Triumph Tiger 800XC road ride review

It's Triumph's more-off-road version of their dual-sport middleweight. Does it play nicely with tarmac?

Triumph’s Tiger 800XC is aimed at the more adventure-minded bikers out there. The ones that, while they’re filtering through traffic on their daily commute, are actually imagining handing out water to local kids at a remote stop in Africa. It’s a fantasy that’s helped BMW sell thousands of dual-purpose bikes.

We rode the Tiger 800XC after spending the previous day on the roads on the standard Tiger 800. The Tiger 800 is good:  it’s very competent, mild mannered and easy to click with. So surely some longer-travel suspension, wider bars and a larger front wheel with different tyres won’t change that? Well, for me, it did.

Hacking through the mountain roads on the Tiger 800XC, I didn’t have the same level of confidence I had on the Tiger 800. The XC rides like the bike it looks like, which may sound obvious but what I liked about the Tiger 800 is that despite its appearance and its stance, once you were rolling, it shed its visual weight and off-road pretentions and was simply a very sweet handling bike.

The Tiger 800 is very nimble, it feels more like a naked road bike and shows just how much this sector has improved in the last 5 years. There’s not one outstanding thing that I could attribute to the reduced amount of confidence I had in the XC on the road, so let’s look at the facts and figures.

The XC sits 35mm taller and has a slightly longer trail, therefore a longer wheelbase, but only by 13mm. With 220mm travel in the front forks, the XC’s suspension has 40mm more travel than the standard Tiger 800. The rear wheel has 215mm of travel, 45mm over the standard Tiger 800. Let’s not forget the 21” front wheel on the Tiger 800XC and the fact it’s fitted with Bridgestone Battlewings and not the Pirelli Scorpion tyres that are on the Tiger 800. That all adds up to a bike that has different dynamics and therefore riding characteristics.

Of our groups of testers, half of those I spoke to preferred the XC’s handling over the standard Tiger 800 and put it down to a slower turn-in. I felt the front wandering wide on the XC and I know that my confidence is built-up or eroded by my ability to trust the front-end. It doesn’t matter how good or bad a rider you are, if the bike goes where you want it to, you’re going to build up trust and confidence. On the XC, I wondered whether I might be taking it off-road sooner than Triumph had planned us to.

The XC sits higher than the Tiger 800 as standard. I’m 5’10” (5’11” with boots on) and with the seat on the highest setting, I could nearly get both feet flat on the floor, but the usual one-leg down was easy. The seat sits at 865mm on its highest setting, you can lower it by 20mm with just a flick of a bar under the seat. Shorter riders can buy a thinner seat as part of the accessories package that gets the seat height down to 825mm. I’ve heard that Ronnie Corbett has got one on order.

Triumph predict that 55% of sales will go to the Tiger 800XC and 45% to the Tiger 800. And with only a £600 difference in price, I reckon they’re right, because everyone always wants what they perceive to be the best money can buy.

However, it doesn’t stop me thinking it should be the other way around. Let’s face it, how long does the average British ‘Adventure Sport’ bike owner spend off-road? Of their total annual mileage, I’d be surprised if they clocked up more than 1% on roads without a tarmac surface.

The Tiger 800XC is geared-up to be better off-road than the Tiger 800, but on the standard Battlewings, there’s a clear Achille’s heel to the XC’s off-road capability compared to the XC fitted with the Metzeler Karoo tyres.  So can the standard Tiger 800 tackle some light off-roading and trail riding for the 1% of the time you want to head off the tarmac? You bet it can.

If I was in the market for one, I'd go for a Tiger 800 with the following Triumph accessories: Handguards, high level front mudguard and the adventure fog light. I'd want to keep that 19" front the standard Tiger 800 has.

The Tiger 800XC might ‘only’ be £600 more expensive than the Tiger 800, but it’s an extra £600 for a bike that isn’t as good for the job it’ll be doing. There’s only one problem with the Tiger 800XC and that’s the Tiger 800 which is a better bike for bikers who aren’t quite so adventure minded..

Click here for my Triumph Tiger 800XC off-road review. Click here for my Triumph Tiger 800 road review.

Click here for Triumph Tiger 800 specifications and Triumph Tiger 800XC specifications.

Click here for the official list of Triumph Tiger 800 accessories