It’s 8.30 pm on a Sunday. Having spent the past few days riding the Triumph Tiger 800 XCA through various terrain along the Western Ghats that Pune’s outskirts have been blessed with, it is now time to rummage through the city’s Sunday battlefield (fondly referred to as traffic) to find home. I switch from the Off-Road throttle map to the Road one while waiting at the first traffic signal, but after pausing for thought, I switch to the Rain map instead. You guessed that right; it’s the beginning of August and the clouds empty their load on the Western Ghats with absolute abandon.
I’m drenched to the bone – of my own volition might I add – but the motorcycle, oh the motorcycle. It reminds one of the ‘No Mud, No Lotus’ philosophy. Its sprightly personality despite the long day of riding – read abuse – shines out from under the Matte Khaki paint finish. The 2-stage heated hand grips and seats at the low setting warm my now rain-pruned fingers and soggy bottom, and the lowered torque of the Rain throttle map forgives more mistakes than one would be willing to have made.
The long-travel WP suspension makes short work of the road’s undulations as well it did when the potholes turned into craters beyond city limits and the feeling at the moment is that of utter zen, as if I’d consumed a copious helping of Chamomile Tea, as Pink Floyd play me ‘Echoes’ on a slow weekend afternoon while I romance an armchair. The Tiger XCA, then, appears to be taking care of anything that could get in the way of this mood, before it does. If I thought I was relaxing myself into a slumber, the thing beats me to that too!
Just as I begin to take off from the third traffic junction since entering the city, and ease off the clutch half-way, the bike falls asleep. Not a moment to spare, I hit the ignition button and get on my way. Maybe we’ve both had a long day, or maybe, Triumph needs to address an issue here, or better yet, this motorcycle can read my mind and was just ensuring I don’t fall asleep after all the spoiling, before I park it. Luxury car owners pay handsome dime for such ‘smart features’ and here I am, getting it on the smaller of two adventure siblings by this British company!
This had happened once earlier in the day too, while I was making a U-turn on a narrow lane in the twisties, and again. The scale of the issue may be negligible, but I imagine any self-respecting millionaire adventure junkie – read typical customer for this machine – might take bigger note when he or she is scoffed at by their mates for stalling the bike (‘big bad wussy’, or something that rhymes). Then again, this may have been a one-off problem with our test bike.
(As of summer 2016, the company claims to have addressed a similar issue with the Street Triple naked motorcycle after an online petition by bike owners had come to the fore.)
Right then, back to the review.
The Tiger’s look is utilitarian – akin to a two-wheeled Land Rover of yore – and the stance, that of a tall insect, a Mantis I reckon. The bug-eyed face is supplemented with LED auxiliary lamps on either side encased in military-grade aluminium covers for protection, as well as shrouds around the 43 mm upside down forks. This rugged theme carries onto the sides as well with engine guards and a hardcore bash plate to protect the mechanical bits. This thing looks as though it can take a solid beating before giving up and looking for other jobs. However, the plastic handguards flex a bit too much and might not do more than stopping direct air flow and water splashes to your knuckles.
With the XCA variant, what we get is a propah adventure bike, complete with wire-spoke wheels in the typical ADV standard 21-inch front and 17-inch rear setup, height adjustable seat (840-860 mm), titanium finish powder-coated exposed trellis frame that culminates in a rear luggage support, and that stonker of a three-cylinder 800 cc motor.
The Tiger’s inline triple has the best of both worlds when it comes to power delivery and grunt, producing 94 BHP at 9,250 rpm and 79 NM at 7,850 rpm for a multitude of tasks, be it pottering along backroads, whizzing past milestones on the open highway, or just mucking about on trails, with matching ride modes to boot – Road, Off-road, and Rider selectable. Throttle map options include Road, Off-road, Rain, and Sport. Select the last one, and you will either thank us for the supersport-like take-off or mail us the laundry bill for your soiled riding pants, or even better, both!
The triple has power on tap from most spots on the throttle, and will oblige with a surge any time you wring the throttle no matter the position, although the midrange is not particularly beefy for the motor’s size. A key takeaway here is the inline three’s vibe-free character, a far cry from vibrating Vees and commonplace parallel twins in this space. The engine does moderately heat up the legs in slow city traffic conditions after a point, so find a gap and gun it to shade.
The way the six-speed gearbox slots cogs into place and puts power to the tarmac is truly exceptional. It won’t complain much when pushed frequently, or even when you are a lazy rhymes-with-punt and just riding about at low-traffic speeds in third. Instead, it vanishes and leaves you to your motorbicycling. This is just as well, considering the selector is improvised from the Brit company’s track tool Daytona 675.
Not to mention, the sporty character of the motor tends to show when you can top it out at close to 100 kmph in the first gear! That is unlike other ADV motorcycles, which tend to offer shorter first gears for more torque usability in off-road conditions. The Triumph Traction Control (TTC) has a role to play, with its three levels of adjustability, in ensuring the ride stays well within reason. In a set of twisties, we felt it rein in the rear just as it began to slide in the slippery rained out corners. Unlike some other examples of so-called motorcycles, where the traction control acts as killjoy too soon, the interference was minimal enough to not spoil the party.
Something has to be said about the way the low-pitch mechanical whine at idle turns into a sensuous wail from the high-set exhaust can every time you test the upper reaches of the rev-counter. When one lets go of the throttle, the exhaust tut-tuts you for not having let the Mezzo-Soprano continue.
