Adventure motorcycles, contrary to what the name suggests are no longer a niche class within motorcycles. Even with cosmetic changes, there are 'adventure' bikes on sale with little or no off-roading credentials. Amid the sea of marketing-driven product off-shoots, there have been a few genuine off-roaders launched this year, one of which is the Triumph Tiger. The model is now in its second-generation and has been updated with new variants. Whether the 2015 Tiger has retained its old strengths, build thereon or has made compromises is a question we tried to answer by riding the Tiger XCx the way it's supposed to.
Since its introduction in 2010, the Tiger has earned global recognition for being a capable off-road machine. Engineers at Hinckley – the Triumph Motorcycles Ltd headquarters – encouraged by the model's evolution and success thought it was a good time to expand the products in the Tiger brand. As a result, we have the XR, a road-focussed motorcycle and the XC, which performs better where there are no roads. Both of these models now have a sub-model with an 'x' against the name. These variants are equipped with more advanced electronics and have better rider and body protection. We tested the XCx, the extreme version of the off-road inclined XC.
THE NEW BITS
Triumph decided not to make drastic changes to the styling, and that's fine since the Tiger already has a design that goes well with its purpose. There have been some changes including new tank side panels and radiator shroud, both lending the bike with a sharper look. The redesigned fuel tank also helps direct hot air away from the rider's legs but things can still get pretty hot in traffic and a bit inconvenient, particularly on warm days. Our test bike being an 'x' version also featured hand guards and an aluminium skid plate, the latter being helpful for off-roading.
The focus on improving the riding experience is pretty evident from the time one lays an eye on the spec sheet. The improvements do not come in form of increased power output but improving the tractability and usability of the available power on varied surfaces.
The new Tiger 800 XCx features ride-by-wire throttle, which smoothens power delivery and sharpens throttle response, thereby enhancing the riding experience. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg as the ride-by-wire opens up the possibility to have higher digital control over the engine. Hence, riders now have access to multiple throttle maps, electronic cruise control and riding modes.
There are four throttle maps on offer – rain, road, sport and off-road – each of which adjusts the throttle response according to the condition suggested by their name. Interestingly, these maps do not restrict the power output like in many other motorcycles. Instead, the throttle opening for a specific output of power changes in each mode. We particularly liked this system as it imparts the rider with greater control over the computer, which otherwise can cut in at unexpected/ unwanted times. On the road, the sport map was our preferred choice as the throttle response is quicker, increasing riding fun.
Next up in the arsenal of the XCx is the riding mode functionality, which offers a choice between three modes – road, off-road and rider. In the road mode, ABS and traction control are set to intervene the moment a slip-up is detected. Of particular interest was the off-road mode, which reduces the throttle response and lowers the traction control and ABS intervention.
While restricted traction control enables some wheel slip, crucial to off-road handling, the ABS too allows for the rear wheel to lock but not the front one. This helps negotiate steep unpaved inclines by allowing the rider to continue accelerating with the mental comfort of knowing that electronics would reign in matters if the rider overcooks.
The rider mode allows for individual customisability of the electronic aids along with the option to turn the ABS off. While these modes and throttle maps work impressively in their targeted environments, toggling between them is not as easy as Triumph claims. The modes can be selected by the small button on the instrument cluster but maps need to be selected by a not very easily operable switch on the left handle. Add to this the small font, which makes it difficult to make changes while on the move.
The engine is a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 799 cc, in-line three-cylinder unit, developing about 94 hp and 79 Nm of torque. The engine offers a wide spread of torque, which is accessible right from about 3,500 rpm to about 9,000 rpm. Over 5,000 rpm in particular, the exhaust emits a loud and addictive sound and the engine pulls strongly.
While power output hasn't been bumped up, there have been many internal changes aimed at improving combustion performance and lowering friction. These combined with the ride-by-wire technology help increase fuel-efficiency. Engineers also focussed on reducing the mechanical noise of the engine, the results of which are evident on the road. The engine operates smoothly across its rev band and even close to the 10,000 rpm rev limit vibrations aren't unpleasantly intrusive.
