Honda VFR 800X Crossrunner v. Triumph Tiger 800 XRx

Michael Mann - Web Editor, Bike Social
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike Web editor of Bike Social. Been riding bikes since he was four-years-old. Fast and smooth road rider, just about hangs on in a track day quick group.

Honda received upgrades for 2015, none better than its stylingThe Triumph has more new parts than the Honda

Group Test: Honda VFR 800X Crossrunner v. Triumph Tiger 800 XRx

The definition of what an adventure bike is has changed in recent years with the increased popularity of road-based yet adventure-looking bikes.

Some refer to them as Sports-tourers, others prefer Travel-enduros but it doesn’t seem to matter how they are described because each mainstream manufacturer has spent hearty budgets and many hours researching, developing and improving their own versions with an array of comforting features and performance enhancements.

When talking about increased popularity the stats for 2015 registrations, according to the MCIA’s (Motorcycle Industry Association) latest set of figures, shows three of the top 10 positions in the overall UK sales chart occupied by these sports-adventure models. They are replacing the 600/750’s in their popularity, hardly surprising when the average age of a rider in the UK is around the mid-40’s mark.

Aiming to break into the sales charts are two models featuring plenty of upgrades for 2015, the Honda VFR800X Crossrunner and Triumph Tiger 800 XRx. We put them head-to-head during a day of some 250-miles of town, A-road and B-road riding to determine which had the best credentials as an all-rounder.

Matlock Bath - the popular rendez-vous for motorcyclists

On paper they match-up. They have similar dimensions, power, price, style and, some would argue target audience, yet the more my fellow road tester, Marc Potter, and I rode and swapped between the bikes, the further apart we put them.

Both bikes are considered by their respective manufacturer as ‘adventure’ machines and are classified as such on the official websites. Yet the former interpretation of having the ability to climb up mountains and offer confidence to the rider in off-road situations (see BMW R1200GS Adventure etc.) can be erased certainly when considering the Honda and less so with the Triumph (19” front wheel v. 17” from the Honda).

Triumph's 19" x 2.5", 10-spoke cast aluminium alloyHonda's 17" 10-spoke diecast aluminium front wheel

While they appear at first glance to have correct attributes to do more than cruise along on asphalt, actually they make much better sense on the road and have been designed accordingly. This becomes obvious upon closer inspection, for example the lack of radiator guard. But who’s to say an adventure needs to be off-road?

2015 updates at a glance:

  • Triumph: technological refinements include standard fit traction control, switchable ABS, cruise control and three riding modes to control throttle maps, ABS and traction control. The engine has been redefined for greater efficiency and a ride-by-wire throttle has been introduced.
  • Honda: restyled bodywork now looks sharper and reveals more engine, larger screen, LED headlight and the introduction of an adjustable seat that adds 20mm of legroom. A new aluminium subframe, a one-piece handlebar, change of radiator position and extra suspension travel.

V4 engine + Akrapovic exhaust are a potent aural mix

Honda VFR800X Crossrunner

The engine of both bikes are excellent assets, easily their best parts. Honda’s 782cc V4 VTEC has been seen before in the VFR800F and offers the same 55 ft lbs of torque and 105bhp. It’s not designed to be goose-pimple inducing with its power but it is punchy, strong and sounds much more racy than it is thanks to the standard-fit Akrapovic end can. A surgically enhanced V4 isn’t usually associated with off-road adventures but its pipe is a strange yet very welcome standard part which earns the bike a extra bit of street cred. It also encourages you to keep winding the throttle on so much so that I found the rev limiter on more than one occasion wanting the howl to continue.

The audio and physical performance of Honda’s VTEC motor is given an extra boost at 7,000rpm when the second pair of valves in each cylinder spring into life just like the VFR800F on which the Crossrunner is based. Thankfully the surge in power is not kick-you-in-the-gentlemen’s-area noticeable with its aggression. Instead it’s as smooth as the throttle and overall the power delivery is just as a V4 should be.

The Honda is far more attractive than the previous puff-chested version thanks to its far sleeker and modern restyled bodywork which makes it appear more adventurous. The instrument panel is both easy to read and operate, the white digital numbers against a dark background is handy regardless of the light levels. RPM and speed are prominent and remain unobscured by the standard TomTom sat nav.

Swing your leg over any traditional adventure bike and you’d be expecting to sit almost on top of it but that’s not the case with the Honda. The cockpit area as a whole including the saddle is comfortable and the screen, although surprisingly not adjustable, offered enough protection without being too large. The 835mm seat height can be altered to 815mm contributing to a more sports-tourer riding position than the Tiger. That’s because of the footrest positions which are a little further back and slightly higher than the Triumph. The handlebars usually go unnoticed for their comfort but Honda has created a one-piece bar rising from the top yoke which are slightly higher, nearer and wider than the old bike, creating an easy-going and very comfortable seating position.

