Wednesday, November 09, 2011
The Triumph Tiger XC Experience
When Craig Kissell of Kissell Motorsports asked me what I thought of the Tiger after spending a few chilly days with it I told him it has moved to the top of my list. It's pretty, it's fast and it is one of the smoothest shifting motorcycles I have had the pleasure to ride. But there's a lot more of interest to me with the Triumph Tiger XC.
The weather played a role in this review -- specifically snow and cold. The first day the Tiger sat in the garage while I watched eight inches of snow fall on the ground. It was a heavy, wet, big snowflake kind of snow that covered the ground but for most of the day left the road wet with just a few areas of slush. I would not have hesitated to take the Vespa for a ride but restrained myself from taking the shiny new Triumph out into the salt and slush. Periodically through the day I visited the Weather.com site on my iPhone trying to speed the storm front along and bring more suitable riding conditions. Sunday morning found temperatures below freezing with areas of ice and slush near home.
So I waited.
And waited. Until finally, by mid-afternoon I deemed conditions acceptable to go for a ride. Morning sunshine and temperatures above freezing during the previous night quickly dispatched the snow. The very first thing I noticed at 28F was there was a surprising bit of wind protection on the Tiger. The windscreen sent a large portion of the frigid air up and past my chest and the hand guards did an excellent job of keeping my hands and fingers limber and almost warm.
The Tiger is easy to ride. One of the few bikes I've ridden where I felt completely at home almost instantly. That's saying a lot when you consider the jump from Vespa to Tiger. Riding position was comfortable and so was the seat. I was able to tear around the countryside in much the same manner I do with the Vespa -- start and stop at will, make U-turns easily, and navigate a wide range of surfaces without anxiety. All important things to me.
Everyone rides for a different reason. I like to see things. New places, new roads, new views. The ordinary places. No need for me to make grand excursions or trips. There's magic everywhere. The Triumph was an amazingly inviting ride. Moving through the backroads of Pennsylvania I felt as if I had been riding this bike for years.
After about an hour on the road I could feel my fingers beginning to flicker with the beginnings of numbness when I decided to stop and enjoy the view as I crested a ridge and headed on towards the Allegheny Plateau. The Tiger has a wonderful engine sound through a nice big muffler. And while well shielded to make riding pillion enjoyable Triumph must have kept riders like me in mind by making sure there was ample accessible hot metal to warm a poor rider's cold hands.
I think it was here that I was wishing for heated grips. I hate having cold hands.
There was still snow along the higher stretches of Interstate 99, a part of the ride I chose to try out the Triumph's freeway capabilities.
No problems on the freeway. At 75mph the engine hums nicely at 5000 rpms. And at 80mph the motorcycle flows effortlessly. I believe I could ride this bike a long way.
The hot dog doesn't help onlookers make sense of the whole cold weather riding thing.
Speaking of cold weather riding, the landscape and riding routes are so beautiful this time of year that I am loathe to deny myself the pleasure purely because the temperature has dropped. The Triumph is a great partner for cold weather riding when the roads are clear. And with the addition of an outlet for my Gerbing Electric Gloves I'm certain I could navigate through most of the winter.
Riding through a shaded valley along the creek I could feel the air chill enough that I figured it was time to head home just 20 miles away. Farther if I wandered a bit.
The worst part of the ride was when I found myself heading directly at the sun as it neared the horizon. Riding with one hand on the throttle and the other up shielding my eyes from the glare was tedious at times but not difficult on the stable Tiger.
At home I've already pictured this machine in the garage, a frequent choice over my Vespa for a variety of riding adventures both large and small. The bike feels safe, reliable, like we're working together. It's got enough power to go anywhere and do anything I can ever imagine doing though keep in mind I pretty much feel the same way about my much smaller Vespa GTS 250.
So to be thorough I decide to take the next morning off to ride a bit more before making any final claims or decisions.
THE NEXT MORNING
Warmer temperatures and the promise of clear skies had me out early on the Tiger. Early enough to pass through a few patches of lingering fog in some of the narrow passages that allow easy passage between the mountains in the ridge and valley portion of Pennsylvania. My comfort and ease with the motorcycle must have grown in my sleep allowing me to make U-turns at will on even the narrowest of roads -- something I can't say for every motorcycle I've ridden.
A lot of riders judge motorcycles in two ways -- how fast it will go, and how fast it will go a long time. For me, how easy it is to maneuver at slow speeds is a really important quality for a machine intended for frequent commuting, errand running and all around riding.
But I suppose if you plan to ride a long way in a straight line any big bike will do. And the Tiger will do that just fine by the way.
No motorcycle review is complete in my mind until I know how well the machine transports me to breakfast. The Sunset West Restaurant provided the location and the Tiger delivered me there without incident.
Breakfast consisted of the usual fare for me and I was pleasantly surprised by the appearance of crispy bacon, an obvious omen of support for the Tiger. Who actually likes those limp, greasy strips of hog fat that often appear unless you ask specifically for the cook to keep them near the fire a bit longer?
I really wanted to pound some gravel roads with the Tiger but it was just too shiny and new for me to bring myself to put it at risk for a fall. Not sure why since I had ridden other machines up and down powerline paths. I must be getting old.
Despite concerns and tires better suited for the pavement I did test the Tiger in a few off road environs and found it capable beyond my skill or temperament. And it easily managed a number of explorations to what I like to call sylvan treasure sites -- those old out of the way depositories that people too busy to make it to the dump use for their personal detritus. I can spend a lot of time looking around in these places. I never find anything useful but the potential is seductive. I suppose it's what drives Powerball ticket sales.
The Triumph Tiger XC is a go machine. Go now, go fast, and go far. Anytime. And it is forgiving enough to go slow, go to the store, and do all the things I like to do. I stood along the road with my camera thinking, "I want one of these."
I do. I want one. And Craig Kissell would be delighted to sell me one. Or any number of other motorcycles for that matter.
If you're in the neighborhood the Tiger is certainly worth a look or even a test ride.