I recently rode a Triumph Tiger 800 XCA on the newly opened Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route and was amazed the trail wasn’t crawling with other Tigers. It seemed like the most common bike was a fully loaded BMW R1200GS Adventure that resembled a camel laboring under the weight of its sultan and dangerously swaying under the weight of expectation. Okay, we know the GS is a great bike, but I couldn’t help but think, “BMW who?” as I made quick work of the BDR’s jeep trails and forest roads. More than that, gracefully maneuvering around a GSA on the few gnarly sections of the BDR requires more skill and poise than a lot of riders possess.
The Tiger 800 XCA isn’t fully-loaded-GSA-heavy or Honda-Africa-Twin-Adventure-Sports-tall. It’s good as a tourer, an off-roader, and sporty enough to be fun in the twisties. As an egalitarian ADV, it’s pretty ideal for a lot of riding scenarios. It doesn’t make you feel bad for being a rider of average skill. If anything, its civility and composure mean exploiting its strengths comes naturally. And for street riders making tentative forays off road, anything that comes naturally is a big plus.
The Tiger 800 is available in XR guise with 19-inch cast wheels, and XC guise with 21-inch spoked wheels. The latter’s more off-road focus puts it in good company. The Honda Africa Twin and BMW F850GS fit a similar niche, carefully balancing off- and on-road ability—though the former isn’t nearly as refined as a streetbike compared to the Tiger.
Endowing an ADV bike with more off-road prowess than that trio is a slippery slope, and can make a motorcycle veer toward the inhospitable for the average rider. Take for instance the aforementioned Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sports and the KTM 1090 Adventure R. The Honda has a 35.4-inch seat height in its lowest position and the KTM a 35-inch seat height. That’s compared to the Tiger’s 33.1-inch seat height, in the low position.
Plus, unless you’re a competent off-roader, more ground clearance and more extreme dirt-leaning abilities may be wasted on you.
For a lot of riders, particularly ones who’ve only ever ridden on the street, flat-footing it at stops is paramount for feeling confident. The Tiger’s rational seat height is indicative of Triumph’s desire to make the Tiger accessible and easy to use.
And off road, the Tiger’s un-GSA-like weight (507 pounds without fuel, according to our scales) made it a willing accomplice, particularly in difficult terrain. On the BDR, I was glad to be riding the middleweight Tiger, and not cursing in my helmet like my friend Rob aboard his KTM 1290 Super Adventure T.
The Tiger 800 XCA hits the sweet spot. Its 21-inch front doesn’t even take that much away from on-road performance. Shod from the factory in Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires, I always felt confident in the front. It doesn’t suffer from the vagueness that can plague bikes with 21-inch fronts.
And that triple sounds amazing. Like an inline-four with a chest cold.
After getting home from the BDR, I had a few more weeks to enjoy the Tiger. I hit up fire roads on it, rode it to pick up our weekly CSA share, and began to rely on it as my daily transportation. In freezing temperatures, I plugged in my heated jacket, flipped on the heated grips and seat, and pretended there wasn’t any frost on the ground. In addition to being designed for the many, it’s also functional for just about everything.
Ultimately, the Triumph Tiger 800 hits the mark for a broad swath of riders and fits many needs. It skews off road, but not to the exclusion of on-road poise. It’s a go-to trail-hitting, all-day-touring, rugged-as-they-come motorcycle. For 2018, the Tiger has come into its own. Never has being so average made me feel so good.