Tall boy Ian Kerr goes out with the tall Tiger
Speculation is high in the mainstream motorcycle press about a new Triumph Tiger, that 'according to sources' is to break cover (sic) in 2007.
One publication even reproduced spy shots of the this new animal looking every inch a big Super Moto rather than the Dual Purpose machine it has always been billed as.
Time therefore to have a look at the current '06 model and have a quick look back at its history, just in case the rumours are correct. The Tiger moniker has been around for decades in Triumph's model line-up, but rather than delve too far past the average age of our readership, we will just go back to the early eighties and the end of the original Triumph factory.
At the Paris Show in 1981 they launched the 744cc Triumph Tiger Trail, a proper trail styled motorcycle with an upswept pipe and reasonable off-road pretensions. (This was also produced as a 650, although both models were variations of the then Thunderbird Roadster.) Providing you were a competent rider you could use this bike to explore some of the ancient roads that still cross the UK safe in the knowledge that it would not be too unwieldy.
These and other models though failed to halt the closure of the factory, but by 1990 a whole new modern company under John Bloor, was showing the world a range of bikes very different to those that had come before and there was not a twin cylinder machine in sight!
Come 1993 and the Tiger name once again joined the roll call as a dual purpose machine, however now it was a three cylinder bike with a top half fairing. It looked and still does look like, a bike you would load up with all your worldly goods and set off around the world rather than take down a muddy lane on a Sunday trail ride.
Certainly the weight had increased from the 174kg of the twins and at 209kg you would need to be a rider of exceptional ability to control such a porcine bike on the rough. The bike was tall and the weight was carried high to go with the increased ground clearance demanded by the style.
Despite the scepticism of some of the media at the time about the relevance of such a machine, it has endured to this day with various up-dates and modifications that included a move to the 955i motor at the turn of the century. It now sits firmly amongst the big trailies from all the various manufacturers, beating them all on price.
So without speculating too much on the future, let's look at what we have now. It is big bike powered by the firm's 955i in-line three cylinder liquid cooled motor complete with DOHC's. It is obviously detuned, so instead of the big numbers attached to the sports Daytona, it pumps out 104 bhp, enough to get it to just short of 140 mph if you are in the right place!
However, as we all know it is not about high speeds, it is more the way it gets there and the useable power for real world riding and legal speed limits. Here the bike is very good and well on a par with the competition, although the power delivery is clinically efficient rather than exciting as with some similar bikes from other factories.
The all black coated motor, which incidentally makes it very easy to clean in inclement weather, is mounted in a twin-spar steel-tubed frame with the weight sitting quite high. This actually has a benefit in that it makes the bike respond quite quickly when cornering by dropping easily into the bends.
Quite how well it would behave on the rough I don't know as the odd gravel unmade road was the limit of my test as there is now too much body work and panniers to risk damaging, especially as it now weighs in at 215kg.
Besides, the wheel sizes are now a 19 front and 17-inch rear and the tyres are the now accepted trail bike style compromise, so serious dirt going, should be avoided!
While on the subject, the panniers are now standard fare, as are the heated grips and hand guards, the latter two items being superb in inclement and cold weather. The offside pannier is limited thanks to the high level exhaust running behind, or should it be through it, but there is some useful space left.
The large tank helps deflect the wind blast around your legs and the small screen does a reasonable job at the front, although personally I would look for an aftermarket one that is a little wider and higher! Comfort levels though are good and the stepped seat will easily allow you to run the 200 plus miles range of the tank without any discomfort.
But, this is not just a long distance hauler it is actually quite a versatile machine. In town its tall seat height (also adjustable if it is not tall enough!) allows you to easily pick a path through the congestion, but if this is a regular journey, the panniers are best removed to slim things down a bit!
The excellent lock to lock and well balanced stance at walking pace makes threading through the commuting crocodile a doddle. However, the engine does get a little warm if you cannot keep the bike moving!
Head out to the twistier country lanes and the bike is quite good fun and can be hustled through the bends fast enough to put a big grin on your face. The suspension is relatively soft and wallowy, so if you push too hard it lets you know, but it is good enough for you to maintain a high average. There is preload and rebound adjustment on the rear if you want to try and dial the bike into your riding style so you can push a little harder.
The brakes are adequate and competent rather than exceptional and you do need to retune your brain to use four-finger braking, especially when fully loaded with a pillion. It is probably back to the idea that this is still a dual purpose bike and could end up over-braked on the rough if it had a system taken straight from a sports bike on the range.
There is certainly no deficiency in the lighting department and the twin headlights easily light every corner of unlit roads. This allows you to continue to your destination at a reasonable pace whatever the lighting conditions you encounter.
Another big plus is the fact that the bike is still fitted with a centre stand, which makes chain adjustment an easy routine task and easily achievable when away from home. It also means loading panniers and general machine stability when parked is a less risky business. (In case you are worried that this will dig in on the corners, you will need to be a very long way over for it to catch!)
So taking all things into consideration, currently what Triumph have is an excellent all rounder that could easily be classed as a tourer as much as a Dual Purpose bike. It will deal easily with uneven road surfaces, or unmade roads as found on the Continent, but the Dakar is probably a non starter, as will this bike be if you are short on inside leg inches!
While some bikes in the same category like the BMW GS and KTM Adventure may score higher marks in some areas, the Tiger beats all-comers on price. In standard trim it costs just £6,999 which is nearly £2,000 under BMW 1200GS, which means you can spend money on a few tweaks before heading off around the world proudly flying the British flag!