Triumph Tiger Press Tour

Tiger by the Tail | A Triumph of Gravity Over Man

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Tom Riles

A wary herd of journalists, eyes wide and ears flicking, cautiously sniffed the filtered air of the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina. At the head of the room, Triumph’s Reg Kitrelle assured us that camping out for one night most likely wouldn’t kill anyone, but he tucked space blankets into our kits just in case. A quick survey of the room revealed that none of the assembled adventurers had voluntarily spent a night under the stars in about 15 years.

Tough guys don’t camp. They do ride motorcycles, though, and Triumph brought good ones this year. The Tiger 800 and Tiger 800 XC are handsome predators, even in the chic new shade of putrid bile (a touch paler than BMW’s Acid Green Metallic) that Triumph calls Venom Yellow. Since red-green vision impairment seems sadly epidemic among the Brits, we felt compelled to tell them that their new candy-apple digestive fluid— handsome though it may be—is to any kind of yellow as dog-pecker pink is to Nuclear Red.

I kinda liked it, though—well enough that I didn’t even crash the green bike.

For years, riders have clamored for a lighter adventure bike than the street-heavy Tiger 1050. These are not your Starbucks café pacers, but true freebooters of the endless road who will risk a trip to the Westernco doughnut shop for Folgers drip. Speculation was fueled both by Triumph’s fizzy 675cc three-popper and BMW’s introduction of the F800GS twin.

Triumph, in its puckish wisdom, pranked us all with a 799cc triple in an all-new chassis. In this case, “tuned for torque” doesn’t carry its standard meaning of “gelded for your protection.” It’s growly but controllable off idle with a hair-raising shriek just south of redline, while the midrange is devoid of any peaks that might deposit you on your royal American arse.

Theoretically.

Eddie Frowiss, who wields a London cabbie’s grasp of deep Southern California two-lanes, led our merry banditos across roads that slung more wrinkled curves at us than a semi-retired stripper cocktailing in a North Vegas roadhouse.

The Tiger XC (a.k.a. “The Big Wheel”), styled like a cross between a hyper-mo’beak trailie and a racing snowmobile, is the more predatory feline. With taller suspension, wider bars and Bridgestone Battle Wings hugging dirt-mettle Excel rims, it’s bouncy, flouncy, trouncy, pouncy, and basically wonderful fun.

Its beakless littermate, called simply “Tiger” (Triumph pooh-poohed “Cub” as too cutesy for a 94-bhp bike) wears a 19-inch cast alloy front in lieu of the XC’s big 21-inch spoker. The standard Tiger has less trail and an effectively steeper steering head angle due to its smaller hoop.

Where the radials meet the road, both bikes felt solidly planted on even the crummiest avenues, with the XC a bit vaguer up front. The ganglier kitty also hobby-horses slightly under braking and goosing.

It crashes pretty good, though.

The standard Tiger is a feral alley cat that sways its hips exiting corners while its front claws remain firmly rooted to the pavement. Decent-spec Nissin 308mm front brakes and a solid chassis make peg scratching possible on the XC and purely effortless on its cast-wheeled cousin.

In the dirt, either would be better served with DOT knobbies—no, really. Get the XC’s optional, 65 mph-limited Metzeler Karoos if you’re venturing farther off-road than a potholed driveway. Their bottoms may be made out of springs, but both bikes weigh over 450 lbs. and that can be a handful to entrust to “dual-sport” tires in the sand.

It’s also a fair slug to bench press, should it happen to pounce on your leg.

Northeast of San Diego Eddie led us through the sovereign nation of Barona, where tribal policemen take a charitable view of sporting indulgences. Easing into the Cleveland National Forest involved dozens of roads that showed the Tiger at its cubby best, swooping three-dimensionally up and over, back and forth along the kind of 1.5-lane tracks where Mad Max’s Interceptor would fear to tread.

Come the apocalypse, you’re gonna want a Tiger. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya’.

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