The purchase of my first Tiger in 2015 came with a free trip up to the Triumph Adventure Centre in Wales to learn how to ride the bike off-road. It was a great course, I was hooked, and felt I had a supreme control over this big bike that I’d not had before.
It wasn’t long after I had returned home that I found a cracking trail where I could test out my newly acquired skills. It turned out that I was not ready for the Dakar quite yet and my bike even more so. It was completely stock version of the XCA model – top of the range (and on finance) – and in immaculate condition.
The byway was fantastic. It sits in a forested valley on the edge of Dartmoor, a steep but stable road down to the bottom, then a lovely flat combination of mud and gravel for almost a mile, then over a bridge and up an unforgiving, steep and winding road, covered in rocks large and small. It was halfway up here that the bike had decided it had had enough. It wasn’t going anywhere as I’d burned the clutch almost completely out, not a cheap fix, and an idiotic move on my part. I had to turn the dead bike around on this steel slope, roll it back down to the bottom of the valley and try to get it running again.
I have now since conquered that trail on my latest Tiger, but not without learning some valuable lessons about the bike and my own skill set.
So here are my top 5 affordable upgrades for your Tiger (800 or 1200) that you can make to help with your trail riding.
NOTE: I’m assuming that your bike has a set of engine bars and radiator guard as almost all of the XC variant bikes come with them as standard. If you don’t have them, make them a priority! They have helped in many a situation, even as personal protection as the engine bars stop your boot getting stuck under the bike in a fall.
1 – Tyres
Cost: £150.00 – £300.00
Most adventure bike come with some sort of adventure-orientated tyre when bought new, the Tiger 800 for example comes with Bridgestone Battleaxes. These tyres are designed to look aggressive enough to get you salivating in the showroom but are usually still road-focussed and severely lacking when it comes to anything other than tarmac. I rode my first few trails with the stock tyres, and as long as they are simple and relatively flat, I’d recommend you do the same too. There’s no point spending a few hundred on some new rubber to then find out that you don’t like taking your bike off road. Once you enjoy the thrill of the trails, start looking at your upgrade.
The world of tyres can be quite daunting at first, but a bit of research will help narrow the list down. My final-four ended up being:
- Metzler Karoo 3s (Triumph’s recommended off-road tyre)
- Mitas E-07s
- Continental TKC80s
- Heidenau K60 Scouts
I ended up getting the Mitas E-07s fitted. They were the cheapest option and seemed to be the best beginner tyre for off-roading.
2 – Sprocket
Cost: £20.00 + Fitting
If you’re riding anything before the 2018 model of Tiger, then you may have noticed that 1st gear is a little high for slow, technical trails. This can quickly lead to clutch burn-outs that I (and even experienced off-road riders) have experienced before. The quickest and easiest fix for this (without going out and buying a new Tiger) is to put a slightly smaller front sprocket on the bike. The standard front sprocket has 16 teeth, and you can swap that out for 15 or even 14 teeth without having to break and reduce the links in your chain. You lose a bit on the top end, but the bike is more responsive at slower speeds and accelerates slightly quicker.
It sounds quite a daunting and technical task to swap these out but I assure you it’s very easy. I was quoted £70.00 to get it fitted at the dealership, but I managed to buy the tools I needed for much less (a torque wrench and 36mm socket). You’ll have it swapped and the chain adjusted within an hour, just make sure you wear latex gloves!
3 – Handguards
Cost: £100.00 – £200.00
The Tiger family looks the business. Engine bars, big metal foot pegs, 21inch spoked front wheel, sharp lines. Nothing’s going to damage this bike.
Then you drop it trying to turn around in a car park because your foot wasn’t where you thought it was. Bodywork is fine, the engine bars took the hit, but your clutch lever which was hidden behind your handguards has snapped in two. How did that happen?!
The problem is, while the engine bars protect the bottom half, the handguards do a terrible job of protecting the top, because they’re just plastic. Get them swapped out for something with a metal reinforcement bar (with 2 mount points). My personal choice are Barkbusters, well established and tested in the adventure bike and enduro scene. But get what you like the look of, do your research and just make sure they protect as well as they should.
Couple these with the engine bars and your two main points of contact with the ground are covered as well as they can be.
4 – Phone Mount
Cost: £20.00 – £80.00
From navigation, to taking photos, my phone mount is one of my favourite additions to my bike. I’ll make a list of trails on Google Maps at home, then when I’m out I’ll navigate between them without having to mess around taking my phone out of a bag or pocket.
There are plenty of mounts out there offering different features and levels of protection, but my pick comes from UltimateAddons. At about £60.00, they offer a fantastic level of functionality and protection. You can read a review of it here.
5 – Tool Kit
Cost: As much as you want to spend!
This is one area that I’m well aware I’m seriously lacking in. Most standard tool kits on your Tiger will come with a few simple spanners and a screwdriver. Enough to undo a few bolts and undo your axel bolt. But there is so much more that can go wrong with a little fall. I’ll eventually write up a comprehensive tool kit list for the bike (when I’ve finished completing my own), but you’ll need the kit (and the skills) to get your bike from the trail back home or to a garage for repair, else you’re screwed!
Tool tubes can cost between £20.00 and £100.00+ depending on manufacturer and design and you’ll want to stuff it with things like spare brake and clutch levers, spare gear shifter, spare tubes (if you’re riding tubed tyres), all the tools to replace these bits, zip ties, multitool, fuses. But don’t put these bits in until you’ve learnt how to fix that bit. There’s no point in having all the gear, but no idea.
Recommended Online Retailer
If you’re thinking of puchasing any of these upgrades online then we’d strongly recommend the UK-based website SportsBikeShop.
With over 80,000 products and free UK delivery for orders over £25.00, they are a one-stop-shop for all things motorbike. We love ordering from them and we’re sure you will too (if you don’t already).
By clicking through to them from any of the links here on our site and placing an order, we get a small kickback from the company as a thank you at no extra cost to you! It really helps keep the lights on at 9to5ADV.
Have you got any suggestions? Have I missed a crucial upgrade? Let me know in the comments.