When I last rode a Triumph Tiger, back in 2005, I joked about the height. I described it as, “A bit like piloting a block of flats – from a cockpit located on the top floor!” And I made remarks about elbows brushing the tops of parked cars and so on. Well, yes, it was tall! But I liked it a lot! I reckoned that, in many respects, it was a good bike for an old bloke. Well, since then it’s completely changed. Now it’s much less a dual-purpose bike; now it’s basically a road-bike. Oh sure, it’s still tall, and it could still handle a bit of dirt, but you’ve only got to look at the wheels and tyres to see what sort of use Triumph intend it for. Underneath the engine, a belly-pan, rather than a bash-plate, is further indication that this tiger is intended to prowl the black-top, not the forests. And do you know what? I reckon all these changes make it an even better bike for an old bloke! So it was high time I took a ride on one. I got the opportunity to do this when the Triumph test-fleet arrived at a nearby dealer. I rode this on the same day, and over the same route, that I rode the Bonneville SE. So a mixture of suburban running, a bit of expressway, a narrow winding mountain pass, some back-roads and some busy highway. A good test of how a bike handles the real world. So, let’s have a look around the bike first. I suppose none of these dual-purpose type bikes (although, as I said, this isn’t really a dual-purpose bike now) are particularly outstanding in the looks department, although I reckon this looks good. It is a bit bulbous around the tank area I suppose, but the fairing looks very road-bike and sporty. It reminds me a bit of the Yamaha TDM; only prettier. Climb on board and you find the bike is still tall. The seat is 835mm off the ground, which is tall enough, but the width of the seat makes it feel even taller. I could only just get my lanky old legs to flat-foot the ground. So short-ars… I mean “the vertically-challenged” … should probably consider something else. Or carry a step-ladder. But that top-floor apartment I joked about in the original test is a pretty comfortable place to be. The riding-position is very up-right, of course, but it’s a good riding-position. And yes, especially for old blokes who aren’t comfortable taking on the racer’s crouch, and putting weight on those aging wrists. The bars are high and wide. My personal preference would see me rotating them so that the ends are angled down a bit more. I find many bars that are positioned high are too straight at the ends. I mentioned how high the seat is, but I didn’t say how comfortable it is. And it is. Comfortable. And, while you mightn’t think so from the scooped-out shape of it, you can move around a bit on it. It’s good. And Triumph have an option of an even comfier perch, called a “Touring Comfort Seat”. I reckon you could go a long way on the standard one; with the “Comfort” option you’d be planning your next stop in the next state, or whenever the fuel ran out. (Well, just before the fuel ran out would be a better plan!). The pegs are nice and low too, adding to the comfort factor and roomy nature of the riding-position. (See what I mean about it being a good bike for old blokes?). There are some down-sides to this tall stance and roomy nature though; the main one being that it results in a high centre-of-gravity. So the weight of the bike is accentuated. You feel it most at standstill, of course, when you tilt the bike from side to side. You notice it out on the road too; especially in tight corners, where I found it hard to judge how far to lean it over. I found I was tending to lean it more than needed. Of course you’d get used to this if you owned the bike. And apart from this high-centre-of-gravity thing, you don’t really notice the weight much once you’re on the move. I thought the Tiger handled well. It steered very accurately, and always felt stable and well planted on the road. Good fun, actually! The instruments are all pretty standard stuff, an analogue tacho, with a digital speedo beside it. And there is a digital panel containing various other bits of information, accessable by pressing buttons. And there are a few buttons to press, too! I didn't try those though. Too busy riding it! It's all easy to see and easy to use. (Well, apart from the buttons, which I just said I didn't try). There were a couple of little niggles, though. For some reason the blinker switch seemed small and fiddly to use. I was wearing thick winter gloves, which could’ve contributed to this, although it wasn’t a problem on the Bonneville which, as I said, I rode on the same day. Of more serious concern was the positioning of the gear-lever and brake-lever. They’re kind of tucked in, and I had to angle my foot in to get at them. Again, I suppose you’d get used to that if you owned it, but, especially with the brake, it didn’t inspire confidence. Despite these few little niggles, which would mostly be overcome with more familiarity with the bike, I really liked the Tiger! And I began liking it from very early in the test. One of the things I liked about the first Tiger I rode – and indeed every similarly powered Triumph I’ve ridden since – was the engine. It’s basically the same engine as in the Sprint ST, but de-tuned a bit to make it better fit the character of the bike. Not that it needed any modification, because this is a beautifully tractable engine in the Sprint, so there was no need to worry about trying to make it more so. Anyway, the Tiger will pull easily away from 2,000rpm, or