Why you should forget about the F800GS and buy a Triumph Tiger

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Last summer I rode a BMW F800GS across Labrador and, after completing half the journey with a broken frame (oops), said I couldn’t think of a bike I’d have rather made the trip on. Well, now I can. That’s because I’ve ridden the Triumph Tiger 800 XC. It might be shockingly similar in photos and almost identical on paper, but riding it reveals something else entirely. This thing is amazing.

Photos: Sean Smith

It’s comfortable.
This was my single biggest issue with the BMW. It’s seat initially feels cushy, but that only lasts about 20 miles. I literally rode all the way to, from and across Labrador standing up; it made my ass hurt that badly. In two days, I’ve put about 250 miles on the Tiger and it’s never been anything but super comfy. The screen looks short, but even at 100mph I can have my Vanson AR2 zipped down without it billowing up and my AGV AX-8 doesn’t get buffeted at all.

One of the nicest things about it is how easily adjustable those ergonomics are. Two little bars live under the rider’s seat, held on by bungees. Spend 5 seconds swapping them to the lower position and the seat gets about an inch or so higher. Loosen two hex bolts on the bar clamp and the bars rotate nice and upright. One hex key on each side is all that’s required to reposition the levers, bark busters and mirrors. It took literally 60 seconds to do all that. On the GS, I had to adjust everything separately, using BMW’s seriously annoying Torx bolts. That was, of course, after I’d waited a week for a set of Torx keys to arrive from Amazon, the GS’s toolkit is incapable of performing any actual work.

Haven’t tried it yet, but I bet it’s going to be great with a passenger too. The preload on the rear shock (the only suspension adjustment available) has a remote adjuster that you only need a flat head or a bit for. Either will work, which is clever. The seat itself is long, narrow and flat. Perfect. As are the grab handles, which are literally the most perfect I’ve ever seen on any motorcycle. Sure, they’re ugly, but they’re huge and stick out very far; you could wear a baseball mitt and still grab on.

It’s deceptively fast.
Ok, so when they stroked it out to 800cc, the triple lost some of its top end and urgency. From the Daytona 675, power is down from 124 to 94bhp, but torque is up from 53lb/ft at a sky high 11,700rpm to 58lb/ft at 7,850rpm. Weight is up from 407lbs (wet) on that sportsbike to 473lbs on the adventure bike.

I say deceptive because there’s not so much a powerband as there is just torque everywhere. You don’t ever feel any sort of kick or rush, you just look down and realize you’re going 50mph faster than you thought you were.

Sean was initially pretty disappointed at the power, but he’s used to the peaky rush of a GSX-R600. On the Tiger, you just whack the throttle open in any gear, at any speed and it seemlessy, smoothly accelerates. There’s no drama, but the whine of the triple still brings plenty of character.

It corners.
In addition to comfort, this is really where you start to say “fuck the GS.” Where that handles like a nearly 500lbs adventure tourer on soft, unadjustable suspension, the Tiger is sharp, urgent and confidence inspiring. That’s with a 21” front wheel. The chicken strips were totally gone after the first on ramp and I’ve been railing this thing through traffic in a manner totally belying the fact that it is a nearly 500lbs adventure tourer with unadjustable suspension.

The Bridgestone Battlewings help here too. They’re much better on the road than the Pirelli Scorpion Trails that come on the GS. They don’t seem to need any warm up time at all and deliver tons more feel than a bike wearing a 21” front has any right too. I’m more confident on the this than on the D204-shod R1 that’s been parked in the garage since I picked up the Tiger.

I’m thinking I might be able to get my knee down on it and plan on finding out.

It looks good.
Ok, it’s benefiting from a SoCal sunset in these photos, but in person, I’m actually a huge fan. The engine is all sharp and angular to the steel tube frame’s soft curves. The body work is a total non-event, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s not over styled, it’s purposeful. I think that’s something it achieves through proportion rather than styling.

