Surprising Circumstances, Satisfying Results
I spent the beautiful September day up in the north Georgia foothills, visiting my childhood chum Kent Giles (a military fiction writer) at his hermitage in Marble Hill, and tooling around the Jasper/Coal Mountain area on my last full day with the Tiger 900. A gloomy weekend of rain had given way to abundant sunshine, cool breezes, and being a Monday, largely empty back roads. Diving the Tiger through curves and corners, I suddenly came upon a tight, right-turner that I couldn’t see through. Downshifting and scrubbing off some mph, I shifted weight and leaned through the curve, only to find a patch of wet, right at the apex, laden with an amalgam of brown/red leaves and corner grit. No braking, steady throttle pressure, and some considerable anal pucker, but the Tiger held the line, tracked through without a hiccup, and I continued on my merry way. Albeit, a bit more measured, we’ll call it.
Just one more example of the all the ways I’ve found this Triumph Tiger 900 Rally to have met surprising circumstances with satisfying results. This bike does everything well, even when I don’t.
The new Tiger is not just an up-spec of the previous (and popular) Tiger 800, its a complete overhaul of it, from the bolts up. Along with the displacement bump, the new Tiger comes in lighter, narrower at the seat and tank, and with upgraded suspension, brakes, electronics, et al. It’s a new bike, not just a revamped old one. And Triumph North America had tossed us the keys to one for three weeks with the instructions, “Go have some fun with it, and let us know what you think.” Hey, its a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it…
Narrower seat and tank, larger displacement, upgraded braking and suspension, to name a few.
When I first picked up the bike at an event in downtown Atlanta, Adam Vanderveen of Triumph North America had walked me through the various features of the new Tiger, including accessing/engaging the various Ride Modes. Good thing he did, and good thing I was paying attention, as on the way home up city interstate, I found myself running directly into a dark thunderstorm. Driving rain, some cross winds, and of course lunatic Atlanta drivers, but I remembered how to toggle through the menu with the left side thumb thingy, and easily found Rain mode. I hadn’t even ridden in Road mode long enough out of the downtown to discern any differences, but it was at least confidence-inspiring in those conditions, and I was grateful (solid Sedici Marco rain gear helped as well). First surprising circumstance, satisfying result.
In the subsequent days and weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to ride the Tiger 900 in numerous settings and situations. The bike has largely been written about and recorded as the fantastic ADV that it is, but to be honest, the majority of us don’t have the luxury of a different bike for every condition. Heck, most folks who buy a Jeep 4×4 will ride it in the dirt, what, maybe 3-5% of the time? So those who invest in a splendid bike like the Tiger will more than likely commute with it, day trip on it and maybe road trip with it, as well as occasionally sling some dirt behind it. So that’s what we did.
It’s a go-everywhere, do-everything, multi-purpose motorbike.
Ok, here’s some of the customary specs and digits on the 2020 Triumph Tiger 900 Rally that we found cool-
*It runs an 888cc inline triple
*Sports a 6-speed gearbox
*Makes 94 ponies at 8750 rpm
*Puts down 64 ft lbs of torque at 7250 rpm
*Holds 5.28 gals of petrol in the can
*Runs Showa suspension fore and aft, all adjustable
*Pinches on Brembo brakes front and rear with multi-mode ABS and an Optimized Cornering ABS (found that handy up around Coal Mtn., along with the traction control)
*Clicks up/down via a slip & assist clutch with a quick shifter (that was entertaining too)
*Programmed with four Ride Modes- Road (what I mostly used), Rain, Off-Road, and Sport
We rode curvy country roads, interstate, back woods dirt and gravel. The Tiger does it all with ease.
I’m all of 5’8” vertically, and run about 155 lbs wet weight, so I can find the seat height of dirts, dual-sports and ADVs a bit challenging. The Triumph crew had dialed out some stiffness in the rear for me, and had set the rider seat on its lowest click (cool features under the seat) to 33.46 inches, so at a stop, I could at least rest on the balls of my feet, no problem. The Tiger comes in at a svelte 432 lbs dry weight (Why do they all even publish that? Who rides a bike “dry”?), so for a middleweight ADV among the competitors, the Tiger feels lighter than it looks.
The Rally I got didn’t come outfitted with any trip kit, as in a top tail box and hard side panniers, so I strapped up my own bags when I platooned it as my road trip bike to cover the MotoAmerica races at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Most folks don’t often think of “sport touring” an ADV, but that’s exactly what I did. From my home in NE Georgia, to the race track, mostly pounding interstate slab, hours in the saddle, I found the Tiger handles itself quite well at highway speeds. Triumph had spooned a set of Bridgestone Battlax rubbers front and rear for me (they usually come factory with Pirelli Scorpion Rallys), and these do-everything tires were perfect for long miles and hours on pavement.