We recorded an average fuel-efficiency of 18.8 km/l over a mix of city, off-road and highway, with the former two accounting for a larger part. With a 19 l fuel tank, the Tiger XCx can manage over 350 km/h in rough riding conditions, making it a good adventure motorcycle in true terms. Add to it the optional panniers, and one can carry a significant amount of luggage.
Owing to the broad torque curve, the motorcycle felt pretty much like an automatic at times. We were able to brake from about 80 km/h to just under 50 km/h and then accelerate back to 140 km/h, all while being in the sixth gear and without any shakes or clatter! The 0-100 km/h acceleration run was done in 4.4 s during our test, making it a strong performer on the road as well. That the engine revs up quickly adds further to the overall riding experience.
The engine is paired to a six-speed transmission, which now borrows some internals from the Daytona 675's gearbox. We found the gearshifts to be smooth, requiring little effort, making it easy to shift even while standing on the foot pegs, a position the rider will be in for most of the time when off-roading. The only issue was that at times shifting into 1st from neutral, while stationary, wasn't seamless.
DYNAMICS ON AND OFF-ROAD
The Tiger XCx, despite being a hardcore off-road version, offers impressive on-road dynamics. Rider geometry triangle has been revised to lower the weight on wrists and increase leg-room. Coupled with the light wet weight of about 220 kg, riding the XCx is effortless over long durations and even during off-road stints. Owing to its off-road intent, the XCx comes equipped with a WP 43 mm suspension set-up comprising of upside down forks offering a generous travel of 220 mm. The 43 mm rear monoshock offers a 215 mm travel. Adjustable damping combined with long suspension travel translates into impressive off-road capabilities and comfortable on-road ride quality. An electronic cruise-control also helps you make easy task of those long highway stretches before forests and valleys begin taking shape on the horizon.
In favour of off-road performance, the XCx features spoked-wheels, a 17-inch unit at the rear and a large 21-inch wheel upfront. This combination comes in handy over rough terrains, ensuring reliability and better control. We tested the Tiger extensively over inclines on a surface of mud, over which it shone. The programmable control of electronics makes it easy for riders, right from beginners to experts, to enjoy off-roading on the Tiger XCx and improvise further. On somewhat deep and loose sand, the XCx is fairly manageable in the off-road mode. Even with an open throttle the motorcycle was able to maintain predicted direction despite a slightly oscillating rear.
The effectiveness of the XCx's technology package can be gauged from the fact that despite the lack of much off-roading experience on two-wheels, we managed an impressive dose of off-roading on the XCx.
The Tiger 800 XCx is an impressive package, when looked at from a lifestyle perspective. Particularly aimed at off-roading, the XCx isn't a product for the pretentious lot and will only keep a certain type of rider happy. In terms of value, the XCx offers an impressive list of technologies aimed at a specific purpose of off-roading.
While the motorcycle impresses there, it's equally comfortable on the bits in between off-roading and your home, the roads. In a city like Delhi though, there is one issue with the XCx. The windshield is effective, but in the process obstructs the air flow to the rider's chest, making it uncomfortable to ride the product over a long duration. The solution to this is simple in the form of removing the screen in summer and putting it back in cooler days.
All read, said and done, the XCx left us impressed with its focussed intent yet versatile character. If you're struck by wanderlust, prefer to get lost from civilisation and envelope yourself in the arms of nature, the XCx is pretty much the best tool on sale in the Indian market presently. It's plethora of rider-focussed technologies, long travel range and good ergonomics make it a reliable companion for those days you spend in wilderness. In case being cut-off from digital communication is a concern for you, the XCx comes with two 12v power outlets to keep those communication & navigation devices charged. One wouldn't expect anything less from a genuine adventure motorcycle. The impressive package of the Triumph XCx is on sale at just Rs 12.7 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, which in our opinion is one of the best value-for-money propositions in the Indian premium motorcycle market.
Text: Arpit Mahendra
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay