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  • 1 Post By backofbeyond

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  #1  
Old 18 Oct 2016
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Triumph Tiger 800 Vs Kawasaki Versys 650

Triumph offers six variants of the Tiger 800 - XR, XRx XRt, XC, XCx and XCa, although I think they have now stopped selling the XRt and XCa in India. It can get quite confusing and people often ask me which Tiger they should buy. My response takes them by surprise because I recommend that they buy a Kawasaki Versys 650.

Truth be told, I never intended to buy a Tiger 800 XRx. My need for an adventure motorcycle arose after I stopped enjoying riding my Harley-Davidson Fat Boy on the not so nice state highways and village roads of India. At that time there were rumours of two entry level adventure motorcycles getting ready to be launched in India - the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the Honda CB500X. I did my research and even drew up a list of accessories that I would buy for each of these motorcycles. Then I waited and waited, and nothing happened.

My life mantra is made up of three simple words - "don't postpone happiness". So I didn't. I extended my middle finger to Kawasaki and Honda and embraced Triumph. The Tiger 800 had been selling in India for around a year. But I didn't want to spend that much money on an adventure motorcycle when my needs could be easily met by a much cheaper motorcycle. All I wanted to do was ride comfortably on India's bad roads. I didn't want an adventure motorcycle to go off-road and ride trails. I already had a heavily modified KTM Duke 390 for that purpose. I figured if I ever rode an adventure motorcycle off-road it would be during a normal tarmac ride when some bridge had broken and I had to take a detour through a jungle, cross a stream or something. Or maybe take a short cut through a field to bypass a traffic jam. Stuff like that. I had absolutely no intention to do serious off-roading with a big, tall and heavy adventure motorcycle. Otherwise I would have bought a Tiger 800 XCx, the off-road biased variant with spoked wheels, softer suspension and larger front wheel.

But having said all this, in the past year I did take my Tiger on trails, including some pretty tough ones. I climbed steep hills, rode through streams and even trotted along the mountain ridges of Chikmanglur. I did all this just to build confidence in handling the motorcycle off-road and I can say that I'm pretty confident now. While on a road trip if the situation calls me to go off-road I won't think twice.

Don't get me wrong. The Triumph Tiger 800 XRx is a far better motorcycle compared to the Kawasaki Versys 650. On paper and also in reality. The engine of the Tiger has the characteristics of a crotch rocket, while the Versys 650's engine is a little more tamed. You will reach your highway cruising speed of 120 kmph on both motorcycles, just that you will reach that speed on the Tiger a little earlier. If that really matters to you then yes, please spend those extra lakhs and buy a Tiger. But if it doesn't matter that much then you could use that money and buy yourself a proper dual-sport motorcycle to ride comfortably on trails, if that's what you want to do. Maybe a Himalayan or an old Impulse. If you feel like taking the trouble, you can even buy a brand new Impulse. There are dealers in rural areas that still have unsold stock and they are offering some nice discounts.

Personally, I think too much is made about the larger front wheel of adventure motorcycles. The XC's come with a 21 inch wheel, whereas the XR's come with a 19 inch wheel. The Versys 650 sports a 17 inch wheel. If 21 inch is really the golden number for an off-road friendly front wheel, then based on what I've done with my Tiger sporting a 19 inch wheel, I should have smashed my skid plate and wrecked the crank case a long time ago. But the only damage to the skid plate has been a few scratches when I rode the motorcycle over large rocks.

Even if had bought the Versys 650 I don't think the situation would have been any different. I think the 17 inch wheel would have done just fine. I say that because my Duke has a 17 inch front wheel and I've abused that motorcycle on trails like nobody's business. Again, the Duke's skid plate has merely got scarred, that's all. Nothing ever broke and I've ridden that motorcycle over pretty large obstacles.

So before spending all that money on buying a Tiger, you really need to ask yourself what exactly are you going to use the motorcycle for? If you just want to ride comfortably on bad roads and go off-road only when you have no other option, then the Versys 650 is really what you need. If you want to do both, ride comfortably on bad roads as well as ride trails, then you are still better off buying a Versys 650 and using the money you save to buy a Himalayan or Impulse.

