It has been almost a year since I was blown away by the new Tiger 800, having ridden it in the picturesque yet challenging terrain of Morocco. The XCa variant which I rode was launched recently in the country, but what we have here is the XCx which lacks an all-LED lighting setup, rider modes, heated seat and other minute bits. In the ride story, I was having a hard time finding faults, and it has taken almost a year for us to source the bike from Triumph India. Now that we finally have it with us, it’s time to put to test the potential of the most popular mid-weight ADV out there.
“Even on the ergonomics front, the Tiger is just about perfect with an upright riding position”
It’s not a Tiger special issue mind you. The XR, as the name suggests, is touring oriented while the XC is meant to take on the roads less travelled. This test is all about the off road prowess of what has been established as a bike for all seasons. And especially in India, the conditions are just apt for the XC variant. The 21-inch at the front and 17-inch at the rear wheel setup, coupled with massive travel at both ends (220-215mm) and those fully adjustable WPs means a great off-road platform, straight out of the box. Even on the ergonomics front, the Tiger is just about perfect with an upright riding position. Triumph has altered the dimensions of the XC variant with the handlebar being moved towards the rider by 10mm and the bars have been raised by a whopping 30mm. And all of this makes the XC just about perfect to stand and ride. In fact, I’d stick my neck out and say that nothing feels as comfortable as the XC with only the BMW R 1200 GS coming close. The windscreen too has been thoughtfully designed and can be adjusted five ways while the cluster, derived from the Street Triple RS, is manually adjustable as per your liking. With so much emphasis on the ergonomics front, the Tiger has already won half the battle. But wait, there’s more.
Yes, Triumph says the new Tiger comes with more than 200 updates, with most of the changes being made to the drivetrain. The backlash gears have been thrown out, the crankshaft optimised and the cooling components given an overhaul as well. The whistle you ask? It still persists, but has been retained in an edgier and sportier manner. The 800cc engine still makes 94bhp and 79Nm, but the way the power is delivered is what matters. The first gear ratio has been shortened and is now so good that you can even climb 50-degree inclines without a hiccup. The torque curve is properly flat as well, starting from as low as 2,300rpm, climbing all the way to the redline. And when the conditions demand, the Tiger delivers, as we discovered.
The whole idea of the test was to find out how the Tiger XC performs in real world conditions and even on tier II trails. The test location was mutually decided as our favourite road, Lavasa, but with a twist. The Temghar dam is being excavated and the soft, sand-like terrain is just about perfect to test the off-road prowess of the Triumph.
“There’s so much lowdown torque that you rarely end up downshifting and third cog is all you’ll need to potter around in town”
As you get on the move, you notice how natural the Tiger feels to stand and ride. Especially if you’re someone large with a height above 5ft 10in. The seat height, at 840mm, isn’t really intimidating and the wide handlebar makes for a very comfortable riding position. On the straights, the brilliant 800cc motor simply feels outstanding. There’s so much lowdown torque that you rarely end up downshifting and third cog is all you’ll need to potter around in town and then simply whack open the throttle and get past the trucks. Obviously, coming with larger rims than the XR, the XC feels lazy. When I rode the bike in Marrakech, it was fitted with optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres while in India, the stock tyres that you get are Bridgestone Battlewing. The tyres are road-oriented and thus offer enough grip on road. But off road? Not really. But more on that later. The large seat has a narrow seam towards the tank which equates to enough space to move around. The perfect 50:50 weight distribution means the Tiger XC feels perfectly stable in corners and despite pushing it to the limits, hardly shows any weaknesses. The Lavasa road isn’t in the best condition and there are potholes the size of lunar craters. But the XC simply glides over everything, even in the stock setup.
“Even with several jumps, the Tiger XC never bottomed out at either end and we had to really push to take it to the limit”
Once we got to Temghar, it was time to find out how it performs in the slimy and soft conditions of the lake bed. Simply switch to Off Road Pro mode using the switch cube(switches off TC at both ends with ABS left on only at the front). Well, with a weight of only 205kg (dry) the XC never feels out of shape. The low-down torque urges you to tackle articulation pits and even zip through mush. Even with several jumps, the Tiger XC never bottomed out at either end and we had to really push to take it to the limit. However, the best part is, unlike other mid-weight ADVs, the Tiger feels solid and dependable. The rugged body panels and superbly finished body give you a sense of longevity. Unlike the Multistrada 950, the V-Strom or even the Versys, the Tiger feels like a masochist. My only grouse was the stock Bridgestones which simply don’t do justice to the overall package. And if there’s one thing that I’d like to change, it would be the rubber and that’s it. If you are planning to get the XC, make sure you swap to Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres straight off the showroom.
I have always had a penchant for sports tourers, with the likes of Multistradas and Versys. But the Tiger has changed the perception of how an ADV should ideally be. It’s just perfect for Indian conditions, feels built to last and Triumph owners say the after sales is a breeze as well. If you want to get from one part of the country to the other in the fastest way possible, there’s nothing that can even remotely come close to the Tiger 800XC today. Hence proved!