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Triumph Tiger 1050, 1800km review

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by Spots, May 7, 2008.

  1. Let me start by making a promise to the reader.

    I promise that unlike every other Tiger review since the 1990s Hinckley re-release, I will not make a single feline pun, cat analogy or metaphor. Having read almost every single review of both this bike's predecessors and newest generation - each time having to endure the puns as the poor journo tries to spice up the review with some unoriginal literary tricks - let me say that I'm doing you a favour. :LOL:

    Executive Summary:

    In a sentence, the Tiger 1050 is a semi-faired touring-capable two-seat Speed Triple for really tall people.

    JP described it really well; "It's like the motorcycle equivalent of a Subaru Forester GT!"

    It's a practical, upright, comfortable, sensible, tractable, urban-friendly smart but conservative looking bike... With go-fast and slow-down bits stolen off of an outrageously fast bike. It's well-finished with radial disc brakes, stainless steel brakelines, projector headlights and other fancy doodads too. It does wheelies in 1st and 2nd without even using the clutch.

    On the downside, the stock windshield buffets the rider and isn't adjustable, the buttons of the trip computer require a bit of a stretch to reach, projector headlights are too perfect, the gearbox is a clunky, tight and notchy piece of work for the first few thousand k's and 'on paper' it's an expensive proposition indeed.

    Base model is, at time of writing $16500-or-so plus onroads. ABS version is $17600-or-so plus onroads.

    Verbose version:

    Shall we start at the beginning? Yes, let's.

    My first motorcycle was a 2000 Honda VTR250 'Minimonster'. What a hoot that was to ride around town! As the months went on it helped teach me to ride, and also taught me in what ways it was deficient for my personal riding needs.

    I commuted 150km a day on it for six months; once unrestricted I carried pillions on it (one at a time!); toured a total of 11,000km on it; took it offroad; rode in the snow; up mountains; along freeways!

    The VTR250 helped me write a mental list of what I needed in my next motorcycle. I wanted that same tractable mix of torque and power (but moaar!). The semi-sporty standard seating position. More legroom, better wind protection. Better luggage options. Absolute speed wasn't a huge concern, but acceleration was important, as was carrying speed through a turn. Corners are fun!

    Triumph must have been peeking over my shoulder. Into my mind.

    When the bike was first released in Australia in February 2007 I ducked into the Geelong Peter Stevens to have a look 'n climb all over it.

    "I've been riding this one to work for the last few days. It's a great bike", said the average-height salesperson as I played with the controls of an 'albino' Tiger, "But it's a little tall for me."

    Dark stormclouds loomed inexplicably within the showroom. The crack of a thunderbolt.

    "MY DAY HAS COME!", I cackled, voice resonating throughout the room like the accompanying roll of thunder and odd looks from the salesperson.

    Fourteen months on, the Tiger was to become my first testride after a six month hiatus from riding due to having moved interstate - I'd sold the VTR to a friend back in Victoria.

    I booked a testride out at Camden and filled out the paperwork for the bike, feeling just as inexperienced as the last time I'd put my signature down for a $3000 testride excess some two-and-a-bit years earlier.

    My bowels were primed and ready to instantly change the colour of my undies to match the colour palette of a modern FPS title; Afterall, I was about to defrost my long-unused riding skills on a tall, top-heavy behemoth of a litrebike with three times the power, four times the torque and a small pillion's worth of extra mass.

    How thankful was I that the dealer sales rep had already headed back inside as I geared up. One suspects they knew how apprehensive I felt and wanted to spare me the shame.

    In hindsight, I was being nothing more than a fraidy... uh. Needlessly apprehensive person.

    The Tiger is tame. Where is the snatchy throttle response I'd read about in fuel-injected bikes? It doesn't feel like there's 200kg of big-ground-clearance top-heavy litrebike. On the contrary...


    Generously wide handlebars help disguise its mass at low speeds - it's no VTR250, to be sure, but with a confident push the Tiger's surprisingly agile for something my friends said would wobble around like a drunkard trying to balance a broom on their hand while riding a skateboard and being videod by their best mates for Youtube.

