THE TRIUMPH Tiger 800 XC must be the worst-kept secret of all time.

Allegedly leaked spy pics, nicely orchestrated previews and boxes containing the new model with neatly positioned drilled holes allowing you to grab a sneaky peak inside.

We all knew more or less what the bike would look like, but seeing the finished model for the first time up close is still a bit of a surprise.

Many of us wondered if the leaked images were holding something back, parts of the fairing, presumably to maintain the surprise.

But as it turns out, the Tiger is actually fairly undressed, especially the subframe which looks naked and almost unfinished. According to Triumph, they wanted to stress the rough and adventurous look of the bike.

The frame is similar to what we already know from Triumph, a modern interpretation of the traditional steel trellis frame.

The advantage of a steel frame is that it’s not only cheaper than aluminium but it’s also easier to repair, ideal for the real adventurers who have had a mishap in the idle of nowhere. It’s a rugged-looking bike, and the Tiger 800XC will never go down in history as being one of the most beautifully designed models, but which adventure bike does?

It’s obvious the 800XC has some visual resemblance to BMW’s F800 but the comparisons end when you hit the starter button. It sounds like a genuine triple with that distinctive raw edge that’s part and parcel of a Triumph.

The engine is not a bored-out 675 as we expected, 85% of the engine is new and it has a slightly longer stroke than most Triumphs for increased low-down torque. The engine reacts directly to the throttle, although first gear doesn’t go very smoothly when the engine is cold.

Standing still and on the move, the Tiger feels quite high. In combination with the wide handlebars and high windscreen, the Tiger 800XC feels more like a 1200GS than the 800.

The seat is very comfortable and the leg room is perfect for the majority of riders, but the adjustable seat height means shorter riders are more likely to find a setting that suits.

The Tiger continues to impress with adequate wind protection that saves your chest and neck from bulk of the windblast and the standard hand guards shield your mitts from any winter chill. Ride above 80mph in a straight line and a hint of turbulence becomes noticeable, but the XC really excels in the twisties.

It steers easily and feels stable even when you up the pace. In very tight corners the Tiger has a tendency to drop into the bend on a shut throttle a bit too eagerly. It’s not scary, or overly confidence-sapping, but the Triumph definitely appears to prefer a steady throttle hand.

It’s not as forgiving as the R1200GS but it is more impressive than the F800GS with its extremely soft front that never really inspires confidence.

Compared with the F 800GS, the Tiger XC approaches the steering capacity of the 1200GS, which shows how well Triumph have done their homework.

Hit the brakes hard and the forks dive, but not as dramatically as BMW’s F800 GS or KTM’s Adventure. The Triumph’s brakes are better than either of these rivals, even though the four pot calipers aren’t really top-of-the-shelf items in this radial era. The engine, however, is. It’s as smooth as you like.

Even with a cold engine in top gear, you can let the needle drop until 1,500rpm and the powerhouse will react without hesitation and it stays strong when you wind the throttle back on. It’s not overwhelming, though.

The bike tends to draw you towards 6,000rpm and above, an area which offers you the maximum acceleration and the most usable engine braking. Once up to temperature, the gearbox feels slick and the little hesitations you feel with a cold engine soon disappear.

Although the XC revs up to 10,000rpm, once past 9k the only noticeable benefit is the sound.

Triumph swapped Bridgestone’s Battlewings for more knobbly Metzelers for the off-road test, and the handlebars were tilted forwards and spring preload at the rear was seriously increased.

After these adjustments have been made, the Tiger doesn’t seem overly fazed by reduced traction, stones or sand as the Metzelers offer a great deal of grip and confidence, as does the engine.

You can feed in the power according to the traction you have so comfortably that even inexperienced off-roaders can spin the rear gently.

On the motorway, the XC should be capable of doing the distance: 19 litres of fuel means that Triumph can claim a range of more than 180 miles from a full tank. Altogether, the Tiger 800XC slots in nicely between both BMW GS bikes but if you also take the price into account, then Triumph have really made their mark in the adventure department.

The Tiger 800 is the more road-focused and cheaper version of the Tiger 800XC. The difference is in the wheels, thinner fork legs, thinner handlebars, lower seat height and the absence of off-road kit like high mudguards and hand guards. The basics are the same but the Tiger 800 still feels quite different from the XC. For starters, you’re sitting 35mm lower as the seat is mounted in the lowest position which is perfect for shorter riders. You’re clearly more ‘in’ the bike which feels similar to the old Tiger 1050. The 800cc engine remains the same and retains the same qualities. But handling-wise, it’s not as convincing as the XC. Even though it has a smaller and more road-focused front wheel, it doesn’t have the easy tipping-in that the XC displays.

Probably a result of the narrower handlebars which means you need a bit more input to cut into the corners.

You could reasonably assume the 800 might be like a supermoto version of the XC but that’s not how it feels. It is a nice-handling, stable and overall pretty good bike but it’s just that little bit less confidence-inspiring than its more adventurous sibling. The absence of hand guards gives you the impression that you’re riding a much smaller bike than it actually is. The front looks like it’s missing something without the high mudguard and the lower seating position gives more turbulence from the windscreen.

In brief, the Tiger 800XC is one of the best bikes in this segment, maybe even on the market. And although the dual purpose Tiger 800 is a mighty fine ride, there are alternatives that are worth considering if you know you’ll never stray from the asphalt.