THE BIKES THAT MADE US: TRI­UMPH TIGER 1050 ‘This is the one I will never sell’

The in­side line on the sports maxi-scooter that started it all – see p52

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FEATURE -

Tri­umph mak­ing Tigers is noth­ing new. In fact, his­tor­i­cally, the model name is one of the Bri­tish firm’s old­est, as it dates back to 1937. But it’s in 1050 form, as launched by the re­vived Hinck­ley mar­que in 2006, that the Tiger has proved most sig­nif­i­cant to so many riders.

Reader An­drew Green­ing is one of them. “Of all my bikes, this is the one I will never sell,” he told MCN, re­fer­ring to his 2010 Tiger 1050SE. “The unique sound when start­ing up, time­less looks that will never date, great de­sign and build qual­ity, the at­ten­tion to de­tail – it’s by far my favourite bike in terms of emo­tion, pride and ex­cite­ment.”

Paul Con­way is an­other pas­sion­ate owner. “My Tiger is the best bike I’ve ever owned,” he told MCN. “I’ve had it from new in 2013, it now has 42,000 miles on the clock and it’s still as solid and re­li­able as the day I bought it. It’s a bike I won’t be getting rid of un­til the wheels fall off!”

Much of that ap­peal and loyal fol­low­ing is due to the rad­i­cal ap­proach Tri­umph took when de­vel­op­ing the bike. Although the orig­i­nal 1930s Tigers were light­weight sin­gles, in the ’50s – de­vel­oped from the Thun­der­bird – the model was recre­ated as a sin­gle-carbed sports twin. From this, the twin-carbed 1959 Bon­neville would be born. Apart from the slightly odd­ball TR7T launched in re­sponse to BMW’S first R80G/S in 1981, the Tiger had never re­ally been an off-roader at all. Un­til Hinck­ley re­vived the name for its monster 900 triple ad­ven­ture bike in 1993, that is.

That ma­chine, which was ar­guably one of the most un­likely off-road­ers ever built, was fol­lowed by 2001’s Tiger 955i. Then, fi­nally, some­one at Hinck­ley had a mo­ment of ge­nius; although off-road or ad­ven­ture styling was un­de­ni­ably pop­u­lar, few own­ers ever took their bikes into the dirt. Tri­umph’s big triple was hand­i­capped more than most any­way. The next Tiger, it was de­cided, would keep the ad­ven­ture styling but be a pure road­ster, un­com­pro­mised by over­large wheels, knob­bly tyres and so on.

The re­sult was the 2006 Tiger 1050 – and the new­comer was not only a rev­e­la­tion, it proved so pop­u­lar and en­dur­ing that, although up­dated, it is pretty much the only Tri­umph from that time that lives on to­day.

The key to its ap­peal was in be­ing a road bike, but with the up­right, high­barred style of an ad­ven­ture ma­chine. Cru­cially, it did with­out the squidgy han­dling and un­re­mark­able per­for­mance from which so many true ad­ven­ture ma­chines suf­fer.

To cre­ate the new Tiger, Tri­umph based it on the re­cent 1050 Speed Triple’s punchy and ag­gres­sive three-cylin­der mo­tor and frame. The bike was made taller and more up­right, with longer-travel sus­pen­sion and a re­vised rid­ing po­si­tion, 17in road wheels and brakes shod with street rub­ber, and an ad­ven­ture-style half-fair­ing.

As a re­sult, the bike was just as punchy, fast and sweet-han­dling, but with the more com­fort­able, up­right, re­laxed er­gonomics of an ad­ven­ture bike. In fact, along with Du­cati’s then-new Mul­tistrada 1000, the Tiger was the first of what would be­come an all-new cat­e­gory: ad­ven­ture sports.

The Tiger 1050’s huge suc­cess since speaks for it­self. In fact, the bike proved so pop­u­lar and sig­nif­i­cant to Tri­umph that, af­ter seven years, it was thor­oughly up­dated and im­proved to cre­ate the cur­rent Tiger 1050 Sport, a model that re­mains pop­u­lar to this day.

Michael Water­house is one con­firmed con­vert. “The move away from sports bike to ad­ven­ture sport was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion – un­til I test rode the 1050,” he told MCN. “Hav­ing the abil­ity to com­fort­ably cruise on a wave of torque, cov­er­ing vast dis­tances in great com­fort, then, with­out he­si­ta­tion, to wind up the triple on Alpine passes, un­leash­ing the roar, is tes­ta­ment to the us­abil­ity of this ma­chine.”

Kevin Weber from Kansas City, USA, is an­other huge fan. “The mo­ment I first saw a 1050 I knew it was the ma­chine I’d been look­ing for,” he said. “It’s the best bike I’ve owned: the en­gine hums, the seat­ing po­si­tion is bril­liant, it loves the twisties and so do I.”

IAM ob­server Mark Owen from Kent is a third. “Back in 2010 I was do­ing my ad­vanced train­ing, when I traded my 650 Ban­dit for a black Tiger 1050,” he told MCN. “That bike saw me through to a suc­cess­ful pass – but what I

This Tiger knows a trick or two

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