Unfortunately a degree in Seat Technology is required to adjust it with tools required and spacers removed to lower the seat. Certainly not as quick and easy as the Triumph with its adjustable bar slotting in and out of the relevant slots by stretching a strong rubber band. But then again, once you buy a bike and adjust the seat for the first time, how often are you likely to keep adjusting it?

The Honda is a much heavier bike than the Triumph, by 26kg. But looking at both and even riding back-to-back it’s hard to fathom just where this extra weight is. It’s not noticeably heavy or disconcerting when changing direction at speed or manoeuvring in town. The longer suspension travel makes the bike a little wallowy on the rebound – it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, especially as its adjustable so don’t take your first ride as the only ride if this is a concern.

Note the horn and indicator positioning plus bolt-on heated grip control

The 20.8 litre tank will take you over near to 200 miles if ridden at an average pace although Honda claims a 240-mile range which will only be achieved if you are super conservative but then you’ll be doing the engine an injustice. 5-stage heated grips plus self-cancelling indicators are fitted as standard. The button to control the grips looks like an afterthought while the indicators are fairly gimmicky considering the amount of effort required to cancel the indicators.

For added riding confusion, Honda of all companies has swapped the horn and the indicators around. Not just to tease us though, it’s all down to the switchgear poached form the DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) gearboxed VFR1200 which uses buttons on the left side of the handlebars to flick through the gears.

The Honda is an easy bike to ride; forgiving I’d say. It irons out poor rider inputs with its mellow, chilled ways. It won’t beat the sports-based bikes off the line nor will it chomp through muddy tracks better than a GS but it won’t care either. It’ll hum along to its favourite chillaxing tune and just carry on cruising in comfort, it’s the motorcycling equivalent of reggae. If the old Crossrunner was middle-aged, the 2015 model is reliving its youth.

Taking in the ring road around Derby on the way to Matlock Bath for a tea-break at the popular motorcycle destination, the VFR offers plenty of comfort and height, it can handle low speed filtering with aplomb despite its weight. But it comes to life on the B-roads. Our route took us from Matlock towards Newhaven in the Peak District via Carsington Water and Ashbourne, this was plenty of superb B-roads offering varying degrees of grip. The Honda soaked up the lumps and bumps and so long as you have in mind that you are riding a tourer which has an adventure slant, rather than a sports bike then the wallowyness of the rear suspension can be forgiven. The V4 noise keeps you alert and happy while the ease and comfort of the ride encourages coverage of more miles. The further into the Peak District we rode, the closer we came to snow but the Honda nor its tyres flinched. It works nicely so long as nice is all you need.

Honda accessories include a quickshifter (yes really!), a 12v DC socket and panniers. 

800cc triple is an strong, punchy engine

Triumph Tiger 800 XRx

Triumph’s 800cc three-cylinder pumps out more torque but less power than the Honda, it’s marginal; 58 ft lbs (v.55) of torque and 94bhp (v. 105) and therefore performance is equally matched. The outgoing Tiger 800 was among the firm’s best sellers but a host of technological refinements across the new four-bike Tiger range for 2015 looks set to improve an already top quality machine.

Triumph have worked wonders with the new generation of their power plant, it is a superb motor full of enthusiasm all the way through the rev range up to the red line just below 10,000rpm. Being slimmer and lighter than the Honda and with a stiffer and ultimately better chassis, the Triumph comes steaming out of the blocks by comparison.

Three riding modes (Road, Off-Road and Programmable) are part of the new electronic options which automatically configure ABS and Traction Control. The Programmable mode allows the rider to flick through four throttle maps (Rain, Road, Sport and Off-Road) which affect throttle response. Once over the initial confusion between menu buttons in two locations; left-side of the handlebar and to the left of the instrument panel, the riding options are fairly self-explanatory although can only be changed when stationary. The analogue rev counter sits to the right of the digital dash, clear to read but it's more retro-design will feel dated quickly.

The new fly-by-wire throttle on the Tiger gives a smooth yet responsive feel in the regular Road setting which is more than capable for either slow, town riding or out on the open roads. The gearbox gives a solid, well-constructed feel, gears are quick to select and require only the slightest touch of clutch. Fair play to the Honda though because it too is strong in this area and worthy or praise. Even in the Triumph’s more aggressive Sport map, the gearbox and throttle are equally and impressively slick and smooth.

Cruise control is a great benefit and thankfully easy to operate. It’s noticeable by its absence on the Honda especially in a day and age when average motorcycle mileage is on the increase as is the popularity of these sports-adventure style bikes. Click the on/off button next to the throttle and the set, re-set, increase and decrease options all come courtesy of an adjacent rocker switch. It’s worth noting it only works in 4th, 5th and 6th gears though.

Menu options on the left and dash while cruise is on the right

The Tiger is just as primed for the longer journey with its level of rider comfort, easily aided by its well-balanced and firmer chassis which offers more confidence under acceleration, braking and in the corners than the Crossrunner. Couple that with its very capable Showa upside down forks on the front and monoshock on the rear and the Tiger certainly retains its advantage.