Niggles.
Yeah, I haven’t had it off road yet, but it feels like it should have the edge over the GS there too. All that feel should help, as will the flawless fueling and instant torque. The GS was geared way too tall in stock form for real dirt work, slipping the clutch at all times below 20mph is just too much. The Tiger feels like it should pull from a little slower.

I’m a little worried about the passenger peg hangers if I drop it, they’re welded to the rear subframe, which could write it off if I manage to summersault the Triumph like I did the BMW. The rest of the components are very well protected. Even the stock sump guard is impressively beefy and the radiator is pretty well protected by the stock plastics.

It’s not living up to its claimed 41mpg city/63mpg highway fuel mileage either. I’m getting an indicated 34mpg running around LA on a mix of surface streets and highways. The tank holds a reasonable 5.0 gallons, but the reserve light came on today at 140 miles. I ride quickly, but not over aggressively.

It’s cheap.
At $10,999 (sans ABS, but who wants that anyways?). The BMW starts at $11,395. The Triumph feels like a much more expensive, more fun, more capable, heads and shoulders better motorcycle.

We’re planning a larger feature on the Tiger in the coming weeks that will include off-roading and some canyon hooning. I’m just really amazed by it and wanted to share. In fact, I’m going to go get on it right now.

  • markbvt

    Way to change your tune, Wes. :)

    I’ve had my Tiger 800 XC for two months and two days now and have already put nearly 7000 miles on it. It’s an utterly fantastic motorcycle. Everything you wrote above is dead-on (except the gas mileage — it improves substantially as the bike breaks in, and I’m averaging close to 50mpg now). I recently finished a 4300-mile trip on it, and it was flawless.
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=697639

    I had serious complaints with how Triumph handled the preorder process, but at this point all is forgiven. The bike was worth all the teasing, waiting, and frustration.

    I’ve got another all-pavement trip coming up in few weeks, then I can’t wait to put knobbies on the XC. I kinda want to go back to Labrador just to test out the bike!

    • Miles Prower

      Great trip report over at advrider.com Mark! Thanks for sharing.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Neat trip.

    • Matt Wisch

      Really nice ride report, I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for linking it over here.

    • jeffcon0

      Great ride report! Really enjoyed that.

  • 85gripen

    Lame that BMW didn’t include the necessary Torx wrench with the GS, but in their defense Torx is technically superior to hex. One thing I like about my Triumph is that it has one hex L-wrench included behind a side cover that’s secured with a large slotted screw designed to be opened with a coin. That one size hex wrench fits almost every fitting you’d want to remove on the side of the road.

  • http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=305107 stickfigure

    Hmmmm… you may reconsider the merit of those tires once you hit the dirt. The Bridgestone Trailwings (which have a more aggressive tread than the Battlewings) have acquired the nickname “Deathwings” in the adv community because of medicore performance offroad.

    Still, good to hear the new Tiger is solid. Not that I would consider replacing my Katoom.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, I mean all these sort of dirt-looking, road-focused tires are going to blow off road. If this was mine I’d put real knobbies on it.

      • BMW11GS

        honestly, its less about the tire and more about the rider. I have seen guys handle big GS’s with tourances do some amazing things in places most say they shouldn’t be able to perform. The ride instructors at Rawhyde BMW offroad academy sometimes run tourances (or anakees) to show people what these big bikes are capable of with stock tires.

  • Glenngineer

    What really kills me is that when I saw the headline picture for this article, I thought it was an F800.

    • Sean Smith

      “Sweet, BMW fixed the GS lights.”

  • aristurtle

    Well, I’m sold.

    (Unfortunately, if I buy a dualsport, it’ll probably be a used KLR650 because I’m a huge tightwad.)

    • BMW11GS

      get an older BMW F650 GS, its a much better bike for not much more.

  • http://www.kenta.ro Kentaro rides a NRS and a GSA

    Bought a new GSA 5 months ago. I was thinking about the new Tiger at the time, but I beat the living shit out of my GSA and the Tiger couldn’t withstand it without the bars.