less, without complaint. There is that typical whirring sound you get with these engines, and there is the same willing smoothness as always. A few vibes get through to the bars and pegs, but they’re only slight. I’ve always been impressed with the performance of these engines, even back in early 955 form, and this doesn’t disappoint either. Take a look at the specs at the bottom and you’ll see that the big Brit triple pumps out some impressive numbers. So, yes, it goes well! Acceleration didn’t feel exactly brutal, but it was certainly good; and I suspect the bike’s over-all smoothness actually disguises how fast it’s really going. Give the throttle a decent twist and you go from “toddling along” to “lose your license” in very quick time! The gearbox is impressive too. It’s very smooth and easy to use. Clutch-less up-changes were smooth and even down-changes, with an appropriate blip of the throttle, could be accomplished smoothly without the clutch, if you wanted to. Gearing is pretty much as you’d expect, running at around 26kph per 1,000rpm. That allows good flexibility, but still provides a very relaxed cruise. Helping that relaxed cruising ability is the big screen, which does a great job of keeping the wind away. There was virtually no wind on my body, and just some slight wind around the helmet. I reckon the Tiger would be a good touring bike. The Tiger rides very well. The suspension is by Showa and feels very compliant. It absorbs bumps really well. Up front there is a beautiful looking upside-down fork, which is fully adjustable. At the rear the monoshock is adjustable for preload and rebound. On the Tiger, unlike the Bonnevile, I wasn’t standing up over the bigger bumps; I didn’t need to. Yet, as I mentioned, it still handles well. I reckon that Triumph have got the suspension sorted really well! Brakes run Nissin calipers, and look impressive. They feel good too, although not overly powerful. ABS is optional, for an extra $1,000. I enjoyed my time on the Tiger. It wasn’t an especially exciting ride, (and, truth be told, I probably had more fun riding the Bonnie), but it felt like the type of bike you could go a long way on. Throw a bit of luggage on and, as I said above, I reckon it’d be a good touring bike. There was nothing outstanding about it on the ride, but it did everything very efficiently. Often, on a test-ride, there is a defining moment; one that kind of puts the whole bike into perspective. There are always moments during the ride that sort of quantify the bike, but often there will be one moment that goes beyond the purely objective. It’s a moment when the bike becomes more personal, and you imagine what it would be like to own. Call it a “love-it or loathe-it” moment if you like. For me this came not long after we’d topped the narrow winding mountain road. The road opened out and I wound the Tiger up to try its cruising capability. As it flashed along the still quite narrow tree-lined road, the engine purring easily, and an almost total absence of wind, I thought, “This is now my new favourite Triumph!” And I reckon it is. See, I was right back in 2005, the Tiger is a great bike for an old bloke! And if it was then, it’s even more so now.
Engine: 3-cylinder, 1050cc. Power: 85kW at 9,400rpm. Torque: 100Nm at 6250rpm.
Fuel capacity: 20 litres.
Weight: 198kg (dry).
Seat height: 835mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17, Rear: 180 X 17.
Brakes: Nissin. Front: Twin 320mm discs. Rear: Single 255mm disc.
Price: $16,590 (+ORC).
UP-DATE 2011 / 12.
For the 2012 model year (on sale late 2011), the Tiger will now be available in SE version. This has the addition of handguards, a gel seat (that'd be nice) and centrestand. It also gets ABS and panniers as standard. And all this at an even cheaper price of $16,490 (+ORC). The standard model will be discontinued once current stocks are sold. I suppose the move is to bring it closer to the big BMW adventure tourers, and to differentiate it even more from its newly-released 800 sibling.
Triumph has given the Tiger an upgrade, and in the process, changed the model name. It’s now called the Tiger Sport. Triumph describes it as, “An adventure-style street bike for the purist who prefers to concentrate on the core values of motorcycle fun: a strong and seductive engine, taut handling, and a riding position to suit different road types”. There are big changes to bodywork and even the engine, which gets an extra 7kW and 6Nm of torque, bringing the figures to 92kW and 104Nm. Fuel consumption has said to have improved too. There’s a single-sided swingarm to give it a sportier look and allow more space for the new exhaust and larger panniers. New headlights change the look of the front and are claimed to be brighter too. The rider's seat is 5mm lower (830mm), and narrower at the front, making it easier to reach the ground. The handlebars are lower and closer to the rider to suit its sportier nature, while the new screen offers better wind protection. The rear seat is also lower, sitting the passenger more fully behind the rider for better wind protection and making it easier to get on the bike.
Revised suspension geometry – a half degree steeper steering angle and slightly longer wheelbase – are said to improve precision, feedback and stability. Reading the blurb from Triumph I get the impression it might be a little firmer too, in standard set-up.
The Tiger Sport is available in Crystal White and Diablo Red, and priced at $15,990.
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