Tetley's Tiger 1050

Following a knee injury that doesn't let me ride out and out sports bikes at the moment I had to consider other options if I wanted to stay riding this year. After doing the test ride on the Tiger I took the plunge and bought an Orange 1050 SE, this comes with ABS, colour matched panniers in Blazing Orange, handguards and a Gel touring seat - so potentially ideal for what I need and all for a good price when no Japanese Yen or European Euro is getting in the way of our toytown £.

So a quick running-in before a very short-notice break in France to really test it out. This trip was with a BMW S1000RR and a Honda Fireblade, so the competition was tough and completely unfair, but that's the type of bikes my friends still ride ... for now. So that is what the Tiger was up against. The area of France we ended up in was the Vosges mountains of the Alsace, probably one of the best parts of France to take a bike.

Where do I start? Well, the Tiger got me there and back in total comfort. This was a big plus, but the trip also showed the Tiger's limitations for battling with sports bikes - in short, don't be lazy when riding the Tiger and you will find it quite rewarding. But no matter how enthusiastically you ride, even Supermoto style with toes on pegs and weight as forward as possible, it's never going to be a sports bike. Bit obvious really, but I thought I'd make the point.

A lot is to do with the suspension. From the outset it seemed fairly good, especially on slower backroads. The Triumph owners' manual tells you to wind everything up to max if riding with passenger and luggage, but it's best to wind up everything regardless, leaving a few clicks back from max on rear preload to allow a bit of sag and leave the preload on the forks at standard (my weight in leathers etc. 86kgs).

I tried dropping the yokes by about 10mm to speed up the steering, but the improvement was marginal. The forks also started to make a strange clonking noise when braking hard which is rather unnerving at times. Not sure what this noise is, but the demo we tested was exactly the same. The rear shock is fairly well sprung, (has to be for carrying those panniers and the Mrs!) but the damping was not up to enthusiastic cornering.

However, no matter what suspension settings I tried I couldn't really get the bike to turn how I wanted. The bike's real weakness is long fastish bends, where the front is vague and the rear pogos about too much to instil any confidence. I believe a pair of decent sports tyres would help - the oem Michelin Pilot Road S (where is the HIT after the S??) tyres are bloody awful!! They offer no feedback as such, pick up every surface change, feel like they will let go at any moment in the wet and are probably more suited to a car, as the profile is very flat which does not aid steering and turning in general.

The nice wide shiny chrome handlebars give a comfortable riding position but do not aid the bike when starting to hustle it around on the finest Alsace sweepers and hairpins. The bars need to be an inch or two lower and about the same further forward. It would help if they weren't rubber mounted! That takes away some 'feel' from the front end.

No matter what article you read about the 1050 triple and no matter which model Triumph have put it in, everyone raves about the motor. It is a nice engine, don't get me wrong, but the Tiger 1050 version is left wanting and would be much better if it had Speed Triple power. In essence another 20 ponies is needed. It does pull well though and from 7000 revs it sounds brilliant. It may be a bit slow top end but it was fine climbing out of hairpins and powering out of corners; more grip front and rear would allow you to get on the power earlier, but you'd need more than investment in tyres alone to make this a safe bet on roads you don't know. Flat out was an indicated 130 mph - it would probably be good for 135-140 with no luggage and no headwind.

I have Nissin anti-lock brakes on the 1050. I've always pooh poohed the idea of ABS on a bike before, but I am now converted!! The brakes on the Tiger are phenomenal, they make the front brakes on my 2010 Fireblade look complete rubbish. They offer loads of feel and the ABS is amazing, allowing you to even steer (a bit), when braking hard. But you could get into trouble with them without the safety fence of anti-lock.

But now to the panniers. A good idea for most, but certainly not for me. They are too wide, each one sticks out about 4 to 5 inches further than the widest point of the mirrors and you have to remember this at all times when dealing with other traffic and general overtakes. The panniers are waterproof though and do look the part when you look at the bike from the side, but when following they look ridiculous. They also impede your fuel consumption. However once removed riding the bike is much improved. I did have about 10 kgs (what was I thinking??), of weight in each pannier, so I guess it's understandable. The panniers don't help fuel consumption but compared to the BMW and the Honda it was pretty much the same; over a round trip of 1600 miles the Tiger returned 37.1 mpg.

The overall finish is good and on par with a Honda, but Triumph do let themselves down a little when it comes to attention to detail. We found the lower engine mounting bolts to have about 35mm of completely unnecessary threaded bolt left over and there are couple of other bolts under the seat that look like they should be on a meccano model. Come on Triumph!!

There are some nice touches. Triumph have thought about the Tiger quite a lot and looked at the competition too. They offer a universal GPS wiring option; this is 12V though and all USB inputs run at 5V, so be careful if you want to avoid smoking your Tomtom. They also offer a 12v socket for various powering options, but the female socket provided is of no use to me as I have never seen a male connector as small as is required to fit the one Triumph provide, very odd indeed. There is plenty of room under the seat for puncture kits, chunky kitkat, small tin of chain lube and a couple of maps. There are even extra luggage lugs under the seat too and the tool kit is located in the under side of the seat, but add a couple of extra Allen keys for dropping your yokes and an 8mm socket and ratchet for adjusting the headlights, (excellent lights by the way).

Handling? Well, what can I compare the Tiger to? The KTM990SMT and the Ducati Multistrada spring to mind as I have tested both. What struck me most about the Triumph and this is where it wins over the KTM and Ducati for me, was the fact that when you are hard on the front brakes into a bend, the bike is relatively stable and it does not feel like the back end is going to come round on you, on both the KTM and the Ducati, this was most definitely the case, so for me the Triumph is a far better road bike to hustle around. It has nice 17 inch wheels too, so you can fit any rubber you like.

