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 Triumph Tiger 800XC

Since its introduction in 1993, the Triumph Tiger’s purpose in life has been one of capable on-road performance and off-road daydreams. The introduction of the Tiger 1050 only strengthened this notion, if not completely eschewing all off-road intentions. With the Tiger 800XC, Triumph’s make-no-mistake-about-our-objective plagiarism of BMW’s F800GS is a bold knock at the king of adventure-touring’s front door.

The core strength of the Tiger is its three-cylinder mill. Although not purpose-built like the F800 engine, the stroked 675 motor (from the Daytona and Street Triple) is stronger and smoother when riding pavement. And because it’s nipping at the BMW’s rear wheel when riding off-road, it proves to be a competent and versatile package.

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout

“The BMW’s throttle response is spot-on and accurate where the Tiger is less so,” says Pete. “This is more an issue when trying to negotiate technical off-road-type stuff, where modulation of the throttle at low speeds and low revs is key to expertly picking your way through challenging terrain.”

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout

The BMW’s engine braking when riding off-road is definitely preferable to the Tiger’s comparatively non-existent engine-braking forces. However, the Triumph’s Triple produces smooth, linear power available down low for slower, off-road riding and continues to climb until redline. The BMW’s parallel-Twin is spunky but vibrates more than the Tiger’s engine. The vibration isn’t enough to numb any body parts during the trip, but on the long freeway ride home I was wishing I was on the Tiger.

Pete sums up the two engines thusly; “When we consider the majority of the miles these types of motorcycles travel are paved, the smoother, more powerful Tiger engine is the better overall choice.”

Both our test bikes came outfitted with antilock-brake systems. The BMW again shows its off-road leanings by making it easy to disable its ABS, whereas the process of turning off the Tiger’s is a matter of pushing small buttons in correct order. Not a deal breaker, but BMW knows its riders will want an easy way to kill ABS when a dirt-riding opportunity presents itself.

The narrowness of the Beemer’s seat is another off-road attribute when standing on the pegs and navigating a challenging dirt section. Standing up when riding the Tiger isn’t a problem, but its seat and riding position are preferable when you’re pounding out big-mileage days. The BMW offers a low seat (33.5 in.) and a high seat (34.6 in.), whereas the Tiger provides a height-adjustable seat (33.2 in./34 in.). The BMW’s low seat is a little higher than the Tiger’s, but its narrowness offsets this difference. However, the adjustable seat of the Tiger is plusher and was preferred during our travels.

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout

Riders unfamiliar with BMW will notice the three buttons (left signal, right signal and cancel) BMW uses to do the job of a single, left handlebar-mounted button on most motorcycles. BMW has changed its blinker switches on certain new models, but not yet on the 800GS, which we find is a nuisance.

Our Tiger was equipped with an Arrow “Titanium Wrap” slip-on exhaust can. The $800 muffler emits a throatier note than the stock exhaust, but it’s not loud enough to be obnoxious to pedestrians. There is a downloadable update for the bike’s ECU that is included with the price of the muffler when purchased from your local dealer.

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