First ride: Triumph Tiger 800 'improved on and off-road'

Published: 09 March 2018

Triumph’s Tiger has a long history of adventure and off-road riding. The first Tiger officially competed for Triumph way back in 1939, and many readers will remember the Tiger Cub from the late 1950s. The first modern Tiger emerged in 1993 as a 900, while the 800 appeared in 2010, and since then the Tiger has gone on to sell close to 70,000 units and remains one of their most popular bikes in the UK.

Clearly Triumph are confident the new Tiger – with no fewer than six variants – will continue in the grand tradition. The new bike was launched in Morocco with  two days of extensive testing, both on and off-road, sampling both their 19in front wheeled XRT and their more off-road biased XCA, which runs a 21in front wheel. First up was the XRT, the Tiger Triumph predict will command more sales in the UK.


Triumph hasn’t drastically changed the Tiger 800, and in many ways they didn’t need to as it was an already excellent bike. But while they were making sure the new engine  would be fit to pass the tight Euro4 regulations, they gave the British-built bike a nip and a tuck, upgraded the technology and increased both its on and off-road capabilities, (see below).

At the heart of the Tiger is the sublime 800cc in-line triple. For 2018 capacity remains the same, as do the majority of the internals. Triumph claim they’ve ‘optimised’ the engine, and it now features a shorter first gear to improve responsiveness and acceleration and a lighter exhaust with a ‘better’ sound.

Peak power of 94bhp and torque at 58ftlb are identical to the previous model, however both peak slightly higher in the rev range, while Triumph will also be offering an A2 kit for all 800 models.

The frame is identical to the now old model: same swing-arm, dimensions and wheelbase, however the front suspension is all-new on the road biased XRT. The 43mm Showa adjustable front forks now match the already proven adjustable Showa single rear shock. The new Brembo stoppers up-front are not only standard on the premium model, but also on the mid-spec Tigers.

Triumph have made a large step forward with their electronic riding aids and technology and the new bike features up to six riding modes with a specific ‘Off-Road Pro’ setting for the XCA. Each mode changes the engine characteristics plus ABS and traction control intervention. You can also personalise and save each mode, for example removing the traction control (TC) in Sports mode.

To navigate the new modes, there’s a neat new dash and switch-gear (although the base model still has a basic LCD display), but the mid and premium Tigers have an eye-catching full colour TFT display. The clocks are multi-adjustable -- you can change the layout and look -- plus the display pivots, allowing you to clearly see the screen stood up or sat down. The back-lit switchgear with a five-way joystick makes it easy and intuitive to navigate the new clocks.

A clever and easy-to-use five-way manually adjustable screen is all-new as are the ‘aero deflectors’ either side of the new lighter headlight. The ergonomics are similar to the old model, but the bars have moved back 10mm while a new two-way position adjustable seat adds adjustability and there’s still and optional lower model. To increase comfort further, the XRT receives a heated seat for both pillion and rider as standard, plus heated grips and cruise control. A 12v socket and USB connection are a welcome added bonus.

African Tiger  

The roads south of Marrakesh in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains proved the ideal testing ground for the new XRT. With the ever-changing roads, environment and conditions, the bike needed to be versatile and easy to manage. We went from perfectly fast grippy switchback sections to gravel roads and even small river crossings. We encountered strong winds, rain, sun and even snow, and the all-new Tiger took everything we could throw at it in its stride.

When driving snow hit, it was up with the five-way manually adjustable screen, on with the heated seat and grips to maximum. According to that new full-colour TFT dash the temperature was barely above freezing, but I was more than comfortable behind the large screen and new wind-deflectors.

With the seat set on its lower setting you’re sat very much in the bike, rather than on it, which suited me perfectly in these conditions, as did the ability to restrict the power and torque and add electronic assistance on the move simply by closing the throttle and opting for the softer ‘Rain’ mode.

Once we’d descended from the stunning snow-capped mountains, it was back into ‘Sports’ mode for some fun.

Despite having less than 100bhp, the Tiger rarely feels anything other than willing. Its torque curve is incredibly flat, the throttle and fuelling near perfect, which gives the impression of effortless power, and makes it a delightfully easy bike to ride.  

At times, I found my mind wandering from the bike and simply enjoying the sights of Morocco as the XRT effortlessly processed the stunning roads without need to change down form sixth.  And when I wanted a more involving ride I kicked back a few gears and exploited  the over-rev -- the Tiger is the best of both worlds.

