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First Ride: Triumph Tiger 1050 SE review

Catching the ten-fifty from Hinckley

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….