First Ride: Triumph Tiger 1050 SE review

Catching the ten-fifty from Hinckley

Posted: 2 April 2012
by Mark Forsyth
Roundabout photo-shoot.
Clock this
Clock this
Ugly tube
Ugly tube
Apparently a helmet will fit in the near-side pannier

The moment I tell you that you need a Triumph Tiger in your life you’re probably going to stop reading. Right?

After all, it’s not a latest sports bike, it’s unlikely to lap Brands Hatch Indy in under fifty seconds and its top speed and quarter mile times are unlikely to set new pub bragging records.

And then there’s its physical size. It is a BIG bike - long, tall, wide and far from lightweight (but nowhere near as heavy as Crosstourer/ Tiger Explorer1200, etc).

But, please do keep reading, because this isn’t a magazine shoot-out group test where there must be a winner in order to create an attention-grabbing headline. I’ve just spent three weeks with the Tiger SE and I’m a convert because it does so much, so well.

The Tiger is the sort of bike you’d buy if you didn’t read the bike press and were lucky enough to be treated to an all day test ride. It melds a weird blend of sensible and sexy and, you know what? It carries it off, too.

That ubiquitous 1050cc three-pot motor is a given. You’ve seen it, you’ve probably read about it and chances are you’ve ridden another Triumph with the same motor. If you’ve just landed from Uranus let me tell you this: it’s a smooth, flexible, torquey lump that barks a harmonious, gruff-growling tune through its three chokes when you stretch the twist-grip cable. Fast enough? Hell yeah. Custodially fast, if like me, you lack the necessary will power.

Sexy? Yes, that’s the engine. Compared to an in-line four, there’s something about a big triple, something characterful, exotic. Maybe it’s the way it offers the smoothness of a four and the flexibility and grunt of a twin. Maybe it’s just the howling engine note. Either way, it’s all good. 113bhp and a healthy 98Nm of torque – s’enuff isn’t it?

Sensible? That’s the rest of the Tiger SE.

It’s ideally suited to the bigger feller, having both a huge, tall seat (32in) and a seriously roomy riding position with low footrests and wide, high handlebars. Shopping for a GS or Super Tenere? Just because you’re a giant doesn’t mean you need to go this soft-roader route, the Tiger SE offers the same creature comforts without suffering the slightly disturbing Charlie Boorman stigma.

Proper rubber (compared to adventure bikes) makes a massive difference to the Tiger’s sure-footed composure, especially when you up the pace a bit. Seventeen inch rims (3.5in front, 5.5in rear) allow the use of real tyres rather than make-believe knobblies. With 150mm of well damped, well sprung suspension travel front and rear, the Tiger soaks up everything you can throw at it and you have to be riding like an utter, utter bulb to tie it in knots. If you like touring holidays but like a bit of lary scratching when you get there, the Tiger will do a much better job of this than its more expensive ‘adventure’ bike competition. By a factor of about ten.

Better rubber means better braking, too. The Nissin four pot calipers on the front sink their fangs into a pair of floating 320mm discs. Use the weight transference (150m of suspension travel, remember?) to your advantage and it only takes one finger to loft the rear wheel. If that’s what you fancy, of course.

So that’s twisty roads. Tick.

Motorways are shrugged off just as competently as well. The fairing may not look much but the screen bucks the worst of the breeze and even at three figure cruising speeds your neck muscles are barely taxed. Similarly, those bark-buster handlebar guards make a massive difference to pinky pampering. 6,000 rpm in top is just shy of a ban and it’s here that the motor really feels to be in its sweet spot. Handily, bearing in mind the Tiger’s happiest cruising speed, the mirrors offer a really clear, elbow-free, unblurred view of unmarked police cars. The seat’s soft, wide, supportive and splendidly plush – for the pillion, too.

So, that’s motorways. Tick.

Which brings me neatly onto range and fuel consumption. Triumph’s official figures claim 42.2mpg (urban), 61.3mpg at a constant 56mph (ie: never) and 53.6mpg at a constant 75mph.

My findings for the three weeks we were together average out as follows.

Riding like your Nan’s on the back: 50.32mpg

Riding like a copper on blues: 42.75mpg

Very, very late for a meeting: 35.86mpg

With the twenty litre tank brimmed so it pisses a bit of fuel out onto the forecourt through its breather tube that’s enough frugality to squeeze 160 miles between stops if you’re a bit throttle shy and around 130miles if you’re getting a bit of a wiggle on. The digital dashboard gives you its version of fuel events with actual mpg, average mpg, distance to empty etc. I calculated my own mpg figures by using the brim to brim method.

