Bikes & Customs: Big Trip

Tiger 800 XRT: the bike for all seasons

An Alpine “theme park” adventure

Torrential rain, 180-degree bends, a never-ending vista of mountains, snow-fringed passes and hours in the saddle… all part of the Alpine solo adventure for rider Paloma Lence. The Spanish rider clocked up 3,200km in 10 days on her way to the Moto2 Grand Prix in Austria, all on a Triumph Tiger 800 XRT.

After making light work of Italy’s zig-zagging Stelvio Pass and the hairpins and passes of the Austrian Tyrol to reach the Red Bull Ring in central Austria, she was glad she trusted in her Tiger.

Here’s her 13 reasons why…

Perfect handling It coped brilliantly with the very slow 180° corners of the Passo dello Stelvio – with bicycles, cars and caravans – and then weaved through the faster curvy mountain roads with ease.

Sporting envy I’ve always ridden sport bikes on road and track, so I really enjoyed the 3,000metre climb up Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße. I was surrounded by naked and supersport bike riders who all looked twice at me as I made easy work of it, even with panniers and top box. The Tarmac was better than I’ve seen on some circuits, so the tyre performance was perfect.

Nice and easy does it It struck me just how effortless this bike is to ride as I surged to the top of the Edelweissspitze. It’s a tricky, paved and crowded track which runs into the Großglockner. Then I swept into the corners on the Silvretta-Hochalpenstraße and into the no-limits Autobahns.

Heated everything! On the Autobahn to Passau I was surprised by a terrible storm… in summer! Unfortunately, I’d removed the waterproof layer of my jacket and left my GoreTex boots at home. I was soaked by the time I stopped at a petrol station where I changed my gloves, T-shirt and put on a waterproof layer. But my boots were like a swimming pool and I still had around 300km to ride so I knew that even being at 17° I was going to be cold. Then more rain for three hours. Solution? Switching on the heated grips and then also the heated seat.

Damn that straw lorry The five-position screen might not sound important but hear me out. Because I’m not tall and I prefer not to see everything through the screen, I used to set the screen on the lowest position. However, I discovered that it’s really nice to be able to put it up as when starts to rain, it’s cold or the truck in front of you decides to dump part of its straw load.

Perfect settings I’ve never been good testing chassis or suspensions. To be honest, most times I never adjust them and I’m ok with the factory settings. But the bike was perfect with both panniers and the top box fully loaded.

Boxing clever It was really helpful to carry all my stuff in the Explorer panniers, as attaching or removing them takes literally 10 seconds. I used the top box to carry what I needed during the day for accessibility and stored my helmet inside when I stopped anywhere. That was until I realised in Germany and Austria, everybody leaves their helmet hanging on the mirror, however expensive it is!

Cruise Control I’m not used to using it but, on the autobahn heading back to Frankfurt, it was pretty cool to connect the cruise control and have a hand free for some stretching exercises.

Guide the way So many picture opportunities mean you might finish riding at night, when the fog lights are an instant miracle. After the GP, I had dinner with friends and the one leading the group in the dark with me behind admitted he saw the road better with my lights than his.

Old school? Not any more – I was a bit, yes. I kept forgetting to use the riding modes, but they were perfect, especially in Rain mode during the downpour from Frankfurt to Passau, and Sport mode on the Alpine roads.

Anti-stress joystick No, it’s not another Triumph breakthrough, yet. But, when you’re riding six hours a day, it’s great to be able to check so much information using the TFT joystick on the bars. I regularly checked riding time, fuel range (stressful but important if it’s a Bank Holiday and fuel stations are closed) and temperature that changed from 8° to 24° in a few hours between Italy and Austria.

Attention-grabber Not sure if it was the bike or just being a woman riding alone, but I got a lot of attention from riders everywhere I stopped. It’s a great way to start conversations which usually concluded with me explaining that I’m Spanish, not German.

It’s a terrain-buster – The Alpine Roads are the closest thing to a theme park for riders but whatever the weather, altitude, temperature or challenge, the Tiger roars its defiance.