By Dave Soderholm
Adventure Bikes… Welcome to the SUV’s of the motorcycle world. This category has exploded lately and for good reason. The versatility found within it is remarkable. Need to do some heavy off-roading? There’s a bike for that. Need to cross the country? There’s a bike for that. Need to have a comfy alert ADV riding position for conquering the street grind? There’s a bike for that. Need one to do a mix of all? Well, Triumph has got a bike for that. In this case, a 2015 Tiger 800 XCx. Versatility personified.
The Tiger 800 line was launched in 2010 and was an instant success. Triumph broke the Tiger line into 2 different models aimed at both ends (street and dirt) of the increasingly widening market segment, the standard Tiger and the Tiger XC.
For 2015, Triumph gave an “X” version to each of their Tiger 800’s (now dubbed XR and XC). The X model versions are fitted with three riding modes (Road / Off Road / Custom) to control throttle maps, ABS, and traction control. Cruise control, an advanced trip computer, hand guards, and an additional auxiliary 12V power socket also come standard on “X” models. All 2015 Tigers get Ride by Wire technology, a refined 800cc triple, switchable ABS and traction control.
The XCx we tested has additional standard features worthy of it’s off road intent. Brush hand guards, engine guards and a heavy-duty aluminum bash plate protect the XCx. Additionally it is fitted with spoked 17” rear and 21” front tires. Finally, the XCx comes standard with excellent WP suspension. It’s worth the price of admission by itself.
Walking up to this thing for the first time I was extremely impressed by the quality and “completeness” it exuded. It’s loaded with good stuff and everything that Triumph put on it looks purposeful and high quality. Triumph mixed that high quality appearance with ready to rumble bad a$$ looks. Seriously – I would expect this bike in stock appearance to pop up in movies like Mad Max. It’s that tough and strong looking.
Jumping on the Tiger did take a little effort. The seat height of 34.4 inches is way up there. There is a lower seat available, and the XR version is lower yet. Both seats are adjustable also. I loved the tall seat. It created an amazingly open and spacious riding position that allowed easy transitions to standing like when riding off road. The seat itself is fantastic. Firm enough to support well, but plenty forgiving for long stints in the saddle. In fact the whole riding position is great. You sit tall, with a commanding view and your weight is well distributed. It’s ideal for piling on the miles.
My first stint was riding home from work – All freeways. I initially thought that this was going to be a less than ideal combination. A dirt worthy Tiger and a never ending slab of asphalt. 24 miles later I chuckled about how wrong I had been! The cockpit provided good clean airflow. The 800cc triple purred. Suspension was silky. Seat….great. But the star of the show….the standard “X” cruise control. It’s excellent – and a first in the middleweight ADV bike category. Set it and forget it. Take either hand off the bars to shake’em out at your leisure. Some may scoff at the idea of “CC” on any motorcycle, let alone an “ADV” bike. Well…….you’re wrong! Try it and see.
The next day I left early for work to take a few gnarled up back roads with some gravel mixed in. This was the first time I realized how special the WP suspension on this bike was. It has the most controlled and plush suspenders I’ve ever street ridden on. Wash board ripples, wash outs, pot holes, culvert passes under driveways in ditches and almost any other bump you’re likely to encounter just don’t exist or phase the rider while on this bike. I got lost on some sketchy dirt roads while riding in to work and ended up hitting some fairly gnarly (by street standards) stuff. The Tiger sucked it up with ease, moving with an eager purposeful stride and ready for more. It’s much more capable off road than I am.
The drivetrain also shined that morning. The 800cc triple is an absolute sweetheart of an engine. Beautifully controlled fuel injection along with the traction control allowed for fun drifting on dirt roads. I’m no Kenny Roberts, but I felt totally in control and comfortable sliding around on a bike that wasn’t mine. Our bike had the optional Arrow exhaust and sounded amazing. I have a 2012 Street Triple R with a 675cc version of this engine and the Tigers feels like its brawnier torquier brother, perfect for its role. Not as quick revving, but oh so much more versatile and muscular. By the way, I averaged 51 mpg with this engine.
Riding home from work that night, I decided I would find out if this thing can handle a more spirited street pace on a twisty backroad. Surely that skinny looking 21” front tire couldn’t hold up to that! Pulling into my driveway well past dark once again proved how wrong I was. This Tiger unwinds back roads almost as easily as my Street Triple. Neutral, secure and nimble describes the experience. Go anywhere in the corner, ignore the bumps (those fabulous WP’s again) and use that excellent 800 cc triple to put the permagrin on your face. I also had the chance to sear the night with those great twin headlights. Never fear the night with these things at your disposal again.
This thing has versatility in spades. Ride the freeways and the bike is happy. Go off road and the bike is happy. Hunt down some sport-bikes in the twisties and the bike is happy. Load it down and cross the country and the bike is happy. Are you getting the picture? The Tiger does it ALL well. One bike replaces a garage full – done!