So what didn’t I like? I’m clutching at straws here. I didn’t like the front master cylinder reservoir mounting with its u-bend pipe. The panniers that wont hold a full face lid. Or an open face lid. After that I’m struggling.

The Tiger SE is the perfect every day throw-everything-at-it bike and at a smidgeon (£99) over nine grand that versatility and adaptability seems like pretty good value to me….

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Discuss this story

I love this bike but it's too big for me and my girlfriend simply refused to try the rear seat. No sale... so please oh please Triumph - shrink this beautiful bike and do a smaller 675 Tiger SE (without the stepped seat too). I promise to buy one, maybe more.

Posted: 03/04/2012 at 16:59

Good review MF.

Posted: 03/04/2012 at 22:08

I've owned a 1050 Tiger for a few days under a year. I just rolled the odo over 12K miles, which isn't too bad for an old guy who still works 60 hours a week.

I've owned a lot of bikes in my time, and the Tiger rates at the top of the list of fun, practical, fast, good handling, great stopping, no frills bikes that I've ever owned.

Doubt I'll trade for a new Explorer, but the soon-to-come 1200 Trophy has my interest.

Posted: 04/04/2012 at 03:09

its a bit like a Skoda (sorry about taking cars), its not really a bike to lust after, people don't really admit to owning or wanting one, but those who do love them to bits, most people do not take these types of bike off road, be honest with how you are going to ride and this is the best of the road going variants by a long way and mega value for money, panniers are shit though... sorry about the negative at the end, its a brilliant bike.

Posted: 04/04/2012 at 20:44

Have owned one for 3 years now, just traded it for an Explorer. Ideally would have like to have kept it too, such a good all round bike, well built, comfy and plenty of power. A great bike !

Posted: 09/04/2012 at 10:22

I took delivery of my Triumph Tiger SE on the 16th August 2011,modifications from dealer in pre delivery,Radguard Arrow can & Pazzo levers.
Mods by me,gear lever upgrade to dump the weird cramped shifter.
Mirror extenders off eBay & upgraded light bulbs from triumph-online to see more clearly in both directions.
2011 Triumph Tiger SE is now the perfect bike with smooth powerful safety combined with ease & comfort!

Posted: 17/06/2012 at 00:46

I forgot to mention the standard screen is rubbish & was replaced with TIGER 1050 [07on] MRA VARIO touring windshield (Smoked) & also added Scottoiler eSystem for chain lubrication.I've been using Scottoiler vSystem for 10 years now on various bikes & the eSystem takes it to a very efficient professional level.Tis a shame Triumph hadn't improved these small easily corrected items....but the new Tiger Sport 1050/1200 with single sided swingarm may?

Posted: 17/06/2012 at 23:58

I love my Tiger, had many other bikes before but will never change to any other brand than Truimph again, the sound , power and handling is out of this world, guess my next Truimph will be the Awsome Rocket

Posted: 07/08/2012 at 09:20

Could not agree more, love my 1050 SE, so went to try explorer with a view to trade up to something even better. Just demonstrated how good 1050 is, I liked some of the gadgets and additional information on the explorer, but will not be changing.

Posted: 18/09/2012 at 22:39

Just returned from a 3600km ride taking in the Moto gp at Phillip Island . My 1050se was great except for the screen which is the taller Triumph offering. Reliable, good power,predictable handling and above average comfort. Panniers are a bit small and gear change became notchy over the ride but I have no real complaints.

Posted: 04/11/2012 at 10:56

just been to see and test ride a tiger 1050 at my local dealers,Am trading in my V-strom and GSR 750. The bike was fantastic and gear change was quite smooth unlike some comments I have read that said it was notchy,any way we will see I Can't wait for the touring and camping holidays

Posted: 21/12/2012 at 01:04

I've owned my tiger for three years done four trips in Switzerland and about Europe,every kind of hill and bend you can imagine , the bike has passed every challenge with honours great tank range over two hundred miles per tank . The only downside are the panniers heavy to start with and don't hold much! . Chain guard is crap oil all under pannier, rear shock not to good either,I have fitted ohlins rear shock and extended chain guard, now the bike is perfect . I've been riding bikes for thirty years now and had them all R1 SP2 Fireblades etc, and the tiger does it all,recently test rode a multisrada but still prefer my tiger.

Posted: 02/05/2013 at 17:10

Hi Steve58. Would be interested to hear how you're getting on with the Tiger 1050 having traded your Strom for it. I still itch for the soulful tones of the trumpet, but wanted to know how the pair compared in the real world? Economy, tank range, comfort and anything else :-)

Posted: 10/05/2013 at 15:51

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