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It’s a 2019 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx Low. This is the middle-market road-focussed model. It has alloy wheels in sensible sizes, and a package of extras – ABS, heated grips, TFT screen, riding modes (dunno why - it stayed on “sport” mode all the time) and cruise control – all as standard. It was the cruise control that sealed the deal for me. I love it. I use it all the time: at 30, 40, 50, whatever. It's an old person thing: great to be able to let go and stretch while you’re still moving.
To this I added a Scottoiler x-System (which delivered 4000 miles of maintenance free riding), some crash bars, a mount for the sat nav and I had the suspension upgraded. Triumph threw in a set of smart ally panniers as part of the deal.
Put in the key, start it up, and it responds with a cough and a guttural tone that always pleased me. Yes, I am that shallow. Put it in gear and set off, and the engine, the gear box and the light clutch combine in a magical trinity: the 3-cylinder engine revs to screaming point, delivering smooth, clean power, and when you come to change gear it is fluid: crisp yet unpronounced. Coming from the R1200GS, this was a thing of incomprehensible beauty. But not perfect; once stopped, it’s hard to persuade the thing to change gear: stop in 2nd? move off in 2nd. Stop in neutral? You'll be fiddling with the gear shifter after the lights have turned green.
The brakes are good. Nice progressive action with good feedback; no complaints there. And the overall handling? Here things start to look a bit less rosy.
I test rode the standard height bike and bought the factory-lowered version. Bad mistake. The low is very low, and the first thing you have to do is unscrew the hero blobs from the base of the footrests, just to get the bike to lean half over. This done, the bike is fine for Sunday afternoon pootling, but push it a bit round the corners and it acts like a puppy having a moment: all jumpy and unpredictable. Steering is imprecise, and even going along straight, the front wheel is restless, edging from side to side, trying to find a bit of road It’s comfortable with.
So I took it to Darren the Suspension Guy at MCT in Stowmarket. He fitted a Nitron rear shock and resprung the forks, raising the bike just tad at the same time.
Different Bike. A Completely Different Bike. It now wants to be ridden. It likes the corners. It knows how to settle its tyres into the tarmac and keep them solidly there. It still scrapes the footrests too easily, and it’s too sensitive about tyre pressures, but it is nonetheless Totally Transformed.
What about comfort? The screen is adjustable and pure shite: noisy and buffeting. I added some spacers to push the bottom out from the bike, making the air to flow over it more smoothly, and this improved it to the point of being mediocre, but it's still too noisy for whole days on the bike. People complain that the seat is hard, but it always seemed fine to my senseless backside. The position is neutral, and wide bars make for effortless manoeuvering.
The panniers look awesome. They are top loading (which means the stuff all stays in when you open them up) and can be locked to the frame. They’re big too; you can just continue to stuff more things and they don’t seem to be any fuller than before. But they are wiiiiiide! Like as wide as two GSs. Placed end to end. When they’re on the bike and I’m in traffic, I keep repeating, like a mantra, “the panniers are wide, the panniers are wide” under my breath for fear of taking someone’s bumper off. And I’m often left looking enviously at the sports bikes filtering through impossibly narrow gaps, while I’m waiting with all the cars and trucks. So I bought a tail bag and stopped using the panniers.
Final gripe: the side stand. There’s no centre stand on the lowered XRx, so you rely on the side stand for everything. But it’s not completely reliable: I hadn’t had the bike long before I stopped on a slight incline on rough ground, got off, and before I knew it, the bike had shifted forward, the stand folded up and the bike was on the floor. No damage, thanks to those crash bars, and it was easy enough to pick up, thanks to not being a GS. But since then I’ve put the bike in 1st gear more often when stopping.
If I look back, I got the bike because I wanted something with cruise control, and there was nothing around at a similar price that had a comparable set of equipment. Was I happy with it? Yes, I had no plans to change it. Would I buy it again? Well, no I wouldn't. Why? Not really sure; I guess – even after the suspension was done – it didn’t quite have the spark I was looking for.
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The tiger 800 was the first bike I ever rode with a proper screen and I'd never felt buffeting before. It wasn't a nice feeling when I was on the motorway.
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