First ride: New Triumph Tiger 800
A thorough mid-life update now lets the baby Tigers hunt even better when out in the wild
So, how 'new' is the new Tiger 800?
Technically, the new Tiger 800 is based on the same generation model as the outgoing one, the bike that we loved so dearly. However, the 2018 model brings in new tech and refinement that’s made an already impressive motorcycle an unbeatable one. Well, sort of. The list of improvements is huge, Triumph says that number stands at 200 – don’t worry, I won’t dig into that.
Thank you. Listing out the significant changes would be highly appreciated, though
Okay, here goes. It starts with the design. Only if you look closely, would you notice that the body panels are new. They carry the same basic design but have been restyled for aero purpose. In fact, apart from the tank, every other panel is new, including the new LED headlamps, wind deflectors and the windscreen that can now be easily adjusted manually, on the go. So overall, it’s a sharper-looking, a more purposeful adventure motorcycle to look at.
I hope there’s more to the new Tigers than just sharper looks
Oh yes, there is. While the chassis and sub-frame have been untouched, Triumph has made huge improvements as far as mechanicals go. The engine, for instance, retains the same power figures as before, but thanks to a new crankshaft and a new clutch, engineers have found greater levels of refinement that are evident when you have a go at it.
Can we skip the part where you actually start talking about its ‘improved’ real-world performance?
You’re an impatient lot, I must say. Nevertheless, we did get a chance to test ride the new Tiger 800 last month in Morocco, and here’s our take on it. With all the mechanical updates put together, the baby Tigers feel a lot easier to manage out in the wild. For instance, a shorter first gear ratio has not only improved tractability during off-roading and low-speed riding, but also bettered initial reactiveness. Then there’s the repositioned handlebar, now closer to the rider, further improving overall ergonomics. And if you weren’t a big fan of the earlier Tiger’s exhaust note, Triumph has made changes to the exhaust system too, which is now lighter, shorter and sounds much better than before.
Sounds interesting. You’ve more to share, right?
Yes. As mentioned, I tried taming these Tigers in Morocco, on an adventure trail that led us to the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. I jumped over crests, pulled power-slides over rutted surfaces, popped wheelies whenever I could and kept the throttle pinned while navigating soft sand. There were times when I landed really hard jumping off blind crests, but the XCa would stay unruffled – the more off-road biased XCa continues to sport the adjustable WP shocks up front and I can now confirm, they do a fantastic job off the tarmac. And if it weren’t for the XCa’s superb composure, I wouldn’t have dared going as fast as 170kph on rutted roads in pure Dakar-style without the fear of losing traction and crashing out. The trail we ventured out onto had everything from loose soil, rocks, dry riverbeds, slush, and sandpits, but the XCa, shod with optional Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres came, saw and conquered everything Mother Nature could throw at it.
That’s quite promising, isn’t it?
Indeed. There’s also a new trick the Tigers have learnt – it’s called the Off-road Pro mode, wherein all electronic aids can be shut off if you have the guts to do so. I was quite apprehensive of using the Pro mode at first, but looking at fellow riders survive in the wilderness, I switch to the Off-road Pro, too. Thankfully, this new system allows riders to further fiddle with the settings, allowing me to leave the ABS on the front wheels ON, just in case I forget my basics. And surprisingly, it proved to be the best mode to ride a Tiger off-road in. It lets you have a real go at obstacles, sliding your tail out knowing you still have the assurance of ABS just in case you need to cut speed and avoid falling off the cliff.
Did you also happen to ride the XR variant? Any improvements?
If the XC is now better prepared for the wild, the XR has found ways to further improve its road-worthiness. Now shod with adjustable Showas, the XRt feels plusher than before. Mind you, both these bikes do belong to roads less travelled, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at home on the tarmac. The XR, for instance, continues to feel like an everyday bike with the improved motor lending it superb tractability in both urban and highway settings. Winding roads, too, are dispatched with equal enthusiasm, allowing for great lean angles coming out of corners. Okay, not Ducati Multistrada 950 level, but so much so that even an intermediate-level rider would be seen scraping the footpeg feelers easily. Not to suggest the ground clearance has been compromised, those slightly low-set feelers work as a safety net, as per Triumph.
Your final thoughts on the ‘new’ Tiger 800
In my time exploring Morocco on two wheels, I spent a good amount of time riding the XRt and XCa on the road, and the XCa with rally tyres off-the-road. If there was anything that made me more comfortable apart from the newly developed heated seats, it would be the simplicity and honesty of the Tigers. Yes, they look intimidating just parked outside your garage, but if I’ve survived the Moroccan deserts with my limited off-roading skills, I can only imagine the amount of pleasure an experienced rider can extract by just pushing these adventure bikes to their limits. This may just be a mid-life update for the Tiger 800, but it’s a significant one, making the entire experience more enjoyable than it already was.
Even in terms of features, the 2018 Tigers have brought in new levels of engine refinement, added features such as the new TFT screen similar to the Street Triple RS, an aero package, an interesting new off-road mode for the XCa and better suspension for the XRt, to name just a few. Sharper styling is just an added bonus, but I’m not sure how many would consider buying an adventure motorcycle based on its looks. No, these babies would be appreciated for their sheer capabilities on Indian terrain and on that count, the Tiger 800 is a difficult one to fault.
What would you pick, the XR or the XC?
Now launched in India, we get three variants to choose from, the base XR (Rs 11.7 lakh), the XRx (Rs 13.1 lakh) and the XCx (Rs 13.7 lakh, prices ex-showroom, India). Sadly the top-end XCa won’t be available, just yet. Nonetheless, the new Tigers are no doubt confidence-inspiring motorcycles, and if I were to choose one, I would go for the XC variant purely for the possibilities and opportunities it presents off-the-road. And with the great infrastructure that our nation provides us, we surely need a lot more of these. Plus, the price difference between the XR and XC isn’t much.