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The Triumph Tiger 800 is no slouch as a showroom stock adventure-touring motorcycle. I thought the model quite cool with my ongoing affinity for British motorcycles. Last week, a visit to Freedom Cycle at Reno, Nevada, revealed what the Triumph Tiger can really do while looking like a genuine Paris-Dakar machine from the day! The dealership did the R&D on several prototype parts and modifications that make this machine not only more functional and nimble but also a magnet for attracting true adventure-touring enthusiasts. Check this out: Bucket List with "Long Way Round" and "Long Way Down" on it? This might be the machine...500 pounds fully wet! Moses
It all began with a passion for desert enduro bikes. After a dozen viewings of "Dust to Glory!", my bike of choice was the Honda XR650R liquid cooled thumper. Finding the right used machine, rebuilding the engine top-end with machine work by L.A. Sleeve, dialing the tune, after months of waiting, I finally mounted the beast and headed into the desert. An hour of dirt riding validated my choice, for my kind of riding, this is the perfect motorcycle. Fresh top-end rebuild with a Hot Cams Stage 1 camshaft, the magazine's XR650R is ready for the desert! With an estimated 55 horsepower and 50 lb-ft torque in this form, the bike will meet every performance demand. My original goal with this motorcycle was a reliable, highly capable motorcycle for HD video filming at off-road events and travel-adventure rides. And now I faced a significant obstacle: Where would I put all the camping and video gear? Was a purpose built enduro motorcycle able to perform double duty like this? Michelin T63 and Cross AC10 tires were the first step toward taming the desert beast and making it more on-highway capable. The DOT approved T63 tires offered the best trade-off for both dirt and asphalt use. The internet is rife with examples of Honda XR650R motorcycles morphing into supermotards and dual-sports. In fact, despite its reputation as the ultimate Baja racer and "off-highway" desert bike status across North America, the Honda XR650R reached much of the global market in semi-street form. Draped in highway amenities and trim for Europe and Australia (detuned substantially for the Down Under market, making it all the more street worthy), the XR650R has the ability to serve incredibly well as a dual-sport. My cycle was purchased in just that form, the previous owner was Texas based and had added a Baja Designs conversion kit and DOT tires. The bike was on- and off-highway legal, and I readily registered, plated and titled the motorcycle as such at Nevada. Off pavement, the Michelin T63 tires work well. DOT for the highway, they deliver on asphalt, too. Here, I test the tires at Nevada's wild horse country and later on a curving ribbon of asphalt. The Honda XR650R dual-sport conversion can deliver in both worlds! Here I was with a dual-sport platform, so why not go the next step and add the necessary cargo racks and luggage? As a highway rider as well as a dirt guy, I instinctively switched to the Michelin T63 tires for an on-highway improvement. Tested on dirt and the highway, the tires were as close a compromise as practical for both asphalt and Nevada's graded gravel roads and alkaline dust single-tracks. The next step was a leap, the choice of TCI Products' Sequoia and Borrego racks, along with TCI's skid plate and engine guard protection. Installed, there was no going back. The Johnny Campbell/Steve Hengeveld Honda A-Team profile vanished. Was this okay? Well, truthfully, I did pause for a moment. After years of selling myself on the idea of a Baja-bred desert enduro bike, to see these, admittedly, well-crafted and precisely fitted saddle bag and tail racks, hanging off the back end of a race-bred dirt motorcycle, was certainly a "different" look! This video gear and motorcycle camping gear need a place to ride! The Nelson-Rigg luggage and TCI Products racks have provided an outstanding solution. The package transformed the Honda XR650R desert enduro bike into a dual-sport that rivals the "big" adventure-touring bikes—at half the curb weight and nimble enough for single-track and fast-track desert! Once I added the tastefully designed and rugged Nelson-Rigg luggage to these quality racks, I was able to exhale. In fact, as I fitted the luggage onto the stable and sturdy TCI racks, following closely with the video cam to catch the nooks and crannies of the bags, it became clear that this is one good looking, highly versatile and rugged package! I'm thrilled with the utility of these racks and bags. Moreover, the cycle has the best of both worlds: Capability off-road yet ample suitability for short—and even long—highway riding! Click on the links to see the tire testing, the TCI Products rack and engine protection installations, and my choice in Nelson-Rigg luggage. You'll not only be impressed, if you've been indecisive about converting your pristine enduro bike into a dual-sport, this might very well tip the scale! Moses