An adjustable fly screen on the Triumph is operated manually by two knobs but you’ll need both hands, it's narrower and more upright than the Honda’s and doesn’t offer as much protection. It’s not bad by any stretch but certainly noticeable. I’m 6ft and regularly amended the screen’s height to find an optimum setting to eliminate buffeting. I failed.

Its 19 litre tank offers a potential range of 272 miles claim Triumph thanks to the 2015 refinements which in turn offers an increase to 65mpg. Realistically, you’ll be hard pushed to achieve less than 200 miles per tank unless you introduce the Tiger to the track.

Marauding around some of Derbyshire's finest roads felt like home for the Tiger. The roads and conditions enabled the bike to show off its steering capacilities, fine suspension set-up and overall ability. Flicking from left-hander to right-hander with ease, snicking down a gear and letting the triple rev harder is my definition of why we all love to ride. If non-riders could experience these roads on this bike, then we'd be in a better place.

Both bikes are equipped with Pirelli Scorpion tyres which are on-road bias but could cope with some light off-roading. They are hugely capable tyres although when the time comes to change them, assess how much off-roading you are likely to be doing before simply replacing them like-for-like. You may require something more road-focussed instead, perhaps a Michelin Pilot Road 4 or Dunlop RoadSmart 2.

Style-wise, Honda and Triumph have raised the game from the previous models. Fairings, lights, screen, height all contribute the right kind of look in the same way a Range Rover Evoque looks a bit like a 4x4 but is never likely to see tougher terrain than the car park at the Burghley House Horse Trials.

Heated grips are an option on the Tiger while standard on the Honda but the Triumph has cruise control which is not even an option from the red corner. Both bikes have switchable traction control but the Tiger goes on to offer three riding modes, switchable ABS and is 26kg lighter.

Triumph offer aluminium luggage, hand guards and LED fog lights among their official accessories range.


Neither bike is realistically going to take you too far off the beaten track so don’t consider them as adventure bikes in the old sense of the description. They are more than capable and comfortable for road use and even darting through traffic. Their height give them a safety advantage when filtering too, being able to see and be seen.

The Crossrunner is priced above the magic £10k mark at £10,299 although does include Honda’s Rider Pack (sat nav, 31 litre top box, centre stand and Akrapovic exhaust). The XRx is available at £9,499 and offers better value with its on-board electronics, range of adjustable gadgets and especially the more desirable chassis and overall identity. It returns more riding feel too, giving more feedback and keeping you more entertained. The Honda is certainly a fine bike, calm and relaxed with its ability yet holder of an excellent V4 and Akrapovic sound system.

For on-road adventures, Bike Social’s money would be heading to Hinckley where the Triumph lives although to accomplish similar feats at a similar price then take a look at Yamaha’s MT-09 Tracer, a quite exquisite bike.

Tiger and Crossrunner. Designed for light off-roading but more at home on-road







 800cc, liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder

 782cc, liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC 90° V-4


 Tubular steel trellis frame with twin-sided cast aluminium alloy swing arm

 Aluminium frame inc. new aluminium swing arm


 Front: 19 x 2.5in, 10-spoke cast aluminium alloy

 Rear: 17 x 4.25in, 10-spoke cast aluminium alloy

 Front: 10-spoke diecast aluminium (Tyres: 120/70 R17)

 Rear: 10-spoke diecast aluminium (Tyres: 180/55 R17)


 Front: Showa 43mm upside down forks, 180mm travel

 Rear: Showa monoshock with hydraulically adjustable preload, 170mm rear wheel travel

 Front: 43mm HMAS cartridge-type telescopic fork with stepless preload and ten DF adjustment, 131mm axle travel, 145mm stroke

 Rear: Pro-Link with gas-charged HMAS damper, 35-step (remote-controlled hydraulic) preload and stepless rebound damping adjustment, 148mm axle travel


 Front: Twin 308mm floating discs, Nissin 2-piston sliding calipers, Switchable ABS

 Rear: Single 255mm disc, Nissin single piston sliding caliper, Switchable ABS

 Front: 310mm dual floating hydraulic disc with radial fit 4-piston calipers (*ABS) and shintered metal pads

 Rear: Single 256mm hydraulic disc with 2-piston caliper (*ABS) and shintered metal pads


 Length: 2215mm

 Width: 829mm

 Height: 1350mm

 Wheelbase: 1530mm

 Length: 2190mm

 Width: 870mm

 Height: 1360mm

 Wheelbase: 1475mm

 Seat height

 810-830mm (790-810mm with low seat optional extra)


 Fuel tank capacity

 19 litres

 20.8 litres

 Wet Weight




 70KW / 94BHP @ 9250rpm

 78kW / 105bhp @ 10,250rpm


 79NM / 58 ft.lbs @ 7850rpm

 75Nm / 55 ft.lbs @ 8,500rpm




with Rider Pack as standard (31 litre top box, centre stand, akrapovic exhaust, sat nav)


Which would you choose? Or something else completely different?