2009 Triumph Tiger

by Molly Gilbert

When I heard I was to review the new 1050 Triumph Tiger from Belle Plaine Motor Sports, I was predictably excited. Then I remembered a couple of pals who had Tigers and how tall the bike seemed to me. I had never ridden one, or even sat on one until now. I had watched my compadres hop on and off their Tigers, as if they were straddling a skyscraper. These machines simply looked larger-than-life to me.review115a

It was only when faced with the prospect of reviewing one that I froze for a moment. At 5’-9”, I am no shrinking violet, but that pales in comparison to my colleague conducting the second half of the review. Paul Berglund is 6’-2”, more typical of the rider of earlier, taller Tigers. At first (excuse the ignorance) I assumed the 1050 was another on/off-road bike, due to the Paris-Dakar® styling of previous generations. No longer built or sold as an adventure-tourer, the new Tiger is designed as a well-rounded, sport-touring motorbike, and my experiences with it support that fully. The new 1050 Tiger is a full-on road bike; make no mistake about it.

What was the greatest surprise to me was that the Tiger no longer stands as tall as the previous generation Tigers. It has a friendly seat height of 32.8 inches. I found it surprisingly comfortable. I had absolutely no complaints about the bike. Thanks to the adjustable sport suspension and 120 front/180 rear sport tires mounted on 17-inch wheels, when seated on the bike, I found myself tall enough to be eyeball-to-eyeball with most minivan and SUV drivers. For once, I felt like an equal on the road. I was not only able to look four-wheel drivers right in the mug, I could also see what insanity they might be wrestling with next to them in the driver’s seat.

My only real struggle was when attempting a slow U-turn. Because the Tiger sits a bit higher than my other sport bikes and because I didn’t own this beauty, I was understandably nervous about the slow, sharp turns. At higher speeds – no problem – but I admit – I was shaky on the slow stuff. This likely says more about my riding skills than it does about the bike’s handling. (Molly, your next assignment is an ERC class. Ed.)

The 1,050cc three-cylinder engine delivers 113bhp and 74 ft-lbs of torque and creates plenty of get up and go to get up and get out when needed. I found the throttle to be a bit ‘kicky’ for me at first. Until I got used to the responsiveness of it, I found my head generally being snapped behind my body, which was ahead of me by a few inches. This power is fortunately (and wisely) checked by 4-piston radial Nissin calipers pinching twin, 320mm floating rotors for exceptional braking performance.

review115dI absolutely fell in love with the wind protection on this bike. I stayed comfortable, even on an extended ride on a 50-degree day, without the benefit of my electric liner. My knees tucked perfectly behind the front faring, leaving the cold to cut right past me. My only recommendation (or should I say “daydream”) for cold-weather riding was the need to have heated grips or protective hand guards in front of the grips. The rubber-mounted foot pegs and handlebars make the ride smooth and shock-free. I was otherwise blissfully comfortable, and could’ve easily gone cross-country on this motorbike. The exceptional fairing reflects Triumph’s attention to detail.

Our tester came with the optional hard bags, which was a great gift for a gal who likes to bring a purse. There was a bit of kerfuffel over how to open and close vs. disconnect them from the bike. The bags are fitted with a handy handle, which would allow one to simply walk away with the saddlebags, carrying them like briefcases. I took pics of the bike both with bags and without. The Tiger is beautiful both ways. There was no wind resistance or strange shuffling at high speeds due to the hard bags, which says everything about its superior design.

Triumph offers the Tiger with or without ABS in three color options: Fusion White, Jet Black and the version we test-drove, Blazing Orange. Thanks to Belle Plaine Motor Sports for their help with this review.

by Paul Berglund

I love riding this bike. When Triumph came back from the dead, they brought their old bike names with them and put them on the new bikes. The Tiger name got put on a big dirt bike-looking thing. It wasn’t much good for off-road, but it would handle dirt roads. Most bikes will, but bike makers feel they have to dress their bikes up in order to sell them to us. The second-generation Tiger lost some of the dirt bike look and they improved its motor and handling. Triumph dropped the off-road pretense for the third-generation Tiger introduced in 2007. The only clue to its dirt bike wannabe past is its taller stance.

review115bWe got to ride a 2008 Tiger, but they remain the same for 2009. It’s an inline, liquid-cooled, three-cylinder engine. It has 4-valves per cylinder, fuel-injection and a six-speed transmission. Triumph claims it’s got the torque of a V-twin (74 lb-ft) and the horsepower (113) of an in-line four. I like its power, but I think it feels more like a parallel twin with an extra cylinder grafted on. I’m not a fan of parallel twins, but it turns out I like triples. It’s smooth as you could ever want right up until 4,100 rpms. After that, you get some buzz in the foot pegs. 4,050 rpms in sixth gear is freeway speed, so you can run all day in comfort. If you want to rev it past 4,100 towards it’s 10,000 rpm red line, you are rewarded with those 113 horses, making up for any buzz.

