Just over 20 years ago, if you had an SUV, it could only mean one thing. The vehicle would sport a specific type of construction that would endow it with off-road capabilities. Its road-going characteristics would be comfortable, at best, making driving on tarmac just about pleasurable. Then came a time when people started demanding vehicles that could be called SUVs but would also have better road-going manners. The need to go off road dwindled. What followed were crossovers, SUVs that had a uni-body construction that made their dynamic abilities and comfort more passenger car-like. Now we see a similar phenomenon in the world of motorcycles — particularly the ones that are called ‘adventure tourers’. So now you have a bunch of motorcycles that look like adventure tourers, but are essentially road-going motorcycles.
Take the Triumph Tiger 800 XRx, for example. If you look at one parked by the pavement, you’ll be left in no doubt that this is a perfect off-road bike. Yet you’ll be wrong. The XRx version of the Triumph Tiger 800 is a road-going bike. Want me to repeat that? The XRx version of the Triumph Tiger 800 is a road-going bike. Should you be surprised, let me tell you that we were told the same thing by the Triumph boffins when we went for the ride in far-off Spain. But as we got used to the idea, the logic behind having a creation like the XRx in the product portfolio becomes crystal-clear, for world over there is a vast number of people who would want a road-going tourer that looks like an adventure bike.
However, if you cast a keen eye over the Tiger 800 XRx, you’ll be able to discern some small bits that tell you that this bike is road-biased. For starters, the wheels are 10-spoke alloys and not wire spoke as you would expect on a proper adventure bike. Compare it to Triumph’s own off-road biased XCx version of this same bike, and you’ll also realise that the front wheel on the XRx is a different size. Where the XCx sports a 21-inch front wheel, the XRx gets a 19-inch wheel. You’ll also notice the missing beak at the front (which is replaced by a snub nose). On the off-road bike, the beak serves as a deflector for stones getting thrown back by the front tyre. Then there is the engine guard. On the XRx the unit is a much less robust one than on the XCx, given that the former will mainly remain on tarmac.
Moving on from the looks, the most significant departure from its off-road twin is in the XRx’s much more accessible seat height. Where the XCx stands tall with a seat height that varies between 840 mm and 860 mm, the XRx’s seat height is a lot less intimidating at 810-830 mm. Opt for the special accessory low seat and you can bring that further down to 790-810 mm. This is way below off-road bike territory. Those of you who are looking at this bike with scorn now, please note that rider confidence is inversely proportional to seat height. The lower the height, the higher the confidence. And on the XRx, you get plenty of confidence because you can plant both your feet flat on terra firma when at standstill.
Take a moment, familiarise yourself with all the controls on the bike. Apart from the engine kill switch and the starter button, there are a few buttons on the right also, for cruise control. And a couple on the left — in addition to the horn, indicators and passing light — for scrolling through the information on the digi-analogue instrumentation that is tilted at a rider-reader-friendly angle. Then fire her up.
What greets your ears is a high-pitched whine from the liquid-cooled, 12-valve, DOHC, 800-cc in-line triple-cylinder engine. Max output from the unit is 95 PS, which comes in at 9,250 RPM, and 79 Nm at 7,850 RPM, which is plenty for touring across the length and breadth of the country, if you ask. We can tell you with some authority that crossing the 160 km/h marker isn’t tough and you can cruise at 120-130 km/h pretty much all day (so long as the road conditions permit, of course). Transmission is via a six-speed gearbox that slots in with a nice positive click. What is amazing is the amount of bottom- and mid-range that the bike sports. At one point on the ride to the photo shoot, the bike picked up cleanly from just over 40 km/h in sixth! That indicates that overtakes on the highway will mostly be accomplished by a twist of the wrist without any requirement for downshifting on most occasions.
The other noteworthy thing about the Tiger (and this applies to both the XRx and the XCx) is the addition of ride by wire on the new bike (the previous Tiger 800 XC we rode last year did not have this). On the new bike the throttle action is effortless and you can practically roll the throttle open using just your thumb and index finger. It has also made the power delivery more linear than before. There are seldom any sudden rushes of power that might catch you unawares. While some might think that this will rob the bike of a certain degree of excitement, on the plus side this superbly linear delivery makes the bike extremely easy to ride and adds heaps to rider confidence.
The other thing that adds to confidence is the bike’s dynamic abilities. On the twisty roads of Andalusia, Spain, I had thought that the Tiger 800 XRx was a great handling bike, especially for a motorcycle that is tall. Having ridden it on our Indian roads, I can only reconfirm that. It’s stable on the straights and holds its line extremely well. Flicking the bike from one turn into another doesn’t pose the slightest problem. Perhaps the only time you’re conscious of the fact that you’re on a tall bike is when you’re taking a really tight turn. And even then, you get used to it fairly quickly. Under harsh braking too the Tiger tracks a straight line. On the ride quality front, the suspension set-up is slightly on the softer side of life, which is a boon when you consider travelling long distances on Indian roads. Unless there’s a big rut on the road or a deep pothole, the Tiger’s Showa 43-mm USD forks with 180 mm of travel work in collaboration with the Showa monoshock with 170 mm of travel and hydraulic preload adjustment to iron out virtually all road irregularities.
What goes quickly must also stop quickly and to shed speed the Triumph Tiger 800 gets a pair of 308-mm dia floating discs with Nissin two-piston sliding callipers up front and a 255-mm dia disc with Nissin single-piston sliding calliper at the rear. Of course, there’s ABS as well to sort out slippery issues. There’s plenty of bite but the feel is ever so slightly spongy. In any case, the brakes work perfectly to help you shed speed without drama.
In Pune, the on-road price of the Tiger 800 XRx is Rs 12.98 lakh. At that price there is no other adventure tourer that money can buy. Admittedly, the other adventure tourers sport larger capacity engines, but even amongst the more powerful bikes, the Triumph Tiger 800 XRx will hold its own and won’t leave you feeling short-changed.