First Ride

Triumph Triumph Tiger 900 (2020) review

Triumph’s longest continually running name gets a new engine, updated chassis and tech for 2020. We went to Morocco to try it out

Details
Manufacturer:
Triumph
Category:
Adventure
Overall
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

WITH a lineage that stretches back 80 years, the Triumph Tiger name is renowned for off-road and on-road prowess. In recent years though the Tiger name has pushed the brand forward at the forefront of one of the toughest motorcycle segments on the planet – the middle-weight adventure bike sector.

Triumph Tiger 900 video review

To try and secure a place at the pinnacle of this cut and thrust squabble for domination, Triumph have gone all out to ensure the new bike is equipped for everything the roads and the trails can throw at it. Visordown went along for three days of riding on the roads and tracks of Morocco in what is probably one of the most thorough adventure bike launches we’ve ever been on.

Prices, models and colours

The new 2020 Triumph Tiger 900 range covers five bikes starting with the Tiger 900 and its £9,500 price tag. Above that comes the Tiger 900 GT, the only bike in range available as a Low Ride Height machine (although all have adjustable seats covering ***mm to ***mm), that comes in at £11,100. Above that is the Tiger 900 Rally, the first of the more off-road oriented machines and with a price tag of £11,700. The Tiger 900 GT Pro rounds out the touring offerings from Hinckley at £12,800, with the top of the range Rally Pro rounding out the range at £13,100.

The Tiger 900 Rally & Rally Pro are available in either Matt Khaki (as ridden off-road), Sapphire Black and Pure White.  Both of these versions feature updated graphics and the white frame inspired by the Tramontana rally bike.

The Tiger 900 GT & GT Pro is available in Korosi Red, Sapphire Black and Pure White and feature raised tank badges and new decals

The base model Tiger 900 is available only in Pure White.

Each bike in the range is either a step up in terms of touring comfort of off-road prowess, with the main differences being the suspension, wheels, dashboards and riding modes.

Triumph Tiger 900 model variations

Model

Tiger 900

Tiger 900 GT

Tiger 900 Rally

Tiger 900 GT Pro

Tiger 900 Rally Pro

Suspension

Marzocchi

Marzocchi

Showa

Marzocchi

Showa

Wheels

Cast

Cast

Cast

TFT

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Electronic rear shock

No

No

No

Yes

No

LRH version

No

Yes

No

No

No

Engine

One of the most intriguing parts of this bike is the all-new 888cc, T-Plane triple engine. Its off-beat firing order and out of sync crankpins are a first in a motorcycle, according to Triumph, and was brought about to try and rough-up the smooth-revving Tiger and make it a bit meatier low down. To do this, Triumph has placed the crankpins at 270° - 270° and 180°, giving the bike a 1-3-2 firing order in the process. Now we have two small gaps and one large gap between the pulses of the new motor. The brief given to the engineers by Triumph’s top brass was to provide more grunt low down, better noise and less propensity to spin up on the dirt.

The new engine’s capacity hike, and also revised internals, have increased mid-range torque by a claimed 9%, with peak torque of 64lb-ft arriving at 7,250 rpm and peak power of 94bhp at 8,750 rpm.

What does the Triumph T-Plane Triple feel like?

Heading for the coast as we rode out of Marrakech, I couldn’t really see many benefits of the new engine. Sure, it’s a grunty thing that has a nice raspy exhaust note, but the positives of the unit were overshadowed by a slightly vibey nature that I’d never noticed riding the old bike. And I’m not that the Tiger 900 is overly vibey – ride it back-to-back with a V-Twin or boxer adventure bike and this will still feel like bathing in milk by comparison. It’s just the old 800 felt like you were bathing in Tesco’s finest ultra-thick double cream, and this doesn’t.

With day one dispatched with we could now focus on what is for me the headline for the Tiger models – off-road riding. With a mix of beach riding, sand, rocks, river crossings and scrubland, the launch route looked to be a perfect test for the bike and it only took it about 10-miles for the eureka moment to arrive. The new T-Plane engine comes into its own on the dirt. It has a strange character like it’s two engines in one, with thumping V-Twin working below 4,000rpm and the triple taking over above. The nature of the beast means that where the old bike was all rooster tails and spinning up from almost no RPM, the new bike digs in, offering more control than I felt with the previous model.

Equipment

With the split in the range come different specs, tech and hardware, with each offering either more touring comfort of off-road ability. For the Rally models, they are blessed with Showa long-travel suspension, Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres and the added off-road riding modes. It’s only the top-spec Rally Pro that is blessed with the oh-so-important Off-Road Pro mode.

The GT versions all carry Marzocchi suspension, that is more than up to the job of hustling the machine along some Alpine-style twisties, with manual compression and rebound damping adjustability. The GT Pro is also fitted with a trick electronic rear shock, allowing the rider to adjust rear pre-load and rebound damping with the click of a TFT.

