I'VE JUST FINISHED a day riding Triumph's new Tiger 800. We ride the Tiger 800XC tomorrow. We're based around 30 miles west of Barcelona and have been up in the Montserrat region on some very twisty, slightly wet and bloody cold roads.
The Tiger 800 is at home in this terrain. Infact I imagine the development team had a picture of this region on the wall of their office to keep their focus sharp.
The bike is very good, it has lots going for it. There you go, road test over. No, only kidding. The one thing that stands out the most about the Tiger 800 is it's engine characteristics; it's got a wealth of torque and immaculate fuelling. And let's face it, three-cylinder engines naturally offer a good blend of usable drive and top-end, but bad fuelling has been the Achilles' heel of many a modern bike (KTM RC8 anyone?). So getting the fuelling right is important and Triumph have it sorted.
When I first heard about the 800, I wondered why Triumph didn't just stick with the 675 engine but the engine from the Street Triple just wouldn't work as well in this bike. The Tiger 800 does share some engine componenets from the 675, notably the cylinder head and throttle bodies but that's about it.
Not only is the extra capacity welcome, but the bulge of torque is monster. It's like a really, really fit Street Triple low-down. There's next to no jerkiness from the delivery at low revs, making things like roundabouts and hairpin bends really easy to master with no need for clutch slip, just smooth throttle openings. But it's not like a Street Triple at the top-end.
In top gear it'll pull from 30mph all the way around the dial. You really notice it getting into its stride at around 6,000rpm all the way to the redline at around 9,500rpm. I suppose the one thing I missed was the lack of fizz from the engine. There was no 'wallop' at the top end and in that respect it feels more like a Tiger 1050.
Our ride today was interesting as early on it started to spit with rain. I find that drops on your visor erode your confidence far quicker than a tyre's grip, but it always makes you focus on the intricacies of a bike's handling when you suspect the grip on offer isn't what it once was. And jerky fuelling would only make a wet road more of a misery but in this case, the rain hardly made a difference.
The ride is firm enough to give you good feedback but - coupled with a really comfy seat - plush enough to clock up the miles. The Tiger 800 doesn't wallow through the bends, it has the precise feel of a Street Triple yet the long-travel suspension doesn't encourage the weight of the bike to shift front to back like an old-school adventure bike - it feels very planted.
Heading down a complex twisty mountain road where your confidence comes from trust in the front-end, the Tiger 800 has it nailed. I was plenty confident to get the bike leant over and get the pegs down and carry the front brake into corners. There's no blackhole of feedback on that critical moment you pitch it in.
We rode the non-ABS models and even though front-end feedback is very good, I'd think it strange to buy the Tiger 800 without ABS. That's just a personal preference but it's the sort of bike that would benefit from it. You're going to want to take the Tiger 800 out in the rain, where you'd probably leave a superbike in the garage..
Aside from making a dynamically sharp and positive bike, Triumph have given the Tiger 800 a few really nice touches that I reckon will help them steal sales from the competition. You can adjust the seat height by removing the seat and flicking a bar that jacks the height up by 20mm. I didn't jack the seat up and at 5'10" (5'11" with boots on), I could get both feet planted on the floor. You can remove the rubbers on the footpegs to give yourself an extra 20mm of leg room, good news for riders with legs like a Daddy longlegs. There are plenty of well designed bungee hooks - and let's face it, you can never have enough. Triumph have fittted a high capacity 645w generator (that's around 50% more output than available on the F800GS) so that should ensure accessory fiends can run everything from heated grips, to auxillary lights, GPS and whatever else you can throw at it.
The Tiger 800 has a 19 litre fuel tank which Triumph reckon is good for 250 miles between fuel stops, which puts Sports Tourers like the VFR1200F to shame. And with decent wind protection and a plush seat, I see no reason why you couldn't do that 250 miles in one sitting. Although, let's face it, not many people will.
What don't I like about the bike? Well, while the torque curve looks like a dyno operator's dream, it's not the most characterful engine I've ever ridden with. And if that's the biggest gripe I have with the Tiger 800, then, well, that sums it up.
Price to be confirmed but expected to be in the region of £7,200 for the Tiger 800 and £7,800 for the Tiger 800XC.
We ride the Tiger 800XC tomorrow both on and off-road - check back for a full report.