April 25, 2011
Years ago, I fell in love with Suzuki’s V-Strom. I tested it repeatedly (examples are here and here), and in both displacements (1000cc and 650cc). I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was, and how fun it was to ride. It was practical . . . able to carry a passenger and luggage easily. I instantly understood the appeal of large enduro-style motorcycles. Forget the styling (the V-Strom was arguably pretty ugly, and still is), this style of motorcycle flat works, particularly for riders who have grown out of the need to look a certain way, or otherwise sacrifice the practical needs of the rider for any sort of cosmetic glory.
The problems I had with each of the V-Stroms were relatively minor at the time, i.e., mediocre brakes, wimpy suspension (particularly the front forks) and a little bit too much weight (mainly in the 1000cc version).
Fast forward quite a few years, and this category of motorcycle has really caught on. When Triumph announced the Tiger 800, available as both a standard and as a more dirt oriented 800XC, it really caught my attention. We attended the press launch, and were quite impressed.
Always a fan of Triumph triple engines, I was delighted to see how light Triumph had made the motorcycles, and that they had used a version of the modern, compact triple found in the Daytona 675 and the street Triple. Extremely light for the class at a claimed 462 pounds wet, the standard Tiger 800 is lighter than the smaller V-Strom 650 and almost exactly the same weight as the ultra – light BMW F 800 GS (after accounting for the BMW’s smaller gas tank). It also features modern, relatively beefy suspension components (largely non-–adjustable on the standard version) and brakes.
We already have several hundred miles on the standard Tiger 800, and will exchange it later this week for the 800XC. We understand that we will be the first journalists in the United States to compare the two versions in extended back – to – back tests. Stay tuned for our full report on both models, but note that we are already falling in love with the standard version, including both its power and light handling.