2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout: Triumph Tiger 800XC vs. BMW F800GS [Video]

BMW's parallel-Twin takes on Triumph's inline-Triple

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2011 BMW F800GS

It’s an amazing quality for any motorcycle to mask its real weight, making a rider believe it tips the scales at less than it does. The F800GS won’t fool someone into thinking it a good idea to triple-jump the GS at the local MX track, but by positioning fuel below the seat, BMW lowered the GS’s center of gravity, belying the GS’s true heft. At 455 pounds wet, the GS is only 18 pounds less than the Tiger’s wet weight of 473, but the Tiger carries its fuel up high in a traditionally located fuel tank, and that makes a noticeable difference in how it feels.

“When riding in non-paved environments you want your bike to feel as small, lightweight and controllable as possible,” says co-tester Pete Brissette. “The F800GS feels like a 250cc trail bike compared to the street-biased Tiger when riding in sandy, silty, rocky conditions. Nevertheless, the Tiger acquitted itself well when the pavement ended.”

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout

The BMW also boasts more suspension travel, more ground clearance and smoother clutch and throttle applications. That said, it should come as no surprise that we gave the nod to the F800 as the better bike after leaving the pavement. The Triumph, however, was never far behind, its rider having to make the mental adjustments to the heavier-feeling bike before comfortably riding the pace. Nonetheless, the BMW definitely highlights the adventure aspect of its adventure-touring title.

Pete also observed that the BMW suffers less front-end dive and better brake feel despite having approximately half-an-inch more suspension travel. “The Beemer’s Brembo calipers seem to better telegraph how much more squeeze is needed than do the Triumph’s less sensitive Nissin calipers,” he says.

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout

It should also be noted that the F800GS provides an easily accessible hand dial for adjusting shock preload whereas the Tiger requires a screwdriver.

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout

When focusing on the touring side of the adventure-touring concept, both the BMW and Tiger are equal when it comes to wind protection and seating position. Where the BMW excels is in its observed 45-mpg average fuel economy. Besting the Triumph by 10 mpg (observed 35 mpg) gives the 800GS a 190-mile range to the Tiger’s a 175-mile range.

Another adventure-touring feature where Triumph failed to do its homework is with its luggage system. While its bags mount and dismount easily, the bulky, seemingly indestructible hardbags do not firmly secure at the bottom and flop around even when riding on moderately bumpy fireroads. The top mounting point is also weak and breaks without much provocation, as we learned during the Tiger’s press launch. Triumph recently issued a recall on the Tiger's top box, citing a missing clip does not allow the box to securely mount to the bike's rear rack. Because of this the top box could detach and potentially cause a crash.

BMW exhibits its years of refinement with its easy on/off, expandable, hard luggage system. The mounting system is tight and secure while remaining simple to mount and dismount. The expandability of the bags is an ingenious feature, providing extra storage space when needed but keeping the bike narrow when collapsed, an important feature for lane-splitting states and countries.

With years of refinements and an indisputable insight into building successful adventure-touring models, the F800GS is a formidable foe to the new Tiger.

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