2007 Triumph Tiger 1050

Text: Eric Bass • Photography: Jackie Bass

Since its founding in 1883, the Triumph marque has seen good times, bad times, and many of its UK neighbors, such as Norton and BSA, unceremoniously ushered off into the shadowy abyss of moto-history by the auctioneer's gavel. Without getting too misty-eyed over recent developments, it really does cheer one's spirits to see Triumph delivering a series of truly notable motorcycles, with John Bloor's regime whacking open the throttle, popping the clutch, and racing away from the company's not-yet-distant years of strife.

In 2005, the newly minted Rocket III grabbed an armful of awards on its way into the history books as the largest displacement production bike ever built. Almost before the press had finished applauding, Triumph delivered the Daytona 675 into our eager clutches in 2006, prompting many of us to scramble breathlessly to our keyboards and proclaim it the "Bike of the Year." Enter 2007's overhauled Tiger, a freshly refocused Swiss Army knife of a bike that is tons of fun to ride and clearly another successful execution of their design brief by the lads from Hinckley.

The 14-year-old Tiger model has gone through many changes over the years, but perhaps none as radical as those dished out in this iteration. In the name of addition by subtraction, Triumph has tossed aside any lingering vestiges of its dual-sport heritage, re-conceiving the model as a do-it-all street machine intended for those poor unfortunate blokes who, whether due to limitations in space, funds, or political capital with their significant others, find themselves constrained to achieving 'happiness' with only one motorbike parked in their garage. As noble and yet unattainable a goal as that may be, the friskier, more competent 2007 Tiger actually does a fine job of approaching it.

Engine/Trans/Pipes

At the core of the Tiger's ability to rise to any occasion is its newly acquired liquid-cooled 1050cc, inline three-cylinder engine. This is the same power-plant already universally beloved by those who've ridden the Speed Triple or Sprint ST within the last two years, and universally envied by those who have not. The mill spins out benchmarks of 114bhp and 74lb-ft of torque, and has been tuned to provide more low rpm grunt than the Speed Triple at the expense of about 17bhp at the top of the tach. This still leaves the peak output 9bhp stronger than the 2006 Tiger and adds punch where you need it, assuming, of course, that you're more likely to be shoving fully-loaded hard cases and a dearly beloved up a freeway onramp than to be engaged in clutch-less up-shifting through the six-speed gearbox onto a banked straightaway

Sweetening the deal, a sophisticated new Keihin engine management system offers twice as much memory as before, allowing a quicker start, improved fuel economy, and powerful, linear, hiccup-proof throttle response through a powerband that seemingly has no beginning or end. The Tiger staunchly refused my invitation to lug as I forced it uphill at 2K, and while it winds up nicely as it approaches its redline, there is no massive juice goose like what an inline four discharges when it hits the high numbers. While the 1050 hums a nice tune to accompany your journey through the gears, it's only natural to wonder how a set of aftermarket cans might help it better approximate the brilliant sonic chops of the Speed Triple, one of the true opera stars of the two-wheeled world. Easy enough to suss out the answer, though, with a trip to your local performance tuner.

Frame/Suspension

Amplifying the improved performance of the '07 Tiger's torque generator is the lighter, sportier wrapping ensconcing it. Gone is the old steel frame, replaced by a twin-spar aluminum cage with a braced aluminum swingarm that contributes substantially to the bike's 40-pound slim down from its '06 weigh-in. While its tall stature somewhat hinders the Tiger's flick-ability from side to side, the fully adjustable Showa 43mm inverted-fork front suspension and monoshock rear strike a proper balance between dismissing disturbance with ease and offering responsive and smooth flowing turns. The front legs in particular do a commendable job of minimizing dive on hard braking despite the elevated center of gravity. Aided by the welcome leverage of high, wide bars and a steep rake and trail orientation, the 1050 is perfectly suited to imposing your will upon a good sweeper and/or cheerfully chasing (or leading) any comparable bike in its class through the canyons.

Wheels/Tires/Brakes

When squeezing the adjustable brake lever, twin four-piston radial calipers bite down onto dual 320mm front discs, while the rear 255mm disc bisects a single twin-piston caliper. Of course the sport-serious Tiger comes plumbed with braided lines as standard equipment. The anchors held firm impressively when asked, despite having height, weight, and upright seating position at odds with those efforts. ABS is available as an option, albeit one I didn't have the privilege of testing. Anticipating the added load of a passenger and stuffed panniers though, I'd spring for the cheap insurance of ABS to help manage a crisis if I was buying the 1050.

