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 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.

 A short pause for food and drink.  I have simple tastes that are easily satisfied by a cheesedog.  I can tell cold weather has arrived by the looks and comments I get from people who thing it is utterly insane to be riding on a cold day.

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.


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. 


Trobairitz said...

Great review. The pictures are wonderful with the fall foliage in the background. Nature's majesty makes the best backdrop for a photo shoot.

Everyone I know of who has ridden a Tiger 800 wants one. Heck I haven't test ridden one but after just sitting on it and hearing Troubadour's review I want one.

Steve Williams said...

Trobairitz: Fall is a lovely time of year to ride. I have a few more Vespa posts in the bag that depicts some of the landscape here.

The Tiger 800 is another great motorcycle from Triumph. Add it to the lineup with the Scrambler, Bonneville, and Thunderbird and you have a nice garage full of riding machines.

I better go check my lottery number...

Charlie6 said...

Steve, an outstanding review of the Tiger XC, heck you almost had me wanting one at the end. Would you say its competition on the Beemer side is the 650GS or the 800GS?


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Brady Steffl said...


Looking good, and I'm glad to see you got it out again, I've been waiting. I hear that this bike won some top pick as dual-sport of the year, and it sounds like you might second that thought. It is quite a pretty bike, and I do like the easy handling of a nice dual sport.

Is it better than the Beemer line? I love my 650GS, somewhat irrationally, but not kool-aid irrationally. I could be persuaded to sit on a Triumph, pretty easily.

I love cheddar wurst, by the way. They're my favorite road food for cross-country travel.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

RichardM said...

The pictures of all of the snow and what's left of the foliage are really nice, as usual. And great review too. How does the seat height compare to the BMW offerings?

A friend of mine picked one up (in Anchorage) mid-summer and he loves it.


Tuscan foodie in America said...

Very interesting. Somehow the Tiger doesn't appeal to me, for whatever reason. I can't pinpoint down what bugs me of that bike, but I think it is mostly the fact that it is a clone of the GS. But then again, motorcycles must be ridden before you can comment on them, so I should just keep my mouth shout.

For the rest, I couldn't agree more with you about how beautiful it is to ride in this season. As long as snow doesn't stick, October-November are by far the best months to be riding.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: I'm sure you would love riding the Tiger XC if for no other reason that it is so smooth that it's like you're just flying.

In handling and ease of riding I find the Tiger more like the BMW F650GS than I do the F800GS. But every review I've seen in magazines put the to 800 machines together. But I suppose I'm thinking of different sorts of performance factors.

Steve Williams said...

Brady: Unless a person was brand committed, or riding at an offroad performance level far beyond anything I will ever experience, I think they would find the differences insignificant between the two bikes.

The BMWs have more features -- headed grips for one. And the BMW is much easier to switch the ABS off than the Triumph but how often do most riders need to worry about that?

The Triumph is much smoother in terms of shifting and engine but again the differences are more aesthetic than anything else.

We all find something we like I guess and swear by it...

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: The Tiger is tall and similar to the BMW F800GS. The BMW F650GS is a bit lower and easier to handle for anyone with slightly shorter legs.

I'm with your friend --- I love the Tiger XC.

Steve Williams said...

Tuscan Foodie: The Triumph Tiger XC must have grown from some seed of interest in the BMW GS bikes. They seem closely related.

I don't feel the annoyance you do with the "cloning" but I know I probably would (and do) with some of the Vespa copying out there. My prejudice appears...

That said, the Tiger has its own personality and while similar to the BMW line it is different. If you ever have the chance to take one for a ride you should. You might find a new friend.

BTW -- I've been looking at your blog and while I am in no way anything but a food challenged hot dog eater you have some great things presented. I am going to try and make that Butternut squash, sage and chile de arbol risotto. Looks perfect for a cold day.

len said...

Great real life review of a very nice bike...really enjoy reading all the posts and not to mention the great pictures that bring it all to life!

i will continue to enjoy following.....

Steve Williams said...

len: Thank you for the kind words. There are times when I am uncertain what to say about a ride or motorcycle. This wasn't one of those times. Really nice machine!

Harley Motorcycle Tires said...

The background is beautiful. I call it nature at its best. And so is the Tiger! Actually, i have never given the Tiger deep thought but now i think i will reconsider it. A friend has it but i have never even bothered to steal a ride if not borrow. But this is something i have included in my schedule. If he doesn't give me, i will still the bike for a day.