    At speed the feeling is much the same - the Tiger is sure-footed, plush and stable on stock suspension settings, but still willing to try to emulate the Speed Triple it steals so many parts from. The steering's a bit on the 'stable' side once you get significantly past 100kph, but it can still be hustled through the twisties.

    I like how smoothly and progressively the bike tips in. Entirely predictable. The Tiger whimsically encourages crazy lean angles that felt uncertain and unstable on the VTR250, and for the most part the Tiger is pretty damn sure-footed on poor road surfaces.

    In fact, the plush suspension is a real treat on average-quality backroads and helps keep the bike's attitude in shape. Let's face it - not every twisty road is glass-smooth like the Great Ocean Road or Black Spur. And the added comfort makes the 'transport stages' much less of a chore too.

    I s'pose stiffer suspension might help for more spirited riding and for the racetrack - and there is indeed room for sportier (and softer) adjustment in the big bright gleaming gold upside-down preload/rebound/compression-adjustable front suspension, and the hydraulic rebound + preload adjustable rear monoshock.

    All the adjusters are easily accessible and require only basic tools - an 8mm socket (or big flat-bladed screwdriver) for rear preload, flat bladed screwdriver for all the damping settings. Could probably get away with using a 20 cent piece for rear preload if you had to.

    On the downside, the front dives a fair amount under heavy braking with the stock suspension setup, though it doesn't really unsettle the bike. On the upside, the dive goes away when the bike's setup to the "firm" recommended settings. Downside, the "firm" settings are indeed "firm" as advertised. Hello sportier handling and dive/squat (and even easier wheelies!). Goodbye plush irregularity-eating comfort. Ho-hum.

    There have been complaints on the Tiger1050.com forums that the rear shock is inadequate for beefy riders with beefy pillions and their beefy attire packed into beefy luggage who still want to scratch corners at beefy hyperspeed while fully beefy loaded. A beefy pity.

    Personally, I found the Tiger handled the pillion-carrying task with aplomb - two 85kg riders on twisty average-condition roads. The rear shock never seemed to struggle or bottom out? Either we both need to eat more Triple Cheeseburger Stunner Meal Deals or I need to ride a whole lot faster. Probably both.

    Speaking of pillioninging - Unlike the VTR250, the Tiger likes passengers. Once my full-size-adult pillion got the hang of his role as passenger, the Tiger was well-suited to the task. Brakes still 30,000 times more than adequate. Motor and clutch totally at ease with the extra 90-odd kilograms. There's a nice-feeling pair of grabrails beside the seat, ala the VFR800. Only the VFR800's grabrails are uncomfortable to hang onto. The Tiger likes passengers.

    Unfortunately Triumph didn't see fit to include a step-ladder to help pillions board the bike, though the underseat storage bin will fit a small packet of tissues for the inevitable nosebleeds.


    2007 Speed Triple's Nissin radial-mounted brakes have found their way onto the bike, steel-braided brakelines and all. Two huge radial-mounted floating discs at the front with four-pot calipers, one at the back with a two-pot caliper. Non-switchable ABS is available as a factory-fitted option, 'n a feature that I went with. Modulation is brilliant - much better than the VTR. Stopping power defies the laws of physics and nearly employed the use of my magical colour-changing undies the first time I really gave them a proper squeeze. This thing stops HOW fast?

    The braking system is not linked - both normal braking and ABS operation are independent front and rear.

    As one might expect from a medium-travel, softly-suspended bike, suspension dive under HARD braking is pretty significant.

    Some folks have complained that the rear ABS cuts in too early. I'm indifferent about whether it's too early or what. I suppose I do feel it "kick" the brake pedal from time to time if I'm unsettling the chassis, but it's no drama - the bike still stops 'as expected', even if it's only rear brake being used.

    More important to me: it's reassuring that in an emergency I'll be able to put my full attention on threat avoidance and modulating the front brake to the best of my human ability, while the computer handles the rear brake modulation to the best of its ability.

    I like the Tiger's brakes. A lot.

    (UPDATE: Spots takes the Tiger onto the dirt and gravel!

    ABS causes mixed feelings for most on loose surfaces, especially first-generation stuff before they sorted things out and bolted better computers to the system.

