Living with a 2002 Triumph Tiger

Giles enjoyed his months with the Triumph adventurer, although he was never really sure of the colour...

April 2002

There was movement in the bushes. Nestling in their hide, Big Bertie and Diddy Daryll, could just make out the stripes on her coat shimmering through the tall grass.

With the beaters rushing her from behind, the tall, green figure of the Tiger burst into the clearing, and the tiny white hunter (Daryll) gave her both barrels. Yes, we'd bagged ourselves a Tiger.

A Triumph Tiger to be exact. It originally came out for the 1993 season with the old-style spine frame and 885cc motor. The 1999 Tiger had a complete re-design, with smoother lines, a new tubular steel frame and the then latest 885cc triple motor from the old T509. The 955i engine was slotted in last year, to bring power up to 105bhp.

So what do we have planned for it? Well, it's gonna get miles - lots of 'em. With the CapoNord gulping down the best part of 18,000 miles in 12 months, we think it's only fair that the Trumpet should do the same. But first, we intend to let Daryll look after her for a few weeks, then she'll be in the next big group test we do. Following that, six foot nine Giles from the land of the ad-giants will take it on his 1,200 mile weekly grind of Sheffield, London and the rest of the country in his monthly bid to sell some bloody ads. It's going to be loved, thrashed and ridden in equal measure, so tune in every month to see how it fares.

June 2002

Tiger, Tiger burning bright - thankfully we got ours out just in time before the dreadful blaze which has wrecked the factory. (See the Fast Show page eight for more details).

Anyway, being just 5ft5in on a good day you'd think big trailies would be the last bikes on the planet I'd feel comfortable on, but despite my almost disastrous shortfall in the height department, I've always been a fan of the Paris-Dakar styled monsters, and in particular the Triumph Tiger. If, like me, you are a little vertically challenged and have dismissed the thought of owning a big trailie for fear of them being totally unmanageable then read on - you can handle them. Honestly. As any circus trainer will tell you, when it comes to taming big cats there are one or two important points to remember. Firstly be positive, even if the sight of a 215kg beast towering above you does put the wind up somewhat - these monsters can reduce you to a quivering heap on the floor as quick as look at you if you don't show them who is master.

Secondly treat them with the respect they deserve - they'll chew you up and spit you out if you mistreat them or take too many liberties. Okay, so you have to think ahead a little before coming to a stop, even with the adjustable seat on its lowest position, it's easy to get caught out by a dip in the road or a sunken manhole cover when trying to find somewhere to put your foot down at the lights.

But the leggy seat height does have its advantages - like being in a crow's nest, you can spot someone pulling out on you from miles away. And out on the open road you can really enjoy that engine. It really is a peach with plenty of pulling power from very low revs - so do yourself a favour and climb into the crow's nest of a big trailie. You'll enjoy a different perspective on motorcycling.

July 2002

I don't know why it is, but for some reason I seem to keep ending up getting to test big trail bikes.  First the Capo Nord, and now the Tiger.  I'm not complaining though, since 20,000 miles on the Capo Nord taught me that, in the right conditions, these bikes can be just as much fun as a sportsbike - whilst being far more capable when you need to cover a large distance.  And the last 7,000 miles on the Tiger has reinforced this lesson.  It's a lovely bike. 

The engine, a retuned version of the triple from the 955i, is beautifully smooth, with loads of useful tourque and enough go at the top end to make it worth regularly visiting the redline.  It also now sounds far better than standard, thanks to the Triumph Accessories (01327 706220) race can, which not only unleashes the characteristic triple bark, but also noticeably smoothens the midrange. 

The handling is also extremely good for such a big bike, thanks in part to the original equipment Metzeler Tourance tyres (01788 540606).  I used these on Capo Nord, and they provide a huge amount of grip in the dry and, maybe more importantly, are very predictable in the wet.  The wide bars make it easy to throw the Tiger around, and the suspension and tyres work well together to let you get away with some serious lunacy on the right roads.

Unfortunately, my job means that I spend more of my time on the motorway than twisty B-roads, and having stolen the keys from Daryl I soon discovered that with the standard screen, windblast made motorways a very unpleasant experience for someone of my height.  A (fairly sedate) ride to Givi get my new top-box fitted killed two birds with one stone since they also do a very nice line in after-market screens.  With a taller than standard version now fitted, cruising at 90-100 is now a pleasure rather than a pain. 

Thanks also need to go to Autocom (01926 431249) for fitting the intercom intended for the Capo Nord, and also to Datatool (01420 541444) for installing their excellent system 3 alarm.  Datatool provide alarms to Triumph, and so this system wires directly into the Tigers loom, for added security as well as convenience.  They also offer a pager system, to warn you if anyone tampers with your bike out of earshot.  My pager sits with a baseball bat next to my bed.  I'm enjoying the Tiger too much to let anyone take it away from me quite yet!

October 2002

"This is going to be lovely", I thought, "a couple of days riding great roads in a beautiful location in perfect July weather".  Before I left Sheffield to head up North, I decided to drop the forks through the headstock by about 20mm to help speed up the steering. This it did, as well as pretty much stopping the weave I'd been experiencing at over a ton when the bike's fitted with luggage. Knowing I was going to have to try and keep up with some pretty quick riders on sportsbikes on this trip, I thought it best to fit some Goodridge braided steel hoses to improve the brakes (which they have done, considerably), and also to make sure there was enough air in the Pirellis. This proved less easy however as of the six garages I tried, none had air lines that would attach to the Tiger's tyre valves as the spokes got in the way - if you buy a Tiger, best buy a foot pump as well.

