AND THEN THEY MADE IT BETTER!
I remember my first ride on Triumph’s Tiger, back in 2005. Long-travel suspension, up-right riding-position, wide bars, and tiger-stripes on the tank. I joked that riding it was, “A bit like piloting a block of flats – from a cockpit located on the top floor!” Well, it wasn’t quite that extreme, but it was tall. However I concluded that the riding-position, and characteristics of the engine and handling, made it an ideal bike for an old bloke – apart from it being a bit too much like a big trailbike. Then we had the next generation: no stripes on the tank, and the off-road characteristics had been seriously moderated. Yes, it was still tall, but the spoked wheels had given way to cast-alloy and were both the same size: yes, much more a road-bike. I concluded that this was now my favourite Triumph! Well, now they’ve up-dated it again, with the introduction of the Tiger Sport. And yep, they’ve made it even more road-orientated than the last one. And in doing that, I reckon they’ve made it even better!
IN THE DRIVEWAY
Triumph has made a lot of changes to the new bike. The fairing has been slimmed down (more sporty!), and it now has a single-sided swing-arm, providing it with an increased wheelbase. They’ve beefed up the rear sub-frame to allow for bigger loads (or bigger pillions!). They’ve also reduced the suspension travel; although with 140mm at the front and 150mm at the rear, it still has plenty of room to soak up on-road bumps. It’s also fully-adjustable up front, and almost fully-adjustable (just misses out on compression damping) at the rear. The seat has come in for a redesign too: it’s 5mm lower, and also narrower, to make it easier to reach the ground. It seems to have worked, because I could easily flat-foot the ground while sitting on it. They’ve also tried to make it more comfortable, and they’ve succeeded with that too, because it is comfortable. It still has a kind of scooped-out shape, like the old one, but now it’s much flatter and doesn’t hold you so tightly in one position. The shape works very well. With many bikes, my own included, I find that there is pressure on the points of my pelvis, which brings on the old sore-bum syndrome. But this seems to spread the pressure more evenly, so no sore-bum – well, at least not on the relatively short ride I did. In fact I arrived back at the dealer with no aches at all – which is often not the case, even on these test-rides. There’s also some nice red stitching on the seat that makes it look quite classy. The handlebar has been lowered slightly, and brought closer to the rider; again with the emphasis on greater comfort for road use. All of this combines to give the bike a comfortable riding-position. Oh yes, it still is a tall bike, but that “block of flats” I joked about with the first one I rode, which was reduced to perhaps a two-story house in the last model, is now down to about the equivalent of a split-level. It's a comfortable place to be anyway. Oh, and they’ve tweaked the engine to produce a few more ponies too. They’ve also managed to take 20kg out of the over-all weight. The old bike had a tendency to feel a bit top-heavy – to be expected given its tall stance – but the changes to design and weight have been aimed at reducing this top-heavy feel. Strangely, I thought the foot-pegs felt a bit high, resulting in a greater bend at the knees than I would’ve expected. That was surprising on this type of bike. The rear brake and gear levers were tucked-in a bit and I had to angle my foot in to get to them. A couple of times I missed them (not good when it’s the brake you want!). The cockpit is dominated by a big analogue tacho, with a digital panel beside it which displays how fast you’re going and other info. Surprisingly, perhaps, there’s no gear-position indicator. The blinkers are self-canceling. I reckon it’s a good looking bike! I often criticise dual-purpose bikes for not being particularly attractive, but this looks good. It’s all part of the “Sports” nature, and looks much more a road-bike, of course. It has an aggressively purposeful look about it from the front.