New electronics, new suspension and all-round better performance. Alun Davies checks out the 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx.
There was a brief moment when I wasn’t sure if I was attending a surprise launch of Triumph’s new male hair grooming products or the unveiling of the 2015 Tiger 800. I have to say, Marbella, in sunny southern Spain, was the setting for the most impressive crop of facial hair I’ve witnessed on a new motorcycle press launch. Fair play to the assembled motorcycle scribes, and Triumph staff, they’ve catapulted the bike world into hipster orbit.
You’ve probably already guessed this but let me confirm your suspicions. Attending new bike launches are a pretty good way to earn a living. You get flown to (mostly) sunny overseas locations, lodged in quality hotels and then you get fed and watered to the extent that it’s difficult to view home life as anything other than living in a state of abstinence whilst on a Kate Moss diet.
As an aside, you’re then presented with the opportunity to ride brand, spanking, new bikes before the paying public and talk till the aperitifs come home with motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world. Speaking of which, with the company opening up in new markets, there were journalists from India and Indonesia (all with very impressive facial hair) attending a Triumph launch for the first time.
I mention all this as there may be the odd reader labouring under the impression that journalists are bought off and reviews are written whilst submerged under caviar in a lake of fine wine. Most of the time that would be about right, but not this time, this review is being penned late at night in a lonely, but very comfortable I might add, hotel room in balmy Marbella with only the glimmer from the luxury heated pool below my window disturbing my thoughts. Tough life, eh?
Anyway, enough of these tales of whoa, let’s move on to business and the new Triumph Tiger 800, or to be precise the four new Triumph Tiger 800s – XR; XRx; XC; XCx. More about the difference between the versions later, for now just think this; The XR is the more road orientated bike; the XRx is the XR with bells and whistles; the XC has better off-road features and the XCx is the XC with gizmos.
The original Tiger 800 was launched in 2010 into the burgeoning adventure bike market and received glowing reports from the press and, subsequently, from customers. Since then it’s been Triumph’s biggest selling motorcycle and, presumably, the largest contributor to paying the shopping bills up at the Hinckley HQ. It, therefore, doesn’t take a lot of functioning grey matter to understand that this new 800 is very important to the continuing health of the British manufacturer.
From a distance, you’re going to need fanatical trainspotter tendencies to notice the difference between the old Tiger 800 and the new version. Or, put another way, there’s no mistaking the new Tiger 800 for anything other than the old Tiger 800. On the one hand that’s slightly disappointing for a new bike launch but overall it’s no bad thing as the Tiger was, and still is, a fine looking machine that most definitely possesses the look and feel of a modern adventure bike.
I’m sure there’s going to be a fair few existing Tiger owners casting an eye at the photos in this feature and thinking I’ve already got one of those. There’s no denying you need to get up close to appreciate the new cosmetic tweaks but visual changes were not high on the agenda for the 2015 Tiger. What the company was looking to achieve was far more practical and focused on offering customer improvements of the sort that are generally hidden away from view and described in engineering terms that have me glazing over in the eye department.
For non-technical bike buyers who just want to turn the key and ride – I’ll include myself in that category – Triumph set out to achieve better off-road capabilities, increased engine performance measured in both power delivery and economy, plus they wanted to offer the purchaser more choice and options. And in all those three areas they’ve come up trumps.
Throwing a leg over the 800XCx and settling into the optional comfort seat felt very familiar as indeed it would if you’ve ever ridden the previous model. The bars have been moved slightly forward and up but that’s about the extent of the ergonomic changes. The seat height is adjustable from 860mm to 840mm (the XRx is lower at 830mm-810mm) and at 6ft 2in I could place both feet comfortably on the floor at the highest setting.
The dash and controls are clear and well laid out though working through the multitude of electronic options on the XCx takes a little getting used to. With electronic functions and features on the increase, it’s time motorcycle manufacturers took a leaf out of the Apple school of human functionality and paid more attention to ease of use. As an example, it was just after lunch on day two before I worked out how to change the display from reading KPH to MPH, and that was quicker than most in the group. That said, I’m sure any three year old with iPad experience would crack it in seconds and in reality, it’s not going to be an issue for a buyer with time to learn the system.
Staying with technology this is where Triumph have upped their game and integrated a Ride by Wire system with ABS and traction control (TC). The XC and XCx both feature ABS and TC as standard and both functions can be switched off if needs be. The ‘x’ model also comes with cruise control as standard and offers the rider far more software options including four throttle maps (Rain, Road, Sport and Off-Road) plus three riding modes (Road, Off-Road and Custom).
