Triumph Tiger 1050 Test Ride and Review

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So, back when I bought the Suzuki V-Strom, what I was really after was a tall, comfortable road bike that was fun to ride. I had no delusions of it being a dirt bike. Well, maybe a little delusion…but a couple of dirt rides over some pretty gnarly terrain cured me of that right quick. Yet, the VStrom is a phenomenal road bike and with some money spent on suspension upgrades, I had it set up just right for burning up the canyons. Yet, something just wasn’t right. No doubt a fine motorcycle, it just didn’t sing to me as a motorcycle should. All function, little form. And flat out ugly. I knew that going in. Damn ugly. But it worked so well…

More than one CanyonChaser has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new 1050 Tiger. We’ll not hide the fact that we’ve grown quite fond of Triumph motorcycles, not only do they have the newest motorcycle production facility, they also seem to build bikes built for real-world riding – the real-world that we live in. While we spend more time at the track, that time has only proven how little time we ride on perfect roads and under perfect conditions and reinforced the importance of bikes that can handle the rigors of pot-holes, straight roads, urban speed limits and unassuming appearances that do not draw undue attention from law enforcement. Bikes that are too specialized, like the thoroughbred sport-bike, are best left to closed courses.

Triumph Tiger 1050 Test Ride and Review

Every now and then, I’d get the bug to go out and look at other bikes. Still seeking the same mix of comfort and performance, I looked at just about everything. The BMW R1200GS was definitely cool, but over-engineered and overpriced. A test ride didn’t really do anything for me. Plus, I kept hitting my shins on the cylinder heads, which quickly overshadowed the ‘tech-ness’ of a road side valve adjustment. The Buell Ulysses has some neat concepts with the belt drive, oil in swing-arm, fuel in frame stuff, and has a pretty tough look to it. But sit as a stoplight over that idling vtwin and the boys will feel like that executive desk tool where the swinging steel balls thwack into each other in near perpetual motion. The seat was very high, which for me is good, but the bike is so short in wheelbase that I felt like I’d fall over the handlebars. Again, the test ride was uninspiring. The KTM 990? Have a rest on that brick of a seat yourself…no thanks. Not that these aren’t fine motorcycles, but not for me.

Enter the 2007 Triumph Tiger. Tigers of yore (yore of 2006 and earlier) were very much the adventure bike in the vein of the BMW, KTM and Vstrom; a tall, gangly dirt bike with looks that only their owners could love. The older Tiger never appealed to me, so with 2006 news of a drastic redesign that would bring the dirty Tiger out of the Adventure Tourer market and place it right in the Tall Comfy Sportbike market…my market…I was excited and looking forward to seeing pictures. As the first “spy shots” made their way out, things were looking pretty good. Still the “sit up and beg” riding posture, a bit more ‘svelt’ design, 17″ front wheel with street shoes and the highly touted 1050 Triple bred for the Speed Triple and Sprint ST. Yowza.

First things first, I did a quick walk around, kicking the tires and picked out features on the bike. The top triple clamp is stunning looking, which has been a nice trend in the motorcycle industry. Seems like the flat, plain aluminum planks of yesteryear are going away and being replaced by much more clever alternatives.

Beneath the seat the battery lays on its side, which I found to be quite strange, but with sealed batteries, why would it matter really? Additionally, there is a lot of extra bolt length, like on the sub-frame and whatnot. If one was obsessed with weight, which I don’t know why anybody buying this bike would be, a fair bit of poundage could be alleviated with a couple hours and a grinder.

Looking around the back of the bike I was a bit surprised by the placement of the rear brake caliper. It appears to be a bit “out in the wind” and exposed to damage. But remembering that this bike is not at all intended for any kind of off-road duties, I’d imagine the placement will more or less aid rear tire removal more than anything else.

Triumph Tiger 1050 Handlebars

The biggest hindrance for someone of my stature is going to be the height. I’m 5’7” and found it to be quite a reach to get my toes onto the ground – and even then it was only my toes. Triumph offers a shorter seat that is 2mm shorter than the OEM version that I think most dealerships would be wise to have one on hand to slip onto bikes to facilitate the sale of more Tigers and more seats. The Ducati Multistrada feels much shorter than the new Tiger, and it was too tall for the 5’5” Kris to confidently get her feet, or foot rather, to terra firma.

So, those first rounds of pictures had my senses heightened quite a bit. Before too long, the rumored redesign was confirmed reality, and the motorcycle press was spreading the news of unveilings and test rides. The new pictures were even more impressive. The final product, in four colors (sorry, “colours”) had my mouth watering to see it in person. Back in early February of ’07, a friend and I stopped by Accolade Motorsports (Salt Lake’s Triumph dealer, also a peddler of BMW, KTM, and MVAgusta) to do some mid-winter tire kicking. After hearing in the parking lot that they had the new Tiger, I made a beeline for the showroom. The one Tiger sitting in the shop in all its Scorched Yellow glory was unfortunately not available for test rides. But a test sit had me well along to the next step of infatuation with this bike. Trying not to get any drool on the tank, I spent a good 30 minutes or more looking at every detail and liking what I saw. With a demo model expected to arrive within the week, I gave the sales guy my email address and set to patiently waiting.