The Tiger's sportier new paws now consist of 17-inch cast aluminum wheels clad with Michelin Pilot Sports, a 120/70 ZR17 in the front and a 180/55 ZR17 out back. The Pilots held steadfastly for me even as I attacked some favorite corners with as little prudence as my street sensibilities would allow. However, fans of even stickier rubber gleefully point out that the new wheel size accommodates a wider array of doughnuts than the Tiger's 19-inch rims of old.

Seat/Bars/Ergoes

Ergonomically, the 1050's scooter-like riding position is probably more upright and rangy then I need, or prefer, but for those who shop in the Big & Tall Men's store, the ergoes offer plenty of legroom. Having long since been relieved of its dual-sport responsibilities, the Tiger's 32.9-inch seat height strikes me as unnecessarily tall, but the broad, supportive saddle does offer a commanding view, and numerous passenger mounts and dismounts were achieved without concern or incident with only the benefit of my 31-inch limbs and 220lbs of spring-compressing girth. There is a lowered seat kit available, but having tested it against the stock configuration, I found that the resultant shrinkage was not particularly noticeable.

While my wife rated the Tiger's pillion "just OK," she did give it bonus points for deploying the high pipes as a seat warmer. This counts as a welcome benefit in cold weather, but those living in warmer climes might feel differently about the arrangement. Of more universal benefit to the passenger is a wide, rear-mounted grab rail for better leverage, comfortable foot-peg positioning, and a tall platform from which a passenger of similar height can see clearly over the pilot's head.

Appointments/Options

The more street-styled appearance of the 2007 Tiger suits it well, and while the color scheme of the Scorched Yellow trumpet I tested seamlessly bridged the gap between racy and elegant, White, Black, and Blue are also offered as options. The instrument display of the 1050 is very clear and intuitive, with a digital speedo, analog tach, and a supremely handy "miles-to-empty" gas readout that, if accurate, marks a major breakthrough in idiot-proofing motorcycles for pit stop procrastinators. The inclusion of a passing lamp switch is also a boon to those riders who frequently engage in lane-splitting traffic, or "filtering," as the Brits call it. Far more effective and less obnoxious than gunning the engine or honking the horn, I've found that an index finger accessible series of hi-lo headlamp flicks will painlessly part a rush-hour sea of cagers like the staff of Moses.

It would be nice to be able to say that the windscreen is equally effective at parting the air; but alas, when seated in such a bolt-upright stance, even the optional taller pane I tested barely sufficed. The OE color-matched hardbags I rode with are attractive, with a functional, if not particularly intuitive, detaching mechanism. Having a bit more volume in the side panniers would be desirable for tucking away a helmet or bulky leather garments, but there's a three-box kit available that should resolve this issue. Other untested accessories include heated grips, a GPS connector kit, tail pack, and a host of other goodies. Touring distance is claimed at over 200 miles, courtesy of the 5.2-gallon gas tank, and while not intended to be as luxe as a pure tourer, the Tiger, with optional equipment, can be kitted up handily for your distance needs.

Summing Up

Sandwiched in their model lineup between that dedicated sport-tourer, the Sprint ST, and the hell-bent hooligan Speed Triple, the Tiger offers a satisfying middle ground without sacrificing much, except at either extreme. Triumph has definitively excised any pretense of off-pavement capability from the 2007 edition. And although today's Tiger doesn't do as much as it used to in the old days, what it does, it clearly does better. The straightforward question for the potential buyer is: How closely aligned is the 1050 with your riding habits?

For the casual weekend getaway jaunter, the bike is more than ably equipped, but a cross-country trekker who craves the wind protection, spacious cargo hold, and electronic creature comforts of a full-blooded tourer should be aware that life with the Tiger will require some compromising. Less likely to be disappointed are the go-fast guys and gals. While it may not have the curbside cachet of the latest replica racer, this fleet-footed cat is more than capable of sending a thrill up the spine of any canyon-carver and eminently more versatile than a pure sport bike.

Of course, as planned by design, the new Tiger succeeds best as a bike-for-all-seasons, and does so exceedingly well. The engine is a winner, the balance of attributes and abilities cohesively executed, and the whole is at least equal to the sum of its parts. So, assuming that the fantastical romances of unpaved Himalayan high jinks or knee-dragging at Donington were never really more than a passing infatuation for you anyway, the recently domesticated but newly vroom-y Tiger deserves careful consideration by any rider in search of a versatile street bike that will eagerly rise to the occasion, no matter where the day's flight plan directs it.