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2011 Triumph Tiger 800: MD Ride Review – Part One

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.

52 Comments

  1. Stathis says:

    I gather from what I’ve read to date that I must have one of the first Tiger 800s on the road in the US (Pearl White; like the one pictured above). Picked up the bike two weeks ago, and have 250 miles on it. I’m still in the break in period, but I can tell you the bike has ample power. I am a 6’4″, 190 pound rider, and I usually have a passenger on board. On my first long trip this weekend, riding on the highway was a breeze. With modest acceleration (never went over 6,500 RPM, limit is at 10K), I was easily doing 80mph, even with a pretty strong headwind. I had to consciously slow down for the obvious reasons. Unfortunately for me, I really got to test the bike’s abilities in the afternoon. The weather turned very bad, very quickly. You should have no concerns around the suspension. I was able to keep the bike planted at 65mph, with strong side winds and heavy traffic all around me, and a heavy heavy downpour – and of course my rain suit was safely dry back home… My overall impression of the bike is that Triumph has produced an incredibly well-balanced on-road daily and weekend rider. And in my opinion, it’s a beautiful bike up close and personal…

  2. joker says:

    I test drove both vertions of the 800 yesterday along with the 1050, i also tested both the 650 & 800 bmw gs the day before. my conclusion ? ive ordered an 800 road! an amazing ride. loads more power than the gs 650, far smoother delivery than the gs 800, far lighter and loads more fun than the 1050. ive opted for the road version as it feels much more sure footed than the xc and i plan to tour europe on it. i only hope i dont have to wait too long for it. Most fun ive ever had on a road bike!!!!!!!! i cant wait.

  3. Jim says:

    I just bought the Tiger 800 three days ago and although I’m still taking it easy during the break in period I am really impressed with the smoothness and power of the motor. Like a couple others mentioned the transmission shifts like butter, best shifting bike I’ve ever owned.

  4. malvesty says:

    I demo’d one of these and it gave me a tankslapper at 90kms/h going over the corrugations on a pretty loose gravel surface. I was standing up at the time, and only just saved it. A firend had the same experience, on the same pice of road. The dealer luaghed it off as a tyre pressure issue, but I think its a rebound damping issue, and I’m not convinced. If it wasnt for that I would have bought it, its a fantastic handling beasty with the sweetest gearbox I’ve ever ridden.

    • Herb says:

      Test drove one today. Loved it, one of the coolest bikes I’ve driven in a long time. Perfect ergos with the seat in the high position (I’m 6’1″ and skinnier than a heroin addict), good smooth power, nice tranny. Not much I could think of as far as improvements, except two…. had nearly the same tank-slapper issue. Slightly bumpy stretch of road, but nothing bad. I can ride my F800S thru there with no hands on the grips, and it’s solid. Second, the windscreen flutters and vibrates above about 80mph. I’ll be buying one, and immediately fixing a steering damper.

  5. Wilson R says:

    I’d buy the 21″ wheel bike if I wasn’t so close to being layed off from my job. It certainly would make a great do-it-all bike.

  6. Mike says:

    Too bad this Triumph wasn’t available this time last year. I had grown bored with my F650GS (too wimpy) but liked the adventure bike concept and riding position. My brother’s F800GS was just what I wanted, but even used models were fetching over $11K. I rode a Tiger 1050 and loved it, but it was very tall and felt awkward with my wife on that tall rear seat. I had the exact same sensation when I rode a 1200GS. I ended up buying a lightly used Multistrada 1100 for less than $8K with 2000 miles. No regrets. This bike is incredible – light, fast, and comfortable. But, I’ll bet that Tiger 800 would have been just the ticket!

  7. Motowarrior says:

    I have a BMW 12GS that I’ve ridden coast to coast, and my wife has an F650GS twin that I’ve ridden quite a bit. I’ve also been fortunate to rent both 650 V-Stroms and 650GSs on trips throughout Europe over the past few years. All of those are excellent motorcycles. Recently, however, I had the chance to ride my friend’s Tiger 800, and it seems to have the best attributes of all of those bikes. It certainly is large enough for long distance riding, and the triple is is best motor in the bunch. Not as good gas mileage as the BMWs but not bad. Handling is excellent, and it feels both light and stable at the same time. I’m 6’2″, and the motorcycle is quite comfortable. BMW has better bag systems than Tiger, but on balance I think the Triumph is equal to the 12GS, at a 650GS price. Hard to go wrong with the Tiger 800.