Making the two variants easily recognisable are a set of rim-laced spoked wheels on the two Rally models and standard cast alloy wheels on the GT. The funky looking paintjob, as ridden in most pictures, is only available on the Rally Pro model, and pays homage to the Triumph Tramontana project that laid the foundations for this machine.

As with pretty much any other Triumph, the fly-by-wire throttle is perfect, giving you exactly what you want on command. Mated to that lovely right-hand twist grip are an updated bunch of riding modes covering Rain, Road Sport, Off-Road, Off-Road Pro and User. Off-Road Pro is only available on the top-spec Rally Pro version of the bike.

Triumph Tiger 900 riding modes

900

900 GT

900 Rally

900 GT Pro

900 Rally Pro

Rain

Rain

Rain

Rain

Rain

Road

Road

Road

Road

Road

Sport

Sport

Sport

Sport

Off-Road

Off-Road

Off-Road

Off-Road

Rider

Off-Road Pro

Rider

Each bike in the range comes with its own set of riding modes as per the table above. Each adjusts throttle response, ABS intervention, and traction control. With the majority of the launch taking place on the unpredictable, and sometimes unfinished, Moroccan roads, I tended to spend most of my time in Off-Road Pro mode. For me, the lack of traction control meant if the going did suddenly get tough, I didn’t have to worry about pulling over and swapping modes around – which needs to be done to access the Off-Road Pro mode.

Brakes

Another update for 2020 is top-spec Brembo Stylema calipers which have massive amounts of stopping power. So much so that on the dirt you have to be extremely gentle with the front brake, especially when riding with the ABS disabled. The initial bite is sharp and more than enough to lock the front on dirt with just one finger across the lever. For security, and if you are less experienced off-road, start in the Off-Road mode, where just a small amount of ABS remains to the front wheel to help prevent any issues.

The rear brake on the new Tiger 900 is equally as strong as the front, making it extremely easy to slide the back end around as you enter a corner. The hardware fitted to the bike is something to behold, with a bear trap peg on the rear brake featuring a flick up design to help prevent any damage while riding off-road. It’s a little touch but a nice feature that again cements this bike as a truly focussed and capable on and off-road machine.

Handling

Having spent many miles on Triumph’s previous generation Tiger 800, it became quickly clear that this machine is a completely different experience to ride. It still feels like a Tiger, comfortable, quick, well suspended and with strong brakes, it’s just now more eager to turn helped in part by the 5kg weight saving over the old model. Triumph has also tweaked the centre of gravity, moving it 40mm further forward and 20mm lower. The result is the most sure-footed and easy to ride Triumph Tiger to date.

On the launch, we had a varied mix of surfaces, from baseball-sized rock-strewn roads, deep sand and even a beach at low tide. In every scenario, the new suspension fitted to the bike and the improvements to the weight distribution meant I could let the bike do its thing and focus on what was ahead. It’s Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres offer the kind of grip on dirt that you don’t expect from a road-going adventure tyre, digging in on muddy climbs and tracking nicely on rocky sections. The new for this year Showa 45mm forks has 240mm of extremely progressive movement helping the front to dive and dig in on the brakes and keep the front end in contact with the ground when you get on the power. The most impressive part of the bike’s suspension though is that it does all of this without feeling wayward or wallowing, it’s still comfortable, has good poise and goes exactly where you want it to go.

On road, the tall Rally and Rally Pro are obviously less capable than the Marzzochi shod machines with their 180mm of travel and firmer set up. On the twisting road that leads over the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech to our overnight stop in Essaouira, it became clear that the GT and GT Pro models are more than up for scraping pegs and generally getting up to mischief.

Comfort

As you’d expect from a long-legged adventure spec machine, the Tiger’s are all extremely comfortable places to be. The riding position for each bike is tweaked slightly between the Rally and GT models, with the latter gaining narrower and more low-level bars. To be honest either bike is good for all-day riding comfort, with the GT just trumping the Rally thanks to the more relaxed upper body ergonomics. The seat of the Tiger is not overly plush, although it does provide good support and is big enough to allow you to shuffle about if you need to find some comfort.

Of the 65 optional accessories on offer for the range, my money would be on the rider and pillion heated seats and grips and the taller touring screen. The heated kit is a no brainer for a UK rider, the screen is to recover some of the comfort lost by making it smaller than the Tiger 800’s item. That bike was capable of being ridden on the motorway with the visor up. The smaller more rally-style item of the new bike is not quite up to that task.