    Sharp bike though.

  • Miles Prower

    While at my local dealer getting my two motorcycles inspected yesterday, I checked out the new Tiger. I thought it looked good in pictures, but it looks even better in real life! I love the lights, and the shape of the tank (or airbox or whatever it really is) especially — both are so dang 3-D, in a good way.

  • Mohd

    Why can I not post this interesting post on facebook

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      There’s a Like button, it’s on our facebook page and you can copy and paste the URL.

  • GoFasterPB

    After two months and 3k+ miles on my 800GS, I agree with everything you said about it except for the handling. When slow, yeah it’s heavy -but at speed its light steering belies its weight. Love the bike to death (would probably love the XC too). The scorpion trails held up well blasting up the 33 with some fast sportbike friends, but suck in sand. Not that I have much to compare to as this bike is taking me off-road for the first time in 10 years.

    From what I’ve read, the Tiger has an even taller first gear than the GS… and on paper the twin has more torque throughout. I need to demo the 800XC sooner or later and see how different the delivery is. Maybe I’ll see y’all in the canyons ;)

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      It’s not that the F800GS handles badly at all, it’s just not nearly as good as the Tiger.

      • GoFasterPB

        Gotcha. The GS sure is top heavy, which really helps to bring out the worst in the stock fork. How does the Tiger feel in that respect? How easy is it to toss around at walking pace (you know, for a 470+ lb bike)?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Exactly. The tiger is way more balanced and the stock, unadjustable suspension is spot on instead of too soft.

  • Matt

    Wes, I appreciate your honesty about the fact that you used to love the F800GS, before criticizing its comfort in this article.

    However, when you say “I literally rode all the way to, from and across Labrador standing up; it made my ass hurt that badly,” it makes me wonder why that severe comfort issue didn’t come across in your prior writing about the F800GS.

    In your 2009 Initial Report, you were positively gushing. A year and thousands of miles later, at the end of your Labrador Crash report, you were still pretty effusive about the the bike.

    Why wait until a newer, better product comes along to write about this serious shortcoming?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Because he didn’t really ride all the way across Labrador standing up. His memory is playing tricks on him.

      I’m guessing he’s still suffering brain damage from that tumble he took.

      • Jefferson

        Get well, Wes.

      • Matt

        Phew! For a minute there I was starting to suspect Wes of fellating BMW to get loaner bikes for the trip.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Ha, no. The GSs were pretty amazing and shrugged off the abuse we heaped on them. This Tiger just feels quite a bit nicer.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I think I did write about it at the time. The F800GS is still a great bike, the Tiger is just way better.

      And yeah, my butt touched seat at least twice during the trip.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

        “…my butt bounced down the gravel ditch at least twice during the trip.”

        Fixed that for ya :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

        That’s saying something big for the Tiger, then, as the F800GS report pegged the bike as stellar. “Couldn’t possibly be more amazing” and the possibly the one motorcycle to satisfy for the rest of your lives.

        Guess you’re not as poisonous as Triumph thought.

  • wwalkersd

    “This was my single biggest issue with the BMW. It’s seat initially feels cushy, but that only lasts about 20 miles.”

    BMWs are famous for having seats designed to feel cushy in the showroom. Show me a BMW with a stock seat and I’ll show you a rider who doesn’t ride much (or is one of the very small minority of Americans who apparently have the ideal German ass).

    • NitroPye

      I must have a German ass. The stock seat starts to bother me around hour 5 of a ride and I can’t believe any seat will feel good after 8 hours of riding.

      I’d love to be proven wrong though, it’s just I have a rather uncushioned butt and sitting all day is bound to hurt on anything.

  • Denzel

    Great bike…

    Photos 22 and 23 – “Angry Birds”

    • Sean Smith

      That’s actually what I was thinking when I was shooting those.

