First Ride: 2006 Triumph Tiger 955i review

Triumph's trusty Tiger is comfortable, reliable and good fun to ride. But does it fall short anywhere? We find out

This review is part of the Monster Trailies Lap France mega-test review. Click the link for the rivals.

Five more minutes in bed to savour the starched pillow and lumpy mattress - tonight the ground won't be as forgiving. My body feels like I've already done a day's work. It wasn't the 400-odd miles yesterday, that was the easy part, it was the 800-plus the day before that have cumulatively done me in.

Lugging the Triumph's heavy panniers onto the bed, I start the routine again. My kit goes in the left-hand pannier,the odds and sods in the smaller right. Left one fully laden, I lean on the top to compress the contents, then flick the catches over to secure it. The locks remind me of suitcase locks, strong and beefy, and they shut with a solid 'click'.

When you do a huge mileage on a bike you start appreciating little things that make your life easier. It's the Tiger's simplicity that has really drawn me to the bike over the last two days. It's not the newest here, in fact it's been relatively unchanged since 1998, but it has a reassuring feeling, like an old, battered armchair whose foam has moulded to your shape over the passing years.

Into the cold morning air and a quick fumble turns on the heated grips. Neat handlebar-mounted controls? No, the switch is stuck on a free space in the dash, an obvious afterthought. In the last few years Triumph has given the Tiger heated grips, panniers and a centrestand as standard, as well as modifying the gearbox (not that you'd notice). All of which is aimed at giving extra value, even though at £6999 it's already among the least expensive.

Pulling out of the hotel, the Tiger clunks between gears and a few fast changes to catch up with the others yields the odd missed engagement and resulting clatter of cogs. I grimace and say sorry to the old girl.

Through the town of Brive and the dim morning light reminds me of another shortcoming. The green and white clock faces are lit from behind with a red hue, making them tricky to read, especially in half-light. I've had to settle for memorising the position of the needle at the velocities I require.


After the last two days of solid motorway miles I can't wait to get to a road with corners, and the road from Brive is the perfect antidote. There is something comical about five big trailies blatting along a twisty road, especially fully laden.

I'm a bit concerned about Niall. He's already ripped one pannier off the KTM hitting a bollard and he seems intent on repeating the trick by decking it out at some point. But it shows the capabilities of these machines. Yes, they all wobble through the corners, but they can still cut it as long as you accept the odd twitch and weave here and there.

Long travel suspension bounces back a long way from hard braking, so it's best to settle the bike well before a corner. Triumph has stiffened the suspension on the Tiger to improve the handling and cut down on the seesaw effect, which has helped, but with long-travel suspension you're always fighting a losing battle. Even so, it's a strangely satisfying battle.

Through slower corners the Triumph is much more stable. Unlike the KTM, which I can see squirming as Niall forces its much more knobbly tyres to do things they aren't happy with. The Tiger has more road-biased tyres (though still 'off-road' style) and I much prefer it.

It's a fun 100 or so miles, much more so than the previous 1200, but we have a campsite to build and not many hours of daylight left. Time to do what the Tiger is best at: eating motorway miles as we head to Tours.

Motorway boredom soon sets in again with the Triumph's fuel gauge still hovering above the halfway mark I'm not uncomfortable; the screen is small but effective and the riding position is easily good for 140 miles before I need a stretch. It's just that I hate motorway miles. I start to look forward to the fuel stops - and, now that Alex is with us on the Buell, they're happening more often.

A flat-out blast should wake us up. As we accelerate to 110mph, the sight of Jim speed-wobbling on the V-Strom amuses me. The Triumph is steady up to 120mph and a bit more, even with panniers attached.

A quick stop at the hypermarket and we're loaded with comestibles. Perfect. Then disaster strikes: Jim's  pannier sheds its load. I do what I can to help but I have to break the news to a distraught Jim that his  beloved chilli collection is gone. It wouldn't have happened if the Suzuki had catches on its panniers, like the Triumph does.

It's hard to call the local fly-tipping venue a campsite, but it's getting dark and the view over the river is nice, so it'll do. Being a Glastonbury veteran my tent is up in a matter of seconds and I'm cracking into the wine. The sturdy panniers of the KTM and Buell make excellent seats. Good job I say.