    I'm pleased to say that the Tiger's ABS works just fine on a typical unpaved road. Deliberately mashing both brakes hard, the bike skids, unsticks for an instant, then skids, unsticks for an instant, then skids, unsticks for an instant.. Pulled up fast e-bloody-nuff for a road bike on sportsbike tyres on a loose surface.

    In fact I'm surprised how much the Tiger was willing to let the front wheel skid for. It really did only unstick the front wheel just enough to maintain control in the dirt.

    The Tiger, for one, stops just fine on any road that a rider would sensibly use it on.)


    Tiger's engine is the same as the current Speed Triple 1050 and Sprint 1050, but detuned from the S3's herculean 135hp to a lazier 115hp. Peak torque comes in a bit sooner. It's not Bandit 1250S freight-train low, but so long as the engine's above 2000-2500rpm the bike cares little about which gear it's in.

    Torque curve is a torque line. Quite flat from 3000rpm to the soft 10,000rpm redline. Officially peak torque is 6250rpm, but I've seen motorcycle reviewers dyno the bike and find a peak at 4500-ish.

    Motorcycle USA's dyno of the Tiger1050 compared to other tall sports-tourers/'road-only'-adventure-tourers
    And the graph for power...

    The engine is amazingly tractable, smooth and almost vibration-free. Tiger's engine has a counterbalancer unlike the S3's version of the 1050, reducing the vibration through the pegs and handlebars to what engineers refer to as 'f*** all'. Certainly nothing compared to the buzziness of the VTR250.

    The sound the engine makes is nice, too. Particularly with the OEM accessory glasspack muffler and accompanying ECU tune. That Triumph triple 'whistle' as you putter around, a Formula 1 howl when opened right up. Superkeen. It's very clean and 'nice' sounding, unlike some of the aftermarket mufflers I've heard on the Tiger 1050. "Tastefully loud", too.

    Speaking of the OEM 'offroad' exhaust - it shaves a few kilos off the bike, brings peak power up to 125 rear-wheel-hp, and adds a few more torques too. I like that it uses the exact same shell as the standard exhaust. It looks (almost) completely stock.

    Tiger 1050 with the OEM 'offroad' exhaust added and airbox silencer removed

    Fuel efficiency is unsurprisingly litrebike. At constant-velocity with the 'offroad' exhaust and tune, the Tiger gets around 5.0L/100km almost irrespective of speed, from 60kph to 120kph anyway. Stop-start urban riding and more aggressive use of the throttle, of course, put a damper on that. ;)

    Long-distance twisty-road hustling brings the bike closer to a fairly consistent 6.0L/100km.

    The Tiger's at its thirstiest by far in stop-start urban traffic, where the litrebike's not using even a fraction of its potential power output and never gets a chance to cruise in 5th or 6th gear.

    Does anyone really need a vehicle with a rider+bike power-to-weight ratio of around 400rwhp/tonne? I don't know, but I like it!


    It would have been nice if Triumph had seen fit to include a sledgehammer with the underseat toolkit for use during the running-in period. Would you believe that I didn't think anyone was serious when they said the Japanese make the best gearboxes? Now I know they were not kidding.

    On the upside, it's been getting better as the kilometres roll by. With 1800km under the Tiger's wheels now, it's a lot less notchy and stiff. Still a bit heavier than the VTR250's lil' gearbox though.

    But hey! At least that w i d e torque band from 3000rpm to redline means you can just leave the bike in third and never bother changing gears again!

    Actuation aside, the gear ratios are spot-on and keep the bike well into the meat of the power curve. 1st gear is a bit short and tops out at 85kph or so, 2nd at 130kph, so you get to do at least one gearshift before you lose your license.

    First gear has a soft redline, too, which is handy given how insanely quick the bike rockets up to (and past) the 10,000rpm red zone in low gears. Sixth is a slight overdrive, though still ticks over at ~4500rpm at freeway speeds.

    Cockpit & Instruments & Doodads

    The Tiger's most dangerous feature is shared with the other "Urban Sports" bikes of Triumph's range. The trip computer and speedo assembly.