Riding long distance on highways and riding trails are usually mutually exclusive, unless you are going to ride a thousand kms of highways just to ride a 10 km trail. So you can pick which motorcycle you want to ride depending on where you are riding. Use the right tool for the job, so to speak. In any case, unless you are an extremely experienced off-road rider, you are not going to enjoy riding a big, tall and heavy adventure motorcycle off-road. I know. I have one and I don't enjoy riding it on trials as much I like monkeying around on my light and nimble Duke.

Frankly, I don't understand why someone would buy a Tiger XR or XRx when there is the Versys 650. Indeed, for the extra money, the Tiger comes with some fancy electronics like traction control, rider modes, cruise control and stuff. I do have fun playing around with these fancy features. But you need to ask yourself if you can live without these features and instead possibly buy a proper dual sport motorcycle purpose built for trail riding. In any case, the Versys 650 comes with ABS which is the most important of electronic features.

In a way I'm glad that I was impatient and didn't wait long enough for Kawasaki to launch the Versys 650 in India. I now own a much better motorcycle which I absolutely love and plan on keeping for many years to come. But if I could go back in time, I wonder if I would have waited a little longer and bought the Versys 650 instead of the Tiger 800 XRX.

Nah! I don't think I would. Don't postpone happiness. :-)

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Last edited by deelip; 19 Oct 2016 at 01:08.
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Old 19 Oct 2016
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Nice write up, I guess you could put the V Strom 650 into the fray as well, 1 kg lighter than the Versys and although a little more expensive its a very good bike. Ive ridden both versions of the Tiger - both are heavy and I would not want to wrestle the Tiger XC off road - even with a 21 inch front wheel and longer travel suspension - or a Versys or V Strom for that matter!

The 21 / 19 / 17 inch front wheel has little to do with adding ground clearance - that is either inherently built into a bike or not when its designed, depending on its 'intended' use.
The taller tyre sizes allow the bike to roll over potholes and more uneven ground with less suspension compression compared to a smaller diameter tyre. Which translates that you can ride a bike much faster over uneven ground with a taller tyre and that is why the 21 inch front tyre is the 'norm' for anyone riding rough roads or tracks or racing (with an 18 inch rear).
At this point I will point out that I'm NOT saying that you cant use a smaller diameter front wheel, I'm pointing out that if you ride fast on a smaller diameter wheel, you will have a much bumpier ride and be more prone to damaging a rim - a taller wheel is less likely to be damaged due to hitting the back edge of a large pothole - as the taller wheel will roll over the hole as opposed to a shorter wheel will roll through the hole - this works only to a point obviously!
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Old 19 Oct 2016
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Hmm, I'll be awaiting the verdict of this thread with some interest as I was only talking about these bikes with a friend from the US the other day. At the moment I have an 1800 Gold Wing that I keep in his barn in New Jersey and we have two more long trips planned for it before I recycle it into cash. But keeping a bike in the US is not something I want to give up on and we were talking about what to replace it with. If Tenere's were available stateside it would be one of those but they're not so we were considering wee stroms and versys's. I've ridden the Suzuki (and would be happy with it) but not the Kawasaki. It'll probably stay on the short list or not depending on what the consensus concludes.
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Old 20 Oct 2016
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Backofbeyond,

Yes its a shame that the Tenere XTZ 660 was never imported into North America, what rides are you planning on doing?

Don't overlook a well set up DR650 or KLR 650 if you want a thumper to do more dirt oriented riding, both are fairly cheap to buy new - and very cheap to buy used with a few modifications already done by the PO - and there are plenty of aftermarket parts available to make them as good as a Tenere 660. These guys sell lots of good parts for both bikes:

https://procycle.us/

I have not ridden a Versys either, but the V Strom is a very good bike (ridden a few of them) and can be taken on quite challenging tracks with some careful line choices bearing in mind the limited ground clearance, if you are planning on riding rough tracks at all then the 19 inch front wheel will help - especially if you can get an X model with wire rims. Personally I prefer a parallel twin over a V twin, so I also quite like the CB500X - which is a lot smoother than the thumpers and with some money thrown at with some Rally Raid parts, it looks like a very capable multi cylinder bike with a lowish seat height. Its on road performance is also quite good for long distance.

