2011 Triumph Tiger 800 & 800XC

Text: Ken Freund, Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Tom Riles, Brian Nelson

When the invitation to ride the new Triumph Tigers first arrived, our initial reaction was that we’d already ridden the bike so what could be happening at this event that we don’t already know? Another piece of the puzzle: It was to be a two-day ride, back to back on both versions of the 800. That created a little more interest. It’s not often that we get to test one manufacturer’s units side by side.

“It’s a rider’s introduction,” says Reg Kittrelle, Triumph North America’s press-relations manager, “and we’re looking to do something the other OEMS won’t do.” And with images of undisclosed hot, sandy and remote locations emanating from the San Diego, CA, point of origin, I was more than willing to take the challenge. Adventure being my middle name, I’m always looking to ride, hike, bike and escape. Communing with the motorcycle and my moto-brethren for a two-day, rustic motorcycle test is just my style.

Triumph offers two exciting flavors of its new adventure-touring Tiger 800: the XC (cross-country) aimed at riders who like to occasionally play in the dirt, and the standard Tiger 800 for folks who prefer their roads mostly paved. The standard version comes with a lower seat, street-oriented suspension, and a lower price tag. For an extra grand the XC gets you a 21-inch front wheel with a high-mounted fender, knobbier tires, and more suspension travel. Considering the nature of the event, riding both paved and gravel roads, both units handled the terrain rather well, but a bigger wheel up front always helps.

Drivetrain and Performance

Both new Tigers are propelled by the same basic water-cooled DOHC triple found in the Daytona 675 and Street Triple. The stroke, however, was increased to bring the engine up to 799cc, nicely boosting horsepower and torque. Triumph rates the lively fuel-injected mill with 94 hp at 9,300 rpm, peak torque of 58 lb-ft arrives at 7,850 rpm, and 70 percent of that is onboard at 4,000 rpm. The crank, cams, balancer, charging system and side covers are all new. Cylinder heads were also modified, and the lower compression is more forgiving of Third World gasoline. Both models have a five-gallon tank.

This spirited triple is surprisingly tractable, yet free revving, with a broad torque band. It can chug along at two grand in sixth gear, yet will pull like gangbusters up to its 9,900-rpm redline. The cable-operated wet clutch has a moderate pull and is easy to modulate. Triumph redesigned the gear-shifting drum in the six-speed gearbox, and it changes gears like a hot knife through butter. An O-ring chain serves as final drive, and while a shaft drive would be nice on an adventure bike, the chain is lighter and field-repairable.

Chassis and Handling

Triumph employs a rugged tube-steel frame and subframe that connect to a double-sided aluminum swingarm, providing a rigid if somewhat heavy chassis. Rake, trail and wheelbase vary slightly between models. You’ll find 23.1 degrees, 3.6 inches and 61.7 inches on the XC, and 23.7 degrees, 3.4 inches and 61.2 inches respectively on the standard version.

SHOWA suspension is used on both versions. The standard Tiger has a 43mm fork with 7.1 inches of stroke and a rear shock with hydraulically adjustable preload and 6.7 inches travel. Cast 10-spoke, aluminum-alloy wheels carry a 19-incher in front and a 17-incher at the rear. The costlier XC gets a beefier 45mm fork with a longer and plusher 8.7 inches of travel, and the XC’s rear shock is adjustable for rebound, as well as preload, with 8.5 inches of travel. Wire wheels replace the standard model’s cast rims, with a 21-incher in front. A 17-inch rear wheel and more dirt-oriented tires are mounted as well.

Stopping comes from a pair of 308mm front rotors with dual-piston Nissin calipers and a solo 255mm rotor and one-pot caliper out back. ABS is optional on both models, but it’s switchable on the XC, allowing riders the option to turn it off when riding on dirt. The XC’s taller front wheel, more-aggressive rubber, and longer, plusher suspension make it better suited to dirt than the standard version. The standard Tiger weighs a claimed 462 pounds wet, while the extra equipment on the XC adds 11 pounds.

Features and Ergonomics

The windscreen provides a moderate amount of protection from the windblast at highway speeds, without significant helmet buffeting. Saddle height is adjustable, with the XC sitting at 33.2 to 34.0 inches, while the standard model can be set at 31.9 or 32.7 inches. The XC also comes with hand guards, plus radiator and engine protection. We found the riding position to be very comfortable, but the seat itself felt hard and had us squirming long before the gas tank ran dry.

MSRP is ,999 for the standard Tiger 800 and ,999 for the Tiger 800XC, plus 5 destination charge and an extra 0 for ABS. This makes it a great value compared with such competing models as BMW’s F 800 GS.