocc inline-triple delivers an incredibly fun and absolutely flat plateau of torque from idle to redline. Throttle connection and response are exceptional on this engine, no matter the mode. The electronic controls are purely icing on top of this great engine.
Like many of the other offerings in the ADV fold, the XCx is an incredibly versatile machine. We hear comments from a large chunk of readers who ask why we would ever ride such big bikes in serious off-road conditions, but on the flipside we’ve attended quite a few adventure rallies where we’ve seen a dedicated and hard-core slice of riders using these bikes in demanding environments on a regular basis. Our experience and observation? These machines can tackle far rougher terrain than many owners will put them through. And perhaps that is the point; for some, actually pushing these machines to their limit is a regular reality, and for others it’s enough to simply know that it can go way out there.
You certainly can on the Tiger XCx. It is an exceptionally nice on-road touring bike that’s a too-squishy seat and some excessive engine heat short of absolutely killing it—not just in the middleweight class either. The core mechanical package remains solid, with the bike’s adventuresome nature boosted by the spoked wheels and much improved electronics, allied to its reasonably light weight. The middle road is a very good way to go.
BLAKE CONNER SENIOR EDITOR
Open-class enduros/dual-sports, 250cc MXers, and 300cc two-strokes-l love them all. So it is no surprise that I like my ADV bikes to be able to go where the asphalt ends and the washboard begins. Some ADVs are more capable than others, but the Tiger 800 XCx stepped up its game big time. Long days on the highway or challenging ones in the dirt, the XCx is a good tool for any adventure you can dream up.
DON CANET ROAD TEST EDITOR
While I didn’t tackle a challenging single-track trail or whooped-out sand wash aboard the Tiger 800 XCx, I did work in a bit of fire-road fun along with plenty of pavement. Solo or with a passenger, I found Triumph’s middleweight competent and capable across all surface conditions. The reduced size and weight comes as a welcome alternative to the heavyweight ADV offerings. Let the adventure begin.
MARK HOYER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
I cheer for manual suspension! Even if I’d get this stuff rebuilt to suit me, I would take comfort in its analogness. Doesn’t purely mechanical suspension have to be more reliable? I do love the latest electronic suspension, am amazed at how well it works, and admit it’s never failed on me, but on a bike like this I will take my electronics in the form of really great rider aids, like power modes, traction control, and ABS.
TRIUMPH TIGER 800 XCx
GENERAL PRICE LIST PRICE: $16,235 as tested IMPORTER: Triumph Mototorcydes America Limited 385 Walt Sanders Memorial Drive Newnan, GA 30265 CUSTOMER SERVICE (678) 854-2010 PHONE: WARRANTY: 24 mo./unlimited mi. ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN ENGINE: liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-3 BORE 6 STROKE: 74.1 x 61.9mm DISPLACEMENT: 800cc COMPRESSION 11.3:1 RATIO: VALVE TRAIN: dohc, 4 valves per cyl., shim adjustment VALVE ADJUST 12,000 mi. INTERVALS: FUEL DELIVERY: (3) 46mm throttle bodies OIL CAPACITY: 3.9 qt. ELECTRIC POWER: 430 w BATTERY: 12v, 14ah CHASSIS WEIGHT TANK EMPTY: 488 lb. TANK FULL: 519 lb. FUEL CAPACITY: 5.0 gal. WHEELBASE: 60.5 in. RAKE/TRAIL: 24.373.8 in. SEAT HEIGHT: 32.6/33.4 in. GROUND CLEARANCE: 8.5 in. GVWR: 965 lb. LOAD CAPACITY 446 lb. (TANK FULL):
SUSPENSION & TIRES FRONT SUSPENSION MANUFACTURER: WP TUBE DIAMETER: 43mm CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL: 8.7 in. ADJUSTMENTS: compression and rebound damping REAR SUSPENSION MANUFACTURER: WP TYPE: single shock CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL: 8.5 in. ADJUSTMENTS: rebound damping, spring preload TIRES FRONT: Bridgestone Battle Wing 90/90-21 REAR: Bridgestone Battle Wing 150/70-R17 PERFORMANCE 1/4 MILE: 12.03 sec. @110.75 mph 0-30 MPH: 1.5 sec. 0-60 MPH: 3.6 sec. 0-90 MPH: 7.2 sec. 0-100 MPH: 9.2 sec. TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED 40-60 MPH: 3.6 sec. 60-80 MPH: 4.1 sec. MEASURED TOP SPEED: 120 mph ENGINE SPEED @60 MPH: 4442 rpm FUEL MILEAGE HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE: 43/36/39 mpg AVG. RANGE INC. 195 mi. RESERVE: BRAKING DISTANCE FROM 30 MPH: 34 ft. FROM 60 MPH: 131 ft. SPEEDOMETER ERROR 30 MPH INDICATED: 29 mph 60 MPH INDICATED: 58 mph