John Newman is starting a new regular feature test riding bikes and giving us the low down on them - here are his experiences trying out a Tiger 800XC on and off road:

What horsepower do you think that is?
In order to spark more excitement in an increasingly bland and risk averse world, the 'marketeers' always seek to stretch the bounds of credibility with descriptions of consumer products, services and activities that belie reality.

So put your hands together for the first person or organisation to conceptualise the idea of labelling an activity that many motorcyclists have been enjoying since way way back, as 'adventure' motorcycling. I lay the blame squarely on the publicists behind the Boorman/McGregor jaunts. It's as if nobody had been doing anything 'adventurous' until then.

The BMW wordsmiths describe one of their 'adventure' bikes thus:

“the F800GS Adventure helps you leave civilisation behind and break boundaries”.

And the publicists at Triumph whose Tiger 800XC I've just stepped off, describe their product this way:

“a whole new world of 'go anywhere' adventure touring...whether you face the urban jungle or a round the world trip”.

I didn't have time to go round the world in the few days I was piloting the Tiger, but in the interests of Wemoto News readers, I did try and replicate as many different riding locations, surfaces and conditions as possible.

A steadying kerb

I'm not tall. So large trailies, where getting a foot down requires shifting to one side of the saddle, take some getting used to if you usually ride a bike with a more conventional seat height. This wasn't too much of a problem with this version of the Tiger, but it was convenient to look ahead for a steadying kerb when negotiating the 'urban jungle', thus avoiding the embarrassing stationary flop over as you realise your foot is stabbing at nothing but the slope of an adverse camber.

Ticking the comfort box

From the Hinckley (Leicestershire) factory to my home is about a three hour ride using a mix of A and B roads. I did this in one trip, which is a positive testimony to how comfortable this bike is to ride. So if you are one of the handful of people who would buy this bike to straddle continents; the comfort box can be ticked right away. Of course there are lots of riders who just like to ride and tour on this style of bike, so the same comfort factor applies.

Slinging it into bends

At first sight the 800XC looked slightly ungainly, and I couldn't quite figure out why. But it was the combination of a 21 inch front wheel and a 17 inch rear. However the on road handling felt superb, and the Showa suspension combined with the Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres absorbed everything, and allowed me to sling it into bends with more confidence than most bikes of this style.

The handlebars (adjustable) have a flat profile and are angled slightly back and they suited me fine on this press bike. Along with mirrors that allowed clear, wide vibration-free rear vision, and an instrument panel with a large speed reading display, but a needle indicator for the rev counter, it added up to a well thought out and comfortable motorcycle from the saddle design set up.

The performance tweakers have turned a trick

I don't know how many more configurations Triumph will get out of the three cylinder engine that has powered so many different models in their range. They have made this piece of motorcycle engineering their own, and with the 800XC using a six speed gearbox and electronic fuel ignition the Triumph performance tweakers have turned a trick that provides one of the smoothest and most flexible motors I've experienced.

If you are promoting your motorcycle as having 'round the world' ability, then slow performance is arguably more important than the 'what does it do mate' factor. This engine is capable of delivering you across distances at speed. It will also allow you to dribble along a dirt track, and importantly has the range and power of response you might need in off road situations where terrain and obstacle negotiation require quick reactions from bike and rider.

A peck of dirt

After being impressed with the ability of the bike to skim miles of Tarmac in comfort, I needed to find a few miles of dirt to assess its other capabilities. Not easy, but fortunately there are a series of reservoirs in the South Pennines close to home, that are linked with dirt and gravel access roads. These would be ideal, and it was dry.

When I say ideal, this is with the proviso that I had a certain degree of nervousness deriving from, in almost equal amounts, unknown tracks and my (lack of) ability to deal with what's round the next corner. Plus the concern that this situation might see the shiny Triumph sliding through the dirt and stones.

A little twist of the throttle

In third gear at at a steady 20mph the Tiger easily coped with the stones, small ruts, and the necessity for quicker steering around larger rocks and a couple of short sandy stretches. A little twist of the throttle and the front wheel would fling the loose stones against the bash plate. It certainly looked strong enough to cope with anything I could sling at it. But no doubt those who have steered the bike through tougher terrain would be able to testify as to whether it was tough enough to protect the lower engine.

Standing on the footrests I pushed my weight forward over the tank, which is where I felt it should be, and in no time I'd covered several miles and was (regrettably) back on the hard stuff; albeit at the bottom of a long twisty uphill pull to the summit of Holme Moss.

Because of time strictures I needed to use a long stretch of the M1 in returning the bike to the factory on a Monday morning. It was hot, congested, and the traffic formed long queues in places for no apparent reason. Sitting tall above the cars and filtering comfortably between the lines I felt so smug and a lot cooler than the frustrated drivers. If you have to be in stop start traffic, this engine is your friend. The 215kgs weight has been described as on the heavy side for a bike of this nature and purpose, but I found it light and flickable, supporting the 'urban jungle' claims.

As soon as a clear stretch opens up you can zip forward to the legal limit and beyond if desired. Given that it's occasionally necessary to use trunk roads and motorways the 800XC was more at home cruising at higher speeds than I thought it would be, helped by the wind-deflecting front screen fitted on this one.

A new 800XC will take just over £8K out of your bank account or savings. But at the time of writing there were several 2012 models on ebay for around £6,500.

The accessory and luggage manufacturers are always on the ball when a new tourer or 'adventure' bike comes on to the market, and this Tiger model is no exception. So if you're a travelling man or woman there are lots of options to choose from in carrying capacity from top boxes to big aluminium cases, to some ingenious soft luggage side panniers.

John Newman
for Wemoto News
Thanks for putting the Triumph Tiger 800XC through its paces John. If anyone else out there has one or has tried one we'd be interested to know what you think of it.

Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 24 July 2013 in General News

Edited By: Daisy Cordell



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