Triumph TIger 1050 Rear Wheel

The next weekend rolled around and I had my appointment for a test ride on a dry Saturday morning. Letting the clutch out and rolling through the parking lot, I got myself comfortable, adjusted the mirrors for a better look at my elbows and made my way to the street. Rolling through the Stop sign (who stops at a stop sign in front of a motorcycle shop?), I accelerated quickly through first and second and headed down towards the freeway on a 20 minute or so test ride of joy. I had ridden a 955 triple in the form of a Sprint ST before, and while I thought it was nice, I wasn’t blown away, but the 1050 rocks. All the good of the 955, but with just a bit more. Well, 95 more to make it 1050 – math, get it?. Plus some evolution of technology, of course. The Tiger pulled hard in any gear, accelerated like an electrical motor with no peaky power or flat spots. On my way back to the dealer, I was contemplating how much I could get for my VStrom and the neglected VFR in the garage. And what color my new Tiger would be. You know how it is. Motorcycles are not logical decisions. If I wanted practical, I’d buy a pickup. The Tiger told my butt to tell my brain that if it couldn’t have a triple, it was leaving me for another…

As soon as you get rolling though, you forget all about how far away the ground is and marvel at the bikes immediate stability! Unlike the KTM Adventure and GS1150/1200 that feels somewhat like a lumbering, lanky giant, the Tiger felt more elegant. And the power of the 1050 motor is – well, let’s just say this isn’t your dads 955i Triumph. Holy Cow! The power was tabletop smooth and predictable, but enough of it to give you that Wookie-pulling-your-arms-out-of –your-sockets sensation when you spin the throttle too hard. The 17-inch wheels give it a true sportbike feel with sportbike turning traits. The bike is very willing to change direction at speed and encourages enough hooliganism to keep even the most stoic rider entertained.

Triumph Tiger 1050 Front Brake Lines

Taking the same ride route that Mike took, I soon found myself on a very desolate, behind the airport, road that was completely empty with the exception of a series of tight and sweeping corners. The motor was calling to me and I gave it quite a go and without saying anything that would damage our rapport with Accolade motorsports, we’ll simply state that the bike has no high-speed stability issues whatsoever. But I did have a very big grin! Fortunately, its very easy to reset the meters that record all the cool bike data.

Once at the end of my road, I was a bit lost and had to pull off a couple tight u-turns and found where I’ll find consternation when making tight turns on tall bikes, the Tigers sweeping steering stops gave me the confidence to whip off some MSF instructor caliber u-turns. Us CanyonChasers find u-turn-ability to be a very important trait in a motorcycle.

On the ride back, I had more time to think about the neutral and flexible riding posture, grundles of ample ground clearance (allowing for a lower seating position) and what I’d change about the bike; the handlebars were a bit too tall and too far back for my liking. A Seven-Eights pro-taper bar would easily solve that. The mirrors were working great, I could actually see what was behind me and the engine vibration was minimal, as I would have expected from a Triumph Triple.

Back at the ranch, I sadly relinquished my key to the salesman, a friend of mine, then fought off the heavy-handed sales pitch, while I was contemplating mortgaging off the dog and possibly holding the neighbor’s cat for ransom. But while I’m still completely satisfied with my current Triple, it is very likely that the new 1050 Tiger will fill its slot in the garage when the time comes. The bike is really that good!

The following week saw me out of town. Which meant a lot of Googling Tiger pictures and deciding on a color. When I first saw the Scorched Yellow in pictures, it looked really yellow to me, and I didn’t care for it. But in person, the yellow became a deep, slightly metallic gold. A very rich color that I liked immediately. I was torn between the black and the gold. But it didn’t take long to lean towards Scorched Yellow. For a few reasons, not the least of which is that there was one in the shop that I could pick up when I got home, I called Sales Guy and put a deposit on my new Scorched Yellow Tiger!

Triumph Tiger 1050 with Ventura Rack

I got a ride up to the dealer on Saturday, check in hand and, after some paperwork, rode out on my new Tiger. It’s been 3 weeks and 500 miles as I write this, so I now feel somewhat qualified to offer up an opinion. I like it. A lot. The first thing I did once I had it in the garage was to roll the handlebars forward just a bit. They were a bit too low and close for my liking as set up by the dealer. The added benefit was to lift the mirrors up a bit, which got my elbows out of the picture and the road behind me into it. The suspension components are a good bit nicer than most Japanese bike owners (with the exception of the true race-bred machines) may be used to. Three-way adjustable in the front (one fork rebound, one compression plus preload on both similar to the Kawasaki Z1000 – it sounds funky but it works fine) and two-way in the rear with rebound damping and preload. The preload on the monoshock is an easy adjustment with a screwdriver rather than a collar and locknut set that invariably results in busted knuckles and colorful language. The seat is also remarkably comfortable for a stocker. It’s wide and accommodating, and the pilot’s perch is long enough to let you move around and get comfy.

Triumph Tiger 1050 with Ventura Rack

The instrument cluster is simple and compact, with an analog tach, digital speedo and a trip computer that displays time of day, engine hours, average and current miles per gallon, distance to an empty gas tank, average and top speed and a fuel gauge and oil temp gauge. The select buttons are even a reach for my long arms, so it’s best to decide what bit of info from the trip computer that you want while stopped. The windshield is surprisingly good…either that, or I’m just so used to being up and above any protection and getting beaten about, that I don’t notice. Some 1050 Tiger owners report a lot of buffeting behind the stock screen and a touring screen is available from Triumph.

The cable actuated clutch is an easy pull, and the front brake is rock solid as it puts the squeeze on two huge radial mounted calipers. The levers are a bit far from the grips, and those with smaller hands may find a challenge. They are only adjustable to four positions, but that should suit most riders. The rear brake pedal was set up very low, giving me a hard time developing any feel with it. It’s a quick adjustment though to bring it back up to ‘normal.’

After a couple of hundred miles of ‘easy does it,’ I started to let it run a bit and get it on what twisty roads I can find during spring in Utah. I still have some suspension tweaking to do, but so far this thing turns like a champ. The spar frame and braced aluminum swingarm keep the bike planted and stable and the wide bars give the pilot a ton of leverage through the steering head. Being, quite possibly, the easiest U-Turning bike around, pizza delivery on the Tiger will be a breeze.


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