Saturday, September 15, 2012

Triumph Tiger 800 XC 25K Review

I bought my first motorcycle in September 2008 and went with the BMW G650 Xcountry. It was small enough to learn on and lite weight only 330lbs so basically a great first bike. After a year or so it started to get to small and i couldn't two up ride with the wife so i started day dreaming about the F800GS. The Xcountry in other words initially was the right bike but the more i learned and rode the more inadequate it felt.

I needed a bike that I could put lots of miles on and was comfortable for riding to work 100 miles daily. It needed a good seat, plenty of power and was not buzzy at daily freeway speeds. It also needed to have plenty of off road capability for my weekend adventures. The KTM 990 looked promising but owners reported to me it was maintenance heavy. The 1200's were never really a consideration, just to big in my opinion for my needs. While comfortable during the commutes i would not be comfortable riding a 1200GS off road. When I was ready to upgrade after 3 years only two bikes really stood out.

In the late spring of 2011 and i saw the Triumph Tiger 800XC for the first time. Wow what a gorgeous machine!! I was then conflicted should i get the F800GS or the Tiger800XC? Reviews of the Tiger started coming in and it looked like a great bike. I headed down to Rocket Motorcycles and did a test ride and fell in love. That triple engine was fantastic!! They based it off the 675 Daytona which is a legendary smooth ride and those characteristics transferred nicely to the Tiger 800XC. In August i picked up a white one at Rocket and its been love ever since. I'm at 25K + now in less than a year and its been awesome.

Superb on road and very competent off road. I've had only one issue in the last 25k miles. I developed a stalling issue at about 3K where the engine had an issue not keeping the idle going. I took it to Rocket and they found the issue pretty quickly. It was the dirty stepper motor swing arm issue. The Tiger 800XC has the same design as the speed triple and they never had issues with it so they were perplexed on what was going wrong with the Tigers 800's. Turns out lots of riders were having the issue. A cleaning and lubing of the swing arm fixed the issue and I've never had it since. It was handled under warranty without charge. Now the techs know to lube the part during checkups and riders have stopped having the issue. The stepper motor maintains your idle and a swing arm needs to lock into position for that to happen. The swing arms where getting dirty and not able to lock into the right position to maintain the idle.

The stock seat is about as comfortable a stock ADV seat as any on the market. I've not sat on all of them but the Tigers is pretty good. A few riders have upgraded to aftermarket options but overall its pretty low on the farkle list for most riders. I'm happy with the stock seat for dailly and weekend ADV riding but decided on my week long Southern Sierra Adventure Route ride that i may need to look at the gel seat, Certainly the passenger seat needs to be upgraded to the Gel.

I had some concerns about the ABS when i first got the bike. Unlike the beemers which have a handlebar ABS on/off button the Tiger is a menu option on the display. So its kind of a pain to turn on and off. My experience with my beemer was you don't want to ride with the ABS on when riding off road. Riding with ABS on in the dirt just sucked. Its hard to stop when going down hill and inability to slide the tire. During my first month or so of riding i kept turning off the ABS when dirt riding but would sometimes I forget. One such time i was headed down Monache jeep trail in the Kennedy Meadows area of the Southern Sierra and forgot to turn off the ABS. Turns out it was fine. I started just leaving the ABS on and it works great off road. I know you thinking what? Well it turns out that what we thought about ABS off road is kind of a result of (gasp) BMW's crappy ABS. Turns out most riders on Tigers 800 XC's have come to the same conclusion as me and just ride with it on all the time. The ABS allows the tire to skid just a little and will stop you just fine in down hill dirt riding. I know that goes against all you've heard and maybe experienced but its true. I rode the entire Southern Sierra Adv Route with the ABS on and never even thought about it.

The suspension is on point right out of the shop and only a few riders have decided to upgrade. Mine is good enough for me and an upgrade is not on the agenda anytime soon. I'll probably just stay with the stock suspension until i wear it out. Not sure how long that will take.

The 800C beemers do have more torque just a bit more. I've only wanted more torque during a couple moments when riding slow up hill in technical rocky areas and stalled. I had to do some clutch work to get going again and thought more torque would be cool about now. The 800CC beamers have more torque because they are twins while the Tiger is a triple. I would not trade my smooth triple for a more torquey twin ever. I love my triple to much. More torque sounds good on paper until you experience the smooth triple and then it seems like a reasonable sacrifice. Plus the beemer 800CC's don't have that much more torque to give up the smoothness during daily riding. Every engineering decision has pro and cons. In this case the pros out weight the cons in my opinion.

