Ride Impression: Triumph’s Tiger 1050 – Pussy Galore-ious

on

2008 Triumph Tiger 1050

There is an Indian proverb, “Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank him for not having given it wings.”  That’s because the tiger is a super or apex predator sitting at the top-end of the food, chain secure, unchallenged and feared.  Triumph’s outgoing Tiger 955i, however, was nothing of the sort.  It may have been a likable soft mishmash of adventure and touring aspirations, but one would never describe it as being super, let alone a predator.  Now, there’s Triumph’s new 1050 Tiger and you’ll not find it padding around the woods… Instead it’s carving a niche for itself in the motorcycling ecology.

Triumph’s previous 955i “cub” was too unfocused, but the new Tiger 1050 has no such issues.  From the first glance the 1050 is clearly a tiger of a different stripe: 17-inch wheels; long traveling well-damped suspension provided by upside-down forks; radial-mount brakes; a stronger, beefier swing-arm.  All this kit gives the new Tiger 1050 some proper sporting attitude rather than the waffling adventure aspirations worn by the old Tiger.  No, despite those wide, high bars (read comfortable) and the big-traily inspired upswept pipe the Tiger 1050 is no off-roader.  Instead, this new 1050’s natural prey is the likes of the Ducati Multistrada, Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and, perhaps, the occasional BMW 1200 GS that has strayed onto the tarmac.

Prowling the new Tiger through the urban jungle is the muscular 1050cc triple engine, derived from the ST and Speed Triple.  The refined and sophisticated three-pot lump is down on power compared to its sportier siblings – you can thank Euro 3 emissions standards for caging the beast with a huge canister.  That calms the big cat to a claimed 114bhp@9.400rpm and 74 ft.lbs max output – for a “big traily” that’s full-flavoured… like blue steak.

Should you want to poke your Bengal with a stick however, Triumph has a replacement exhaust at the ready which they claim stirs up at least another 10bhp horsepower.  In a cut-throat world of rapturous superbikes posting 160 plus horsepower, those figures don’t not sound overly impressive. You’d be mistaken to judge a Tiger by its spec sheet stripes.

Out on the road the Tiger 1050 offers ample thrust for the real world and a bit of hooliganism.  It makes the sport offerings just seem a bit vulgar and overwrought, but this bike doesn’t have to pretend – there is no thoroughbred provenance or racing history here. The impressive pull starts strong low in the rpm range; one can easily accelerate from 2,000 rpm in high gears with the engine pulling strong from as low as 3,000rpm.  It’s a lovely usable torque curve that makes purr-fect wheelies (please, read with a proper Eartha Kitt growl).  Likely you’ll want to cruise at lower RPM’s, hitting 6,000rpm or better vibration in the bars can be felt, which over a long ride could be tiring, still the mirrors stay clear enough to provide a slightly blurred but expansive rearward view.

Forgo a basso perfecto purr of cruising speeds and grab the big cat by the berries, and the 1050 Triple gives an utterly glorious snarl as horse-power takes over from curve near 7,000 rpm.  It isn’t the type of sound that makes birds take flight and gazelles to bound away in terror, but it is a good chest roar.   Better it’s accompanied by enough smooth and snatch free fuel injected brawn for the Tiger to take down its prey at a near 225kph (140mph) top speed.

The joy of all that torque is that you never really need to kick it down to overtake.  That’s a good thing because Tiger 1050’s transmission seems a Cenozoic sabre-toothed throwback.  By modern motorcycling standards the amount of force needed to down-shift is embarrassing and the feel is simply lacking.

Leave the A road (highway) Serengeti for more twisting fare and the Tiger devours the turns. Aided by the 1050’s new 43mm, fully adjustable inverted Showa fork, the 120/70-17 front and a 180/55-17 rear Michelin Pilot Sports tyres provide ample claws in tarmac sporting traction and good front-end feedback.  Indeed, the new Tiger remains composed even on wet roads and grip levels are near as secure as dry strangeways.

