2014 BMW F800GS Adventure Vs. Triumph Tiger 800XC

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

Middleweight adventurers hit sweet spot in Colorado

When dreaming of exploring the globe on two wheels, adventure riders usually dream big, aspiring to high-end machines like BMW’s iconic R1200GS and KTM’s wonderfully fast and capable 1190 Adventure. However, those lust-worthy globetrotters are priced in a strata that is a stretch for the reality of most riders. Both have entry fees starting around $16,000, but adding optional accessories can bring the MSRPs dangerously close to $20k.

Best On-Off Road / Adventure Motorcycle Of 2014

Single-cylinder adventure bikes are more affordable and often have greater off-road abilities, but they’re less happy droning along boring interstate routes that are often the best or only way to the epic trails.

Enter Goldilocks. BMW’s F800GS and Triumph’s Tiger 800 are relatively affordable adventure conveyances, with highway manners vastly preferable to one-lunged ADVs, but lighter and more manageable – on the trail and the wallet – than the choices in the 1200cc range. The F800GS made its debut in 2008, and Triumph followed BMW’s lead in 2011 with the Tiger 800.

2011 Adventure-Touring Shootout: Triumph Tiger 800XC Vs. BMW F800GS + Video

It’s been three years since we last compared these Euro ADVs. They are, in most ways, very well matched – even in terms of the way they look. Triumph clearly had the BMW as its target when designing the Tiger 800.

We rode the Sandrover Matte version at the GSA’s launch near Moab, Utah. Racing Red would come later.

This class remained static for a couple of years, but in 2014 BMW debuted an Adventure version of its venerable F800GS. Perhaps its biggest upgrade is its underseat fuel tank, enlarged from a barely adequate 4.2 gallons to a Baja-ready 6.3 gallons – yielding as much as an extra 100 miles between fuel stops. Touring amenities are also improved by a larger windscreen, standard hand guards and a more comfortable seat

The new version of the F800GS is ready for Adventure.

A BMW with Adventure in its name still must include equipment to handle off-road terrain more effectively. As such, the 800GSA includes tubular engine guards, a nylon sump protector, beefier subframe and aluminum saddlebag mounts as standard equipment. Visually, the GSA can be spotted by its longer beak of a front fender, larger engine shrouds and a wider tail from the bigger fuel tank. Short riders may want to order the optional-at-no-cost low seat that brings saddle height down from 35.0 inches to 33.9 inches

2014 BMW F800GS Adventure Review

The F800GS Adventure has a base price of $13,550, a $2,100 upcharge over the base GS, which includes a luggage rack and 12-volt outlet. However, our GSA was fully loaded with options, including the “Premium Package,” an $800 upgrade that includes niceties like heated grips, traction control, a centerstand and BMW’s nicely tuned “Off-Road” riding mode, which allows useful slips and slides on dirt terrain. Add another $645 for the LED fog lights and electronic suspension adjustment (ESA), and we’re at $14,995.

Note the Adventure’s tall windshield. Another desirable option for the GSA are these sturdy and nicely welded aluminum side cases ($1,070) that are purported to hold 82 liters of stuff, despite the left bag narrowing at its bottom to clear the muffler. Conveniently, they can be used as ice buckets if you need to chill post-ride beverages.

Meanwhile, the Tiger 800 carries on basically unchanged. As previous, opting for the XC model yields a more dirt-worthy adventurer for an extra $1,000. Spoked wheels replace cast-aluminum ones, and the front hoop grows in diameter from 19 to 21 inches. Longer suspension travel, nearly two inches up at both ends, helps suck up bigger hits and raises the seat to 33.2 inches. The saddle includes a seat adjustment that lifts the seat nearly an inch from its low position. The 2014 800XC has a base price of $11,999.


Following the F800GS Adventure’s launch in Utah, we were able to spend a couple of days riding it alongside a Tiger 800XC in Colorado, a 2012 model owned by friend of MO, Dean Hight. You might recognize Dean as a guest rider in our 2013 Adventure-Touring Shootout.

