By Bertrand Gahel
They may not look like it at first glance, but both Triumph Tiger 800s get a number of significant upgrades for 2015. Better-equipped x-versions are also now offered for both the XC (Cross Country) and XR (Cross Roads), which is what the previous Tiger 800 is now called. The excellent Tiger 800s, which were launched in 2011, hadn’t been touched until this 2015 refresh. Their main competition, BMW’s 700 and 800 GSs, didn’t evolve much either, so there really was no need for a drastic rethink. What they get this year is more of a refresh, albeit a thorough one. The list of modifications is actually quite long, but the majority are relatively minor with the most important changes being concentrated around the engine and its electronics.
While the 799cc Triple’s big parts are unchanged, a lot of the smaller stuff is not. The fuel injection, intake system, cams and valve springs, exhaust, alternator (now rated at 476W), cam chain tensioner, primary drive tooth, transmission shift mechanism and the radiator are all new, netting a 17 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency according to Triumph. However, horsepower and torque (94 hp/58 ft/lb.) remain the same.
In the electronics department, ride-by-wire is adopted, allowing the installation of cruise control on the better equipped XCx ($14,899) and XRx ($13, 799)—which also get riding modes (Off Road/Road/Sport/Rain) that control settings for throttle maps (Soft/Normal/Sharp), ABS (Road/Off-Road/Off) and Traction Control (Road/Off-Road/Off).
Buttons on the new instrumentation and hand controls allow the rider to navigate through the menus. It’s not the most intuitive system in the sense that the rider needs to have studied the owner’s manual to understand how to make the changes and what these changes are, but in Triumph’s defence, that’s not uncommon at all. As for the regular XC ($13,699) and XR ($12,599) versions, they get switchable ABS and traction control.
Triumph Canada extended an invitation to sample the 2015 XCx and XRx in southern California, where I chose to spend most of my time on the XCx, which I’ve always considered to be the real and most desirable Tiger 800. I immediately recognized the bike I’ve known since 2011. The fueling, engine and transmission all function in a slightly more refined way, but the original 800 Triple (which Triumph really should install on more models) was a gem of a motor to begin with, so no one should expect a transformation here. The XC is still a tall motorcycle, which might bother short riders, especially the less experienced, but once it’s moving, finding real issues with it isn’t easy.
Unfortunately the California press event didn’t include an off-road session, which I was really looking forward to as the XC has all the characteristics of a great adventure machine. It’s narrow, has a torquey motor much lighter than the 1200s and is now equipped with new long travel WP suspension front (220mm) and back (215mm) that was supple on the road and, I’m sure, would have been able to get us into some nice off road scenery.
In the street environment, the XCx did well, staying fairly comfy over multiple hour rides, providing enough performance to have fun, and offering light and precise handling in the twisties. As far as new equipment is concerned, the cruise control is a nice feature to have, while the new modes accomplish what they claim to do. Worthy of mention is the ABS Off-Road setting that only disengages the rear wheel and the traction control that also acts as an anti-wheelie feature.
The XR is theoretically a lower, more street-oriented version of the XC, but in reality, it feels like a different machine altogether. Differentiating itself from the XC with a smaller (19- vs. 21-inch) front wheel, lower seat height (810/830 vs. 840/860mm) Showa suspension with shorter travel front (180mm) and rear (170mm) and slightly different styling (minus the XC beak), it feels and rides more like a regular middleweight naked than a lowered adventure model.
It’s pricier than other nakeds with similar displacement and not as comfortable as the XC, mainly because of a less padded seat and firmer suspension, but handling is somewhat sportier and every likeable characteristic of the smooth, torquey and agreeable sounding 800cc Triple remains intact.
Satisfied owners of the first generation 800 Tigers never asked Triumph to transform the middleweight adventure machines, so the factory didn’t. The new bikes are refined and, in the case of the new x-editions, better equipped version of the originals. The XC is still the champion of the pair. It’s a legitimate competitor to BMW’s F800GS that offers a significant bonus in the form of a charming and powerful Triple.