  • solidaridad

    Awesome review as always. I’m sold. Well I was sold even before this, but now…this bike sounds like a winner.
    Hey in a surprisingly “un-Cycle Worldish article” (meaning somewhat humorous, critical, and insightful) a writer in this month’s Cycle World reviews the Tiger (Two Days of the Tiger-Special Feature). He also talks about the hard luggage being pretty fragile. Apparently the top mounting tabs are plastic and snap right off even if the bike just falls over. Can you guys weigh in on this and some of the aftermarket accessories as well? Hopefully if they are as breakable as they appear, Triumph will make some changes for next year.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      There’s always a ton of stuff available in the aftermarket. ADVRider probably has people with real world experience.

      I loved the Jesse bags we put on the F800GS for Labrador, but they’re crazy expensive.

      • solidaridad

        Awesome–thanks for the tip Wes. I just checked out those Jesse bags and they already have them for the Tiger. At $1250.00 they’re not cheap at all, but hey they might last forever!

        http://www.xplorermoto.com/o2triumph.html

    • markbvt

      Lots of aftermarket options becoming available for the Tiger 800; it’s just taking a little time since most of the farkle manufacturers couldn’t get their hands on a bike until a month or two ago.

  • Adam

    I’m seriously thinking about this bike now. I was pretty focused on the F800 before this review. I just moved to socal from NYC and the although I love my Duc, I’d love to get her a brother to share the garage with. It’s just too nice out here to not want to do some real mileage on a machine that lets you take the pressure off your wrists and smell the air once and awhile. Anyone know what the baggage situation like? How many IPAs can they hold?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Hold’s cheap beer pretty well. Not too sure about the fancy stuff.

      http://img.ly/5aH6

      • Adam

        That’s good enough for me. It all tastes like Dom Perignon after 500 miles.

  • Beewill

    So Wes, any thoughts rolling around in your head about another trip up north, or hell you are in SoCal now perhaps south, with the new Tiger?

  • T Diver

    Does the BMW have adjustable shocks? Is that a big deal on a bike like this? (I’ve never owned this type of bike.) I like the pics but please see if you can get some doing wheelies. (I can’t see a reason why not to ask that.)

  • IBKING

    MCN mag liked the Tiger also but had a off road pro test it against the F800gs and he took the BMW over the tiger so go figure. There both good to ok bikes. get real.

    • Lou

      Actually, to be accurate, the Off-road expert in that MCN video liked the BMW “slightly” more then the Tiger off-road. A point was also made that, for the first time out, the bike is amazing. They liked the Tiger on the road of the BMW, echoing, among other points made here, that the Tiger was definitely more comfortable.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      We’ve only had it for a couple days, we’ll get it off road probably some time this week or next.

  • Courtney

    Glad to hear you guys like it….I thought you were idiots for trashing it in your initial review as a lame copy of the F8.

    Well I agree with everything you say, I test rode the F8, and was put off by the plank seat, then rode the XC and fell in love. Only had her for a week now, but already wondering if I need my sportbikes.

    This thing is the schnizzle.

  • Terry

    Had an 800 GS.
    Amazingly talented… Incredibly, soulless.
    I’ve ridden that 675 motor in both Daytona and
    Street Triple iterations. If the baby Tiger is half as much fun, it must be a serious treat. I look forward to scooting one.

    Terry

  • Myles

    What’s the point of writing a review of this bike without taking it offroad? What’s the point of this bike if owner isn’t going to take it offroad? On the street it’s just a heavy slow Street Triple with a little bit of wind protection – right?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The point is that we can write about this bike more than once.

    • Lawrences

      I’m seriously looking at a XC due to its combined tarmac and gravel/dirt road capability and it can be ridden off road by a competent rider. (I’m still falling down with my KLR in the mud but we’re gettin better…) It also has 2 up capability. In this age of micro niche special one purpose categorizing motorcycles it’s nice to have all purpose everyday riding machines like theses to choose from. A 90hp KLR that handles…

  • Lou

    I have had three long-ish test rides on the version of the T8, thanks to the largesse of my very generous dealer…unusual in the NYC area to be handed test rides so liberally. Considering trading in my trusty Tiger 1050 for the svelter, newer model, the T800 is a great bike indeed. More refined then the 1050, with alot of advances and little details like adjustable headlights, seat, lots of tie down points, gear indicator, optional tpm, etc. And, yes, it does look better in person then the photos. Great gauges, too, and very well positioned for hitting buttons with no effort and readable in any sunlight condition. Very well thought-through. Would be a terrific urban assault vehicle.

