The adventure touring segment is extremely diverse today, with manufacturers either vying for top dog position or trying to find overlooked corners to settle in and be different from everyone else.
Here at TGA, we had the opportunity to ride two of them around the Singapore city and join a group of Singaporeans riding up to Sungei Lembing in Pahang, Malaysia for their annual retreat. The idea of course was to explore need against ability. We can be very demanding with our machines and quite harsh in criticism yet expect them to fall within a certain budget. Would the sub-litre offerings be able to meet such demands?
The Tiger’s 800 triple features Triumph’s legendary silky smooth revs. The engine buzzes away as the rpms rise and fall, the triple cylinder engine wants to play with the available rpm range while the sporty DNA makes for very engaging riding, the Tiger was pouncing and frolicking on the open road.
The F850GS on the other hand with its big dirt bike feel delivered good punch off the stop line. With a good serving of torque, the Bavarian hoicks away at every green light and then dives around bends with ease. Just like riding a dual sport on steroids.
The Tiger 800 XCX looks and feels stout like a range topping adventure motorcycle while the F850GS feels like a tech-ed up dirt bike that’s been hitting the gym. A big dirt bike. The F850GS comes keyless and equipped with the iDrive wheel to navigate and play mechanic on. Both machines come with TFT screens but what Triumph offers as options like electronic tyre pressure monitors, BMW offers as standard. That said, both machines feel set up for very different riding styles, we’ll get to that later.
Triumph has bestowed upon the Tiger a plush seat with some curves, meant to conquer Iron Butt challenges. The F850GS takes a different approach with a slightly firmer but more level saddle. Both very different approaches to cradling butts but I am gravitated just a little more toward the Tiger’s seat.
The Tiger’s suspension is fully adjustable on both front and rear, while the F850GS sits on an electronic Dynamic ESA rear. Nothing tops the convenience of spinning the nav wheel on the BMW for rear shock settings and letting the computer takeover the thinking. I’ve scratched my head a little over BMW’s choice of nonadjustable fork. As it turns out, the BMW’s fork doesn’t need adjustment anyway. The Tiger 800 features a less automated approach with fully adjustable front and rear suspension, but the factory settings did not need any tweaking for my 85kg frame on and off road.
On Singapore’s city roads and car congested expressways, both machines cut relatively lean figures and navigate heavy traffic with ease. The Tiger with its slightly broader tank takes some getting used to when splitting lanes compared to the Bavarian. Heat wise, the Tiger’s triple makes a little more than the 850’s twin but once moving, the Tiger’s radiator manages that heat in the blink of an eye.
Both bikes are more than comfy with travelling at Highway speeds without transmitting unwanted vibrations through the bars. Less well-groomed roads in the country side were gobbled down by the suspensions without complaints. With the Tiger’s playful nature however, I found myself eagerly leaning it into bends, playing chase with a friend on his Street Triple 765 (a more than ideal weekend activity) as we navigated our way up to Pahang. I kept myself busy rolling the throttle with every bend and overtake.
We hit the trail to Sungei Lembing’s Rainbow Waterfall with both bikes, where the differences between the engines showed themselves very clearly. The Tiger’s triple needed a quick buzz up before moving off. The broad gearing and linear delivery made the Tiger forgiving and easy to ride. Not vanilla mellow, but friendly. Not to mention, the sound of running on three cylinders took some getting used to in a world populated by singles and twins. The only little gripe I had was that the mapping selection reverted to Road every time I stopped and switched the engine off for a break.
Sitting a little taller, the F850GS’ torque laden twin carries itself well off road, delivering punch on the dot with every twist. It would be good to note, that BMW offers a lower seated model for smaller riders.
Here’s where the distinction lies. While I felt both machines were easy to handle – owing to good dimensions and weight distribution. The core of their differences lies in power delivery. I did have good fun on the Tiger, with its versatile and forgiving nature. The Tiger was an absolute joy on the open road and will suite a variety of riders and paces. The GS just felt under-utilized. The Tiger felt athletic, inviting and happy to commit to the job on hand, probably due to its sport DNA and versatile nature. But the BMW, had this eagerness to blitz. I’m no Chris Birch but after a while in the saddle, I could feel that attacking trails with bravado and drama was at the heart of the Bavarian’s purpose. It has potential to be more vicious in the throttle hands of a seasoned pro or a mad man.
The Triumph Tiger 800 XCX retails at Mah Pte Ltd for $31,000 SGD before COE and Insurance, while BMW’s readily teched-up F850GS retails at Performance Motors Limited for $39,800 SGD before COE and Insurance.
Want to know more about the Tiger’s manners in the city? Check out this video by our mate the Motorgrapher sharing his thoughts while preparing for his photoshoot using the new Canon EOS RP.