Triumph Tiger 800 launch: Simon Warburton

An interview with the Product Manager of Triumph Motorcycles at the launch of the new Tiger 800

The Triumph Tiger 800 is an important new model for Triumph. Filling a gap in their range, the all-new motorcycle has a tough job to not step on the toes of any of the existing Triumph line-up, while also delivering the goods against a tough set of established opposition.

Triumph are fired up about this new model and I sat down with Product Manager Simon Warburton to talk about the Tiger 800 and Tiger 800XC.

BMW have been producing an 800 for 3 years now, why did it take so long for you guys to bring this bike out?
Why did it take so long? Well, it takes a long time to develop any bike and 3 to 3 and a half years is a normal amount of time if you develop a new engine.

You must have started development straight after the Tiger 1050 was launched. Did you use the same team to build the Tiger 800?
We released the Tiger 1050 in Nov 2006 and this project kicked of in April 2007. So when I say kicked off you know we did the background work prior to this, but the actual work on the model started then. It was a completely different team. The team that did the Tiger 800 was the team that worked on the Street Triple.

Arguably the F800GS is a better bike than the R1200GS. Will the Tiger 800 take sales form the Tiger 1050 and make the Tiger 1050 redundant?
There's no question that the Tiger 800 will steal some sales from the Tiger 1050. That is always a problem when you develop a range up that you'll have overlap between bikes.

In your development of this 800 what other engines did you try? Was there ever a chance of a parallel twin-engined Tiger 800?
No, you have to make these decisions very early on. You can't spend the resource of lots of engineers working on something just to see what it works out like. To be honest with this kind of bike we only ever considered a triple. We think the triple engine is a really good engine for most bikes to be honest except perhaps our cruisers and classics where we use a twin as that's more appropriate and there's heritage there. We just thought that the triple would be a good engine as it gives you power characteristics that would be good for that bike. It's relatively compact - it's not much wider than a twin - it's shorter than a twin and four cylinders is just getting too big, so it had to be the triple cylinder engine.

Did you ever run a development models of the Tiger 800 using a 675 engine?
We did yeah, very early in a project we always run a mule to help us set out the geometry. It doesn't look anything like the final model, infact it looks like a pile of shit, it's lashed together and is purely functional. The model we used for this bike was actually a Street Triple with the frame stretched a bit so it had the wrong power characteristics but it enabled us to get the swingarm in the right place and use an adjustable headstock to work out the rake and trail and the wheelbase. So yeah, the very first Tiger 800 that was running was based on a 675.

So do you have any plans to introduce a Tiger 675 to the range?
No. If we had put the 675 engine in the Tiger 800 frame we'd have ended up with something that was very much like a Street Triple. As we expand our range there will be crossover between models but we have to minimise that crossover, which is why we decided to make an Adventure Touring bike and not a Supermoto type bike which would have been far too close to the Street or Speed Triple.

The Standard Tiger 800 uses a 19" front and the Tiger 800XC uses a 21" front, so is the 19" purely for that 'adventure asthetic' and wouldn't a 17" front on the standard Tiger 800 been better to enable a wider tyre choice and give buyers more of a difference to choose from between the two models?
The 19" front wheel gives a clear indication of 'look, I can do a little bit of off-roading guys' it's definitely a demi-off-road bike and we didn't have any real off-road bikes in the range so we wanted to have the 21" front wheel version as a proper off-road bike but we realised this in itself would be limiting our market as it's a tall bike and what people want is a little bit of off-road ability to ride on unsurfaced roads without doing any serious off-road. However, the 19" front wheel is accepted in the motorcycle world as indicating off-road ability and it genuinely does make it better off-road and gives it slightly lazier steering which makes it easier off-road.

Will the Tiger 800 feature ABS?
Yes ABS will be an option. The Tiger 800 starts production tomorrow infact, with the Tiger 800XC starting at the end of November. The ABS model won't start production until February 2011.

The pillion pegs are welded to the frame. Is that something that you think you'll need to change in a future model, will there be a backlash against it? What was your reason for it in the first place?
First of all it's cheaper doing it that way and we want to keep the costs down. It's simpler, there are fewer bits to lose, no bolts to work their way out and so in essence it's a more robust solution.

The Tiger 800 and Tiger 800XC are two different bikes but what one bike did you have on the wall of the Triumph factory that you really wanted this model to beat?
Well when we started the project the bikes in this category were the old F650GS, the Dakar, the old Transalp which was a 650 and the DL650 V-Strom. We were pretty confident that BMW were going to bring out an 800GS but we didn't know when but we knew that if they did, then that was the bike that was going to be our major competitor.

What's Triumph's predicted sales split between the new models?
We think that 55% of sales will go to the Tiger 800XC and 45% will go to the Tiger 800.

Your best-seller is the Street Triple. Where do you think the Tiger 800 will rank?
We predict that the Tiger 800 and new Speed Triple will both sell in roughly the same numbers and will be fighting each other for second and tghird place in our sales charts just behind the Street Triple.

Is the Tiger 800 going to the US market? Is it going to be a big market?
Yeah it is going to the US and it will be a pretty good market for us. It's not going to be our biggest market, I think France or Italy will take that one. The old V-Strom 650 did very well in the US. The Transalp has never gone there, but we did always think there was going to be a good market for us in the US, the signs were there.

It looks to me like you've developed an engine that's waiting to go in a lot of new and different models. Question is, what are they going to be?
We don't have anything planned at the moment. Possibly in the future.

Are there any plans for a 'proper adventure model, along the lines of a GS Adventure, with a larger fuel tank and more accessories as standard?
Not immediately. We're going to see how big this model gets for us and if there is a demand for it then we'll see whhat we can do.

Finally, you moved the cat right to the front of the header pipes and in doing so the pipes go from 3-into-1 very quickly, restricting the power output. Couldn't you have moved the cat further back and given the Tiger 800 more power?
Certainly. There's no question we could have got a lot more power out of this engine. We targeted 95bhp from this engine from the start. But with new legislation coming in in a couple of years time, it means that new riders will have to ride a bike that produces no more than 95bhp. We thought that this bike was going to be one of the entry points into the Triumph range and so it needed to be eligable for new riders to ride. And secondly, we thought that 95bhp is plenty for this kind of bike, so certainly we could have made more horsepower, but this output isn't stretching the limits of this engine.

Visordown will be riding the new Tiger 800 on Monday 8th of November. Check back for a full launch report.