Life on bikes

Owning the bike: Yamaha MT07 vs Triumph Tiger 800 XCx

Marc achieves biking heaven: Ownership of more than one bike. For the commute into town, it’s the agile-as-a-ballerina (with hooligan tendencies) MT07. For further afield the stable now includes the Triumph Tiger 800 XCx, the horizon-muncher on steroids.

‘Marc, what’s the difference between a Yamaha MT-07 and a Triumph Tiger 800?’

Well, Tarquin, that’s an odd question but I’m glad you asked.

My MT-07 is coming up for its first MOT at nearly three years old, I’ve covered 24000 joyful miles on it. I love it to bits but I need something that can handle longer journeys so I’ve recently obtained a Triumph Tiger 800.

One of the only good thing about getting older is that bike insurance gets cheaper and as I do stupid amounts of commuting I’m going to be keeping the MT. So, for the first time in my life, I’m running two gorgeous bikes.

What are they like?

When I got the MT I often commented that it felt toylike. Everything about it is light, the steering geometry, clutch and throttle, even the teeny tiny little indicator switch feels like it’s designed for a small child.

It’s petite alright, especially compared to the horrifying monsters I used to ride. My old GSX 750 E would have put out 79 bhp when it was new (mine was shagged when I bought it) and weighed 518 pounds. The MT puts out about 74 bhp but weighs less than 400 pounds. To me feels like a 250 or even 125. But that engine, that’s a bit of a hooligan.

The Triumph produces 95 bhp and weighs 474 pounds fueled up. It has one feature that everyone notices. It’s very tall. All my friends have said the same three things. ‘It’s very you,’ ‘it’s very tall’ and ‘where are you going to mount the guns?’

Well it is tall but the seat is relatively normal in height I’m six feet tall with about a 33 inch inside leg and I can put both feet flat on the ground. The tank, screen and tail rack give the impression of height and size. But yeah, it is quite tall.

I nabbed this bike as a ‘manager’s special’ from my local Triumph dealer which translated as ‘It’s February, we’ve got too many bikes – have some money off’ and it came with Triumph’s low season offer of free panniers. It’s a big financial commitment for me but I’ve wanted one of these since the first time I sat on one in a shop and it was too good to miss.

I can’t really find any bad reviews for either bike so I’ll try and nitpick. The biggest differences become apparent when swapping from one bike to the other.

The most noticeable impressions when getting off the MT onto the Tiger are the height and comfort, it’s like sitting in a flying armchair. The small fly screen and handguards are well designed, the tank cocoons my knees and offers a tad more rain protection than the MT. The screen is surprisingly effective at deflecting the wind. When I’m on the motorway at 6:30 on a chilly morning on the MT I usually tuck in behind a lorry and bask in the slipstream. On the Tiger I’m in the fast lane chewing on the bumpers of middle managers in German cars. The Tiger’s seat and wind protection make it possible to go further faster and at lower temperatures than the MT.

The Tiger doesn’t *feel* particularly fast but that’s deceptive, all too often I glance at the speedo and think ‘that surely can’t be right.’ Opening the throttle in sixth to overtake I have to pop it down two maybe three gears. The bottom end isn’t shockingly torquey but it certainly picks up once I start using the gearbox. It’s the competent way it handles and the civilised power delivery that makes going fast far too easy.

When I get off the Tiger and sit down on the MT, and it is down, with both feet flat on the floor my knees are bent, it feels small and hard. If you’ve ever got off a motorbike onto a bicycle, it’s that feeling of there being no substance to the bike. That’s only to be expected, they’re very different bikes after all.

I’ve always said the MT gives ‘very detailed feedback’ through the suspension and seat. But I’ll say it now, it’s a bit hard. That’s not really a bad thing but it limits the distance I can cover. For some reason all new Yamahas come with seats that feel like solid blocks of wood. The first thing I bought for it was the genuine Yamaha ‘comfort’ seat and it’s still pretty harsh.

The Tiger’s seat is best I’ve ever had. It must cost the same to design and manufacture a comfy seat as it does a horrible one. Yamaha are just putting uncomfortable seats on new bikes so they can sell comfier ones.

