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First Times Ride: Triumph Tiger Explorer XC

First Times Ride: Triumph Tiger Explorer XC
Triumph's adventure bike is an able and exciting road warrior. (Triumph)

The Triumph Tiger Explorer XC, a lighter, 800cc version of the 1200cc Triumph Explorer XC, is a sharp-looking, fine-riding delight.

Agile, responsive and incredibly easy to ride, the Tiger represents yet another triumph for the British motorcycle company, in a year that has already seen the roll-out of several impressive models.

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Powered by a high-revving, fast-revving but surprisingly torquey three-cylinder engine, the Tiger weighs just over 500 pounds -- 90 pounds lighter than its larger cousin -- and rides even lighter than that.

It sits high -- which is good for seeing and being seen -- and is comfortable enough to make long distance riding a pleasure. It features touring amenities like a windscreen, self-canceling signals, cruise control and luggage compartments -- not big enough to handle a full-face helmet but big enough to store a jacket, a lunch box and a six-pack of Watneys.

It also features a center stand, bash plate, large gas tank and fuel gauge -- yes, thank you -- and a super bright lights package that switches on and cuts a fierce swath through the darkness.

Triumph is having a very good year.

Its Daytona 675R (I loved the 2013 version and the 2014 non-R one, too) came out on top in a Motorcyclist Magazine four-way superbike shoot-out, in many categories besting the Aprilia RSV4, the MV Agusta F3 800 and even the Ducati Panigale 899.

And the Tiger 800XC earned very high marks from Motorcycle Consumer News in a special report on off-road adventuring, comparing favorably -- in some ways being deemed preferable -- against adventure classics like the KTM 1190 Adventure and the BMW R1200GS.

I found it felt comparable to the 1200GS, and to Ducati's Multistrada, and kept having to remind myself that it was only an 800cc machine. The low-end pull of the triple, particularly, made it easy to forget that as I was accelerating effortlessly up the highway or nipping in and out of traffic situations in town.

Is the Tiger purr-fect? No. The comfy seat is wide enough to make it a little uncomfortable to set both feet on the ground at a stoplight. I found my legs kept bumping into the crash bars around the engine. The 800cc engine doesn't cruise as quietly or with as little vibration as its 1200cc cousins at highway speeds. And it may produce a little more engine heat than some riders will like.

But I was sorry to stop riding when the day was over, and sorry I didn't have a set of street legal knobbies to put on the Tiger for an off-road adventure. This is a very cool bike, and I hope Triumph sells a bunch of them.

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