    An analog tachometer and a handful of idiot-lights, a digital speedometer and a multifunction LCD display.
    The display does many things!
    * Clock
    * Two tripmeters
    * Distance-since-last-reset
    * Time-running-since-last-reset
    * Range-to-empty
    * Instantaneous fuel consumption
    * Average fuel consumption since last reset
    * Average speed since last reset
    * Maximum speed since last reset <-- GO FOR THE HIGH SCORE

    I'm not a huge fan of the digital speedo, to be honest, given just how amazingly quick these litrebikes are for acceleration. Sneeze and in the half-second it takes to refresh the display you've gone from 90kph to 110. Meh.

    I like the overall attention to detail throughout the bike's design - you know, those "little touches" James May and Hammond talk about. The fit-and-finish is good, and the bike wears these satin-black plastic fairing doobies where your legs hug the fueltank so that you don't scratch the tank. The upside down forks, brakes, fasteners and various bits of trim are all made with nice anodised colours and interesting textures and machined finishes.

    It's nice, especially after owning a bike which had an as-cast finish to its forks and other parts, and metallic paint on the frame that would rub off against one's boots while riding.


    It looks and feels solid, and looks and feels quality. No creaks or squeaks. Heck, the $22000+ORC BMW R1200GS's cheap-feeling plastic parts made all sorts of cheap-sounding plasticy noises when sitting atop it in the shops.

    Hand levers are adjustable for reach with a 4-way dial adjuster thingy for each. The clutch lever is sacrificially pre-notched in case you drop the bike on the left side, so there's no need to drill holes in it yourself.

    Almost all of the accessories are really well integrated with the design of the bike (though some of them shouldn't be accessories at this price point, frankly, particularly $30 items like the GPS power connector and auxiliary power socket).

    Speaking of those sockets - the bike's wiring harness is pre-wired for them! You take the accessory kit home, take a few covers off and plug the new accessory kit in. How easy is that?! Sure beats having to hack apart the loom yourself in the quest for accessory power.

    Onnnn the other hand, I really hate that there's so much wonderful attention to detail and yet sometimes they totally drop the ball.

    Since the Tiger shares parts with other Triumphs, sometimes the execution doesn't make total sense. Case in point, the Trip Computer. It makes sense on the Speed Triple, where the tripcomputer is right in front of you... but on the Tiger it's a pain having to take your left hand off of the handlebars and r-e-a-c-h forward between the mirrors to toggle basic tripmeter functions.

    A few folks on Tiger1050.com have hacked the "passing" highbeam trigger to be an auxiliary button for the trip meter instead. I like that idea.

    The headlights, too - I really like these projector lamps. With the angular 'slit' headlights they look like a pair of eyes, befitting of the animalistic moniker. They project an even, precise spread of light. The high-beam transforms the Tiger into a fully-operational Death Star as a tightly-focussed pencil highbeam lances through the darkness ahead-and-slightly-to-the-left without spreading too far into oncoming lanes.


    But I hate them too! They're almost universally poorly-aimed from factory and aim far too low at the ground (source: Tiger1050.com and my own bike), requiring (easy to do) owner adjustment after taking delivery. And the precise spread of light is a fatal flaw for night twisty-road riding - Unlike a traditional incandescent headlight there's no 'leakage' of light at all. Lean the bike into a turn and what was nicely lit a moment before becomes literally pitch black. Dangerous!!

    I intend to fit some nicely 'leaky', wide-angle auxiliary lights in the near future to compensate.

    Windshield is a perfect height for me, placing the air just above my shoulders. Unfortunately the flow is rather turbulant and buffets most riders. Stock windshield is not adjustable, unlike the cheaper V-strom. I intend to replace the shield.

    As a package?

    It's good. Really good. Worth the money, though not without minor niggles that could be addressed with a good farkle or two.

    You survey the world from the comfortable cockpit of this high-altitude grand-touring fighter-bomber of a bike, literally gazing down on other road-users as you browse for threats an hazards. Within the wrap of your right palm, the burly slightly-detuned power of a Speed Triple at your beck and call; at your fingertips and toes, the ludicrously powerful brakes of the same, yet none of the hyperbike discomfort or impracticality.

    The duality of this bike's practical comfort and power-wheelies-in-1st-and-2nd hooligan streak amuse me to no end every time I ride it. How can something so sensible and tame be so stupidly fast and stupidly fun?

