25/06/2015

    Where The Wild Things Are

    Watched that ad which tells you that being dark-skinned isn't cool? And, that how you could give yourself a 'fair' chance by applying some gunk developed in a fancy lab? Or, for that matter, ever been fooled into booking yourself into a, supposedly, cosy lodge on an online site and realised later that it is anything but? Well, if you haven't, welcome to the real world pal, because stuff like this does happen. People like you and me, who are being subliminally fed garbage, are prone to being suckered all the time. Services and products aren't always what they claim, or appear, to be.

    Triumph Motorcycles has some nifty-looking e-brochures, and when we breezed through the pages of the recently launched, overly adventurous-looking Tiger 800 XCx and its more road-friendly XRx alter ego, we just had to head out to get away from the farce that the world has turned into (and, also to check if the mobikes were as good as Triumph claims they are). Naturally, we chose to unleash these two Tigers on terrain they are supposedly equipped to tackle - from the grimy urban India to the rugged wild, from Gurgaon, to remote Kaza, in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh - to figure out just how much adventure
    they could cope with.

    The Tigers are built to go off-road and look every bit the part. The suspension setups are built to take a serious pounding, and all those protectors up front - the windscreen, headlight protectors and knuckle guards - look purposeful. Then there's the flat handlebar, the larger front wheel, the engine bash guard, and the high-mounted side exhaust that speak volumes of their adventure-ready credentials. The bikes stand tall, and you have to take one heck of a hop to get a leg over one. Visual differences that set the XCx from the more street-focussed XRx are the bigger beak under the headlight unit, the big metal engine skid plate and, of course, the badging. But, the most prominent difference are its spoke-wheels in comparison to the XRx's black alloy rims.

    The handlebars are now loaded with more tech than before with a ride-by-wire throttle and button controls, which are hand-me-downs from the larger 1200cc Tiger Explorer. The buttons allow you to toggle between two tripmeters, fuel consumption, distance-to-empty, three riding modes, four engine maps, ABS and switchable traction control settings. On the left, you get the cruise control engaging system and kill switch.

    The most remarkable thing about the Tigers is the engine they share. The in-line three-pot motor pumps out 94bhp and 79Nm of grunt in a smooth, almost vibe-free and relentless manner. Performance isn't nutters fast, but the way the power is delivered will blow you into the water. Low down the band, acceleration is strong in all gears, and the Tigers never once felt fiat-footed.The bikes never fail to impress regardless of whether you are trying to wriggle free from city traffic, or cruising at 100kph at 4400rpm in sixth, or at 150kph at 8500rpm in fourth. And, if you choose to give them the beans and shift through the slick and precise six-cog 'box, which now uses parts from the class-leading Daytona 675 supersport bike, you won't be disappointed. There's lots of torque available from as low as 1500rpm, and the engine is ever ready to build up revs at a light flick of the wrist (provided you have selected the Sport option engine map).

    There are three ride mode presets - Road, Off-road and Rider - based on surface and riding style preferences. We particularly liked Rider, which lets you choose between different ABS, traction control and engine map settings to best suit conditions. When we took the bikes off-road, switching to the off-road preset was a bit of a downer. The throttle response dulled and the traction control proved to be a bit of a killjoy on the rutted inclines. On bikes like these, hardcore enthusiasts would rather keep all electronic assistance at bay and be fully in control of matters, and that's what these bikes allow you to do. If you
    lack the confidence to do that, the electronic aids prove to be perfect tools to gain that confidence.

    The roads leading out of Delhi to Chandigarh are long and straight and were perfect to test the straightline speed, which we did, and came away rather impressed with the highway manners and composure of these tall boys. There are the four throttle maps - Rain, Road, Sport and Off-road - that decrease, or increase throttle response depending on the situation you are in. The ABS and traction control units made life astride these motorcycles a whole lot easier, and performed cleanly on river crossings, gutted surfaces, sand-filled inclines and declines. These are motorcycles that can make amateur riders seem like seasoned professionals. Sure, the windscreen doesn't do much but save your helmet visor from a bug or two, and you feel completely overwhelmed by the wind as the speedo indicates triple digits, but you never feel like things are going to slip away from you. As you move further up towards Shimla, the roads are delightfully better-paved and there are twisties that beg you to lean the bike low into a corner.

    Usually, your brain would compute that trying to corner bikes with a centre of gravity this tall would be like trying to corner a couple of skyscrapers, but once again, to our surprise, both the Tigers executed what we asked of them terrifically. Long sweeping corners are definitely part of these bikes' Key Result Areas. Sure, they're not Daytona-precise, but the tubular steel trellis frame chassis is brilliantly communicative. You know what's going on at all times and, therefore, feel very much in control.

    The XRx performed a tad better on-road, thanks to its lower ground clearance and stiffer Showa suspension, which meant that you could really shift around the big seat quickly, and confidently attack a sequence of long corners, with the Pirellis and brakes working flawlessly. Which is really cool, but equally weird, because, why would you want your adventure motorcycle to do something like that? That doesn't mean that the XCx felt like a slouch. But, where the XCx really came into its own was whenever some unexpected undulations came along. The XCx's preload adjustable suspension allows more travel and compression, and swallowed every bump and ditch we encountered.

    Once you've ridden the XCx on rutted roads or off-road trails and then switched to the XRx, you just want to hop right back onto the former. It was just that much more comfortable, and given our kinds of off-roady road surfaces, I'd say that the XCx pretty much is the perfect bike for India - be it for long daily commutes to work, or for more adventurous weekend excursions. The XCx's bigger 21-inch front wheel that's wrapped in Bridgestone Battle Wing is simply too good. Riding position is completely relaxed and doesn't take a toll on your back or arms over long rides. On both bikes, seat height is adjustable by 20mm, which will help shorties along just fine, but mind you, the XCx is a bit taller, thanks to its higher ground clearance. No matter what kind of surface you've been riding on all day, you just don't get tired of riding these Tigers. I think that if you are fed up of riding whatever it is you're riding, you just need to hop aboard one of these Triumph Tigers to fall in love with biking all over again. They're that remarkable.

    It's easy to see how advertisements overstate the strengths of the motorcycles they are trying to sell. But, once in a while, you do come across exceptions like the XCx and XRx. It's like what that wise agent Fox Moulder once said: "The truth is out there."

    These mechanical animals are the first of their kind in the country, and have no cubic capacity competition in the adventure segment at the moment. It's hard to think of a place in India where these bikes won't fit right in. The next contender that dares venture into Tiger territory will have a lot of catching up to do, because Triumph has set the the bar way high. Strangely enough, that's just what it claims in its advertisements and brochures.

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