The throttle maps alter the power delivery where, for example, Rain is softer than Road which in turn is less aggressive than Sport.
When you select a ‘riding mode’ the system automatically selects pre-set ABS and TC settings along with the default throttle map. For example, when you select ‘Road’ mode the system automatically sets the ABS, TC and Throttle map to pre-defined road settings. Select ‘Off-Road’ mode and the system automatically sets the throttle map to Off-Road and reduces the ABS and Traction control intervention to allow back wheel locking and a little slippage. If you think in terms of a modern-day Digital SLR camera where you can select ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait’ and the camera works out the optimum settings for taking a picture; it’s the same sort of thing but with handlebars thrown in.
Where the system really gets interesting is in the ‘custom’ mode where the rider chooses the selections to suit. As an example of how this would work in practice, an experienced off-road rider could aim for maximum fun by setting the ‘custom’ mode to ‘Sport’ throttle map, ‘Off-Road’ ABS and turn off the TC.
With a spoked 17in rear and 21in front plus fully adjustable WP suspension fore and aft, the XC certainly looks the part and is well equipped for off-road riding. However, as with all bikes that weighs 221kg (fully fuelled) off-road performance is far more reliant on the experience of the rider than the functionality of the bike.
And with that in mind, we set off for our first ride of the day that kicked off in a dusty quarry before heading out on trails through the dry Spanish hillside.
The first thing that grabbed me about the new Tiger 800 is just how smooth everything feels, from the silky Ride by Wire throttle response to the super slick gearbox. Throw in the linear power delivery and the superb suspension and you have a bike that is unthreatening and so easy to ride it offers rider confidence from the off. There’s simply not a rough edge to be found on this new 800.
Back at the quarry with the off-road setting engaged the ABS allowed for the rear wheel to be locked for better control whilst the front still retained it’s braking power without locking – very nice indeed. The setting also allows a little rear-wheel slippage before the TC intervenes, which means even novices can go all ‘Dakar’ with the throttle and hang out the back end a touch before the safety net kicks in.
In use, both systems performed very well though I did have a slightly traumatic moment on a tight downhill corner when the rear wheel remained locked for a split second after my foot had disengaged with the brake. Having reported the event to Triumph technicians the solution was deemed to be a slight tweak of the mapping software and all is now reported as being fine.
It would have been good to spend additional time playing in the dirt and taking on more challenging terrain but I reckon I can safely say the new Triumph 800 XCx is a better bike on the trails than the original version. The WP suspension ate up the ruts with ease, the handling was tight and precise and slow speed control was a doddle with plenty of low down power and a smooth throttle response.
If I have a niggle then it’s with the system used for engaging and disengaging the different power modes. To change modes you need to press a button, close the throttle and pull in the clutch. However, switch the engine off whilst in off-road mode and the system defaults to road when you next fire up – a pain for green Lane smokers.
If the off-road version heads your list then the XC comes with a radiator guard and bash plate with the ‘x’ adding off-road riding modes, engine protection bars, handguards and an upgraded aluminium sump guard.
From the dusty quarry on the outskirts of Marbella, we pointed our Triumph XCxs in the direction of the spectacular mountain city of Ronda. The A397 road to Ronda from the coastal town of San Pedro Alcantara is approximately 30 miles long, rising up to an altitude of 1,168m before dropping back down to Ronda at 737m. There are very few straights to mention on the A397 it’s just a constant sequence of sweeping left and right bends following the folds of the mountain and one of the best biking roads in the world.
Having previously owned a Tiger 885 and 955i and spent many a summer enjoying spirited rides along Alpine roads in Europe my overriding memory of the old Triumphs is that of a wonderful, torquey triple engine and handling that defied the bulbous, heavyweight look of the bikes. I was halfway round the first bend when I’d decided nothing had changed.
The Tigers 95bhp triple engine is a peach, pulling from below 2,000rpm and maintaining power right through to the 10,000rpm redline, with just a little extra kick coming in at 8,000rpm. The new Ride by Wire throttle is as smooth as you’d like, even when tugged to the max in ‘Sports’ mode there’s nothing aggressive, just silky power on tap.