Dean accessorized his Tiger with Triumph crash bars ($200) and heated grips ($249). Rather than buying Triumph’s saddlebags ($800), Dean uses a set of Wolfman soft bags. The stock Bridgestone Battle Wings were replaced by Heidenau K60 tires, and Dean reports being impressed by their grip, both on and off the pavement, and with their durability. They also better match the off-road intent of the BMW’s GSA and its Continental TKC80 knobby tires fitted as a no-cost option instead of the standard Michelin Anakees.

An adventure bike like the Tiger 800XC in Colorado is a match made in heaven.

Colorado, of course, is a prime location to test adventure bikes such as these, and we spent nearly as much time off-road as we did on pavement. Our BMW was accessorized with the optional aluminum bash plate that guards the oil filter and exhaust header pipes, a virtual necessity if riding an 800GS in rugged and rocky terrain. The Contis on our GSA are adequate on paved surfaces, but they excel during off-road use.

On The Road

The most obvious distinction between this pair is found in the engine bay. BMW relies on a ruthlessly efficient parallel-Twin powerplant. The 798cc motor boasts a broad spread of power that makes for an effective tool, but its character isn’t as smooth or as sweet as the wonderful 799cc inline-Triple in the Tiger. Boiled down to their base characteristics, the BMW’s mill is more tractable and better suited to off-road duties, while the Trumpet’s peakier ‘plant shines while out on any paved roads.

In terms of output, the BMW cranks out more power sooner than the Triumph (except for a lull from about 3500-4500 rpm) from bottom until 8500 rpm when the Tiger revs out to a slightly stronger finish. (Dyno runs from our 2011 comparison test.)

The Tiger hews closer to a sport-touring ride than the F800, with lower-set handlebars and a shorter windscreen. Its three-cylinder motor is revvier than the BMW’s Twin, which makes it more fun to spin up when space allows. It’s also immensely smoother than the vibey German unit. The F800’s pronounced vibration was Dean’s biggest complaint about the Beemer. As for me, the vibes are apparent but not particularly bothersome, even after the long ride from Utah to Colorado.

The BMW edges the Tiger in its over-the-road comfort. The Adventure’s adjustable windshield is remarkably effective at diverting air from a rider, and its ride is so plush that it’s difficult to imagine a cushier ride. The BMW’s trip computer is a nice feature on a bike meant for traveling, but the LCD info screen is fairly small and not easy to read. On a related note, we’d gladly give up the analog speedometer’s 160-mph range for larger and more clearly defined numerals.

The F800GS’s instrumentation could use an update but, with scenery like this, we weren’t looking at the gauges very often.

The Triumph is also a comfy traveler, and its height-adjustable seat gives the option of extending legroom if desired. Its digital speedo is easier to see than the little numbers on the Beemer’s analog unit. The Tiger’s front end earned some criticism for a fork that compressed too readily, even though the bite from the brakes was relatively soft compared to the F800’s firm and accurate lever feel. An engine whine above 55 mph is mildly irritating. Additionally, a Tiger owner must do without traction control.

Despite a design four years old, the Tiger 800XC remains an excellent traveling companion.

Off The Road

When it comes to navigating the variable complexities of off-roading, the GS Adventure is the preferable mount. Its motor tractors away from as little as 2000 rpm, spitting out exactly what a rider’s wrist demands. The Tiger, despite a narrow clutch engagement zone and a peakier powerband, performed surprisingly well in the dirt – second gear is usable from just 15 mph. It delivered more traction than expected on hard-packed dirt, but, in loose terrain, the motor spins up too quickly and causes the tire to lose grip. And, on washboard surfaces, the Tiger suffers annoying axle tramp.

“The BMW felt more planted in the dirt that we rode,” Dean commented. “It had plusher suspension in the dirt, and it was easier to moderate the throttle at slow speeds. The Twin lugged better than the Triple.”

The Tiger 800XC performs fine on graded dirt roads like this, but the BMW is the preferred choice when off-road adventures become challenging.

