Category Archives: Preparation

As an adventure motorcycle, the Triumph Tiger XC 800 is a middle of the road in terms of capability and suitability. It is too big, heavy and poorly-adapted for off-road use to be regarded as exceptional. And, like most modern bikes, it is very complex and pretty much impossible to troubleshoot or maintain on the road (e.g. electronic fuel injection).

However, we are travelling “two-uo” (rider and pillion), and the Tiger is quite good for that role. The route has been planned to work around the bike’s limitations, but will still take in some locations that are not on the average tourist itinerary.

Anyway, I made quite a few changes to the bike to improve comfort and “adventure” capability.

This is the bike

I researched many bikes and we test-rode about 1/2 dozen. The Triumph Tiger 800 was the winner. It’s turbine-smooth engine seemed like it would be ideal for long days of riding without giving me pins and needles. Also it has a very good balance of tractability for low speed riding (traffic, bad roads) and top-end power for sporty riding on nice roads.

It is a big bike, although only mid-size by the (absurd) standards of adventure bikes.

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The moment the bike became “ours” – December 2011, Team Moto Blacktown. Let the journey begin!

 

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New tyres

The bike needed a good set of dual-sport tyres for the trip. I chose Heidenau Scout K60 because they are one of very few 50:50 on-off road tyres, and they should have long enough life to complete the trip and not be bald. On the last trip I used Continental TKC80, but they were done after 5,000 km, which is not enough for this trip.

I only got to test the tyres on-road. Compared to the original Bridgestone Battlewings, they are much lighter in feel. The Bridgestones are perhaps excessively stable in that the bike always wants to go straight and it takes some effort to make it turn sharply. The Bridgestones are useless as an off-road tyre – that is is not their purpose. I don’t know why they are standard fitment on the Tiger XC.

Happily, the Scouts do not cause that weird “tipping over” sensation that happens with TKC80s when cornering at low speed. I will report later on their performance in mud, of which there is an excess in some parts of Borneo.

Folding brake and clutch levers fitted.

New pair of Heidenau tyres getting fitted at Hills Motorcycles.

Well it looks the goods anyway. But 400 mm of mud will stop any tyre, so I hope the rain is light.

Well it looks the goods anyway.

Building Crate #2

I had to complete the crate in the street as the bike had to go inside before it’s closed. I thought I was really in control of the crate, with all the parts on hand. Except when the shipper gave me only a weekend to get it ready, it became crisis management.

Still working on the crate in the dark. I hate that :( As usual my friend and neighbour Ken was helping me sort out the mess.

Still working on the crate in the dark. I hate that 😦

I found that the luggage did not fit as I’d intended, so I was welding final touches out in the street. As usual my friend and neighbour Ken was helping me sort out the mess.

Finished and ready for pickup.

Finished and ready for pickup.

I surely hope that crate holds together for 6 weeks.

Getting comfortable

The Tiger 800 already has a comfortable rider’s seat so I did not change it, nor pack my Air Hawk inflatable seat pillow. The pillion seat is not so good: padding is adequate but it slopes down towards the rider. This would have to be replaced with a custom seat to solve the problem – we just ran out of time for that (it’s the pillion’s fault – she did not say anything until a couple of weeks before the bike was due to go!).

The handlebars are very strange on the Tiger. The reach from the seat would probably suit a person of about 2.2 m height. I am average at 176 cm and have longer than average arms, but the reach from seat to handlebars is way too much for me. I get aching wrists after about an hour of riding.

I fitted the Triumph accessory tall bar risers and tilted the bars back, but still not enough. So I fitted the Rox adjustable risers on top of the Triumph risers, and tilted them back. The bars an now within and acceptable range, but not as good as a BMW GS 1200 with factory standard bars. Triumph still has some work to do on ergonomics.

Triumph tall bar risers plus Rox adjustable risers.

Triumph tall bar risers plus Rox adjustable risers.

Full dress rehersal

Afternoon trip with full luggage and a brick in each pannier.

Wow - I can get both feet flat on the ground!

Wow – I can get both feet flat on the ground!

We ran out of time for gadget testing, unfortunately. I bought a new HD Ghost sports cam but we will have to test in in the car.

Building crate #1

I had to supply the shipping crate. Most bikes are shipped in a dedicated motorcycle crate, with the front wheel and handlebar removed to make the packing volume smaller. I used one of those crates for my last trip, as shown in this photo.

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These crates are easy to get – most bike shops throw them away after unpacking a new bike. However, it is inconvenient to disassemble the bike in this way. You need help at the other end to put the bike back together, and it all wastes valuable time. Plus I broke an electric wire in the handlebar last time.

This time I decided to pack the bike ready to ride (or pretty close to it). I started with two standard bike crates. I had all the parts on hand, thankfully. But … then the shipper told me on Friday that the bike would be picked up on Monday, so it was a case of “OMG, how am I going to get this ready in a weekend!”

Two bases from standard bike crates.

Two bases from standard bike crates

I sliced one of these in half then welded it to the complete base, giving me a base 1.5 x standard width. This was enough for the whole bike, with about 30 mm to spare on each side. I also turned the front wheel well (in the foreground) around on an angle, otherwise the bike was too long for the crate. This turned out to be really tight – both the front and rear tyres are touching the crate ends,

Folding levers

A broken brake lever would have a big effect on the trip but it would be possible to keep riding (slowly). A broken clutch lever would be a showstopper. Levers are quite vulnerable and easily broken in a fall.

Rather than carry spare levers, I replaced the stock items with aftermarket folding levers. The idea is that they fold up rather than snap in the event of an unplanned dismount manoeuvre.

Folding brake and clutch levers fitted.

Folding brake and clutch levers fitted.

As a bonus, these levers are adjustable over a wide range, so they are more comfortable too.