  8. Todd says:

    I test rode a Tiger 800 yesterday for three hours on a variety of different roads while having my Bonnie T-100 serviced by my local dealer. I test rode a BMW F800GS a few weeks ago and I regularly ride a V-strom 650 (friends) as well as a 07 Daytona 675 of my own.
    All I can say is “Wow”. Triumph has yet another winner on their hands. Taking the 675 motor and adding some bottom end power to it is a brilliant move. My only decision at this point is “XC’ or street to put in the garage with my other Triumphs.

  9. LarryC says:

    I’m a big fan of Hinckley Triumphs having owned four. I currently own an ’06 Tiger and my first Tiger was a ’99. I’ve been fortunate enough to ride both models of the new 800 and think they’re both great bikes.

    Living at 9000′ ASL in Colorado, I’m surrounded by back roads, forest service roads and two track. I thought I wanted an XC, but after riding both, I’m really impressed with the 19″ front wheel model. I like the cast wheels and tubless tires. The larger front contact patch conveys a sense of security. To me, this bike feel not so much like a street bike with limited dirt capability, but a replacement for my late, great CB750. I think this is going to be the “standard” that so many people seem to clamoring for. It’s user friendly, comfortable and customizable to individual tastes. Whether riders vote with their wallets remains to be seen, but I think Triumph hit one out of the ballpark with these bikes.

    “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.”

    Dirck, that’s one of the most perceptive statements that I’ve read on this website. I probably should buy the XC and put more aggressive tires on it and just keep my Griso for my streetbike. But the 800 with the 19″ on the front just feels like so much fun…

  10. CTDyer says:

    Currently an SV650 owner and waiting for delivery of my Tiger 800. I too lusted long for the BMW 1200GS, the Ducati Multistrada and the Tiger 1024 but when the wife decided she wanted to ride her own (Ducati 696) I didn’t need the grunt of a liter class bike. I loved my SV650 but I don’t fold up for long trips like I used to. The Street Triple 675 was always calling to me but it’s more hooligan than I can be trusted with and not really up for the kind of distance and non-super-slab roads I like. I don’t need off-road but the state is broke so the on-road riding gets pretty hairy. The Tiger checks all my boxes.

  11. Chris says:

    It’s nice to see another middle of the road bike in the dual sport arena. When I was looking to purchase a new bike last year I set the KLR650 at the lower rung and the GS1200 at the top and ended up choosing a Vstrom 650 because I mostly ride pavement and I didn’t want to go broke. If the Tiger 800 had been available I would still have chosen the Vstrom but it would have been a much tougher decision.

    The Tiger is probably a little faster, stops a little quicker, and rides a little nicer but ultimately it would come down to money. I outfitted my Vstrom with a Sargent seat, Givi trunk, and aluminum panniers for less than the stock Tiger. And the Vstrom650 has a proven track record over the last decade with its bulletproof engine. (In comparison, the Tiger is “unproven” since it’s new.)

    In all, I bet the Tiger is a better bike but you just gotta pay the price. I’m more than happy with the Vstrom.

  12. Poe says:

    I’m currently an SV650 rider and have been VERY interested in this bike since I first heard rumors about it many months ago. I’ve read everything I can find about it ever since then – and based on what I’m hearing, it may very well be my next bike (as soon as I can afford it). There are a couple of (admittedly very minor) things I’m not completely crazy about though: The welded-on passenger pegs and the “unfinished” look of the exposed rear subframe. Seems like it would look better with some kind of bodywork back there. On the other hand… there’s nothing back there to scratch up or break. I have several friends who own Triumph triples and they all LOVE them. Triumph is really on a roll – and this is going to be another huge hit for Them!

  13. Mr. Larry says:

    Nothing whatsoever against this Triumph, just wanted to wave the Wee-Strom flag a bit. Of the 75 motorcycles of all kinds I’ve owned in 40+ years, (never married, no kids!) this is my favorie “gonna go for a ride on my motorcycle!” I’ve owned. Bought it lightly crashed with 8k mile for $2k. Have to say though I’ve made it a naked by replacing the (crashed) fairing and side panels with just a single headlite and weighed the machine with a half tank of fuel at 441/lbs. All things feel better naked.

    • mark says:

      Yeah, I’ve put nearly 40,000 miles on my Wee-Strom in three years. I stripped it down Thin-Strom style too, which made it a better bike.

      But believe me, the T800 XC is a MUCH better motorcycle than the Strom. I’ve been very impressed with it.

