Ridden! Triumph Tiger 900 Rally

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Words By Gary Hartshome

With BMW celebrating 40 years of development with the GS and almost every manufacturer jumping on the Adventure bike bandwagon in recent years, it’s a big ask for manufacturers to compete with the mighty German behemoth. So, will Triumph’s latest effort get close? As a GS owner and rider myself I tend to judge a bike on whether I’d swap my GS for it. Firstly, this bike has a key, it’s not keyless! Thank you, Triumph. Why some motorcycles are keyless, I really don’t know. Keyless on motorcycles should be banned. As we set off up the A1 for a 45-minute motorway stint, the comfort of the much smaller, lighter and more manoeuvrable Triumph was instantly apparent.

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally

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The ergonomics on this bike are almost perfect. The bars are high, the pegs are low, but not too low to limit ground clearance, and the seat is the most comfortable I’ve sat on for a while. It wasn’t until a couple of hours into the journey to the Lakes that I even thought of stopping for a numb bum break. The gearbox and quick shifter combination went together like Torville and Dean; it’s super-smooth and accurate and you do really only need to use the clutch to pull away and stop. At 6ft 1in, wind buffeting is often an issue for me but the adjustable screen – which can be done on the move – did minimise turbulence, but didn’t cut it out.

Handling-wise, the 900 Tiger is poised, but does seem to dive quite dramatically under heavy braking and the four-pot Brembos were snatchy at times, meaning a more planned approach to fast riding was needed to smooth it out. Once you’ve learned to ride around this, the Tiger becomes a really enjoyable bike to ride, and one where you can really munch the miles in the twisties with relative ease. The three-cylinder engine has more than enough punch and torque to keep gear changes to a minimum and make overtaking a breeze. Having said that, you might want to change gear as that gearbox is so damn good. As with most bikes now, TFT screens and countless menus seem to be the norm, and usually a degree in computer science is required just to turn the heated grips on. However, the Triumph’s control nest on the left bar was simple and easy, the screen informative and easy to follow on the move. There are literally just two buttons, one to go to the menu, and an easy-touse joystick to navigate around the menus – just be mindful that the indicator switch is directly above the joystick, so be sure to not get them mixed up.

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During the trip we did manage to tackle a few gravel off-road sections, with some very off-camber sections thrown in to boot. On the first section we did I forgot to stop and switch to off-road Rally mode, which left the traction control and the electronic wizardry switched on. Big mistake. With off-roading you need to spin the rear, get it turned with the rear, but the TC literally stifled anything you tried to do with it, even to the point where it cut out so viciously it nearly threw me over the bars. After realising my error, I stopped and set the bike to Rally mode. Oh my, what a difference. Now it feels like a proper off-road bike. I can spin it, I can turn it, and all of a sudden I’m in my element. Standing up, the bike feels like a good fit (although some small bar risers would have helped), and the bike responded to the input given.

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally dash

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Whilst sat down, the Enduro-style seat, which goes up and into the tank, allowed the bodyweight to be moved forward to help search for grip with the Bridgestone A41s under braking on loose surfaces, and you could effortlessly slide back to find that rear grip under heavy throttle inputs on corner exits. Through ruts where we had to sit down and paddle, the Tiger is narrow enough to move the legs backwards and forwards to keep your balance. Something that can’t be said with the boxer engine as the big pots get in the way and really create a hindrance. Aesthetically, I’m still not convinced with the Tiger design ethos. I can’t decide if I like it or not.

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally front

From the side it looks great, but from the front I’m not so sure. However, this doesn’t detract from what a good bike the Tiger is. It does everything well and it’s good off-road so if your bag is to tour, it will do a good job and give you everything you need. If your bag is to not only tour but also to take in some proper off-road, then the Tiger might just the bike you want to trade your GS in for. Would I trade mine in? I think I just might.

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