    Reading older reviews, motorcycle magazines hailed ... You know what? I can't do this anymore.

    The Tiger's one hell of a cat. Docile as a kitten on catnip. Quick as a scalded cheetah! It prowls through urban streets with a predatory stare from its slit-like projector headlamp eyes, ready to pounce. The engine is delightfully purr-worthy, content to slink around at low enginespeeds and with a glorious rrrowr at higher rpm!

    The Tiger 1050 really is the cat's meow.
  2. Well that's just a fookin' great review sir. Cheers for that!
  3. Hopefully not too TL;DR. :grin:
  4. A brief addendum:

    Some of you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned offroad performance in the above review.

    With the Tiger1050's release, Triumph have declared the Tiger officially 'onroad only' and have aimed the design more sharply towards street performance.

    I suppose that's a disappointment for those of us who'd like to emulate Ewen McKenobi without being a total copycat 'n buying an R1200GS, but it was often thought that the older Tiger was a "just because you 'can', doesn't mean you should" bike when it comes to going offroad.

    Think of the 1050 as more of a V-strom: It's really only meant for onroad use, but reviewers and riders alike have found it's actually quite excellent on unpaved surfaces as far as heavy 1-litre adventure tourers go. And, indeed, SW-Motech makes a host of ruggedising parts for the Tiger1050 - crashbars and sumpguards. "Just because you shouldn't, doesn't mean you can't".

    Good luck finding proper knobblies for the 17" front and 19" back wheel stolen off of some unsuspecting RR bike though. ;)
  5. Very nice review indeed. I'll never be tall enough for one, but anyone who is (that 6'8" dude who was asking about learner bikes?) has plenty of info here on which to make a choice... and the rest of us have a very entertaining read.
  6. Great review, well done.

    I just took the 1050 for a demo last weekend in the form of a Speed Triple. Wow ! Suffice to say my 14 is now on the market. Triumph, here we come ! :grin:
  7. Thanks for the great detailed review.

    Triumph have been hitting the mark lately. Their triple engines work so, so well. Got some cluey people on the rest of the bike design team and they've been pumping out motorcycling gems. They're definitely not like yer typical UJM bikes. They do things a little differently, but they are superb bikes.
  8. Very interesting review, Spots!

    I've never fully erased the Tiger from my 'items of interest' list, even when an ride on an early 885 model proved disappointing. What Triumph don't get right the first time, they usually seem to keep working on until they end up with a winner.

    Now I'm gonna have to BS someone into offering me a test just to see how it compares with the 950SM. Kinda the same sort of bike in some respects, if not all. I'll cheerfully admit that the one thing I'm sure that the Tiger exceeds it at will be the motor. I do miss that triple.
  9. That is a top rate real-world review Spots. Well done.

    Shame they tempered the motor from the speed triple version though but most other things sound like she is a great ride.
  10. Interestingly, aside from the counterbalancer in the Tiger's motor, the Speed Triple (135hp), Sprint ST (125hp?) and Tiger (115hp) motors are mechanically identical, right down to the camshafts.

    The detuning is, it seems, by airbox, exhaust and ECU only.

    With the 'offroad' exhaust and the ECU tune that comes with it, the Tiger's brought back up to 125hp at the flywheel, and by the looks of things on Tiger1050.com the 'offroad' fuelmap is a little rich once the bike leaves closed-loop mode, so no doubt it's possible to squeeze a few more ponies out with some intake work and ECU tuning. :grin:
  11. Top review mate
  12. Excellent review Spots! Always wanted one a Tiger, the price is the only thing holding me back.... maybe one day.

    Just a quick Q - how tall are you? Do you find it comfortable to sit on when stationary?
  13. I'm 6'4 with a 35" inseam from crotch-to-floor. (I like lazy Sunday mornings, motorsport, photography...)

    The standard seat is very comfortable for me, though I must admit that I sometimes quietly imagine what the optional taller seat would be like on longer rides. I can comfortably flat-foot it with both feet down, though much taller and I'd have trouble.

    "When stationary" is an interesting question actually - When sitting on the bike in the shop making 'vrroom!' noises, I found that the seat dug into the inner thigh of the leg I used to prop the bike up. A few reviewers have mentioned it too.