  14. kpaul says:

    “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.” Great point Dirck! :) I love my sport bike but it would be nice to have a bike that could do some gravel and dirt fire roads. I love the BMW 800 commercials for this type of motorcycling. I really admire Triumph. I watched a program about Triumph on HDT, that talked about the rebirth of Triumph, including the fire and its aftermath. Really amazing company. Another motorcycle to love life is good. :)

  15. Rennie says:

    The Triumph should be great. I was looking for a Wee Strom, but had to settle on a 955i Tiger. Triples may be in my life forever!

  16. dave says:

    I am 6’5″ 265lbs and I am sure this bike would haul me and my gear anywhere I wanted to go. Why does everyone think they need such big bike to go out on the road. I road my klr-650 Kawasaki 2500 miles in 6 days and it was not even breathing hard.

    • Kjazz says:

      Dave, I agree no question smaller displacement bikes will do the job, plus this is not a small motor. BUT….. I sure enjoy the extra ooomph when I need it from a big R1200 motor. And sometimes you might find you wanna run down the road at 85 or 90 mph. So it’s still a question for me, will this 800cc leave me wanting for more power from time to time.

  17. Kjazz says:

    Rode one of these (non-XC version) at the Triumph Demo ride day. I liked it, well sorted out, engine runs without any noticable vibes (sewing machine-like). I think being 6’2″, I would prefer the longer legged version, but didn’t have time to stay around and ride it. It would seem to have not enough motor for long distance hauling or tackling mountainous roads under a full load (all 240lbs of me and my gear), but that may be selling that motor short.

    • mark says:

      It makes nearly 100hp. How much motor do you need? It’ll haul just fine over long distances or up mountains. Even my Wee-Strom will do that with my 250lb butt plus all my gear on it.

      • Kjazz says:

        I hear you! I only rode the Tri a short distance so cant speak with much more than speculative comments. Maybe what affects my questions about the 800 is that I’m used to an R1200GS and maybe it’s more than just the hp # figure coming in to play, which isn’t really that different from a current R1200GS. The GS is bigger feeling, more substantial, does a GS make more accessible torque than the 800 (dunno)? The Tri felt diminuative to me. Which is preferable under certain conditions; around town, dirt or gravel roads. I prefer a bigger machine under typical riding on roads. The GS feels roomier, has I think better wind protection. I really need to rent one of these and do a California 5 day weekend and a couple thousand miles on it to come down to a conclusion vs the GS.

        • mark says:

          Yeah, there’s no doubt the R1200GS is a bigger bike, which I agree would make it a bit more comfortable on long-haul pavement rides.

  18. Zombo says:

    This bike is just one more example of how the European manufacturers are currently out innovating Japan in today’s motorcycle market . BMW’s K1600GT is another – shame on Honda for letting another manufacturer come out with a modern version of the CBX !

    • MGNorge says:

      ..and just how big of a market do you think there is for a heavyweight 6-cylinder motorcycle today. In Honda terms it’s probably pretty small. Time will tell if BMW has found the key to unlocking the Goldwing’s hold on the ultra luxury touring market but something tells me the Wing will be in demand for some time yet.

    • Zombo says:

      That’s the point – Honda is being run by bean counters yet still manages to come out with major sales disasters like the DN01 , Rune , and Honda Chopper . They can’t even GUESS right on what people want anymore ! There used to be a time when Honda actually came out with innovative new designs that people actually wanted to buy , those times are gone . Relying on tried and true old stale designs for sales is all they have left and the mark of a motorcycle company that has lost it’s innovative mojo .

      • Wilson R says:

        Rather than guess, Honda should actually ask the people that ride what they want in a motorcycle. I think that Honda is on it’s way out as a motorcycle company and it’s just a matter of time before they become a car-only manufacturer. Putting V-Tec on a bike is a pretty good blunder and proof that they don’t really know the market.

  19. mark says:

    I took delivery of my Tiger 800 XC a week and a half ago and have already put over 800 miles on it. It’s a fantastic motorcycle. Despite the 21″ front wheel, it handles better in the twisties than my Wee-Strom does (and I always thought that was a great-handling bike), and it’s much smoother and more relaxed at highway speeds. I can’t wait to take it on a long trip.

