The first Triumph Tiger was a cult classic. And the new version is even better, says Tim Luckhurst

Engine: 955cc, 3-cylinder, liquid cooled
Max power: 104 bhp at 9,500 rpm
Max torque: 67ft/lb at 4,400rpm
Transmission: wet, multi-plate clutch, six-speed gearbox, chain final drive
Fuel capacity: 24 litres
Colours: Available in Jet Black, Caspian Blue or Aluminium Silver
Price: £6,999

Until recently my local dealer considered selling Triumph motorcycles an esoteric sideline, rewarding in patriotic terms but not hugely profitable. Now he dedicates his showroom to the British bikes and can sell as many as he gets.

The pattern is repeated at Triumph dealerships elsewhere, but sometimes it seems even Triumph itself is surprised by the scale of demand. Its class-leading sports tourer, the Sprint ST, is selling faster than the factory can produce them. The assertively macho Speed Triple has captured hearts, too.

But the year's real surprise for strategists at Triumph's headquarters in Hinckley, Leicestershire has been demand for their GT adventure tourer, the Triumph Tiger 955i.

Perhaps it is a case of a British company piggybacking on a competitor's success, but since Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman circumnavigated the globe on their BMW R1200GSs, customers have been clamouring for similar machines. Hinckley planned to build 3,000 of the 2005-model Tiger, but when they had all been sold with seven months of the year remaining they faced a dilemma. It would have been possible to build more, but an enhanced 2006 version was ready. So Triumph launched the 2006 Tiger in May 2005.

The changes are not dramatic. Engine developments already implemented on the Sprint ST and Speed Triple have been built into the Tiger's 955cc three-cylinder engine. The six-speed gearbox has been fitted with a backlash eliminator that does a good job of reducing vibration, and results in smoother, quieter gear changes. Otherwise the revamp is largely cosmetic, involving the re-routing of water hoses, pipe work and wiring. The result looks a lot tidier than its predecessor.

The Tiger has long been a practical and versatile motorcycle. Its reputation as an economical go-anywhere package for riders who use their bikes all year round has turned it into a reliable seller in all Triumph's major markets. And it has just got better.

I rode the 2006 Tiger on winding B-roads, motorways and in town. It is a charming motorcycle that delivers flexible power at exactly the points in the rev-range where real-world riders need it. The Tiger is not a track bike, nor should its trail looks tempt you into using it off-road, but it is at home anywhere else.

Its light clutch and ability to pull smoothly from low revs in high gear make it a treat to ride in urban congestion. On the motorway it reaches 70mph in a blink and pulls through 100mph with ample power in reserve. Wind protection from the modest nose-fairing is good up to about 85mph. Beyond that a tall rider takes a buffeting.

This is a slight flaw because the Tiger is built for a very tall rider. I am 6ft3in in flat-soled motorcycle boots and I could only just get my feet flat on the ground. For riders under 5ft10in, the Tiger's saddle is simply too high for comfort. But if your head is sufficiently elevated to take advantage of it, the Tiger offers a tremendously comfortable riding position and excellent visibility.

At 474lb (215kg) dry it is quite heavy for its class, but the Tiger does not feel ponderous. Its ride quality is excellent, and the wide, enduro-style handlebars invite you to push hard into corners while ensuring you have the leverage to do so safely. Suspension damping has been stiffened from the 2005 model, but it is firm rather then brutal and keeps the bike obedient even when heavily loaded.

The Tiger's standard equipment is impressive. It includes colour co-ordinated locking panniers, heated hand-grips and moulded wind-guards. But there are economies. I like the clear, bold dashboard but it lacks a trip computer, gear indicator and clock - all of are standard on the BMW R1200GS. Adjusting the spring preload on the rear suspension requires removal of the seat. That is a flaw on a bike that is otherwise perfect for two-up use.

But I do not wish to damn with faint praise. The Triumph Tiger does not compete on price alone. It is a bargain, but it has merits all its own. The engine is smooth, powerful and utterly dependable. It has the beef to thrill as well as cover distance. The gearbox is tremendously slick and the overdrive sixth gear is more than an add-on. It offers good fuel economy on long cruises. The luggage-carrying capacity is particularly good too.

It is no insult to say the Tiger is sensible and very realistically priced. The British motor industry is hardly renowned for producing all-rounders that can hold their heads up in expensive company. The Tiger can.

If you fancy emulating Ewan and Charlie's adventure and plan to take a partner on your pillion this would be a good steed for the job - providing you are not of Napoleonic stature. The Tiger is not a vicious beast but it can be hard on shorties.

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