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
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