First Ride: 2013 Triumph Tiger Sport

Triumph's heavily revised Tiger has gained 10bhp, more torque and a single-sided swingarm but it's the things you don't see that count

WHEN I first heard about the Tiger Sport I thought it was going to be a faster, lighter and more agile Triumph Tiger. Still cuddly but with added bite; a Tiger with more GRR.

It's not quite that simple.

Forget the 'Sport' name for a moment. This is a meticulous update to one of Triumph's most popular bikes from the past five years, the Tiger 1050.

Sure, it's got 10 more horsepower, a new single-sided swingarm and sharper looks. While those may well be the headlines that catch your attention it's the smaller details that make the difference. While it features ABS there are no power modes nor any traction control.

Just looking at reviews from Visordown's Triumph Tiger 1050 owners, it's clear the outgoing Tiger 1050 is a well-loved motorcycle, a motorcycle ridden by older, more experienced riders who cover higher milages.

According to Triumph's own research, owners love the engine performance, practicality and riding position but aren't too keen on a handful of areas including the pillion position, fuel economy and standard equipment. With owner feedback in mind, Triumph's engineers set to work to meet their requests but also improve handling, performance, styling and ergonomics.

The dyno chart shows power is up by 10bhp at the 9,400rpm redline and torque has not only increased by 4.5ftlb to 76ftlb but the bulge on the lefthand side of the graph shows that it now produces maximum torque at 4,300rpm instead of the Tiger 1050's 6,250rpm.

If I had to sum up the engine in one word it would be: effortless. Which by the way is not a word I'd use to describe the clutch which is cable-operated, fairly heavy and is one part on this revised Tiger that feels like a relic from Tigers of old. Fortunate then, that you don't need to use it that much.

The clutch springs need to be heavy to stand up the motor's hefty slab of torque that comes in from 2,0000rpm and never really eases off. A great characteristic of this three-cylinder engine is its versatility: it pulls from next to no revs without the hammer-like vibes of a twin, but you can also rev it almost as hard as a four. In the interests of effortless, you don't need to push the needle past 7,000rpm but need and want are two completely different animals. Revs are there for the taking if that's your thing.

The gearbox has never been the Tiger's strong suit but Triumph have made a raft of changes to address this. The entire selector mechanism has been redesigned to reduce effort and make shifting slicker. It's far more precise but I think a lighter clutch would see the end to missed gears completely. 6th gear also features a ratio change from 28:28 to 27:28, meaning that any wear is spread across the cogs and isn't just the same two cogs constantly engaging with each other and amplifying any wear and with it, chance of failure. The gearbox is always an easy target for anyone looking to pick holes in a Triumph. At least, that used to be the case.

Rather ironically, as good as the revised gearbox is, you don't need to use it that much. I found 4th gear perfect for everything from 20mph hairpins to 120mph straights. While I did lag coming out of really slow turns compared to my multi-geared colleagues, once the motor reaches 3,000rpm there's no stopping its progress, all helped of course by the addition of an extra tooth on the rear sprocket. Manners at low revs is something a lot of manufacturers have cracked in recent new models and Triumph have joined the party. Unless you're below 2,000rpm, you'll be able to dig your way out of anything.

Throttle response is improved by the addition of the airbox from the Speed Triple and the exhaust has been revised to improve gas flow too. If the Daytona 675's triple is a Scrum-Half: light, lively and nimble, then the Tiger Sport's triple is a Flanker: powerful yet agile and versatile. It's certainly not a lumbering Loosehead Prop but this is still a big engine that loves torque over revs.

Tiger Sport test 2/2

While the rake has been increased slightly by half a degree, the wheelbase is an unmissable 30mm longer. While I didn't notice any adverse handling characteristics, I wasn't hugely impressed with the tyres. The Pirelli Angel STs that come as standard on the Tiger Sport offer a firmer carcass and so will cope well with the load of two people and luggage but if you want to press on, I'd highly recommend either Michelin's Pilot Road 3 of Metzeler's Z8 (which are both fitment options Triumph suggest).