Watch out for donkeys

Riding fast in Morocco isn’t recommended given the number of stray dogs, donkeys, and broken down old trucks around every corner. Thankfully, the new Brembo stoppers were strong enough and up for the job. The ABS is conventional and not lean sensitive but under heavy braking the 43mm new Showa forks offer excellent support, and don’t plummet into the road like some adventure bikes do.

The handling is impressive, too, for this type of bike though at a quoted 208kg dry with an estimated wet weight of around 230kg the Tiger is certainly a middle-weight and not a light-weight. The three-cylinder engine is the primary source of the kilos and is carried slightly high in the chassis and, while you’d never describe the Tiger as agile, but it’s responsive yet stable.

In town the fuelling is perfect. The new short first gear enables you to trickle along at walking pace with the clutch out. The low seat height means it’s not intimating for shorter riders and while that weight is apparent it’s not an issue.

Despite the road biased Metzeler Tourance tyres we even attempted some mild off-road on the XRT without drama, my only grumble being that you can’t change into the ‘Off Road’ mode or turn off the TC or change the ABS on the move.  It’s a little annoying having to stop and re-set the TC or ABS every time you hit some mild gravel.

And what about the Triumph Tiger 800 XCA?

I rode the XCA all-day in the Atlas Mountains and didn’t think the new 800 would perform as well as it did. It has genuinely excellent off-road ability.

The XCA comes with 21in front wheel opposed to the 19in on the standard model. WP suspension with longer travel replaces the Showa items with a 40mm travel increase on the front and 45mm on the rear. Bridgestone Battlewing rubber comes as standard, but we opted for the more off-road biased Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres, which for the first time are approved on the XC models. The XCA and XCX are the only model that receive the additional ‘Off Road Pro’ mode.

For an estimated 230kg road bike the Tiger performed way above expectations. The short first gear made steep descents safe and easy and also delivered an instant rap of power just when I needed it.

The linear torque and perfect fuelling enable the rear to find traction. In tricky sandy conditions I just let the clutch out and allowed that low gear to pull me out, like a 4x4 diesel in snow. Away from soft sand the Tiger excelled at speed; stability was excellent and at times I felt comfortable at 60-70 mph off-road, all the time knowing I had specific off-road riding aids to help me out.

There are two dedicated off-road riding modes. The first is reassuring and safe, the TC catching slides early on. But if you’re more experienced you’ll prefer the ‘Off-Road Pro’, which de-activates the ABS on the rear and allows more slip. I opted for the ‘Pro’ mode with stunning off-road ABS on the front then went one stage further and switched off the TC completely (done within the mode menu). The down side is you can’t turn on or off the TC on the move and it re-sets when the ignition is switched off. 

Dedicated off-road fans will still find the fuel tank a little too wide, and the 800 still feels on the heavy side at slow speeds, but a big step for Triumph. Again, I can’t wait to try against the competition in back to back test off-road.

I thoroughly enjoyed the XCA and preferred it to the XRT. It gives you the opportunity to explore any road or trail at will. On the road it wasn’t hindered by its 21in front wheel, in fact when riding it on the standard, more road-biased Bridgestone Battlewing tyres you don’t have to compensate or make allowance for its off-road set up at all. The Bridgestones were hugely impressive in wet and changeable conditions.  

MCN verdict

Triumph haven’t broken the mould;  this isn’t a huge step forward for the already excellent Tiger 800. It’s smooth and more accessible, mainly due to new technology and riding aids. It’s comfier than before thanks to a new seat, a larger manually adjustable screen, heated grips and bars, even cruise control.

The new TFT dash, back-lit switch gear and new graphics give it high level of spec for a middle-weight adventure bike. The Tiger is so impressive it makes you wonder why you would want anything larger, especially when you consider that it’s taking on pricier big capacity adventure bikes head-on at a tempting £12,050.

XRT facts

Price: £12,050

Engine: 800cc,12v. DOHC, in-line triple

Frame: Tubular steel trellis

Seat height: 810-830mm

Suspension: 43mm Showa front forks with compound and rebound adjustment; single Showa rear shock with pre-load and rebound adjustment.

Brakes: 2 x 305mm discs with four piston Brembo calipers; 225mm rear disc with single-piston Nissin caliper

Colours: Silver, White, Blue.

Power: 94bhp @ 9500rpm

Torque: 58ftlb @ 8050rpm

Weight: 208kg (dry)

Tank capacity: 19 litres