After being enthralled by the round-the-world tales in our free Adventure supplement a couple of weeks ago I was inspired to do something similar on the Tiger 800. The journey needed to be epic and daring, the destination exotic and unusual.
One night over dinner all options were examined with my partner and pillion, Nicola. Would it be the Road of Bones and Mongolia? Or perhaps the Pan-American Highway? Finally, after much wrangling and head scratching the destination was picked. Benidorm.
I admit, Benidorm might not top many motorcyclists’ lists as an epic biking destination but being contrary is a hobby of mine and besides, a friend has a villa with a pool just up the road at a resort called Calpe and we could stay for free. Sorted.
The plan was to travel down through France, stay somewhere roughly midway and then ride to Barcelona before going onto Calpe – a total of three-days riding and just over 1300 miles.
Preparations for the Tiger were minimal. A pair of 45-litre Trax metal panniers were fitted to match the excellent 38-litre Trax topbox, the remote rear suspension preload adjuster was wound up to max with a flat bladed screwdriver and the ingenious headlamp levelling switch was flicked to pillion mode. We were off.
Even fully loaded and two-up the Tiger had no problems with the estimated 190kg of people and luggage on-board. The fat torque of the 800 triple pulled effortlessly along, even on the steep and twisty French and Spanish back roads. Instant power could be summoned from just about anywhere in the rev range. I can honestly say I never once wished for a bigger capacity bike like a 1200GS or a 990 Adventure. What more could they offer? Only weight and bulk.
Cruising speed along the Autoroutes was a steady 80mph. Above 95mph the Tiger develops a slight but predictable weave (it does this when ridden solo without luggage too) but this was a scenic cruise, not a thrash.
Comfort was exceptionally good. A pillion seemed to reduce any buffeting I’d previously got from the screen and even though vibes through the bars gave me numb fingers after a couple of long stints, it was never a problem. The only niggles were the panels below the petrol tank which dig into the inside of my knees and the seat that prompted shuffling about after 80 miles. Both those issues could well be down to my 6ft 4in height. The motor pumps out a fair bit of heat onto your legs too but even at 38°C it was more noticeable than troubling.
Fuel economy over the entire run averaged 45.5mpg. Dropping the speed slightly to below 80mph increased economy to 51.6mpg. This was worked out by GPS and petrol pump readings rather than the on-board computer which I’ve found a tad pessimistic. Pillion niggles include a chain guard that’s too short and spatters left legs with chain lube (not a happy camper) and in extreme heat the rubber pillion pegs rotate on their mountings.
If there’s one thing our 2063-mile round trip has proved, it’s that you don’t need a heavyweight 1000cc+ bike for heavyweight touring. This may have been the case 20 years ago but the 800cc, 100bhp Tiger is big enough, comfy enough and powerful enough to transport two people and a ton of luggage to anywhere in the world, be it the Darien Gap or Benidorm.
Triumph Tiger 800 ABS, £7749
Power (claimed): 94bhp
Torque (claimed): 58ftlb