The handling would delight a better and faster rider than I’m ever going to be, on the fast sweeping bends of the A397 it just gave me the confidence to ride, lean, accelerate and brake at a pace I’m very unlikely to ride at back home.
The comfort factor of the new Tiger has been maintained from the previous high standards of the earlier version. In use, I didn’t notice that much difference between the optional comfort seat and the stock saddle and despite the shortness of the screen, it performed a remarkably good job at wind protection. There was little to no buffeting or wind noise and despite my almost paranoiac dislike of previous Triumph screens on the 885 and 955i, I doubt I’d be looking to replace the standard unit.
There was no opportunity to test out the pillion carrying capabilities of the Tiger or the performance when fully loaded up for touring. We’ll be paying special attention to both scenarios when we get our hands on a long term test bike in the new year.
As pointed out earlier, Triumph set out to offer better off-road performance, increased engine performance measured in both power delivery and economy plus they wanted to offer the purchaser more choice and options. The new XC is a better off-road bike than its predecessor, the performance and economy are improved (the claimed MPG is up 17% to 65mpg) and with four versions starting from £8,499 they’ve pulled off what they set out to achieve.
For a mid-range 800cc adventure bike I’m struggling to find a negative when it comes to the new Triumph Tiger 800. Given the choice, I’d plump for the top of the range XCx for its added off-road ability and useful extras. Looking at the secondhand market I’d also reckon that the XCx would hold its value slightly better than the XC version. In short, the new Tiger 800 possesses all the attributes to continue being Triumph’s best selling motorcycle.
NB: We’ll be featuring the more road-oriented XRx version along with Triumph factory accessories in the next issue of ABR.
As a commuter
Agile, nippy, smooth and a high sitting position to see what’s going on ahead are all positives. The extra fuel economy is a nice touch too.
As a weekend tourer
Good fuel economy, comfortable and great handling all add to the appeal of the new Tiger as a weekend tourer. This bike is a blast on A roads and more than capable of high-speed motorway cruising to get you there.
As an off-roader
The new WP suspension and off-road riding modes make the new Tiger better than the older version. Very capable for a 221kg bike, possibly the best off-roader in it’s class.
As a continental road tourer
The old Tiger is tried and tested, the new version is better still. Very capable at motorway cruising speeds and comfortable for big mileage all dayers in the saddle.
As an RTW Overlander
A great bike on-road and a very capable machine off-road. Still a little on the heavy side for taking on the dunes of the Sahara and mud fests of the Congo but so are most other bikes over 400cc.
As a pillion carrier
We’ve yet to ride the bike with a pillion though we suspect it’s as capable as any other machine in the 800cc class.
Stuart Wood started with Triumph in 1987 as a design engineer moving up to lead engineer in 1995.
As a fellow Welshman, we had the customary two-hour talk about rugby before settling down to a five-minute chat about the new bike and I have to say if his enthusiasm is any measure of how good this new Tiger is then it’s a world-beater.
From an engineering standpoint, Stuart explained that his starting point began with the question ‘what do you want it to do’? The answers he received were; make it more off-road; offer better performance and economy and provide the buyer with more options. The off-road ability has been upgraded via a combination of improved suspension and technology. The engine performance by the more traditional methods of changing injectors and airbox and the inclusion of software-driven ride by wire throttle technology. And with four new Tigers to choose from, there’s certainly plenty of options.
The Sign oF Four
Four new Tiger 800s, which one should you choose?
Road or Off-Road?
If you’ve no or limited off-road ambitions go XR. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a dirt drifter go XC
What’s with the small ‘x’?
Same basic bike with extra bling and more advanced software.
XC Standard Kit
Spoked wheels; Prominent beak; Adjustable front suspension; Trip computer; Radiator guard; Sump guard; 12v power socket; Adjustable brake and clutch levers.
XCx Standard Kit
As with the XC plus: Engine bars; Advanced trip computer; Road and Off-Road riding modes; Configurable rider mode; Auto cancel indicators; Cruise control; Centre stand; hand guards; Aluminium sump guard; Auxiliary 12v power socket
XR Standard Kit
Cast wheels; Trip computer; Sump guard; 12v power socket; Adjustable brake and clutch levers.
XRx Standard Kit
As with XR plus: Advanced trip computer; Road and Off-Road riding modes; Configurable rider mode; Auto cancel indicators; Cruise control; Centre stand; Handguards; Comfort rider and pillion seats, adjustable screen; 12v auxiliary socket