Tri­umph Tiger 1050 £3695

Yes, it is the most road-bi­ased bike here. But there’s more than one way to reel in an ad­ven­ture…


WHEN WE SPOT an en­tic­ing trail lead­ing into the Shrop­shire hills near Church Stret­ton, it’s the Tri­umph we’re most ner­vous about. With all three of our trio wear­ing road tyres, none are go­ing to be easy if the go­ing gets muddy, but the Tiger has the least off-road pre­ten­sions – a 17in front wheel, han­dle­bars po­si­tioned for happy cruis­ing not stand­ing on the pegs, no en­gine crash bars and, most wor­ry­ing of all, it’s got a lovely shiny bel­ly­pan in­stead of a bash plate. It might be clas­si­fied as an ad­ven­ture bike, but it’s a tall road bike re­ally, with all the dam­age­po­ten­tial that im­plies. But what a fine road bike it is. The pre­vi­ous model (pre-2007, 955cc) was still try­ing to clam­ber onto the GS band­wagon, but by the time this ver­sion ar­rived Tri­umph had re­al­ized that no own­ers ac­tu­ally went off-road so they might as well con­cen­trate on mak­ing it a tall sports tourer – the 1050 has Nissin ra­dial calipers (with braided hoses on this ex­am­ple), beefy up­side­down forks, proper road tyres on 17in wheels, a racey cast swingarm and a de­tuned ver­sion of the Speed Triple and Sprint ST en­gine. It’s a storm­ing com­bi­na­tion. Though mak­ing ‘only’ 115bhp, most of it hap­pens in the low and midrange, which means for most rides and riders it feels prop­erly fast – churn­ing out of slow cor­ners and dis­patch­ing over­takes be­fore you’ve even con­sid­ered chang­ing down. It’s nearly ten years since this bike rolled off the pro­duc­tion line, but the en­gine feels en­tirely modern in its de­liv­ery, drag­ging away from the new-fan­gled Africa Twin when the roads open up. And, should you choose to go tour­ing two-up, we’d wa­ger the old Tiger would hap­pily haul rider and pil­lion with an ease the new Africa Twin could never man­age. The en­gine is in re­mark­able phys­i­cal nick too – the fin­ish is still per­fect af­ter 32,462 miles. In fact, the over­all con­di­tion of the Tiger is deeply im­pres­sive. ‘Tri­umph do get knocked for some of their build qual­ity,’ says Chris peer­ing at the Tiger, ‘but for a 30,000mile bike it looks very good. The over­all con­di­tion is ex­cel­lent.’ As you’d ex­pect there are a few tatty ar­eas – paint is flak­ing off the oil-cooler and the rear hub – but the plas­tics, tank and en­gine are im­mac­u­late. The two pre­vi­ous own­ers have loved this bike. Get on a mo­tor­way and it’s easy to see how you could rack up big miles. The sad­dle is large and soft and the af­ter­mar­ket screen leaves you in a co­coon of still air (the stan­dard screen is much lower and widely slated by Tiger own­ers). Heated grips help make life tol­er­a­ble, the ABS is re­as­sur­ing and – when you come off the mo­tor­way and find some cor­ners – the rear shock still feels like it has some life left in it. OK, so you have to reach for­ward and prod at the clocks to set trips rather than do it with your thumb on the switchgear, but other­wise the Tiger feels modern enough. In this trio the rid­ing po­si­tion is the most sporty, lean­ing the rider for­ward a frac­tion to get some weight over the front. It’s by no means an R1, but com­pared with the other two it feels in­her­ently more ag­gres­sive and up for cor­ner­ing japes. Firm up the sus­pen­sion and a good rider on a Tiger 1050 will em­bar­rass sports­bikes on a track­day, no bother. Back in Shrop­shire, I’m look­ing at the trail wind­ing into the for­est and am sud­denly less keen to stay on the Tiger. My off-road skills are mod­est on a good day, and I seem to be shak­ing slightly, pos­si­bly be­cause of a huge cap­puc­cino I gulped this morn­ing, or per­haps be­cause a Tiger, trail and road tyres is no combo for an idiot. I tell off-road ge­nius Chris I ur­gently need to ride the Africa Twin and give him the Tiger. Two tense hours later and all three bikes are safely at the end of the trail with plas­tics com­pletely in­tact. Chris re­ports that my ear­lier in­stinct about the Tiger was cor­rect: ‘The Tri­umph made the sit­u­a­tion hard­est be­cause of the fuelling – that old Tri­umph prob­lem – feel­ing like it’s surg­ing slightly. That makes life dif­fi­cult when there’s not much grip – you re­ally no­tice it. Also, it’s got an awk­ward rid­ing po­si­tion for off-road com­pared with the Honda Africa Twin and BMW. It al­ways sounds like a small point but if the bike is fight­ing you by putting weight too far for­ward or back, that’s an is­sue. The bars on the Tiger are closer to the rider and canted down which feels fine when you’re sit­ting down, but as soon as you stand up you’re un­bal­anced, and off-road that’s not a good place to be. ‘Ob­vi­ously it was never meant to go prop­erly off-road, but if the trails were dry it would ac­tu­ally be fine.’

‘It’s a tall road bike, with all the dam­age po­ten­tial that im­plies’

Tiger 1050, road tyres and mud don’t re­ally mix, but if the trails had been dry that would be a dier­ent mat­ter…

(Above) Anti-lock brakes are re­as­sur­ing (Be­low) not as modern as the Africa Twin,

but not ex­actly an­cient his­tory ei­ther

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