2019 Triumph Tiger XRT Review - Tiger to the Top

 

Of the Coromandel Peninsula, that is. We’d organised a Tiger 800 XRT for a trip down country but the weather gods had other ideas. So instead we implemented plan B. And had an absolute ball

Words: Peter Louisson   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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On a good day, motorbikes can be life affirming, but on a bad day, not quite so much. We had one of the former recently, heading to the very top of the Coromandel Peninsula on a sky-blue day, riding an adventure bike purpose built for such a trip.

We’d asked Triumph for the loan of a Tiger 800 XRT, the top road variant, for a planned trip to Lake Waikaremoana. Everything was looking on track until the Spring weather arrived in all its four-seasons glory. It started raining the day we were due to leave and didn’t let up for three days. So instead, we hung around town hoping for the next weekend to come good.

However, Dan the weather man again disappointed; no decent days for that weekend either. Yes, I know. Bikes still work in the rain, they don’t dissolve like my willpower. But bad stuff also happens in the rain, and given it’s not my bike...

Eventually, at the end of week three, two days of high pressure weather beckoned. Saturday we were busy checking out a Mercedes S350d. It may be the least expensive of Benz’ top S-Class but it’s also amongst the quietest, cushiest of luxury cars I’ve ever experienced. So Sunday was reserved for a 500km jaunt to Fletcher Bay and back.

As the crow flies it’s probably not much more than about 70km from Auckland, but given I’m not a fly boy, the Tiger 800 XRT would be the next best thing. Without doubt this was the first proper weekend of summer. With a high overhead, the day dawned cloudy but this soon burnt off as we eased down the Kaiaua Coast Rd and got cuddly with the Tiger.

We’d rate the Tiger 800 as amongst the best of the bigger ADVs on sale at present

Compared with its predecessor this is little more potent (94hp, 79Nm) but it’s slightly quicker because of changes to gearing. It is also more fuel efficient. And how, the mean fuel use down to the Pink Store at Kaiaua was reading 3.8L/100km. This is miles better than it used to be, with a tank range of around 350-400km. We fueled up at Clevedon and refilled on the way home at Thames. Even then it wasn’t empty.

The engine has lost none of its vibrancy in the midband, despite the improved fuel use. In fact, the strength across the midrange is the reason it’s so easy on fuel, pulling with vigour from 80km/h in sixth gear, and like a mad thing from 100km/h. At the basement end of the rev counter, it eases away in top from as low as 1500rpm, or 35km/h without strain. You can pretty much treat it as an auto once you hit top gear.

But you don’t because the transmission is so lightweight and fluid it positively encourages shifts. Still, with all that glorious low down verve, you seldom need more than 7000rpm on road. That’s kind of a pity because it’s where the exhaust noise really starts to become interesting. About the only time we did give it the beans was when a BMW S 1000 RR loomed large in the rear view mirrors (which are amongst the biggest and best in the business).

Despite winding it out and having some fun on the return trip, he left me standing on the long straights of the Seabird Coast. That said, I bet you he wasn’t riding in as much comfort as I had all day. This is what makes ADVs so popular. They’re tall and upright with long travel suspension and an easy, open riding position.

When we rode the Tiger 800 at its launch, we said we couldn’t wait for more seat time, and reckoned it was comfy enough to last for a tank of gas, 19L, without stopping. We’d climbed aboard first thing in the morning a bit sore from lumberjacking the previous day, and climbed off after 12 hours of adventuring feeling tired but none the worse for wear.


ADVs really are just the best for touring, especially when the going gets gravelly, with the 19-inch slimline front wheel. Yet on tarmac the Metzler Tourances are great; we had a ball chucking this from side to side up the Thames Coast Road, and then onwards over the equally sinuous stretch linking Coromandel to Colville. It’s a trustworthy chassis this.

We’d reiterate that you don’t need to go large for the litre or 1200cc adventure bikes, unless perhaps you’re toting an extra passenger or huge amounts of gear. Even then, you’d probably elect not to go too far off road, given the size and weight of these things, most around the 250kg mark.

The latest Tiger 800 has gained plenty of specification, the XRT replete with TFT dash, five engine modes, LED lights, TC, height adjustable seat with heater elements, cruise control, heated grips, engine bars, hand guards and more. Yet it’s lighter, at 215kg, making it more amenable for trail work. Pricing starts at $23,490 for the XRX and the more comprehensively equipped XRT, the one you see here, goes for $26,990.

The instruments borrowed from the Street Triple are configurable, show all the relevant trip data. We chose the presentation with the tacho over on the right - you really don’t need to know what revs this is doing - and the digital speed as big as possible, just to remind you to back off now and again. New Brembo calipers lock the front down securely.

We’d rate the Tiger 800 as amongst the best of the bigger ADVs on sale at present. It has lost 10kg in the update and feels manageable enough to manhandle. I got it a wee bit stuck in loose rock and shell above the high-tide mark on the way to Fletcher Bay but a spot of digging and I hauled it out unaided. Being tall, it’s a bit of a chore to swing a leg over if you’ve gear strapped to the seat. Easier then to leave it leaned over on the side stand and toss a leg over before swinging the bike upright.

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The riding position has been reconfigured, with the bars slightly closer than before, the knees barely flexed and new more resilient seat foam. It feels a natural, easy riding position, and lasts the distance. Helping further, the rider’s seat is height adjustable and the tank perfectly shaped for gripping with the knees.

Contributing to comfort are a few other things, like a fully adjustable Showa suspension set-up, and height adjustable screen. We fiddled with rebound and compression up front, easing them back a couple of clicks but didn’t touch the rear set-up which felt just so. You’d not credit how absorptive this is, making the gravel trek to the top of the Coromandel peninsula that much more agreeable. It felt stable and secure in the dirt too.

Wish we’d had time to go up through the middle to Port Charles. That must await for another weekend. The other gratifying aspect to comfort is weather protection. While the screen might not look like it stops much, it does, and though it rained just once while we had the bike, I hardly got a drop on me. The screen’s height adjustable while on the move, and we could tour visor up, no eye watering, with the screen in the highest position, for a better appreciation of the surroundings.

And up the quiet, little travelled coast road from Colville to the top, there’s an abundance of natural beauty. It reminds of what the Thames Coast Road must have been like before it was sealed. Try to check it out some time if you haven’t already, but perhaps best not to in the height of summer, with the slug of campervans plying the tourist routes.

There are good camping opps up at Port Jackson. And lots of wildlife; we saw a pod of dolphins while riding up around Papa Aroha. Lifelong memories are made of days like these. The bays alone are worth going to see, even the smaller ones en route.

And the road there? It’s magic, especially on something like the XRT, purpose-built for adventuring.

The Stats

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Model Triumph Tiger 800 XRT  Price $26,590

Engine 800cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, IL3, 70kW / 79Nm

Transmission 6-speed, chain final drive Vitals 3.60s 0-100km/h

2.06s (54.7m) 80-120km/h, 45.6m 100-0km/h, 215kg

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