The MT is fucking hilarious. You’re never more than a clunk wrrRRRR away from speeds that will get you banned. The bike’s so light and the motor’s torque so low down that in any gear it just jumps forward when you twist the grip. There’s no real need to change down to overtake on an A road, but it’s still worth doing. If you know what I mean. The weird thing is the MT feels faster than the Tiger. It’s not, it just feels it. I’ve never been on anything so light, manoeuvrable and easy to ride.

I once found myself trying to get out of a gridlocked Bristol on a Saturday when there was a football match and the balloon fiesta on the same day. Cars, buses and lorries were stationary for miles in all directions.

I was able to weave through gaps that were too small for be-panniered BMWs, trickle between lanes and dodge into spaces the second they appeared leaving Harleys stranded in the middle of the road. I could brake hard and blatt away at the lights leaving scooters and commuters far behind. I passed a Hayabusa that couldn’t follow me through the tight turns around stationary cars. I surprised myself by generally making a monkey out of everyone. Just before I finally got free of the jam I passed a group of four sports bikes and my pièce de résistance was a fairly cheeky weave through three converging lanes of traffic logjam from the slow to the fast lane. The sports bikes tried to follow me but ended up getting stuck doing fifty point turns trying to get between the bumper to bumper cars.

No one passed me on the MT. All credit goes to the bike for being so capable and well adapted to that situation. Once I got clear of the traffic I opened the throttle and because it’s so light and gutsy it took off like a startled cat, free at last, free at last.

The Tiger’s built to go anywhere and do anything. It’s far better on the motorway than the MT and there’s cruise control to play with. I’ve never had cruise on any vehicle before, it was unnerving at first but I’ve taken to setting it at 30 mph and cancelling it on fast country A roads then hitting RESUME when I come to a village with its ‘Please Drive Carefully, we’ve got pitchforks you know’ signs and let the system protect my license.

Triumph Tiger 800 Xcx
The Triumph doing exactly what it’s best at: Trips

For something that looks like a big trail bike, I don’t think it loses any road capability. It’s, quick, manoeuvrable, versatile and comfortable. Peg scratching is possible. I can’t and don’t want to, keep up with maniac squids who come out to play chicken on super sports bikes on the first warm days of summer but I’m sure a better rider than me could do so.

I’ve taken it up a few gravel tracks and can confirm it has off-road potential as well. I tried offroading the Yamaha once, never again. The suspension’s too firm for that kind of silliness.

Time for a few comparisons you might not get elsewhere

Is it fair to compare fuel consumption on such different bikes? Well, it’s my wallet, so yes. I do a lot of boring commuting so I get a solid 70 mpg on the MT, if I get it below 65 I know I should be sitting on the very very naughty step. Only 55 mpg commuting on the Tiger.

My MT’s brakes are well worn in and bite ferociously now. The ABS cuts in on the back most of the time. The Tiger’s are good and just getting a nice feel after 2000 miles. I have yet to trigger the ABS on the front.

MT’s suspension is pretty firm and there’s not a lot to adjust. You either like that or you don’t. The Tiger’s got so much adjustability I haven’t even started playing with it yet. It’s competent and comfortable as it is. For something that looks like a big enduro it’s firm, not wallowy as I expected. In a lot of ways the steering geometry and suspension has a similar feel to the MT, just bigger. I can do a slow controlled U-turn in the street in one go on either bike without putting a foot down.

The Yam’s almost silent with its standard exhaust and sounds apologetic when starting up. MT’s with silly attention seeking exhausts sound amazing but I’m not an attention seeker. The Tiger’s more assertive starter motor and whistley jet engine sound were slightly intrusive to start with, when really opening up and going through the gears there is a subtle Wookie-like drivetrain growl but maybe it’s only me that can hear that.

Unlike parallel twins of the past, the MT’s crank is 270 degrees which means its firing cycle is more like a 90-degree v twin. It has lots of low down torque. The Triumph obviously has more CCs, cylinders and power but by comparison is surprisingly a little lacking at the bottom end.

The MT is so agile I can leave cornering decisions very late. The Tiger’s bigger and heavier but still very nimble. You might think the larger front wheel’s gyroscopic force would make it less flickable but no, just slightly more forethought is required going into corners.

Cruising on the MT at higher speed requires that I ‘assume the position’ to reduce wind resistance. I’m advised that a fly screen might help. On the Tiger I sit bolt upright and the screen takes the strain off my neck. There is some turbulence and noise but it’s never too annoying.