After a few weeks of riding i decided the handle bars needed to be a bit closer and raised an inch or so and turns out so do most riders. I ordered a Rox Riser and that fixed the issue easily. For other options i went with the Triumph Skid Plate, Fog Lights, Heated Grips, Crash Guards, Tank Bag, Center Stand and Dry Bag. They all are good quality and most importantly i could add them to the loan. I got my rear rack from Alt rider and found used Touratech Zega Pro cases online only used one season on a 1200GS. The OEM luggage is not recommended because it is connected by plastic parts and can break off in a topple. I picked up an Wolfman tank dry bag because the triumph bag while good enough quality was just to small for me and my sons gear.

On the trail the bikes handles wonderfully. I do lots of dirt roads and the suspension works well and the front tire feels planted and tracks well. Unlike my G650 which always felt squirrely in the soft powder the Tiger feels in control and keeps its line. That said in deep sand the front can get away from you and sometimes in a sudden. That’s not normal trail sand but that alluvial crap in the desert that sucks on almost all bikes. Unlike the F800GS Tiger owners aren't rushing out and buying steering dampeners because the front end is so planted and does not veer when bumping it on trail debris. I think that’s because its more weighted with the gas being in the traditional position. One Australian rider though has decided to get one to help riding in the deep sand. So if your planning lots of death valley rides that maybe an option for you. The gas tank in the traditional position does put more weight higher up than the 800CC BMW's and you'll notice this only when going along slowing in the technical stuff or stop in off camber situations. Once you adjust for this as i needed to do coming from the Xcountry it becomes a minor issue. This is why the F800GS probably gets better marks in the slow technical stuff. Personally i think its a better trade off for the planted front end that you'll appreciate in 90% of dirt road situations.

The hand guards probably need upgrading to something like the Bark Buster guards. The OEM guards aren't rigid enough and can collapse when you drop the bike. Soon after getting it I broke one lever and bent another but I still have not yet upgraded. Bark Busters remain on the wish list for now. I like the OEM skid plate and looks great on the bike. When the skid plate and fog lights are installed the design on both is complimentary to each other. Some riders have decided to go with the SWMototech skid plate because it covers the oil filter. I don't like that idea because that would require removing the skid plate every time I change the filter and that would be a giant pain. I just added the Touratech oil guard to the wish list and moved on. I know I could get a rock in the oil filter but I’m not thinking its a huge risk. Plus the SWMototech skid plate is riveted at the seams while my Triumph guard is welded and I think it looks better on the bike.

I installed the fog lights and heated grips myself. I was a bit intimidated by the install and having to remove the tank to run the wires turned out to be fairly simple. The directions weren’t the greatest but I found pics of the process posted online and it was fairly straight forward. I had Rocket motorcycle install the center stand because it required removing the side stand and I didn't want to deal with it.

The spring on the center stand has come off on one occasion while riding on Santa Ysabel TT near Ramona and started dragging. Not sure why it came off I stopped and with some help from my friends I stretched it back on. Putting a zip tie on it maybe good insurance while riding off road.

For tires i went with Full Bore M-40's they cost 180 a set and work for me in dirt and on the road. I'm getting 6K from the rear tire and 9K out of the front. I know lots of folks like the K60 scouts but i've ridden in nasty rain with two buddies running the scouts and they complained about tire slipage and i didn't experience that on the M-40's. Someday i may try the K60's but the cost keeps driving me back to the Full Bores. Currently i'm expermenting with a Fullbore rear and a Kenda Big Block front. That worked brilliant on the Southern Sierra ADV Route. I'll post up a review when the tire is ready to get changed.

I took the Tiger in for its 12K value readjustment at 19K and was a little worried that I'd waited to long. Ok more than a little worried. The tech said no problem Triumph says 12k but 18K is really about right. The service cost me $550, cheaper than expected because i changed my own oil and filter. Overall that was about what it cost on my G650. So reports of costing a ton O cash every 12K are not accurate. It costs less than has been posted on the forums and is not necessary every 12K.

I highly recommend the bike and if your in the market for a 800CC you should give it serious consideration.


  1. I test rode the Tiger 800XC yesterday and ... wow! This is the first time that everything about a bike just felt right!

    I'm getting mine early December 2012!

  2. Well its an awesome motorcycle i'm so glad i went with it.

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  4. Any updates to your review? You must have close to 40k miles now! I am looking to trade in my Vstrom 650 and get something else and this is near the top of my list. Glad to hear you haven't had any issues with it.

    1. I'm at 45,000 only thing to go wrong was a fat tire and an electric starter at around 40,000 that was under warranty that the dealer covered 100%.

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  6. Great blog! Confirms my lustful desire to purchase one.