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First ride: Triumph Tiger 800 XCx review

An adventure bike that can actually go off-road

'ADVENTURE bike' seems a fairly meaningless term these days. It covers anything from Honda's novice-friendly NC750X to Ducati's 160hp Multistrada and BMW's new superbike-powered S1000XR, all about as good for tackling trails as a pair of high heels.

But there are a few machines that like to stick to the original formula and retain some ability off-road as well as on. One of them is the new Triumph Tiger 800.

Originally launched in 2010, the Tiger 800 is now in its second generation, with four variants for 2015.

There's the XR, which is the road-biased one, and the XC, which has more of an off-road bent. The wheels are wire-spoke, with a 21-inch up front where the XR's is 19-inch and cast aluminium. The XC also has WP forks and shock where the suspension on the XR is from Showa. Both have traction control and switchable ABS.

And then there are the new XRx and XCx variants, which are like the first two but with more electronics including extra riding modes.

The machine ridden at the press launch in Malaga today was the XCx, the off-road-biased one with an electronics package including off-road ABS and traction control.

The seat is 30mm higher than the road-biased XR's, at 860mm adjustable to 840mm. I'm 5'9" and the higher setting put me on tiptoes, so the first thing I did was lower it, a one-minute task involving removing the the rider's seat and no tools. That allowed me to get the balls of both feet on the ground, a much less awkward prospect when you're heading straight to a quarry for some off-roading.

With the 'off-road' riding mode selected, ABS intervenes later, and not at all at the rear wheel. Traction control also allows more slip. At the dusty, slippery quarry, it made it possible to gas it a bit and let the back-end step out with the assurance the electronics would stop things going too sideways.

In a dead straight line, winding open the throttle made the rear squirm from side to side as it fought for grip but it still delivered drive, even on dual-sport tyres.

The XCx also has confidence-inspiring handling, turning easily, almost allowing you to forget you're riding quite a big off-road bike. The steel trellis chassis is retained from the old Tiger 800.

The suspension felt completely within its comfort zone smoothing out the bumps and ruts on our morning trail ride, admittedly a fairly gentle one. The forks are adjustable for rebound and compression damping and the shock for rebound damping and pre-load.

Triumph says the gear shifts are more precise than on the old Tiger 800. It's a certainly a smooth box, slotting up and down at a light touch, making shifts easy while standing on the pegs.

The 800cc triple doesn't have quite the engine braking of a big twin but there's enough to let you roll down a hill knowing you'll scrub speed fairly quickly as it flattens out at the bottom. If you need to, you can also rely on the off-road ABS, which won't intervene and rob you of braking the instant the front locks.

Lock the rear wheel with the clutch out and the engine naturally stalls - but then has a tendency to refuse to re-start when you release the brake. On those dual-sport tyres, the result is that the rear can stay locked until you come to a standstill, unless you pull in the clutch.

Switching modes involves pressing a button on the clocks, closing the throttle and pulling in the clutch. It's slightly annoying that the bike won't stay in off-road mode once you've selected it. Instead it reverts to on-road mode every time the ignition is switched off.

Uphill the engine pulls in first from as little as 2,000rpm, letting you go dead slowly without worrying about stalling.

The 675 Street Triple-derived motor is just as good revving to the 10,000rpm red line, giving it all the versatility an adventure bike engine needs. On the road it takes on a new character. It becomes fun making frequent shifts to stay above 8,000rpm, enjoying the noise from those three pots and using all the 95hp they provide.

Here the XCx handles well too. It's easy using those high, wide bars to toss if from side-to-side, again giving it a deceptively light feel. And in fact it is quite light, at 221kg wet.

All the Tiger 800's now have a ride-by-wire throttle for smoother engine response. In 'road' mode the power delivery is forgiving of sudden wrist input. With the 'x' models you get an extra riding mode, giving you the choice of two additional throttle maps – rain and sport. Predictably, in sport mode you get a slightly more aggressive and immediate response to throttle input, but it's still quite civilised.

The 'x' versions also give you cruise control, two 12-volt power sockets instead of one, and some additional information from the digital clocks, including average and current fuel consumption and range.

The brakes have a good progressive feel. They're perfectly capable of stopping you quickly but I wouldn't complain about a little more power from the 308mm floating front discs and two-piston Nissin calipers.

In an afternoon spent tackling sweeping bends, the suspension was firm and well-damped enough to provide good feedback and confidence, and there's good grip from the Bridgestone Battlewing BW501 tyres. The 220mm of travel in the upside-down forks inevitably means a degree of forward pitch under hard braking.

Triumph says comfort has been improved, with bars moved forward and upward. I'd be happy to ride 500 miles on the XCx, although taller riders may complain about the lack of an adjustable screen. You get one on the road-biased XRx, but not the XCx.

You get a 19-litre tank and a claimed fuel economy of 65mpg (up from 55), giving a theoretical range of just over 270 miles.

There's a three-litre storage compartment under the pillion seat, which sounds impressive but in practice wouldn't take a 500ml water bottle.

At, £9,999 on the road, the XCx is the most expensive of the new Tiger 800s (£1,500 more than the XR), but it's still a persuasive proposition at the price. It's an adventure bike you can actually do some trail riding on for under 10 grand.

Compare it to, say, Suzuki's V-Strom 1000, which is probably no better at touring or any other road duties, has no real off-road potential and costs the same.

There's another reason for thousands of riders to like the XCx, and all the other new Tiger 800s. Like KTM's new 1050 Adventure, they make exactly the maximum power a bike can in order for it to be restricted to 48hp for A2 licence holders.

Maybe it will open real adventure bikes to whole new generation.

Model tested: Triumph Tiger 800 XCx

Price: £9,999 on-the-road

Power: 95hp @ 9,250rpm

Torque: 58lbft @ 7,850rpm

Fuel economy (claimed): 65mpg

Wet weight: 221kg

Tank capacity: 19 litres

Seat height: 840-860mm (820-840mm with optional low seat)

Availability: January 2015

Colours: White, black or blue