    • Kjazz says:

      Speaking of 21″ wheels, I wonder if the narrower 21″ wheel actually has about the SAME contact patch size as a smaller, say 19″ or 17″ wheel….?? The reason being the larger diameter making up for what is lost in width. Any ideas on that guys? I know the R1200GS’s 19″ hoop stays plenty planted while horsing it around the twisty roads and never feels vague at all or like it’s gonna wash out.

  20. Jamo says:

    I’m not sure why the V-Strom comes to your mind, the better bike was the Triumph Tiger, from about 2004-6. It was better equipt, with matching hard bags and it was quicker, with Triumph’s Triple that you are currently, as always, raving about. It could be ‘flashed’ and didn’t need a power commander to add the off road exhaust. It has 19″ rims which can easily negotiate berms, gravel and reasonably dry dirt.

    These Triumph Adventure bikes have beeen around for some time. The question to be answered is why would one prefer a smaller engine to the 955 or 1055 that’s been available and makes the Tiger such a ripper?

    • Tom Barber says:

      Huh? The answer to that question is obvious: the bike weighs less and is easier to wrestle with. This is especially pertinent when you consider that the power/weight ratio of the 800cc Tiger is only slightly lower than it is for the bigger, heavier one.

      The question for which the answer is far less obvious, is the question of why the ability to “flash” an ECU is a significant advantage. It assumes the desire to do this in the first place, and it assumes that it will actually accomplish something worth doing. Perhaps if you are changing the pipe, but then the assumption is that there is a really good reason to change the pipe. The question I ask people is this: if you are about to buy a used bike and you have a choice between two bikes that are identical except that with one the engine has no user modifications and with the other there is an aftermarket pipe and some sort of aftermarket doohicky wired into the ECU and messing with the ignition timing and the fueling, which one would you prefer to buy?

  21. JB says:

    I’ve had my deposit down since Dec for a black XC with abs. My dealer says “delivery is now in June” and I hope he’s right this time!

  22. Vrooom says:

    “and a little bit too much weight (mainly in the 1000cc version).” I believe there’s only 30 lbs in difference between the bikes, which you can get back with an after market exhaust (since there’s only one can on the 650, you can save some weight there but not as much). Those cans on the 1K Strom weigh a ton! I like the new Triumph, but I’m cheap, not sure I’ll be able to justify the expense when I can find another new Strom for $8.3K. I need to get by my Triumph dealer! Would love to see a dyno run guys!

  23. KildareMan says:

    @Mickey
    I’m 5′ 6″ and even with the standard seat on the low setting I was quite happy on my 800. Now I have the low(er) seat, set to the low position I’m delirious. I’m a Triumph fan so could be seen as biased but the 800 is easily better than most bikes out there, certainly better than my last bike, a Tiger 1050.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      The seat height in the lower position is pretty low for this style of bike and works fine for our shorter test riders (roughly 5’7”).

    • Mickey says:

      @ KildareMan..what’s the seat height? I’m the quisisential little old man..Over 60, 5’6 with a 26″ inseam on a good day…. wearing riding boots. Hard to fight DNA. Come from a family of short round Germans, with taller torsos than legs. I need 31″ or less for a seat height. Versys are too tall, Weestroms are too tall, hell, most bikes are too tall LOL. I have the seats cut down on all my bikes. Love big bikes, tourers, sport tourers, sport standards, naked standards. Envious of the guys with 34″ inseams that can ride anything.Lucky bastids. Having a 34″ inseam would open up so many possibilities in the motorcycle world. You tall guys don’t know how lucky you are.

  24. bill says:

    I love the triumph triple engine, but i couldn’t wait and bought a versys a little over a year ago. wouldn’t trade it for an f800gs, but would consider trading it for the triumph, since i have had a couple of them and know it’s a quality machine. still, once you get the versys sorted, it’s an awesome bike at quite a steep discount on the others (not the xc models, of course).

  25. Eddie says:

    I’m feeling the urge to trade my ’04 DL1000 V-Strom next year when my son gets his license. I like the idea of down sizing. Ive been riding a lot more off-road lately and have a XR650L for a commuter. I don’t do as much long distance touring as I once did but I kept the V-Strom for two-up riding. The Triumph and BMW 800GS are at the top of the list. I think they both would be excellent for blasting around teh western NC mountains. I’m renting a BMW in Irelend for two weeks in September. That shoud give me a good idea if its right for me.

