Triumph Tiger 1050

 

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Engine: 1050cc, liquid cooled in-line 3-cylinder.
Maximum power: 114 bhp @ 9,400 rpm
Maximum torque: 100 Nm @ 6,250 rpm
Brakes: front twin 320mm discs with 4-piston radial callipers rear single 225 mm disc.
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, chain final drive.
Dry weight: 198 kg.
Seat height: 835 mm.
Tank capacity: 20 litres
Price: £7,499

At the Intermot motorcycle fair in Cologne, the head of BMW Motorrad, Dr Herbert Diess, confessed to me his admiration for Triumph's "excellent" 1,050cc three-cylinder engine. It was high praise from a competitor, but Dr Diess is right. This unit delivers class-leading performance in the Speed Triple naked roadster and Sprint ST sports tourer. So I was not astonished when Triumph decided to install it in its versatile Tiger model as well.

The original 1993 Tiger was an 885cc twin. In 2001, it was expanded to 955cc but remained essentially the same motorcycle. The 2007 version has little in common with either of them. Its upgraded engine sits at the heart of a total redesign that elevates the Tiger to a fresh level of sophistication. The look is razor-sharp and coolly modern. Its predecessors masquerade as multi-surface adventure tourers - though neither possesses off-road ability. The new Tiger abandons pretence. This is a pure road bike, conceived to be at home on motorways, rural switchbacks or prowling through the concrete jungle.

Versatility is the key. For dedicated tourers who want the creamy smoothness of that big triple-pot, the Sprint ST offers tremendous value. The Speed Triple exploits its raw power to exhilarating effect. So, on the roads between Marbella and Ronda, in southern Spain, I set out to discover whether the new Tiger is a cat for all seasons.

It rained and it rained and it rained. Giant toads lolloped at the roadside and the traffic was gridlocked from Marbella to San Pedro de Alcantara. My first five miles were spent filtering between densely packed cars, whose drivers fulminated, smoked and made no attempt to check their mirrors. Conclusion? The Tiger filters like a dream. The twin-spar aluminium frame that replaces the heavier steel version on its predecessor renders it charmingly balanced at low speed. The centre of gravity is low, and forward vision over the large screen excellent.

Within yards, I was sneaking between lanes at 40mph, and easily circumnavigating those myopic drivers whose unconscious efforts to murder bikers can be so alarming. The big twin-projector headlight even helped a few to notice me.

Town capability was proven, so I headed up the sumptuous stretch of twisting, climbing tarmac on the A397, through the Sierra Palmitera, to the 1,112m-high pass at Puerto de La Nava. Two observations: modest tweaking has maximised the engine's torque delivery. Climbing power up steep inclines punctuated by hairpin bends was excellent. The Tiger pulls from 25mph in fifth gear, and from 30mph in sixth. By holding it in its hugely flexible third ratio, I was able to ride for miles without changing gear.

The latest generation Keihin electronic engine management allows exceptional throttle control. With water cascading across the road into Ronda, mud and rocks on many corners, and goats roaming, I needed it. The Tiger never faltered. Tyre adhesion was excellent under fierce provocation, and the broad seat kept me relaxed and comfortable. My BMW Streetguard riding suit kept the water out, even though big raindrops were bouncing off my chest at a collision speed above 100mph.

Triumph says that the Tiger is ideal for two-up touring. It is certainly dependable, unthreatening and massively powerful in the most demanding of conditions. My suspicion is that it is extremely fast as well. I have to say suspicion because the weather throughout my test ride was so abysmal that simply seeing the road was difficult. Attempting to push this 114bhp motorcycle as I would have liked was impossible. It feels as if it has the handling of a proper sports bike, but that must remain a suspicion until I get the chance to thrash a Tiger round a racetrack. I have few doubts that it will relish such treatment.

On the AP7 motorway between Nueva Andalucia and Marbella, I was able to check other enhancements. The new windscreen offers protection from buffeting at speeds above 90mph. The instrument panel combines analogue rev counter with digital speedometer. There are instant and average fuel- consumption readings, a proper fuel gauge and a clock. The new Tiger is a lovely looking and practical all-rounder powered by one of the finest motorcycle engines there is. It can reach 150mph and has a tank range of more than 200 miles. Where climatic conditions permit, it probably handles beautifully. Until then, I can confirm that this cat isn't afraid of water.

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