To state that the suspension feels soft for really aggressive riding misses the Tiger 1050’s big payoff.  When the roads turn cracked, potted and rippled, you’ll be laughing at the testosterone filled boy racers as you float along in almost posh comfort… brilliant.  It’s not as soft as an R1200GS, nor as firm as a Multistrada – a nice road going medium then. Additionally both front and back are fully adjustable which should satisfy most riders for one and two up riding, or those craving a firmer ride.

Through the sweepers and tight turn the Tiger demonstrates exceptionally light steering, a result of a good chassis dynamic and tall wide bars providing respectable leverage.  The bike truly is no slouch, and our pride set a ripping pace leading a few members to drag the occasional hero-bob.

At 215kg/473lbs the outgoing model Tiger 955i weighted as much as a male Bengal (200 to 295 kg / 440-650 lb), and that’s a lot of big cat to shift if it doesn’t feel inclined – laying on its side along a trail say. At 198kg/436lbs dry weight the Triumph Tiger 1050 is a smaller member of the felid class, but one wouldn’t call it a flyweight.  Still, what amazes is how easy the new Tiger is to ride through this game of cat-and-mouse. Look through the corners from a high vantage point, pull on the strong 320mm front disks, there’s a bit of dive but the feedback from the front let’s you know it will hold, push on the wide bars, tip in and power out.  It’s downright friendly through this provocation.

Once things settle down the Tiger contentedly gnaws away the miles. Esso suggests you put a tiger in your tank, and on the 1050 there’s no hassle to riding it out again.  The seat is accommodating (and long-legged at 835mm/32.8 inches) making riding thru a full tank without breaks comfortable.  That 20 litre tank, though some 4 litres smaller, has gone from plastic to a tankbag-friendly metal; offsetting the reduction in size is a more-efficient, remapped ECU, giving the Tiger 1050 similar claimed range to its predecessor.

The Tiger 1050 is completely restyled from the previous model, which at its release charitably could be described as soft, bulbous and dated.  The Tiger is now sharp, taunt, bold, aggressive, a little more flash and a bit more belligerent. It’s a vast improvement.  Hints of the Daytona 675’s DNA can even be seen in the front double headlight, which cast a good amount of light.  Suddenly “tiger, tiger burning bright” is no longer merely poetic.

There’s a bit of Speed Triple here in the new instrument panel.  Derived from its sibling the gauges feature a read-at-a-glance digital speedo and analogue rev-counter.  There are also readouts for fuel consumption, top speed and a clock.  Unfortunately the buttons that change between the various readouts are small, who knew Hinckley would build for un-gloved Napoleonic hands?

The rework looses momentum when it comes to the new windscreen. Style rather than functionality has won over in this new cat’s looks and protection is just acceptable (at least for tall riders – Ed.).  At its current height the screen serves only to protect your chest while the top of your helmet catches some buffeting. Triumph is quick to point out that amongst the 23 odd accessories begging to bejewel this beast a touring windscreen is one… along with other creature comforts such as heated grips, a centre-stand, and a performance pipe to give this bike its growl.

Hard luggage is on that list also and not the globular nacelles from the previous model.  That’s good on two counts: the first is style; the second is that the Tiger 1050’s huge pipe is likely to intercept with soft bags.

There will be some who yowl over the loss of the “adventure” portion of the Triumph Tiger’s DNA, likely those who’ve not ridden it off road.  Once the caterwauling settles though, one can see the forest for the tree – Triumph has created an excellent all-round machine in the new Tiger.   The Triumph Tiger 1050 stands ready to hunt the asphalt and stalk the occasional un-wary sportbike who underestimates its muscular prowess.  I’ll not come over all National Geographic and dub this bike an apex predator like its namesake, but with the Tiger 1050 Triumph has given a practical, comfortable and fun bike wings.

– OWD Europe

Plusses:

  • Smooth and torque-laden engine
  • Handling
  • Comfort

Minuses:

  • A transmission as smooth as Princess Anne’s face.

MSRP: $13,999 CDN 
Special Thanks to Triumph Motorcycles.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s