When Triumph launched their Tiger 800XC back in 2010, they knew exactly what they were doing. By pitching their bike in this capacity they were going head to head with the popular and accomplished BMW800GS a bike that has accompanied legions of riders around the globe on life changing adventures. In terms of a marketing ploy, this was like going up to the biggest guy in the playground and challenging him to a fight. So did they come out the winner or did they go home with a bloody nose and a wedgie?
Before we get into the detail. Lets clarify where these bikes sit in terms of off-road riding. At a smidge under 200kg without fluids, both bikes are going to be a handful if you want to take them into proper snotty conditions like the jungles of Cambodia. Yes it can be done, but when they are carrying over 80kg over a conventional trail bike, these bikes need some serious skill to get on song in tricky going.
But as the adventure bikes they are intended, combining big distances with competence when the hardtop becomes slightly less hard and grippy, both the Beemer and the Trumpet are real Ronseal bikes – they do what it says on the tin. It’s just that one does it slightly better …
If this were judged on road only, the Trumpet would get the full five stars. But on the rough stuff, the XC lacks a certain sure footedness that you need. If you intend to use it off-road a lot, get the suspension sorted by someone that knows.
Again this will depend on use – the more you thrash this bike, the more it will need maintaining, but from a base point, the XC is well made and well put together.
The XC800 is well priced in the market, and has good levels of equipment as standard. Oh and there are no end of Triumph branded upgrade parts to personalise your scoot.
Think that the BMW and the Triumph look similar? That might be no coincidence as the Hinckley based firm are not averse to buying competitors bikes for benchmarking. The XC looks like the adventure tourer that it is – beautiful in a chunky, ugly kind of way.
Lets face it – the Triumph is in essence an off road frame round a road engine. As such it accelerates at landscape blurring speed in a way that can only make you smile, providing you are on the tarmac. On the dirt you have to be more careful and short shift to keep things in check. But on the fire roads it’s totally wonderful! and completely addictive.
TRIUMPH TIGER 800XC – THREE WAY FUN
The XC version is the more off-road focussed version of the 800s in Triumphs range. Armed with a 21 inch spoked front wheel that allows a full choice of off-road rubber rather than the 19 inch cast version on the standard bike, the XC has 40mm longer suspension, bigger 45mm forks and wider more off-road suitable bars. The changes to the front end totally transform the bike into feeling far more purposeful and bullish than the standard bike. The back end is similarly pumped up in the suspension department, which completes that rufty-tufty feel that buyers want.
Of course this brings its own disadvantages on the road as the bigger wheel and higher stance mean that cornering is not quite as seamless as on the road version, but that feeling is soon adjusted to and within a very short time you will be chasing down the race leather warriors far more effectively than they, or indeed you, might have thought.
Of course that’s not just down to the suspension – it’s helped massively by the truly awesome triple cylinder powerplant. If you’ve not ridden a triple, think of all the great aspects of a big twin, add them into all the joy of a punchy in-line four and mix them together with a fantastic induction roar and jet-fighter like engine note. The 800 XC uses a stroked version of the 675cc lump in the sports bikes, a process that fattens up the power delivery in the mid to low range – ideal for an adventure focussed bike. If you don’t like this motor, there is something wrong with you.
Build quality is strong, but inevitably long distances on less than smooth tarmac will highlight any components that are not up to standard. As with any adventure bike, you need to check the XC over regularly if you are intending of shaking the bejasus out of it on dusty trails.
OK so what are the XC good points at a glance?
And the bad points?
For the full spec – go to the Triumph website
RIDE EXPEDITIONS RATING: TRIUMPH
THE BMW 800GS – THE ULTIMATE OFF-ROAD TWIN?
The GS range had a proud history in terms of adventure motorcycling even before McGregor and Boorman got into the mix. And arguably, the 800 is the bike that might have suited their trips more than the monster boxer 1200. The 800 is all that you need to cover big distances, even if on the hardtop it has a few shortcomings.
Like the Triumph, the GS used the 21 / 17 inch combination of wheel sizes, giving you good tyre choice – on the front at least – and good manners on the trail. Like the XC, the bigger dimension front makes road handling slower than a smaller rim size.
The main selling point on the GS and a key point in its competence off road is the beautifully balanced twin motor. The power delivery is swift and needs respect on trail but on the road can soon make you behave like a hooligan. The downside of the two big cylinders is that for long distance trips when you are pulling big speeds on the road, the twin lump can leave you feeling pretty tingly all round from the vibration.
Once you have got the hang of the power off-road, the bike is ridiculously competent on the bumpy stuff. The Ohlins springers front and back handle everything from stutter bumps to big hits without complaint, but the forks can become skitter if you over-egg the power. The low-slung fuel tank adds a stability that the Triumph with it’s conventionally mounted tank can only dream of.
Despite lacking a cylinder to the XC, the GS is not appreciably narrow which seems odd. That said, the dimensions are not noticeable once you get going, and the cockpit and chassis layout shows just how long BMW have been doing this kind of thing – it just feels right.
OK so here’s that list again. We like
We don’t like
The full spec is on BMW’s website
The hard seat is always going to be an issue on long trips, even if it’s an advantage when off road. The GS needs a gel seat if you intend to conquer continents. On the rough stuff it is spot on.
Although we were hoping for typically Teutonic brilliance, the GS does not feel quite as well build as the XC in some areas. We still give it a 4, as it is Land Rover tough and functional.
The BMW GS800 does everything you want it to and you could easily own this for decades. Would you say that about the Triumph?
AS the bike the XC has copied, the GS has to score higher. It’s got the look the buyers want, even if they never go near mud their entire life.
The BMW twin motor puts out a type of power that just makes sense on the dirt – waves of controllable torque that just propel you forward or drift the back end whenever you want. On the road, that same power isn’t quite so attractive, especially at high speed. So keep to the dirt!
RIDE EXPEDITIONS RATING: TRIUMPH
It’s no surprise that these two bikes come out as a tie, as it’s fairly clear one is firmly – lets say ‘inspired’ by the other. Buy either and you are not going to be unhappy with your choice. But how happy you are with either will depend on where you intend to ride. If you favour large distances on tarmac but with a bike that can still handle itself on the rough stuff, the XC is your man. It’s a road motor given an off-road treatment and a suitable chassis and does it’s job well.
But if you really want to go adventure riding over whatever terrain the planet can throw at you, the choice has to go to the leggy Bavarian. Its far more dirt bike than the Triumph in terms of engine, clearance, balance – just about everything. The forks needs some fettling to avoid that high speed nervousness and you’ll need to get a hardened steel bolt for that top shock mount, but otherwise it’s good to go.
You pays your money – you takes your choice …
If all this has whetted your appetite for off-road adventure riding but don’t want to plan it all yourself – why not join one of our fantastic tours in Cambodia. Here’s the calendar so all you need to do is choose the tour, book the time off work and tick the days off …
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