2007 Triumph Tiger 1050

Rule Brittania! Triumph’s fuel-injected 1050 c.c. triple is powerful, fuel-efficient and one of the sweetest powerplants in motorcycling.

If life were perfect, we motorcyclists would own a fleet of bikes.  There would be one luxury tourer, something along the lines of a Honda Gold Wing, for that coast-to-coast trip on the Trans-Canada highway you’ve always wanted to take; a light weight, flickable sport bike for blitzing the serpentine roads tucked away in the B.C. Kootenays; and an urban assault vehicle with an upright seating position and long-suspension travel to soak up the city’s gaping potholes.

Unless you’ve just won Lotto 649, possessing such a fleet isn’t likely.  That means you need one, single, do-it-all motorcycle.  The ‘all-rounder’, as the Brits like to say.  And it is the all-rounder market Triumph has re-focused its corporate sights on with the all-new-for-2007 Tiger 1050.

Gone are any pretensions of fitting into the ‘adventure-sport’ category-motorcycling’s equivalent to SUVs.  The new Tiger 1050 has a new, “street-only “ mission.  The biggest changes from the old Tiger are a 17-in. front wheel, a larger engine (1050 c.c.) mated to a new aluminum frame

Stylistically, the Tiger’s new look is a vast improvement over the previous version. Slanted, dual ‘cat eye’ headlights dominate the small fairing, fashionable clear lens signal lights are standard, gold-coloured fork sliders add a touch of bling to the front suspension, and the high-mount muffler is a vestigial carryover from when the Tiger was designed to take on off-road duty.

Our demo Tiger 1050 was ABS-equipped, and its pricing (MSRP $14,999) places it in competition with other adventure-tourers:  the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 (MSRP $11,999), Ducati Multistrada 1100 (MSRP $14,995), and the BMW R1200GS ABS (MSRP $19,500).  Also fitted were Triumph accessories (a touring windscreen, magnetic tank bag, and low saddle.)

The Tiger’s fuel-injected triple-cylinder engine starts instantly.  The bike’s wet clutch has a slightly heavy pull, but engages progressively.  The bike’s ergonomics are excellent with a bolt upright seating position, offering plenty of legroom between the saddle and footpegs, and reaching for the high, wide handlebars feels perfectly natural.  Our test unit came with the optional ‘low’ saddle, but it’s still a tall machine.  I’m 5’8” and the Tiger had me balancing on my toes.  Throttle action is light but very sensitive to even the slightest movement, making it a challenge to maintain a constant speed when riding over bumps.  The clutch and brake levers are adjustable, but even when set closest to the handlebars, the reach felt long.   The 6-speed transmission shifts smoothly, but with a hint of stiffness.  Presumably, the transmission action will get easier as the bike accumulates more miles and eventually ‘breaks in’.

We tested the Tiger on a 1,000 kilometer day trip on the twisting roads around Bragg Creek and through Kananaskis Country.  Our Tiger’s suspension had been set up for a track day and a tool is required to adjust the rear suspension, so we didn’t make any changes and toured on it set up ‘hard’.  Surprisingly, the ride was quite acceptable.

On the highway, the Triumph ‘touring’ windshield does a decent job of protecting most of the rider’s upper torso.  This is obviously no Gold Wing, but the windshield and small fairing divert most of the wind blast.  The low saddle feels like a hard rubber brick on first impression, but it is flat and offers plenty of room to move around on.  It’s not plush, but after two hours, I was surprised the saddle caused no discomfort.  I’d use the OEM ‘low’ saddle without hesitation for a cross-Canada jaunt.

Riding at a brisk sport touring pace in 6th gear, the engine is in the fat part of the power band and smooth.  Passing requires simply rolling on the throttle and the Tiger accelerates satisfyingly hard.  The mirrors provide a good view, but blur a touch.  But the Triumph’s instrument panel is merely okay.  Call me old school, but the digital speedometer is frustrating, ‘flickering’ up and down in 1-3 kph increments.  I ended up watching the tach needle to monitor my speed.  There are two tripmeters, but the designers blew it by using digital readouts that are small and hard to see, and to reset them, you have to push simultaneously two tiny dash-mounted buttons.  It’s fiddly, and you can’t do it while riding.  There’s an on-board computer that gives real time fuel consumption, estimated fuel range and a clock.  To scroll through the computer’s readouts, you have to push another tiny, dash-mounted button, and you can’t reach the button while riding.  Moto Guzzi has a superior solution.  On the Breva, the button that controls the computer readout is mounted on the handlebar.

In the big picture, these are niggling deficiencies that detract only slightly from the true ‘goodness’ of the overall package.  The Tiger 1050 has a lot going for it:  A comfortable riding position; a torquey, soulful 3-cylinder engine; superb fuel-efficiency (we obtained 52-58 mpg); handling that’s light and quick on the twisty bits, yet stable on the highway; and the availability of numerous OEM accessories (such as hard luggage and heated grips) that easily transforms the bike into a sport tourer.

Finally, the Tiger trumps its European rivals in pricing and maintenance costs.  The ABS-equipped Tiger’s MSRP is $14,995 (the same price as a Ducati Multistrada 1100 which is not available with ABS, and $4,500 dollars less expensive than the ABS-equipped BMW R1200GS.)  The Triumph also requires valve adjustment every 20,000 kms, bettering the Ducati and BMW by a long shot.  Add to that mix the desirability of the legendary Triumph brand and the Tiger 1050 has to be considered as one of the most desirable do-it-all motorcycles on the market today.

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