  26. S Calwel says:

    I spend a lot of time on the west coast so I am REQUIRED to keep a bike there, yeah I know, it’s tough. The height solution should be fairly easy to solve for most people. I am 5’10″ with a 30″ inseam and I was able to flat foot a Tiger 800 with the optional lower seat. I lowered my F800GS 1″ with a Hyperpro rear spring and sliding the fork tubes up an inch to get it almost that low. Hyperpro or other aftermarket sources will probably have lower springs available soon. The F800GS is a keeper, Tiger? we’ll see.

  27. Tom Shields says:

    That’s exactly what has kept me from a Kawa KLR650 all these years. It’s just too tall.

  28. phil says:

    For those who write they already own BMW F800 machines, why would you also/instead want this Triumph?
    Is it a case of there being a flaw with the BMW or simply bike-polygamy?

    • blackcayman says:

      My guess would be the smooth tractable power of the triple – the 800 twin is buzy and the vibes can be a drag at speed. I think this Triumph is going to leave BMW scratching its head while it rewrites the book on Mid-Size Adventure Bikes!

      Now all I need is a new Tiger 1200! and of course someone to fall in love with the idea of owning it for a couple of years and not really managing to put more than a couple thousand miles on it so I can pick it up for 70% of new.

  29. sam says:

    ..I rode the new Tiger 800 (alone) at my local dealer and I can definitely state that this motor is perhaps the most exciting motor I’ve ever ridden. I’ve owned most BMW models, K bikes, twins and one sweet 2000 VFR. I presently own a very satisfying F800ST with nearly 50,000 virtually trouble-free miles. All I can say is if this motor were available in a Sprint ST configuration, I’d have my checkbook out yesterday.!!

  30. Bruce says:

    I own a BMW F800ST and am very happy with it, but…I have been following the two new Triumph triples with great interest. I wish the standard came with belt, instead of chain, was lower and had factory luggage option. It would be an awesome tourer.

    • Tim says:

      I agree with the belt idea. I’m so sick of dealing with chain maintenance. I can understand not having a belt on the more trail oriented version, but it would be a good fit for the street version.

    • Ilikefood says:

      No no lower would suck. The bike is barely tall enough as it is. I hate bikes with low seats because they compress the distance between seat and pegs and make the bike very uncomfortabke for anyone who’s not short. What we need is seat height adjustment, so the bike can fit more people, not a lower seat so it fits fewer people.

  31. S Calwel says:

    I want to like this bike. The concept of a light, really good handling (on smooth and rough pavement), all day comfortable, adequate accelerating and smooth 75+ mph cruising bike is, for me, the perfect ride. My local dealer has sold the next few coming in and has requested a demo bike from Triumph, which must be some concession for the discount it will have to be sold with eventually. Maybe I can snag a ride somewhere to make up my mind. I have a Aprilia Caponord that does all these things well but it is top heavy with a full tank. A Dorsodoro is also a possibility but it would require, at minimum, a seat and windscreen plus bags, etc.. F800GS? Already have one and it is great!

  32. Mickey says:

    Man, I wish I were taller. Drove 150 miles a couple of weeks ago to check this bike out. Seat is stratopheric for me. Just standing there it is above my waist.No way I could swing my leg over the seat. Stubby legs and adventure bikes don’t go together. Shame.

    • craigj says:

      Short people got no reason …

      Sorry.

      This bike interests me. I sold my old Kawi ZR-7S last summer to get a used VStrom 1000. A great big bike, so comfortable, more power, a much better fit for my XXLT frame. But, it is a great big heavy bike, ugly (not as ugly as my ancient CX650E Honda), and gets surprisingly poor fuel mileage compared to the ZR. I’ve ridden the BMW 800GS (nice!), and I’ve loved the Triumph triple since the 855 Sprint ST days. If the brakes are modern, they put decent suspension on it, and the fuel range is substantial, I’d be in to take a look.

      • Vrooom says:

        Strange, I’m getting between 40 and 46 mpg on my Strom with 130K miles on it. It’s been that way consistently.

  33. Tim says:

    This is the firt motorcycle (which is US bound) in a number of years that has interested me. I have a Versys which I use for long trips. It has aluminum luggage, and it is very comfortable on long rides. I also have an older Triumph Sprint 900 (actually I believe it is 855cc) with the triple motor. I’ve always thought if I could put the triple motor in the Versys frame it would be pretty much the perfect motorcycle. Now Triumph is doing that for me, with a smoother, lighter version of the world’s most perfect motor configuration.

    If you have a chance to ride a Triumph triple, you should do it. Otherwise, you’ll never know what you’re missing. Triumph is on a roll, getting great reviews on just about every bike they develop.