I engaged the Cruise Control going and coming, and really liked the simplicity on the left handlebar. Easy to thumb activate, to modify speed, and disengage as needed. I found the Rally comes equipped with a 3-setting heated grips feature, and on my Sunday night ride back from Birmingham (yes, I left too late), the chill after sundown was alleviated by the ability to keep my fingers toasty on the grips. Made a huge difference, for a guy who’s cold-natured. The up-spec Rally Pro comes with a heated seat as well, for toasty buns. Even in Cruise Control, I found I got around 50 mpg (+-), which translates to a tick over 260 miles on a tank. That’s pretty long legs.
Nothing like September in the Deep South. Bright days, cool temps, and thankfully, lower humidity.
Associate Editor Phil took the Tiger 900 for a spin several times, and being an old MXer back in his day (many moons ago), had a bit too much fun with it. One day, I handed him the key, and I hopped on his Harley Fat Boy, and once out on open country roads, the dude just took off and left me, blasting along the country curves and out of my vision. When we finally stopped for a soda break at a little roadside “five and dime”, Phil quipped, “Man, that took me back to my dirt days! I felt this urge to put my foot down in corners, let the back end step out, but I resisted. Let’s go find some dirt…” The bike will clock a nip over 130 mph. We’re not divulging how we know that.
Now here’s some interesting electronics features you young folks and tech savvy geeks will appreciate. Triumph has an app in the Apple Store and Google Play Store called “My Triumph Connectivity System”, whereby you can Bluetooth link your smart phone and play your music (check out our “Road Dirt Classics” Spotify channel), take and send calls, operate navigation, and even the current and previous gen GoPro, all via controls on the left handlebar. Alas, I was unable to link my iPhone 10X Max successfully to it, no matter how many times I attempted. That was probably pilot error, not a problem with the system. I was, however, able to plug my phone into one of the installed USB chargers under the seat, and literally rode sitting on my phone, tucked away in a little sealed compartment beneath my derrière. Oh, and there’s a 12-volt plugin on the left side of the seat, by the key hole that unlocks both the passenger and rider pillions. Nice feature for heated gear power.
Concerning the four Ride Modes- I was able to spend some time riding in each of these, fortunately. Aside from my abrupt introduction to Rain mode, I mostly utilized Road. I did engage Sport mode for a day of curve carving south of my home in Georgia dairy country, and aside from a bit of tightening of gear ratios, and of course fuel mileage loss, I didn’t discern a substantial uptick in it. Off-Road mode I found worked well while running some dirt and loose gravel tracks near where we live, as it disables the Traction Control, allowing me to slip/slide the rear around some, at least as much as I was comfortable. C’mon, Phil was the motocrosser as a young Turk, not me. I wrapped a few around trees as a kid, something I was determined NOT to do with the Tiger.
Check out our video review, without even leaving the article.
If there are any caveats with the Tiger (every bike has them), here’s a few of my observations. The engine compartment emits some significant heat through the trellis frame, especially on the left side. My left thigh got pretty well-done a few times on long hours in the saddle. When I first received the bike, by day two the clutch began to stick, not properly engaging/disengaging. I called my Triumph contacts, who quickly put a company tech in touch with me, and he walked me through a couple of places in the clutch grip mechanism that could use some lube, especially since this bike had come from an ADV demo up in New Hampshire the week before. A good lesson for any bike with a cable clutch- they need a squirt or two from time to time. Nary a problem after some cable lube. I had to fettle with the rider seat a couple of times when reinstalling it, to line up the proper slots for the lowest settings. In all honesty, the bike is better suited to riders from say, 5’9” and up, rather than us vertically challenged riders below that bar. I proved it is doable though, and never felt in danger of dropping the Tiger.
So I must admit, I never really considered myself an ADV guy. I like cafe’s, bobbers, home builds, old schoolers, and naked sports. But I became a fan, after spending three weeks with this Tiger 900 Rally. Its truly the British version of a Swiss Army knife on two wheels. It’ll do everything- dirt, commute, curve carve, day trip, and sport tour. What else would you want in one motorcycle? If you had to thin the herd and own one motorcycle, this bike by Triumph would have to be a serious contender on anyone’s short list. Definitely on my short list (pun intended).
For more on the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally and the rest of that line, click here-
Both Triumphs, both 900cc. And that’s clearly where the similarities end. The Street Cup is Rob’s ride.