Eye On The Tiger
"I think that's a monster!" said the nice lady who was handing out the keys. "It's okay" I replied as I swung my lanky old frame across the tall machine with the stripes on the tank, "I've got long legs". I was at a Triumph ride-day, and had just been handed the keys to the Tiger. I'd actually wanted a ride on the Sprint ST, as that's a bike I think I'd like to own but have never ridden. But someone else had got that. The Tiger would still be an interesting ride though, as it has the same motor (with just a smidgen less power) and gearbox as the Sprint.
The Tiger might not be a "monster" (I think that's a Ducati!), however it is certainly tall. But having come from a background in trail-bikes, and having the afore-mentioned long-legged build, I reckoned I'd be okay on the Tiger. Although, at 215kg, it's a bit big to be classed as a trail-bike.
It was around 15 years previously that I sold my last trailie, and I hadn't ridden many others since, but sitting up on that dual-purpose Trumpy brought it all back. With the upright seating position and the wide bars it was easy to control; although it did feel quite tall. A bit like piloting a block of flats - from a cockpit located on the top floor!
The test-route took us through multi-lane traffic along a major suburban road, then off onto a two-lane country road before switching to a minor back road that eventually led us back into the city traffic and back to the dealer's showroom.
Through the traffic the Tiger was quite easy to manoeuvre; even if on tight turns it felt like your elbows were in danger of brushing the tops of parked cars! Once we were clear of the town, the pace picked up, and it was equally impressive. The motor is a real gem! It has plenty of power - more than enough to satisfy this old bloke - and was silky smooth while delivering it. This is a motor I like!
A brief squirt along a back-road at a bit over 110 saw the bike still being very comfortable. There is no real fairing, as such, just a bikini-type thing around the lights with a screen on top. It must work though, because the wind wasn't too bad at all. The bike was extremely stable, the ride was excellent, and it felt happy to cruise at that speed - or greater - all day. Although to cruise all day I think most riders would prefer a proper fairing and a more touring-type riding position. Still nice though!
The only time it challenged my confidence was on a 90-degree left-hand turn into a back road. The turn-off snuck up on me and I almost over-shot it. I tipped the bike in, and the lean-angle felt quite extreme. Did I tell you it was tall? Wheels out near the centre-line and I reckoned my head was about to bang against the trees in the paddock beside the road! But it remained perfectly stable, completed the turn and continued down the road with no further dramas.
It's kind of hard to work out exactly what you'd do with this bike. It's certainly not a trail-bike. Not even for open fire-trails; it's too heavy for that sort of riding. It's actually heavier - by about 8 kg - than the Sprint ST! And the manual says that the bike is not intended for off-road use; which makes you wonder what the bash-plate under the engine is for! Perhaps it's to protect the bike when it's being ridden over parked cars? I don't know. I suppose the obvious answer is that it's an ideal bike for riding around Australia on a variety of road surfaces. The sort of bike that eats up rough outback roads but still handles and performs well on the highway.
As I'm heading back the thought occurs to me that perhaps it's an ideal bike for an old bloke. Sports bikes aren't good bikes for old blokes. Leaning forward almost horizontal across a humongous fuel-tank with your backside on a plank of vinyl is not good for old blokes with crook backs! The Tiger is the complete opposite of this. A comfortable seat, an easy-riding upright seating position, high wide bars, easy controls, a great engine; what more could an old bloke want? Well, I don't know; somehow it still feels just too much like a really big trail-bike! For the sort of riding most of us old blokes do, I think a normal-style road-bike would be more suitable.
Next time I'll make sure I get a ride on the Sprint ST. Hell, if one of those lotto tickets my wife keeps buying ever comes up with the right numbers, I think I'll just go out and buy one. They're comfortable to sit on, they look good, and with that lovely engine, I reckon they'd be a pearler!

(Ridden 2005)

I might have been exagerating a little bit about how tall the bike is; although that's the impression it gave me on the day. As an "adventure-tourer" of course it is tall, but it isn't that tall! The seat-height is similar to bikes like the BMW GS series, and not that much higher than more road-orientated types like the Yamaha TDM900 and Suzuki V-Strom.
Since 2005 Triumph has moved the Tiger further towards the road end of the spectrum. The 2006 model gained alloy wheels instead of the spoked ones on this model, and had a few other minor changes.
The 2007 model is a lot more different, and has moved further in the "road" direction. It's easy to see that Triumph doesn't expect this to be used as an off-roader! (Not that it ever did, of course!).
The styling is new, being much more "road-bike" than it was before. (And the somewhat garish tiger-stripes have gone). But more significant changes lie beneath.
The suspension now has shorter travel, with geometry more suited to road use. The front wheel has gone from a 19" to a more typically-road 17".
The engine is the new 1050cc, as fitted to the Sprint, but re-tuned slightly as was previously the case.
Early reports are that the bike handles much better on the road, and that the screen keeps the wind off well. Adding to the comfort factor is the option of a "Touring comfort seat". (That sounds good!).
I've sat on the new model and it certainly felt more like a tall road-bike than the general run of adventure-tourers. It' still unmistakably a Tiger, but it really didn't feel very tall at all. So now it's even more worth a look as "an old bloke's road bike"!
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