Due to its confused past, most people probably don’t think about the Tiger when they’re looking for a good all-around bike. It has a tallish 32.8-inch seat height, a small windshield and hard bags. Final drive is by chain. The Tiger falls in the standard bike class with a nod to the sport-touring class.

If I were to judge it as a touring bike I’d have to give the hard bags a failing grade. They are fiddly to open, big on the outside and small on the inside. The exhaust pipe cuts into the volume of the right bag, making it mostly useless. The left bag is harder to get to when parked on the side stand. Once you crouch down, you’ll be disappointed to find a full-face helmet won’t fit in the “big” bag either. So the confusion continues. Why would Triumph design hard bags too small to hold a full-face helmet? If you surveyed the audience and asked them, “What’s the most likely thing a rider would put in his saddlebags?” I would bet the farm that the number one answer would be: helmet. Maybe Triumph engineers don’t wear helmets. They didn’t include a helmet lock either. Buying the optional center stand ($220) would help with the bag access and bike maintenance.

If we call the Tiger a standard or nearly naked bike, I’d give it a much higher grade. For me, the fit was nearly perfect. The pegs are a bit high for such a tall bike, but the seat and bar relation is great. Out for a ride, it was a joy to pilot around on back roads. The suspension handled our less than stellar tarmac with ease. Steering was neutral and light. The small windshield kept the wind off my chest and my helmet remained in smooth air. The fairing may give you the impression of sport-touring bike, but once under way it feels like a standard. You’re in the open air, and with luck, on the open road. I found I was looking for an excuse to ride. I even took my wife out for ice cream, and we forgot to stop for ice cream. That’s a nice riding bike.

Gas mileage isn’t great, landing in the 35 to 38 mpg range. It carries 5.2 gallons of gas, down from the last generation Tiger’s 6.34 gallons. That’s one thing that wasn’t an improvement. Our test bike was brand new, and shifting was a little rubbery, but it was improving by the end of the test. One other nit-pick is the head lights. The Tiger has two headlights but only one is on for low beam. It gives a shabby impression, as if one of the lights is burnt out. To make up for it, Triumph put four fold-out loops under the seat in case you want to bungee something on the back.

review115cWhile we’re at the back of the bike, the styling is…curious. I love the way the bike works, but I would have to think long and hard about buying one because the back of the bike looks ridiculous. It looks like it’s been rear-ended by a car. It’s worse with the bags on. They angle up at 45 degrees. The result of all this ugliness is your passenger is perched way up high. This detracts from the handling and it made my wife feel less secure when riding on the back. This “tail pointing up” look was hot with British bike customizers several years ago. It’s made it onto some mainstream bikes and I’m looking forward to it being purged from all the manufacturers styling departments. It can’t happen soon enough. Let’s turn our attention to the front.

The dash looks small when you throw a leg over the seat. But once you start the bike, it gives you all the important information: speedo, tach, temp gauge and a clock are there, along with some very welcome facts and figures. The LCD display will show you how much gas is in your tank. It will also count down the miles till your tank is dry and tell you how many miles to the gallon you are getting. I love when a dash does that. It will tell you what your average speed is and what your maximum speed was. Helpful information, if you’re ever pulled over. “No, officer, I have it right here. I was going 87 miles-per-hour, not 83.” The only thing I thought was missing is a display of what gear you are in. With so much information at hand on the compact dash, I thought it was strange that Triumph would leave that out. (What is this obsession about gear indicators? Ed.)

I don’t want to end this review with a negative impression. I really enjoyed riding this bike. I tried to point out its faults, but I don’t want to overshadow how much fun you can have with a Tiger. Judge the looks for yourself. I’ll vouch for the handling. After grinding floorboards and suffering with clip-on handle bars on other test bikes, riding the Tiger was a breath of fresh air. When in motion, it captures the essence of what a motorcycle should be. At speed, it does everything you ask of it. I only found flaws when I was stopped. So, if you’re interested in the Tiger, go down to your local dealer and walk around one. That’s the only time its problems are evident. On the road, this cat purrs.

Thanks to Belle Plaine Motor Sports for providing this month’s test bike. They can be reached at (952) 873-4500 or www.bpmotorsports.com

MMM also thanks Jamie for the loan of his yellow 2nd generation Tiger and Editor Pearman for the loan of his red 1st generation Tiger for the “Three Generations” photo.

M.M.M.

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