Again, this may not be to the liking of everyone who intends to munch miles on a long tour. But this reviewer takes his aural pleasures seriously and if you do too, this is one of the better soundtracks to play in the background as you aim the wide-flat handlebar to the mountains.
From the saddle, the view is commanding and any gizmo lover’s delight. Apart from the usual fare of a very detailed multi-function speedometer display, analog tachometer, and telltales behind the tall windscreen; you have control switches for the Mode functions, heated seats (one button for each) and grips, the LED auxiliary lamps, and the cruise control settings – all at reaching distance of your fingers. The equipment falls just one Gatling Gun short of the lead role in Mad Max.
A word of advice – Before you swing your leg over, aim higher than you think you should. The bull’s horns that the Tiger calls its rear grab handles seem to love proving their strength to your knees. And I say this being 5 feet 9 inches; that’s ‘almost 6 feet’ on matrimonial sites! So for the sake of kneecaps, imagine you’re Neo from The Matrix – in the scene when it dawns on him that he is indeed the One, high-kicks Agent Smith, twirls around in slow-mo with one leg still high in the air – and you’ll mount this beast with ease.
The seating position is neutral and the seat itself is on the right side of firm. One can imagine spending long hours as I did in the rains, over days with nary a question of comfort. Which brings one to question why the human race likes their bum to be heated, while the rest of the body freezes itself to hypothermia? Maybe it reminds one of the homely comforts from all those dozens of years ago, when grandma sat us on her lap.
*Snap* Stop enjoying MY childhood memories!
All we can say is the heated seat feature will come to your rescue when cold bites your arse, and it reduces fatigue too as long as you don’t wear leather pants. This is augmented with three power sockets, which may be used to power, among other gadgets, heated clothing. To facilitate all these additional electrical demands over the lower XCX variant, there is a larger 650W alternator on board.
The tapering tank shape works well while you are seated, as well as when you are standing up for the fun bits. The off-road ready CNC-machined foot pegs are ever so slightly rear set to centre the rider’s weight whilst standing and keep the boots in place – so, not slippery when wet? The windscreen works and doesn’t, depending on where your head falls in the Tiger’s aerodynamic scheme of things, thanks to a little bugger called non-adjustability.
On the move, the chassis seems ready to take up agility tests and is balanced enough to not put you on the spot in extreme circumstances. Response to change in body position is quick, considering the bulk, although moving a 203-kg bike this tall is not a walk in the park at slow speeds. You will learn this fairly quickly when time comes to put a foot down in loose gravel or muck. The balance is great whether one is standing on the pegs to slide the rear out just so or consuming milestones for all three meals.
A 33-inch seat height reminds you that you need to be yay-tall to manhandle the Tiger. This is one machine you don’t want to have to push out once stuck. And, not only because of the comedic sight it makes when you look half as tall as you are, standing next it! Oodles of ground clearance come at a fair price. Trying to bottom out this baby’s belly will be a fun, improbable challenge for the rest of your days.
The tyres on the Tiger are Bridgestone Battlewing 501/502, which at a 90-10 (road to off-road) bias, are grippy, built for touring and will handle soft trails well. However, these would need to go in favour of a 70-30 or even 60-40 tyre set if you feel you have more hair on the chest than most and would like to take this behemoth on more technical trails and proper off-roading. The motorcycle can surely handle it.
With 220 mm and 215 mm travel at the front and rear, respectively, the WP suspension setup worked tirelessly to ensure not a pound of impact vibes reached this reviewer whilst astride. On the stock setting, it felt a tad too willing to pamper, but that can be dialled in with the front’s adjustable rebound and compression damping, while the rear can be hydraulically adjusted for preload and rebound.
The wide handlebar is meant to be turned at odd angles for all your counter-steer moves in low traction situations, but some more articulation was missed in Indian conditions whilst tackling traffica-urbania. Again, long hours… no problem.
Our test bike had crossed 9,000 kms on the odo during its time with us, and wear was noticed in the way the handlebar grips felt, possibly due to prolonged use of the heating feature. There was also a tiny rattle sound every time the rear suspension reacted to a big pothole. Overall though, as previously stated, the Tiger handles punishment without complaint.
The anchors on the Tiger XCA comprise twin 308 mm floating discs up front with Nissin 2-piston calipers, and a single 255 mm disc with Nissin single-piston caliper at the rear. Braking feels adequate in wet conditions too, with selectable three-level ABS on offer. The feel isn’t positively progressive although bite is predictable and will not lead to balls-in-mouth very often – both maybe the advantage/disadvantage of the ABS at play. The ABS in Off-Road mode disengages for the rear wheel completely, and lets the front some leeway to slip, affording safe usability where the road ends too.
With a 19-litre fuel tank and a claimed range of about 430 kms, The Triumph Tiger XCA will sip its way up to many a mountain top, obstacles notwithstanding. What is remarkable is that a sporty motor such as the triple here makes an ADV bike like the Tiger stand out, and lends it the fun yet flexible personality that we love it for. Triumph has provided all the bells and whistles and more in options, but we do recommend a more off-road ready tyre and some panniers before you decide to Long-Way-Round it.
If the cornucopia of world-dominating gadgetry does not take your fancy, opt for the XCX variant – a stellar value proposition. And if your tastes are more road-oriented, there is always the XRX variant that comes with road tyres wrapped around standard-size alloy wheels among other differences. The biggest one being neither of the two has heated seats or grips.
But then you’ll have to start a fire every time you want to heat your bum after a day out in the rain and only cavemen do that. So put down your Rs. 14.02 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the Triumph Tiger XCA and your buttocks will thank us.
Images – Shantanu Singh Rathore