I need at least another 3 motorbikes to cover every situation, a KTM 2 stroke, an 800cc + multi cylinder touring bike and Speed Triple .......
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Old 24 Oct 2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gipper View Post
Backofbeyond,

Yes its a shame that the Tenere XTZ 660 was never imported into North America, what rides are you planning on doing?

Don't overlook a well set up DR650 or KLR 650 if you want a thumper to do more dirt oriented riding, both are fairly cheap to buy new - and very cheap to buy used with a few modifications already done by the PO - and there are plenty of aftermarket parts available to make them as good as a Tenere 660.

I need at least another 3 motorbikes to cover every situation, a KTM 2 stroke, an 800cc + multi cylinder touring bike and Speed Triple .......

Well we're using the Wing for our next US trip, probably in May, and maybe for one after that. We've done east - west so north and south are next on the list. It's after those I'll probably sell the Wing. It's so useful though to keep a bike there that I'm looking for something a bit more economical (in all senses) to replace it.

The guy I ride with over there has a KLR (which I've ridden and I'm not that fond of so it won't be one of them). He also has an old school (late 90's) Triumph triple that'll probably be replaced with an Tiger 800 about the same time I sell the Honda. It's a poor man's keep-up-with-the-Tiger-for-1/3-the-money kind of bike I'll be looking for.

I don't need it to be a great riding experience but I do need it to be intrinsically reliable as it's hard to do repairs from the other side of the atlantic (so no Harleys then ). Mid range (600ish), twin probably (I have 3 singles already) and around long enough so people are bored with them (so cheap). Are CB500 Honda's available in the US? 500cc must be sub entry level for a road bike over there.
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Old 24 Oct 2016
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You cant beat a Wing for doing long distance 2up asphalt riding in North America, my Father in Law rides one and he clocked up a lot of miles.


Quote:
Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
Are CB500 Honda's available in the US? 500cc must be sub entry level for a road bike over there.
https://allentown.craigslist.org/mcd/5763907621.html

Yes, there are plenty around and considerably cheaper than a Tiger 800.

I did meet a bloke on the inter island ferry here a few months ago that had sold his Tiger 800 XC and was riding a CB500X with a Rally Raid kit on it, he said it was a great bike and very economical, easier to manage as it was a bit lighter, he did not miss the Tiger at all.

Unless you have a long inseam and are very tall/heavy I think the CB500X would be a good value all rounder, I would like to buy one for my wife (its for her honest )
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Old 24 Oct 2016
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I've had two Tigers, an XC and an XCx. Both superb bikes and, for me, the best of the heavy adventure bikes. The weight is without a doubt the single biggest disadvantage of the bike - the same criticism as can be applied to its competitors in the F7/800, Versys, Strom and so on.

It's definitely not the best choice out there for a high percentage of off road use, but it's definitely competent when asked to do it.

Where it really shines is the engine, it is - by a long shot - the best adventure bike engine out there. It's smooth as silk, damned quick on the road, capable off of it. Compare it to even some of the bigger competition - it's dammed close to the power of the R1200.

For some time now I've been considering switching to a KTM 690 to drop some serious weight but I'd not consider any other option as a replacement - the CB500 doesn't really save enough weight to make it worthwhile, so it's out. I've not made the change to the 690 because I just can't accept the sacrifices for a slightly easier life when off tarmac - in comfort, power, smoothness and frankly in style. Nothing else in the sector looks nearly as good as the T800, in my eyes.
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Old 10 Nov 2016
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My wife and I are riding our Tiger 800XC around the world, currently in Colombia. One advantage I see of the 21" front wheel is that it makes it a lot easier to "bump" your way over large pavements (sidewalks) when the hotel owner invites you to park the motorcycle inside

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