This is the first of several quick reviews of bikes that I am testing in my search for the “Ultimate bike for real Australian roads”
The new Tiger 800 has been eagerly awaited after photos and good stories started coming out of the UK last year. The bike was launched in Australia just 2 or 3 weeks ago and demand is already high
So what’s it like ? For most people a big improvement over the old Tiger and from early indications better than its obvious direct competitor, the BM GS 800. It has clearly been modeled on the BM as they look remarkably similar, though in my eyes the BM still looks better in a giant insect sort of way.
Where to start ? – the good bits ! The engine is amazing, a long stroke version of the 675 triple in the Street Triple, together with a very slick gearbox and easy (if old fashioned cable operated) clutch make an excellent drivetrain. There is no obvious powerband on the triple, it just keeps growing throughout the range and its very free revving so it gets there very quickly (compared to a twin). Fueling is spot on, even on a very low mileage bike there were no glitches, flat spots, hesitancy, hiccups or rough spots – both KTM and Ducati could learn from this. It’s also a huge improvement over the BM parallel twin which feels much less responsive down low and has more medium and high speed vibes than some singles. Can’t leave the engine without commenting about the sound – Triumph Triple aficionados may be horrified – but for me in standard trim its not a pleasant sound – more like a whine from a worn straight cut gearbox, add to that a a rattling/pinging probably from the header and cat and very little sound coming out the end of the pipe – it desperately needs the Arrow end can from the accessories catalogue and better still a full system to also get rid of the heat and weight of the cat. Heat is another surprising issue – the day was not hot (27 C) and not heavy stop start traffic but the inside of my lower legs and knees were getting very toasty after 30-40 min
Speaking of vibes though, strangely the triple has an odd sort of vibration that none of the testers/reviewers seem to have commented about – quite noticeable at idle, noticeable every now and then at other speeds but the big issue is that my hands went so numb after 20 min around town that I had to stop. Tried another bike which was not quite as bad but still too much. Looking on the web showed lots of comments about it on the 675 – seems to be limited to some bikes and some riders, especially older ones :-( Remember I’m coming from years of Ducati’s so I know what vibration is all about, but this is different, more high frequency, less obvious until the numbness sets in
Gearing on the standard model is quite high and fine on the road but first is too high for really slow stuff – hopefully the XC model is different. Maybe unfair comparing the standard 800 to the GS rather than the XC but the BM, despite having less low speed torque, seems to be better in slow going and feels less top heavy than the Triumph. Its not quite like the old Tigers but looking at the engine and its position in the frame it not hard to understand why its still feels heavier than it actually is
The suspension is also seems better on the road than the BM from the point of view of compliance, ride comfort and handling though the standard model did bottom out a little too easily, the XC has bigger forks and longer travel so it should be even better
The brakes look old fashioned and low tech, like the clutch, but seem to work OK though they were not tested in anger and no idea how they would last after repeated application. There is an ABS option for A$1000 extra but not available till later in the year
The riding comfort and riding position on a quick sit in the showroom are great, unfortunately it doesn’t work so well for me out on the road. Likely I am both smaller (178cm – 5’8″) and lighter (68kg – 150lbs) than the typical target rider so I find I am sitting at the very front of the seat almost on the tank which gets a little painful on braking and also there isn’t much padding there. The seat is adjustable for height both at the front and back so by raising the front and dropping the back it helps but the accessory gel touring seat is hopefully better still. The radiating heat and vibration have already been mentioned. The other issue is the screen, it is relatively small, not adjustable and seems to be way to far forward and this is borne out by a ride – it doesn’t seem to do much. Have to say again that is assessed with my height and wearing a peaked Shoei Hornet DS helmet
The final element is build quality – While there are lots of quality components and great paint finish there are also quite a few let downs. Lots of unfinished cheap looking plastic around the lights and instruments, welds in the less conspicuous places don’t look so good and lots of small plates and brackets seem very thin and flimsy. It just doesn’t look like the kind of package that that will stand up to the Australian outback or any sort of distance on rough dirt roads
Summary and price – the immediate feeling after a short ride is GREAT mainly because of that wonderful engine but stopping and analysing shows that overall for me at least it falls short. I am sure though it will sell well and it will find many very happy riders. The recommended retail in Sydney on the road is about $18,300 which initially looks very attractive and certainly less than its competitors but for me it would need at least screen, seat, exhaust and some anti vibration work. The one only XC in captivity so far also had the horrible Bridgestone Trail wing tyres (commonly referred to as death wings) which would also need replacing (Strangely the standard model comes with excellent Pirelli Scorpion Trails) So the total cost starts rising very quickly and gets less attractive. While the Triumph is very good and in many respects is better than its only direct competitor the BM 800GS, with a few essential accessories we starting getting into the $ region of everyone else’s 1000’s and 1200’s e.g. the Yamaha 1200 Super Tenere or Guzzi Stelvio 1200. The Suzuki 1000 V Strom and Honda Varadero 1000 are way cheaper (but way heavier) and the base Ducati 1200 Multistrada, BM 1200 GS and KTM 990 are not that far away.