Instrumentation. The dash is basic, but gives you enough info. What I did notice, more than once, was after filling up it can take up to 5 or 6 miles of riding before the digital fuel gauge resets. There are 2 trip meters, giving actual MPG, average MPG, time riding, miles left in tank and average speed.

Mirrors are brilliant, you can see much more than just your elbows, however they do go a little blurry when above 5k revs, but it's not bad.

Overall, do I like it? Well, yes, in fact I do and it is likely to stay, but I'm not sure how much I will spend on it making it better. If I sort the suspension, I'll be wanting more power etc. etc. so the list could be endless and I'm uncertain if the Tiger is really worth it - maybe a fork job and new tyres and leave it at that.

Some times laters ...

Triumph exhaust can is on - can't think why it has 'Not for road use' stamped on it, it's still quieter than my expectations, but it does growl a bit more and is a little sharper than before on pick up. New fuel map next week may make it a little better still - here's hoping. End can looks the same, except a bit bigger outlet, and also weighs the same: bloody heavy!!

Lowering brackets for the rear suspension arrived this morning and these are fitted. With the bike on the sidestand, measuring from ground to highest point above rear light it seems that the back end has now dropped by 2 cms (give or take a mm or two), so my feet are much firmer and flatter on the deck when seated on the bike. This also makes the bike feel more manageable when pushing it about as the high-up rear end weight is now a little bit lower. It may not sound like it's lowered by much, but you'd be surprised the difference it makes. The lowering of the rear end doesn't seem to have affected the steering at all, but that was already dropped by 16mm with about 15 to 20 mm to go before the horn becomes perilously close to the front mudguard and brake lines under very heavy braking. With the lowering brackets fitted, I had to slacken the chain off about half a turn of the adjuster on each side, so the overall length is about 1.5 mm shorter, but that won't make a difference: the chain needs links removed and the rear wheel pushed as forward as possible to make any difference there - another mod for another day perhaps.

Metzeler Interact M5s are nicely scrubbed in now and the bike is feeling altogether better than before.

Generally, each little mod is making a big difference. There is a good bike in there somewhere and now it is starting to show itself. However, it does still have the horrible clonking noise from the front under braking, but Triumph can sort this out, not me. I hope?

Tiger update

A few more miles and problems are already surfacing ... the steering head bearings started clonking early on, and adjustment stopped it, for a while. Now the clonk is back after a couple of thousand more miles. Add to that the anti-lock light is on and no anti-lock brakes. I think it's a sensor issue.

And now it's started missing 4th gear on quick upchanges, dumping me back in third on hard acceleration. Not good!

Final problem so far, the motor sometimes cuts out when coming to a halt.

Time for the Tiger to go?

  Triumph Tiger 1050

An alternative to a full-on touring machine? Although it looks like a big trailey off-road sort of confection in reality it's a proper road bike with a bit more height. This gives it lots of room, nice big bars, easy reach, plenty of legroom for those old knees, comfy seat. Rather crap high level exhaust can which is taking the off-road hero thing a bit far - what it needs is a nice little belly can like the Blade.

Instrumentation is basic but is all you really need. The minimal fairing and highish screen give reasonable protection, and the optional bark busters keep the wind and rain off your hands. Legs are gonna get wet though, but no worse than your average sportsbike. Seat high is of course a bit more than usual but has been cut back as far as possible to help reach the ground, although it does look a bit odd with that kicked up rear seat. Oh yes, they do a gel seat which could help on long runs.

Triumph offer a full set of hard luggage for the bike, so touring credentials are improved. The limited weather protection when compared to a full tourer could put some people off, but this bike is more fun in the twisties. You can't have it all ...

The look of the bike made me subconsciously expect a rattly old V-twin so pulling away with a proper engine made the whole thing seem more viable, no horrible vibrations, just lots of smooth revs available. The three cylinder motor is as good as ever and this bike is a lot quicker than the 115 bhp leads you to expect. It's great fun pushing the motor to its max.

I was expecting a wallowy ride but the suspension is pretty well sorted. The front can get a bit vague when pushing into a bend and this limits the ultimate corner speed - you won't be challenging proper sports bikes.

Wheels are standard 17" stuff and uber sportive tyres can be fitted for proper road bike grip, so it would be worth getting the suspension right.

Bars are a bit too high and wide - when accelerating hard you have to pull yourself forward. Renthal probably do something a little flatter and narrower which would make a big improvement.

Riding with a Fireblade on typical UK backroads showed that the Triumph can hold its own. It's probably making very similar power at the sort of revs you actually use on smaller roads, and the more compliant suspension plus the relaxed riding position helps over the rougher stuff. Let the Blade get near the power band of course and it will clear off, but there's few such suitable roads north of Clermont-Ferrand without risking porridge for breakfast.

On a practical note, lifting the banana seat reveals some useful Sunday run storage space for the phone and puncture kit, plus the usual battery and fuseware.

The exhaust looks very restrictive with those narrow downpipes, tempting to fit a proper system, and lose the giant chrome can. Remus do a range of full systems plus various low level cans and connecting pipes. And make sure you get a front fender extender, otherwise your oil cooler is going to have a short, hard life.

Triumph do a few options, the most notable being anti-lock brakes. The front stoppers on the Tiger are ferocious, seriously effective, and the anti-lock could prove handy on damp downhill hairpins. Other extras include a gel seat, bark busters, heated grips, full luggage ... and there are some good deals around flinging much of this stuff in for nowt.

Weighing in at under 200 kilos this bike is light enough to have some real fun on, and the 20 litre tank should give a useful touring fuel range. Add in that brilliant engine, proper wheels and brakes and pretty fair suspension and you've got an interesting alternative for back road scratching and Euro touring.


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