A lower center of gravity is another off-road advantage for the F800, despite a 30-lb weight disadvantage. With the fuel tank placed under the seat and the engine’s inclined cylinders, the BMW feels much less top-heavy than the Tiger. In certain gnarly circumstances, this could be the difference between riding through them or eating dirt.

If things do get out of hand, the BMW’s sturdy engine/bash guards will probably do a better job of limiting damage. Dean doesn’t rate the Triumph’s guards highly.

“They made the bike look more Adventur-y, I suppose, but one tip-over off pavement left them pretty scarred, as well as the plastic bits at the tank,” he lamented. “The plastic tank and rad covers weren’t expensive, but I had expected the crash bars to be more protective.”


If price was no object, and off-roading was to be a key mission, BMW’s F800GS Adventure is the superior machine. It boasts robust wind protection, higher technology, a better luggage system, and versatile competence no matter where its front tire is aimed.

The King of the Hill sits at 14,000 feet atop Pikes Peak.

However, price is almost always a factor in anyone’s purchasing decision, so the Tiger’s cheaper ($1,500-plus) entry fee looks rather appealing, especially to riders who intend to keep their adventures on paved roads. .

“The Tiger better suits the type of riding I would do with either of them,” said our Coloradan tester. “The Triumph costs less and, in my opinion, is more fun to ride.”

BMW F800GS Adventure

+ Highs

  • Ready for almost anything
  • Off-roading champ
  • Nice touring rig, too!

– Sighs

  • Pricey when accessorized
  • Coarse engine
  • Instrumentation could be easier to read

Triumph Tiger 800XC

+ Highs

  • Sexy three-cylinder sound and feel
  • Strong value
  • Sportier on-road handling

– Sighs

  • Less adept at off-roading
  • Less wind protection
  • Less factory customization options

Middleweight Adventure Shootout Scorecard

CategoryBMW F800GS AdventureTriumph Tiger 800XC
Quality, Fit & Finish90.00%82.50%
Cool Factor82.50%85.00%
Grin Factor65.00%80.00%
Overall Score86.25%81.15%

Middleweight Adventure Shootout Specs

BMW F800GS AdventureTriumph Tiger 800 XC
MSRP$13,550 ($14,995 as tested w/o luggage)$11,999 ($12,448 as tested w/o luggage)
Engine Capacity798cc799cc
Engine TypeLiquid-cooled 4-stroke in-line two-cylinder engine, four valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts, dry sump lubricationLiquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line three-cylinder
Horsepower81.3 @ 8400 rpm84.0 @ 9900 rpm
Torque57.2 lb.-ft @ 6100 rpm51.2 lb.-ft @ 7800 rpm
Bore x Stroke82 mm x 75.6 mm74mm x 61.9mm
Fuel SystemElectroinc intake pipe injection, digital engine management (BMS-K+)Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Final DriveChainChain
Front Suspension43mm Upside down telescopic fork. 9.1 in. travel45mm Showa telescopic fork. 8.6 in. travel
Rear SuspensionSingle shock, rebound and preload adjustable. 8.5 in. travelSingle Showa shock, rebound and preload adjustable. 8.5 in. travel
Front BrakesDual 300mm discs. Two-piston calipers with switchable ABSDual 308mm discs. Nissin two-piston calipers. Switchable ABS
Rear BrakesSingle 265mm disc. Single-piston caliper with ABSSingle 255mm disc. Nissin single-piston caliper with switchable ABS
Front Tire90/90-2190/90-21
Rear Tire150/70-17150/70-17
Seat Height35.0 in. (optional 33.9 in. seat available)33.3 in. – 34.1 in.
Wheelbase62.1 in.60.8 in.
Rake/Trail26.0 deg/4.6 in.24.3 deg/3.8 in.
Curb Weight505 pounds474 pounds
Fuel Capacity6.3 gal5.0 gal
Warranty3-year, 36,000-mile2-year, unlimited-mile
Kevin Duke
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