If I shut the MT’s throttle the front end dips a little. Shut the throttle and change down a gear and the rear ABS wakes up. Change down two gears and dump the clutch, the back wheel skips out slightly. Drop three gears on the Tiger and the revs rise but not much else happens.

The best bits

MT

Economy, attitude, looks and hilarity. You can run rings round most other road users. In congested cities, through twisty country lanes and on fast A roads and dual carriageways it’s just an absolute hoot. Petrol consumption and running costs are low. Fun, fun, fun.

Tiger

Range, competence and comfort, versatility, imposing appearance.

I can cover 220 miles on a tank without stopping if I’m not riding like a dick. The power and handling are great.

People stop to talk to me about both bikes but the Tiger seems to attract a lot more people. Especially lorry drivers for some reason.

Luggage capability – mine came with the ‘Expedition’ aluminium side cases which although stamped with the Triumph logo look suspiciously identical to Givi’s Trekker Outback cases. They’re lockable, secure and easily detachable.

Lights are good too. There’s a fashion on road/sport bikes to have the headlights as low as possible. The Triumph’s are up where they should be and the difference shows in the way cars obviously spot me earlier on the Triumph than when I’m on the MT. In fact, cars seem to want to get out of the Tiger’s way full stop.

Fog lights and heated handgrips. Mine didn’t have these, I wish it had and I’ll be adding them.

The not-so-best bits

MT

Rubbish switchgear on the left-hand side. The horn and indicator are in the wrong place. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve angrily indicated at someone sleep-driving at me from a side road.

Petrol tank size, 180 miles is the most I’ve managed. The tank is gorgeous but what you see is actually a plastic cover over a small metal tank which makes magnetic tank bags unusable which is a shame.

Very odd ignition key location

Silly design decision that means if you want to add a rear rack you have to drill and cut holes in the plastic tailpiece. Any new bike should have a full set of mounting points for luggage, electrical accessories and guns as standard.

Rear seat. Would you want to sit on it?

Yamaha MT07 pillion seat
Maybe the pillion hangs on rodeo style?

Front seat, looks comfy but is a bit harsh. Even the comfort seat is a bit too firm.

A number of owners have reported mysterious instances of the bike stalling for no apparent reason. I’ve had it happen in some risky places. Yamaha have not commented.

The spray issue, there’s no rear mudguard – what was I expecting?

Tiger

Fuel consumption – It’s not atrocious by any means and I know it’s a larger heavier bike but it all adds up.

Strange ignition key location

There’s a DIN type power socket next to the ignition which supplies enough juice for heated clothing. This is a Very Good Thing. But most people are going to need car type and/or USB sockets. I bought adapters and leads that dangle everywhere. That’s not very slick, is it? Also, the position of the socket is so close to the ignition switch that getting an adapter small enough to fit in there is tricky.

The centre stand is very welcome but it’s a bit of a challenge getting the bike up there.

Rear shock absorber location. That just looks like it’s been put there specifically to collect road crap. The bash plate and plastic cover actually do a good job of deflecting road crud but even so…

The luggage hanger thingies. Handy for bungeeing things to, useful for pillions, essential for getting the bike on the centre stand, but useless at not bruising your knee every time you climb on board. Every. Single. Time.

Triumph Tiger luggage racks
Gratuitous injured knee shot

So, I love them both, but which is best?

I honestly can’t decide. The Triumph can get me further, faster and with more comfort into places the MT can’t reach but the MT is just so much fun.

I was trying to describe the difference between the two bikes to one of my non-biking workmates. In the end I resorted to a pretentious metaphor.

If the Tiger had a voice it would sound like Roger Moore. Smooth, sophisticated, civilised and competent, at least until you really let rip. If the MT-07 could talk it would sound like the Pepperami character from the adverts.

It’s a bit of a nutter.

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The Author

Marc Ryan

Marc Ryan

A bike nut since he was 17, Marc was forced to lay off the bikes for over 10 years, on doctor's orders. Finally given the nod he thought he'd ease himself back in gently on an XL 250 but promptly bought an SV650 which made him shit his pants for the first month.
He also writes his own random meanderings at his own blog, http://isontheroad.wordpress.com