    But it's never reared itself when actually riding - both in my testride and in the last few weeks of ownership. Dangle a leg down at the lights and it doesn't 'dig in' at all - I guess because after a bit of riding your body's seated itself properly. Best to take it for a testride and see for yourself. :)
  14. "...and loves cats"?? :p

    I'm 6' and have seen a couple around on the road recently and they looked quite high compared to my DR650. The Triumph website has the seat height at 835mm compared to 885mm for the DR which surprised me.
  15. Yeah, theoretically the seat is quite low (and is advertised as such! hah!), though the width of the seat eats up a bit of leg length.

    There's even an optional low-seat for the Tiger for normal-height riders who, not content with being able to ride every normal-size sportsbike on the market, selfishly want to intrude into our "must be THIS tall to ride" club. :p :LOL:

    I don't know what it is, really - I rode beside an R1200GS just last weekend and the Tiger dwarfs even them, or feels like it does anyway.

    If I had to guess, I'd say that it's because the Tiger doesn't sag anywhere near as much as a long-travel trailbike when the rider climbs aboard.
  16. I see in your profile there is a tiger atop your bike....very interesting :grin:

    Awesome review, really enjoyed reading it!
  17. That's my domesticated pet cheetah, actually. He'd love to ride, but nobody makes armour for his tail. ;)

    I'll have to get some photos of myself on the bike when a friend comes over, to show the legroom. :) Silly cat can't operate my camera.
  18. Thanks Spots, great review

    I tend to think the Adventure bike tag is thrown about a bit too loosely, IMHO, this is a Sports Tourer with a bit of extra suspension travel (like the Multistrada). And why didn't they have the KTM 950/990 in the torque comparison :?

    I don't believe you can compare it to the Strom either, which at least gives a 19" front wheel some off road stability.

    But what would I know, I love the 955i model, and sales of the new one are already way past the old :wink:

    Your comments regarding the suspension were spot on, there are sportier models, but what use are they on your favourite patched on patched backroad to nowhere in particular :cool:

    Enjoy and look forward to some pics out in the wild :cool:
  19. Argh, the internet ate my post. I'll quickly re-write...

    I agree entirely - especially if the definition for "adventure touring" is set at the sort of up-to-the-axles-in-mud/sand extreme offroading that Ewen McKenobi and Charlie Wheelieman made famous (much to the dismay of oldskool adventurers everywhere).

    I wouldn't call the Tiger 1050 (or Multistrada) an adventure-tourer. Especially not when there's a few design decisions that would make it risky to use on deep sand or mud. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to take it on any unpaved road, or maybe even a fire-access road on a good day in good conditions. A few 1050 owners have already proven that it's capable of just that, as have a few overexuberant reviewers who disagree with Triumph's "no more offroad!" decision. :LOL:

    In the end, though, I think medium-travel sportstouring bikes like the Tiger 1050 and Multistrada are the 'next step' in making hyperbikes more realistic for real-world pavement-pounding. Finishing off what the naked sportsbikes started with their upright position and detuned race-replica engines. Either that or they're the first step in making supermotos into 200kg-dry-weight touring bikes. :LOL:

    I stole the dyno graphs from Motorcycle USA's 2007 'Adventure Touring' comparo, where they only tested the R1200GS (non-adventure), Tiger 1050, V-strom 1000 and Multistrada. They openly admit at the start that the comparison's a bit more "all-roads" biased than "offroad", and I think it shows in the bike selection.

    The 2006 Adventure Touring Comparo has the KTM 950 Adventure, and is much much more biased toward offroad performance. :) No Tiger 1050 though, as it was only just about to roll off the production line then. Sadly no torque/power graphs in that comparison... Nor in the KTM's individual review. Hmmph.

    Yeah, fair point. :) There's a lot more 'real world' evidence that the Strom can be coaxed into going offroad, and a lot more aftermarket support for ruggedising the bike to do so. I still don't think of it in the same league as the "real" adventure bikes though. :)
  20. Well written. informative, funny and well thought out. I'm not in the market for this type of bike but I do enjoy a good read so make sure you throw some lines down once you've had a chance to go for a long ride - preferably over the alps into Vic. Those roads would give you some great material.