By Guido Ebert
“What? No knobbies?” I asked Mike from Belle Plaine Motorsports upon my first glance at the 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx ($13,499) I’d be riding for the next few days. After all, this “Adventure” model otherwise comes outfitted with an aluminum bash plate, engine cage, hand guards and trick WP suspension. The use of 90/90 series front and 150/70 series rear Bridgestone Battle Wing rubber left me puzzled.
“It has the 21-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels, so you could mount a pair if you wanted, but it’s really a road bike,” he said in what I deem an entirely fair reply.
As Cruiser model manufacturers attempt to do with the H-D Sportster, the growing Adventure bike market is a result of OEMs attempting to grab a few sales from BMW’s successful and big dollar GS line. Just look at the Triumph Tiger 800’s most direct rival: the BMW F 800 GS/Adventure ($12,190/$13,695).
I have used the analogy before, but will repeat it for new readers: These Adventure bikes are akin to the automotive world’s Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs): They’re filled with technology, capable of light off-road travel, but mostly used by Adventure-hopeful owners for traveling our paved highways and byways.
So that’s where I took it.
My first clue to the truth of Mike’s statement about the Tiger 800 being a road bike came from the bike’s general proportions. It’s huge, and not something my 5’9” frame would enjoy – or even be capable of – wrestling through any sort of technical off-road terrain. Too tall and too heavy. I came to that conclusion when, while mounting the bike, I swung my kneecap into the passenger left side grab rail and found myself writhing in pain (in full riding gear) on the garage floor while cursing the short inseam God gave me.
Avid off-road riders will be used to the high seating arrangement, but short-legged road riders like me will not. The seat moves to a “lower” position, but the actual width of the seat also comes into play. You also can adjust the handlebars and levers.
Another clue to the Tiger 800 being more road than terrain came with its engine characteristics. Flick the starter. Whhhiiirrrr – that’s not the tractor-like sound of an off-road bike. The powerplant’s quiet and smooth operation gives it more of a sport bike character. Click the shifter into 1st gear and release. A super light clutch effort and highly responsive ride-by-wire throttle further support the notion.
Once mounted, with feet on pegs and underway, the Tiger feels and behaves wonderfully. The seating position really couldn’t be any more comfortable. My problem came during morning and afternoon commutes, when crawling traffic and stoplights forced a crotch slip off of the seat so I could plant my right foot when at a standstill.
In normal traffic conditions, clipping gears as speed dictates, you’ll find yourself short-shifting up through the transmission, riding around in 3rd with the engine spinning between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm.
Depart from a stop sign in 2nd gear, travel in 3rd and leave it in gear rounding surface street corners. Gobs of low-end grunt will have the bike respond smoothly.
On the street, that 21-inch wheel and 43mm fully adjustable WP fork don’t care what you’re riding over. Encounter potholes in Minneapolis? This bike allows you to charge over them without nary a worry for your kidneys. Visiting a friend’s place on a dusty gravel lane in Corcoran? Stand on the pegs and take it to the roadside scrub.
Where the Tiger truly shined, though, was out on the open road, when the nearly 95hp created with a 10,000 rpm redline could be fully tapped.
Traveling at 70mph in 6th gear saw the engine spinning at 5,000 rpm, twisting to 80mph showed 5,900 rpm. Drop the hammer and The Ton comes up quick, the bike proving perfectly stable into triple digits.
Triumph claims the XCx achieves 54mpg at a steady 75mph. Combine that figure with the bike’s 5-gallon fuel tank and you’re looking at a 270 mile range. That’s Travel bike territory.
Our XCx arrived with an Arrow exhaust from Triumph’s Accessories catalog. The exhaust sounds BRILLIANT with the triple at full scream, but annoyed me in around-town traffic. I often found myself at 5,000 rpm, where the exhaust-induced whine made me think the bike needed another gear.
At first, I was going to conclude this article by stating that it’d be wise for someone my size not to look at the 487-lb. “mid-size” Tiger as the bike you’d choose to serve you during an Adventure, but the bike you could use as a conduit to take you from Adventure to Adventure.
Then I took it off-road.
Bush-whacking around on the Tiger 800 in a friend’s “Back 40” acres showed me a completely different side to the XCx.
Standing on the pegs, shifting weight, the big front wheel and built-in rake angle made for easy turn-in no matter the terrain. There’s a stump in the trail. Change direction by rolling onto its surface and accelerate off to the right. Oh, here’s a foot-deep stream made by field tiling run-off. Get ass-back in full tuck for the downhill, stay back on the pegs through the stream, and transition weight forward to climb the opposite ditch face. Clutch & throttle play + 58.2 ft. lb. of torque + tactile weight distribution had the bike performing like a tank crossing trenches.
Braking from the big dual 308mm front and 255mm rear discs is superior for on-road application, but even with the engine map set to “Off-Road” to retard the ABS and adjust traction control, the brakes felt as if they had far too much bite. Of course, that was utilizing the road tires … on field grass. A pair of lugged hoops would’ve change that result.
Ultimately, though, there’s no doubt the WP suspension fore and aft is what allows this “road bike” its off-road capabilities.
And that’s where I’m going to leave it. The Tiger 800 XCx is a street bike with a top-flight suspension that’ll allow you to travel to and experience your Adventures.