Pirelli's Angel ST seems like too firm a choice for my liking and if the Tiger really wants to justify its Sport badge, I'd want a tyre you can lean on a bit harder when the going gets sportier.

Most owners will appreciate the stability and mileage offered by the Angel STs but if your riding includes enthusiastic back-road blasts, you'll never get the best from what is a fabulous chassis without fitting tyres that warm up faster and give you more confidence at greater lean angles.

Triumph have upgraded the ABS software and claim braking distances are up to 6% less. It's a smooth system and only really shows its hand when you grab hold of he lever with no regard for finesse, physics or who's paying for the replacement discs and pads. I daresay braking distances would be decreased further with a more forgiving tyre. The more I think about it, if you're not planning on going everywhere two-up with luggage, I'd fit a set of Pilot Road 3 or Roadtec Z8s.

It's still one of the most comfortable bikes on the market, not least down to the riding position but also the weight balance, wide bars that are now slightly lower and set closer to the rider and of course, the plush seat. Shorter riders will be happy to know the seat has been revised and is now 5mm lower. That may not sound like a lot but Triumph have also worked on the seat's shape and the typical up-and-over seat height is now 50mm less (that's the total distance from the ground on the left hand side, over the seat and back to the ground on the right hand side). The pillion seat has also been revised and now sits 40mm lower than before and isn't positioned at an angle that pushes the pillion forward towards the rider. There are also sturdy-looking pillion grab-handles and hooks under the seat which can be folded out so that luggage can be strapped on with the biker's friend: Mr. Bungee.

The seat changes have come about from revisions to the subframe, which has also been strengthened to allow a larger carrying capacity. The panniers can now carry double the weight, up to 10kg each and there's now 55-litres of carrying capacity. I don't measure my pants and socks in litres but that sounds like at least a weekend's worth.

Other small but useful additions are the self-cancelling indicators which themselves can be cancelled in the dash if you want to go back to good old left-thumb action. Triumph have revised the headlights which were a source of owner feedback and they're now reflector-type instead of projector.

You'll also notice the scant bodywork on the Tiger Sport has also been under the designer's scalpel. It's certainly more angular but the screen remains as large as ever and it's actually great and keeping the wind off; 100mph cruising was a a doddle for my 5'11" frame.

Triumph claim small improvements to the fuel economy: a nominal 1% better in town, 8% better at 60mph and 2% better at 70mph. Over the course of 90 miles a majority of which were tight and twisty country roads, the Tiger Sport returned 33mpg. That's a slight reflection on my riding style as other bikes showed up to 36mpg. The onboard computer claimed we'd manage 155 miles out of the tank at my clearly slightly-thirstier-than-everyone-else's rate of consumption. However in 6th on the motorway at 60mph constant, the Tiger Sport returned 64mpg while at 85mph it returned 40mpg. Those figures would take it's 20-litre tank range over the 200-mile mark and that's handy for a bike clearly intended for distance.

The Tiger Sport comes with an unlimited mileage, two-year warranty and service intervals for both minor and major services are set at 6,000. While that's not bad, a Panigale's intervals are set at 7,500rpm and while I appreciate the Panigale features a different type of valve train, you've got to think longer intervals are possible on a Triumph that's built for distance.

At £9,599 it's keenly priced. The lack of electronic gizmos clearly help to keep costs down and the bike doesn't suffer one bit for not having them. This is an honest Triumph that's more of a Shire horse than show pony.

The word Sport doesn't do the changes justice. I don't think it is that much 'sportier' than the outgoing Tiger 1050. It's more comfortable: you can get off after a day's riding and feel like you're ready to go again. With more low-down torque it's easier to ride. With increased pillion and luggage support it's more versatile and practical too.

It's a solid bit of kit with a misplaced name. Sport says to me that it's going to be a honed and aggressive. They should have called it the Triumph Tiger Refined.

Model tested: Triumph Tiger Sport

Colours: Crystal White, Diablo Red

Price: £9,599

Available: March 2013

Photography by Alessio Barbanti & Stefano Gadda