My fondness for Triumph bikes is no secret. Maybe it’s my bawa genes or having grown up reading stories of the great British motorcycling industry that makes me fawn over every single one of the motorcycles that rolls out of Hinckley. I witnessed the launch of the new Triumph Tiger range, both the 1200 and the 800, at the EICMA 2017. I happened to miss out on the international ride of the Tiger 800 which my colleague Abhishek went for. And when the staunch Ducatisti came back mesmerised by the big cat it was enough to whet my appetite. I desperately wanted to get on the saddle of the Tiger in India at first opportunity.
Soon enough the ed received a call from Triumph, calling us to have a go on the new Tiger 800 in possibly the most perfect setting for a test of the Tiger’s mettle – the Spiti valley. And when the ed nominated yours truly to go and find out what this Triumph adventure bike was all about in a decidedly desi setting, I realised there was indeed a god who answers prayers.
Visually there is no drastic change to distinguish it from its predecessor. We have not yet got the top spec XRt or the XCa variants and thus miss out on LED headlamps that give it an extra sinister look. But, I hear that the XCa will make it down to the country soon enough. While we wait for that, back to the XRx. The windshield design as well as adjustability options make for the biggest change to the styling. It did a fairly good job of deflecting the wind over my noggin, while allowing a bit of the breeze to filter through to the rider, keeping me cool on most days.
The overall plastic quality as well as the paint finish has gone up by several notches. Kudos to Triumph for making the Tiger feel a bit more premium than earlier while not raising costs significantly. New Tiger logos and livery adorn the tank panels. Under the skin is where the magic has taken place. The rear sub-frame is completely new and the handlebars have been pulled back by 10mm. This change in rider geometry allows for a better grip over matters, especially when going off road.
The 800cc inline triple, liquid-cooled motor was always smooth to start off with and there used to be the general whistle that you expect from a triple. Triumph has changed nearly 40 parts in the drivetrain to make it even more refined than before. Backlash gears have been done away with. Crankshaft optimisation and improved cooling system have only helped the motor to become an even more mass optimised unit than before. This makes for a near 50-50 weight distribution.
The unit makes the same 94bhp and 79Nm as before. However, the updates have allowed the power to be made at a higher 9500rpm (250rpm higher than before) while the torque spread is wider than ever before, the major chunk of it lies between 2300-9500rpm.
One big grouse we had with the older spec Tiger was the initial drive was lacking; low-speed off-road tractability had been traded in for better on-road usability. Triumph have cleverly introduced a shorter first gear ratio which is evident in the motorcycle’s better off the line acceleration. Despite the absence of a Slip & Assist clutch, the lever action is extremely light.
I was hoping to have a go on the off-road oriented Triumph Tiger XCx but I was handed over the keys of the XRx. This was the same bike that our buddy Varad More had ridden from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. It had already done loads of miles but still felt fresh and ready for assaulting the mountains.
One of the major highlights of the ride was the trail ride up to the Sangla Kanda glacial lake. I was a bit hesitant and could have opted to undertake the alternate ride to Chitkul – the last inhabited village in Himachal Pradesh near the Indo-China border. My reluctance was justified given that I was running road-biased Metzeler Tourance rubber and suspension that was better suited for light off-road abuse. Even the cast aluminium alloy rims aren’t supposed to be subjugated to high levels of stress.
You search for it on Google and it will say the trail is hardly five kilometres long. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? However, it almost took the life out of me just to reach the top. The trail began through small settlements until we reached flat land 20-minutes later. The Tiger XRx just gets four riding modes – Rain, Road, Sport and Off Road, the last one being the ideal one for the task at hand. Traction control needed to be disabled separately. It took us close to three hours going up to the lunch spot. I dropped the bike a couple of times and required help on more occasions than I can count. And despite it falling down, there were hardly any scratches on the motorcycle. The only damage was the lever ends which snapped off due to the fall.
The 41mm Showa USDs have 180mm of travel but are not adjustable. The rear unit though gets 170mm of travel and hydraulically adjustable preload option. They took the beating like a champ. The suspension did bottom out on a few occasions when the motorcycle was airborne, intentionally or not. Yet, there was no loss of composure upon landing, much like a ballerina. A 200kg ballerina. I am struggling to find any negatives for the Triumph Tiger XRx. That is extremely commendable for Triumph. You certainly won’t be disappointed with what you get on this bike. And now, I can’t wait for a go on the XCx.