I decided to stay at my mum's near Kendal the night before this test, which not only gave me a late start the next morning rather than the lengthy slog those coming up from London faced, it also meant I could play on the excellent Alston pass on my way to the lovely Nent Hall Country House Hotel where we were basing ourselves. When the others eventually arrived the day was almost over so we grabbed a few snaps and headed back to the bar to get pissed. 

A good meal and a few drinks later, and I was settling in to a pleasant evening. Glen turned up and told lots of amusing post-Brands WSB stories before getting down to what racers do best and joining Gus in a texting frenzy. It looked to me as if they were texting each other, because it wasn't long before they both slipped off to bed before the rest of us... 

A few more drinks and fighting Bertie seemed like an attractive prospect.  I'm not sure whether it was down to Dutch courage, or just a charitable attempt to stop him talking 'at' the poor couple from Kent who were on their way to the Isle of Skye on a GSX-R750 and had the misfortune to be in the same hotel as us. Lucky for me it didn't happen.

The next morning, I went outside for the first cigarette of the day and the weather looked perfect. Breakfast eaten, we set off. I was in the middle of the pack behind Dwaff on the Silverwing. What a machine!  I never thought I'd see a scooter go that quickly! Fortunately I managed to overtake him on a straight, saved my pride and settled in behind Glen, Gus and Wozza. I knew they weren't really going for it, but the Tiger kept up with them all the way.  Obviously it loses out to the sportsbikes on power, but on the bumpy surfaces of everyday twisties, its long-travel suspension and extra weight allow you to really trample on in relative safety. It takes a while to get used to the bike see-sawing and scrabbling around underneath you, but once you do, it's really good fun in the corners. 

Then the weather started to turn, so we headed off before it closed in on us. But the thunderstorms were intent on finding us and when they did, they found us unprepared. I've never seen so much rain.

I stopped as soon as I could to get my waterproofs out of my topbox, and everyone else buggered off while I struggled to get my gloved hands through the sleeves. Might as well not have bothered though because by the time I was waeatherproofed, I was soaked anyway, and the rain had turned into massive hailstones.  I headed off after the others but not being able to see through the muck on my dark visor, I was past them before I realised they had stopped to shelter. "Oh well", I thought, "I'll keep going 'til I get to the hotel".

So I accelerated again and lost the back end as it spun on the ball bearing hailstones.  While the Tiger's very easy to ride in the wet, even it struggles on balls of ice. So I gingerly tip-toed back to join the others under the big tree to watch the pretty lightning...

We soon decided this probably wasn't the best idea, and as we were soaked anyway, headed back to the hotel. 

The road back to Alston was more like a river. I kept expecting to be overtaken by trees and wildlife being washed down by the current like people are in disaster movies. Through one of these puddle/river sections the force of the water pushed my feet off the pegs and made me head-butt the screen it was that deep. 

But we made it back to the hotel, and soon gave up on taking any more pics as the diabolical weather looked well and truly set in for the day, and probably the week so we packed up and headed for home before we all got washed away into the sea.

And at this point I was very happy indeed to be atop my green behemoth, luggage and all and was very impressed with how well the Tiger coped with everything that was thrown at it, although after 18,096 miles together already, I guess I always knew it would. It was extremely comfortable on the journey up, wasn't shown up by the sportsbikes in the corners, only needed to be refuelled half as often as the other bikes, and carried loads more kit. Only problems were my gear got drenched when the panniers leaked, and the fairing offers no protection from the elements to your legs (although a set of waterproof trousers may have helped here).

Still not sure about the colour, though...

December 2002

After months of never quite getting round to it, three weeks ago I did, and booked myself onto a Niall Mackenzie trackday at Donington Park (01332 810048). Knowing that Jim would get pissed off if I had fun when I was meant to be working I opted for a Saturday session on the national circuit.

I decided it might be prudent to fit a new chain and sprockets, since after 21,000 miles the original had just about doubled in length. A quick call to Bike Torque Racing (01373 464252), and a nice gold Afam chain and sprockets was procured (£117.75). I also had some new tyres fitted, opting once more for the brilliant Metzeler Tourances to replace the Scorpions, which after 7,000 miles were pretty much dead as well.

When I arrived at the track, I was confronted by a sea of Blades and R1s, and I felt a little out of place on my big green touring machine. But once we got going, I had a really good time. Everybody would come flying past me on the straights, and then I would try and catch them up through the corners. Drive out of corners was amazingly good. While many of the other riders on their super-powerful superbikes timidly opened their throttles in fear of highsiding, I could just whack the throttle open with no fear of the Tiger's puny eighty-odd horses causing the rear Metzeler to let go. The biggest concern I had was from the front, which constantly felt like it was going to wash out mid-corner. This was partly due to the fact it seems such a long way away, and partly due to the fact the front forks don't appear to offer any damping whatsoever. Maybe I'll get this looked at. The other concern was the front brakes, which faded more and more each lap until the lever came right back to the bar. Slowing down was mainly achieved by sitting up and acting as a sail (something I turned out to be pretty good at).