  • markbvt

    Oh — one minor correction: the XC shock also has rebound damping adjustment.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Does it? I can’t find the adjuster.

      • HammSammich

        It’s not exactly official, but I suppose the chaps on a site called Tiger800.com, might have experience. According to them the “rebound damping on XC is at the bottom of the unit also by slotted adjuster.”

        http://www.tiger800.co.uk/index.php?topic=643.0

        The adjustability seems to be corroborated by Triumph’s website, which indicates that the rear unit is a “Showa monoshock with remote oil reservoir, hydraulically adjustable preload, rebound damping adjustment.”

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Cool, I’ll get a flashlight and go looking for it.

          • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

            Should be there. I set one up for the Popular Mechanics people last week.

            • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

              I’m sure it is, just missed it when I was faffing about in the garage the other night.

      • markbvt

        Yeah, the adjuster is small and easy to miss, but it’s on the shock body. I forget now which side it’s on. I dialed mine down just a bit, which improved the suspension on our monumentally shitty Vermont roads.

        • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

          On the bottom shock mount facing the rear tyre.

  • contender

    Sigh. I am putting my R11GS on craigslist this week after deciding I need a Buell Ulysses. They can be had for about 1/2 the price of this Tiger, but now I am seriously reconsidering. Thanks a lot, guys.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      You’re welcome :)

      • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

        The Ulysses and Tiger can’t even be compared. I’d opt for a used 1050 Speed Triple with a Givi set-up and D616′s over the Ulysses.

        • contender

          Something about the Buell’s calling me, but a used 1050 tiger is being considered as well.

          • Lou

            Hey Contender…as a Tiger 1050 owner with 18K on the bike, I can tell you that its a great option, especially these days. Great prices can be had on them. Personally, I love the bike. That engine is remarkable and so flexible. Much better gas mileage then, say, the KTM SM-T. Bike is super comfortable. Gripes about stock suspension but only if you’re over 180+ lbs. At 160lbs I find it a great, plush ride. Having said that…my eye is wandering toward the T800!

            • HammSammich

              Hey Lou, Just outta curiosity, do you take your 1050 off road much? If so, how does it handle? I’ve heard a few Tiger 955i owners who tried to upgrade to the 1050, but complained that it lost a lot of it’s adventure capability in favor of better road manners.

              • Lou

                Hey Hamm. The 1050 is just not an off-road bike. Triumph made that very clear. There’s nothing about it, other than longer travel susp. that gives it off-road capability. 17inch front wheel, Mich Pilot 2 tires. All I’ve done with it are hard packed fire road type stuff, which is…fine, not stellar. That’s as technical as I’ve ever gotten. I have gotten quite technical on the r12gs and f8gs and there’s no comparison. The Tiger she’s a road bike.

                • HammSammich

                  Gotcha. Sounds like the 800 XC is finally a replacement for those old 955i owners, then. :)

  • Ben

    So, How about a comparison with a KTM 950 Super Enduro? I’ve got one now and wouldn’t mind trading some off-road prowess to get some more road manners.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The KTM is going to be better off road, faster in a straight line and far less refined. The Tiger is going to be way easier and way more relaxed on the road and much more capable of distance, but less capable off road.

  • disqus_pJjhGM5lHQ

    Broken frames don’t only happen to BMW”s. I broke the frame on my TIger 800xc last year.

    • disqus_pJjhGM5lHQ

      Yup. I broke the frame on my Tiger 800xc too. Thank god it was stiill on warranty and they replaced it. But yes it broke.