The age of big, burly, power boasting motorcycles — no matter the category — is over. They won’t completely disappear; there’s still a legitimate market for them as lineup-topping models. But as far as headliners are concerned, the honor now goes to more accessible, more affordable small and mid-sized motorcycles. And based on its refinement and performance alone, the new Triumph Tiger 800 XC, the British mid-sized adventure motorcycle, relegates anything bigger to irrelevance.
Who’s It For
On the surface, the Tiger 800 XC looks like an all-out adventure bike — a little stocky, tall, well balanced off-road, its styling may be for everyone. But, after spending two days in the saddle, riding through Morocco’s country towns and up into the Atlas Mountains and thrashing it on a very muddy and punishing off-road course, it’s clear the Tiger shows a multitude of talents. The rider that would best exploit the Tiger 800 XC is a year-round commuter who doubles as a weekend warrior.
One technical spec Triumph was eager to show off was the 800cc triple-cylinder engine’s torque curve — or lack thereof. What’s impressive, to say the least, is that Triumph manages to squeeze out nearly all of the engine’s torque right from idle and keeps that delivery strong through the rev-range. That’s a torque curve seldom seen outside of Chevy crate engines set up for drag racing. It’s the kind of power that works well everywhere: in traffic, while going light to light and on the trails, going turn to turn. Reigning in the torque are six different ride modes as well as various levels of traction control and ABS settings. Rain-slick asphalt, dirt and mud are all mitigated with a flick of the wrist and a quick toggle through the menu. As for colder days, the tall, adjustable windshield, mudguards, heated grips and seat on the Tiger XCa form an incredible cocoon of warmth against the cold. Even with less-than-optimal layering, I was surprisingly comfortable in the unseasonably cold weather — amid snow, sleet and rain — drifting across Morocco during the ride.
2018 Triumph Tiger XC
Torque: 58 ft-lbs
Weight: 439-459 lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 49.8 mpg
Price: $14,450 (XCx), $15,850 (XCa)
What To Watch Out For
As with most multi-terrain motorcycles, your choice of tires is critical. The Tiger 800 XC comes standard with Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIs but will accept more aggressive dirt tires. The stock Pirellis do a fine job on the road and can handle their own on broken pavement and light dirt and gravel, but anything more and they’re a little out of their depth. Conversely, the more aggressive tires will be outstanding in the dirt and mud, but there’ll be a massive trade-off for on-road traction. You just have to assess what sort of riding you’ll be doing the most. You could always get a spare set of spoked rims and have the best of both worlds.
The Tiger 800 XC’s most direct competitor is most definitely the BMW F 800 GS. The BMW comes in at a slightly lower price ($13,895), but the German competitor is considerably paired down on technology and options and is down on power, too: 85 horsepower and 61 lb-ft. The F800 GS does return better mileage at 55 mpg, however.
Spring for the XCa model over the XCx. The XCa is one step above and, yes, is more expensive, but with the larger price tag comes the six programmable ride modes, aluminum radiator guard, backlit switchgear with menu joystick and, most importantly, the heated seat and grips. Those last options may sound unnecessary, but when temperature drops and you need them and have them at your disposal, they’re the most important feature on the bike.
You can mark down the Tiger 800 XCa for being more expensive than the competition, and for being the more expensive in the XC lineup, but you can’t look at it as a single bike. What you’re getting for $15,000 is three bikes in one. The refined, lighter, more efficient triple-cylinder engine makes the kind of power that is at home in traffic or carving up canyon roads and is deployable in the dirt. There didn’t seem to be an environment where the Tiger 800 XCa was uncomfortable; in the freezing temperatures of northern Morrocco, skipping across the broken pavement, it’s hard not to imagine the middleweight ADV bike tackling weekly commutes year-round, no matter the environment. It’s a commuter bike for day-to-day-riding, a sports standard for weekday joy rides and a big dual sport for going off the grid on the weekends — good luck getting three different bikes each for a third of the Triumph’s $15,000 price tag.
“As the trails disappeared and the sand became deeper the Tiger got better and better. The upgraded WP suspension, unique to the XCX and XCA versions, came into its own on the uneven rocky terrain. The only time there was a hint of the suspension bottoming out was dropping down a steep descent into a dry(ish) riverbed and landing heavily on the front wheel.” – Bennetts.co.uk
“With a range of updates, the 2018 Tiger 800 is more refined than its predecessor and gives other middleweight adventure bikes a serious run for their money.” – Visor Down