Twin Triumph Tigers’ 3-cylinder a gem
Motorbike maker unveils models for dirt and pavement
Good things come in threes. The three little pigs, the Three Stooges and the Corelli triplets in high school spring to mind. But that’s a whole other story.
Three cylinders is a natural fit for a motorcycle — power pulses spaced 120 degrees apart make for a smooth-running engine and a triple is narrower and lighter than a similar four-cylinder motor. Fewer sparkplugs to change, fewer valves to adjust and so on.
A couple of years ago I rode Triumph’s 675 Street Triple R and noted, “If Triumph slapped a handlebar fairing and bags on this motorcycle, I’d have to cash in some RRSPs and buy one.”
After riding the $14,199 Triumph Tiger 800XC all I can say is, “Ooh, so close.”
There are two new 800s — the 800XC is more dirt-oriented, has spoked wheels (including a skinny 90/90 21-incher up front), a seat that adjusts from 845 to 865 mm, slightly larger forks and 40 mm more suspension travel front and rear. The Tiger 800 is more for pavement, with cast wheels, a 19-inch front, slightly lower seat and is five kilos lighter at 210 kg: Ready to ride.
The all-new 799cc, three-cylinder engine is a gem and, although it seems to have less character and zip of the 675 Street Triple, it’s still pretty good, pumping out a claimed 94 horsepower and 58 lb.- ft. of torque.
When the 800 triple bursts into life, the stock muffler emits just enough of that distinctive Triumph snarl to make me smile.
The fuel injection is well-sorted, with no glitches or spikes, and there obviously isn’t a lot of crankshaft inertia as the revs build quickly and easily.
Climbing aboard, the seat is wide and flat, the bars are just about where I’d put them, although after an hour or so I wished for a bit of pullback on the ends — they’re almost straight across and would be much better if they swept back an inch or so. Still, that’s a personal preference and easily corrected.
I immediately felt at home on the 800. The controls are light, the transmission snicks into each gear with a short, crisp throw and the screen fends away much of the windblast, even though it’s mounted low and fairly far forward.
The tidy dash follows current Triumph protocol and has the usual fuel consumption figures (average and current), gear position indicator and other assorted info including the useful “fuel remaining on this tank.”
The 800 is an easy bike to ride, too, as it produces 90 per cent of its maximum torque at only 3,500 r.p.m. Just ease the clutch out and you’re away, even with the relatively tall gearing.
Providing serious adventure touring “cred” is a standard 645W alternator, giving the XC lots of capacity for auxiliary lights and electrical accessories such as heated grips, GPS units and heated clothing.
The dirt-oriented XC is still at home on pavement, although the narrow 21-inch front tire squiggles around on stretches of grooved pavement. Steering is light around town and the tall seat and upright riding position makes it great in traffic, as you can see over most cages. The supple, long travel suspension absorbs all the pockmarks and craters, almost totally insulating the rider from any jolts or bumps. Nice.
Through the twisties, it handles surprisingly well. Push hard and it starts feeling a bit vague as the narrow tire hunts a bit. But those with sporting aspirations should opt for the Tiger 800 as the 19-inch front bun is much better for street riding. On gravel roads, the XC tracked straight and true with no wandering in the softer bits. For serious forays off road, the non-folding tips on the shifter and brake levers make them vulnerable to bending or breaking.
Performance was good, but I was expecting the eager responsiveness and charm of the 675 Street Triple on a grander scale, but it’s just not there. Don’t get me wrong — it’s more than adequate and definitely on par with BMW’s 800GS. The 19-litre fuel tank should give excellent cruising range, as I averaged 4.8 to 5.4 litres per 100 km.
The built-in luggage rack makes it a snap to attach a tailbag or other soft luggage and Triumph is offering an entire catalogue of factory accessories including tank bags, hard luggage and electronics.
ABS is standard but surprisingly, heated grips are an option. The header pipe connection looks unfinished to me.
Having the three headers sweep down in front of the motor into a collector looks awesome, but this is just, “Aw.”
Overall, the XC is an excellent middleweight adventure tourer and a viable alternative to BMW’s all-conquering 800GS. Although for strictly pavement use, the Tiger 800 would be a better choice.
2012 Triumph Tiger 800/800XC
ENGINE: 799cc, inline three, EFI, DOHC
FUEL CONSUMPTION: Measured 4.8 to 5.4L/100 km
POWER/TORQUE: 94 hp/58 lb.-ft.
COMPETITION: BMW F800GS
WHAT’S BEST: comfort, versatility, smooth motor
WHAT’S WORST: Tacky header collector, non-folding brake and gearshift
WHAT’S INTERESTING: A three-cylinder middleweight dirt bike
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