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Despite the lower stance and lighter weight, it still feels like a “big bike” when you’re riding it. It doesn’t feel particularly heavy, but you are aware of the size and height. I didn’t notice it so much at the time – I expected it to feel tall, being the type of bike it is – but more later when I got on my own bike. My own bike is a big old-style muscle-bike, and it almost felt small and sporty by comparison. So in that sense, despite the design intentions, I don’t think it actually feels like a sporty bike to ride. Okay, I know that’s like saying a Landcruiser doesn’t feel like a Lamborghini, but I’m just making the point that it doesn’t actually feel sporty. (For a true sports bike, wander across the showroom to the Daytona!). You can certainly ride it in a sporty fashion, though. When you start it up, the first thing you hear is that typical Triumph clutch whistle. It’s not a pleasant motorbike sound. At high revs, though, the engine becomes more vocal and the sound correspondingly more pleasant. Triumph’s triple has always been a very tractable engine, and this one will pull away cleanly from around 2,000rpm in the lower gears. In the higher gears though, it prefers to have a few more revs up and has to be doing around 4,000rpm to be happy. And especially as you get those revs up, the bike really goes well. Give it the berries and the Tiger really pounces on the road ahead! If you check the power specs below you’ll see that maximum torque comes in at just over 4,000rpm, so it’s designed for plenty of grunt in the mid-range, but it’s great fun at higher revs too! It’s geared at around 25kph per 1,000rpm in top; so 110kph sees the tacho closing in on 4,5000rpm. It’s quite happy at that though of course, and has over 6,000rpm to go to get to the red-line. I tested the new Tiger as part of a Triumph group test-ride, and our test-route provided a great variety of roads to try the Tiger out. We had everything from a brief bit of major highway to a narrow winding back-road that’s not much more than a bitumened bush-track. Along here there were numerous pot-holes and some places where the bush track was forcing its way up through the bitumen, resulting in nasty longitudinal broken ridges of tar. Many corners were almost one-lane narrow, blind, and off-camber. In between these two extremes was a back road with a reasonable surface and tight flowing corners; although leaf-litter called for caution. The Tiger handled all these roads with ease; remaining stable and composed throughout. At one point on that narrow back-road I hit a nasty pot-hole that found the limit of the front suspension’s travel. It didn’t upset the bike at all though; there was just the jolt and “clunk” as it hit, but it carried on unperturbed. The tall Triumph handles well, gentle counter-steering being all that is required to point it exactly where you want to go. I’m no boy-racer – and there were other test-bikes in front and behind – but you can have fun with it through the twisties, leaning it in, then getting on the throttle and squirting it out. The engine feels grunty and powerful when you’re doing this too, adding to the pleasure of the experience! It might be much more a road-bike than it used to be, but it’s still easy to ride standing up. So if you do get into some rough terrain, you can stand and still have good control. The brakes are good, and suit the bike’s character well. They feel strong, but not too sudden: just what you need for sports-touring or riding the occasional gravel road. The ride is very good. It’s comfortable and supple, soaking up bumps in a most impressive manner. Large or small, they all disappeared under the Triumph’s wheels with a minimum of disturbance to the rider. And remember you can adjust it to further dial in your preference of comfort or handling. I certainly appreciated its ride along that narrow back-road! So there it is: the new Tiger still has the DNA from that long-legged tiger-striped bike I rode back in 2005 embedded in its tall frame, but its true home is now cruising and clawing its way along the black-top, not prowling rough tracks through the bush. And you know what? It’s still my favourite Triumph! SNAPSHOT The new Tiger feels much more a road-bike than the previous one. It is still taller than a normal roadie, but it responds well to being punted through the twisties. With its comfort and powerful feel it would make an excellent touring bike.
Engine: 3-cylinder, 1050cc. Power: 92kW at 9,400rpm. Torque: 104Nm at 4,300rpm.
Suspension: Front: 43mm upside-down forks, 140mm travel. Rear: Monoshock, 150mm travel
Fuel capacity: 20litres.
Weight: 235kg (wet).
Seat height: 830mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17, Rear: 180 X 17.
Brakes: Front: Twin 320mm discs, Rear: Single 235mm disc.
Price: $15,990 (+ORC).
A few tweaks (very minor) to styling, and to other things too – like having 1kW more power and 2Nm more torque than the one I tested. The main change to the engine is probably that it is now ride-by-wire, the throttle connected electronically to the engine management system. That inevitably means there are different riding modes available: three in fact two with the same engine output, but with different throttle response, and one (called "Rain" thatreduces power, throttle response, and dials up the traction-control). Other than those, it’s the same big cat as above.
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