We like:

  • Off-road prowess and ease of use
  • The full-on adveture-spec exhaust note
  • Rider and passenger comfort are excellent

We don't like:

  • Engine seems vibey compared to the 800
  • LRH version on GT only
  • Styling isn't all I'd hoped for

Triumph Tiger 900 verdict

When Triumph set about building the new 2020 Tiger, the main aim from the engine’s perspective was to produce more low and mid-range torque and a more rugged exhaust note. In doing this they have made an engine that makes total sense off-road, is more capable, useable and exciting to ride off-road. Is it a better engine for long-distance touring; I’m not sure. Yes, it dispatches with fast overtakes better than the old bike and still revs on like the 800 did and yes it really is a genius bit of kit for those who want to tackle some serious off-road terrain, but how many owners will actually release this Tiger back to its natural habitat?

There is another thing with the bike that I find frustrating and it’s the styling. I just don’t know if I prefer it to the old bike. Yes, it looks okay and you can kind of see that it’s a Tiger, but Triumph had so much scope to do something genuinely bonkers with this bike and make a proper rally raid replica like the Tramontana rally bike in the process.

If there is one final point I want to make about this bike, it has to be a positive one, and it relates to the off-road riding experience of the machine. Having ridden a Tiger 800 XCA on the launch in Morocco two years ago, the feeling of that launch was that I had completed it, ridden the dunes and not crashed, but at no point did I feel completely comfortable – like it could all go wrong at any moment. Not this time though. I’ve never felt as relaxed, comfortable and confident on any bike while riding off-road as I did on the 2020 bike. Feeling that relaxed meant I could just focus on having some fun, isn’t that what riding motorcycles is all about after all!?

Triumph Tiger 900 specs

TIGER 900

TIGER 900

GT

TIGER 900

GT PRO

TIGER 900

RALLY

TIGER 900

RALLY PRO

Engine Type

Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder

Capacity

888 cc

Bore Stroke

78 x 61.9 mm

Compression

11.27:1

Max Power

95.2 PS / 93.9 bhp (70 kW) @ 8,750 rpm

Max Torque

87 Nm @ 7,250 rpm

System

Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection

Exhaust

Stainless steel 3 into 1 header system, side mounted stainless steel silencer

Final Drive

O-ring chain

Clutch

Wet, multi-plate

Gearbox

6 speed

Frame

Tubular steel frame, bolt on sub frame

Swingarm

Twin-sided, cast aluminium alloy

Front Wheel

Cast alloy, 19 x 2.5 in 

Spoked Tubeless, 21 x 2.15 in

Rear Wheel

Cast alloy, 17 x 4.25 in

Spoked Tubeless, 17 x 4.25 in

Front Tyre

100/90-19

90/90-21

Rear Tyre

150/70R17

150/70R17

Front Suspension

Marzocchi 45mm upside down forks, non-adjustable

Marzocchi 45mm upside down forks, manual rebound and compression damping adjustment, 180mm travel

(140mm GT LRH)

Showa 45mm upside down forks, manual preload, rebound damping and compression damping adjustment, 240mm travel

Rear Suspension

Marzocchi rear suspension unit, manual preload adjustment, 170mm rear wheel travel

Marzocchi rear suspension unit, manual preload and rebound damping adjustment, 170mm wheel travel (151mm LRH)

Marzocchi rear suspension unit, electronically adjustable preload and rebound damping, 170mm wheel travel

Showa rear suspension unit, manual preload and rebound damping adjustment, 230mm wheel travel

Front Brake

Twin 320mm floating discs, Brembo Stylema 4 piston Monobloc calipers. Radial front master cylinder, ABS

Twin 320mm floating discs, Brembo Stylema 4 piston Monobloc calipers. Radial front master cylinder, Optimised Cornering ABS

Twin 320mm floating discs, Brembo Stylema 4 piston Monobloc calipers. Radial front master cylinder, Optimised Cornering ABS

Rear Brake

Single 255mm disc. Brembo single piston sliding caliper, ABS

Single 255mm disc.

Brembo single piston sliding caliper.

Optimised cornering ABS.

Single 255mm disc.

Brembo single piston sliding caliper.

Optimised cornering ABS

Width Handlebars

830mm

930mm

930mm

935mm

935mm

Height

(Without Mirrors)

1410-1460mm

1410-1460mm

(1385-1435 mm LRH)

1410-1460mm

1452-1502mm

1452-1502mm

Seat Height

810-830mm

810-830mm 

(760-780mm LRH)

810-830mm

850-870mm

850-870mm

Wheelbase

1556mm

1556mm

(1545mm LRH)

1556mm

1551mm

1551mm

Rake

24.6 º

24.6 º

(24.1 º LRH)

24.6 º

24.4 º

24.4 º

Trail

133.3mm

133.3mm

(130.0mm LRH)

133.3mm

145.8mm

145.8mm

Dry Weight

192 kg

194 kg

(193 kg LRH)

198 kg

196 kg

201 kg

Tank Capacity

20 L

20 L

20 L

20 L

20 L

Fuel Consumption

5.2l/100 km (55.4 MPG)

CO2 Emissions

EURO 5 Standard: 119 g/km

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