2020 Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro

Text: Kevin Duke • Photography: Stephen Gregory

The Tiger 900 is born again. It first leapt into action in 1993 after Triumph itself was reborn under new ownership in 1983. A decade of Tiger 800s began in 2010, adding up to some 85,000 sold. Now we’ve got an 888cc Tiger, all new from the ground up.

Most intriguing is a three-cylinder engine with a unique crankshaft layout Triumph dubs T-plane, which uses a 1-3-2 firing order. I was highly skeptical when I read reports that the new motor sounds almost like a twin-cylinder engine, but it actually does! It’s a big dose of a 270-degree parallel twin with a dash of traditional Triumph triple, and it’s unlike anything else on the road. 

Five Cats To Choose From

The Tiger 900 is available in five variants. The base model starts at a reasonable $ 12,500 but makes do with a smaller TFT instrument panel and does without an inertial measurement unit and a variety of other premium features. Saddlebags and their mounts ($ 835-$ 910) are extra-cost accessories. 

Ante up another $ 1,800 for the up-spec GT model to access a beautiful 7-inch TFT display, an IMU with cornering ABS and traction control, two extra ride modes, and a fully adjustable suspension. Upgrading to the GT Pro brings the price to $ 16,200 and adds an up/down quickshifter, electronically adjustable Marzocchi rear shock, integrated My Triumph connectivity system, seat and grip heaters, a centerstand, driving lights, and one more ride mode for a total of five. 

Broadening adventure routes to include more off-roading is the Tiger Rally, which incorporates the same elements as the GT (big TFT, IMU, ride modes) but adds tubeless wire-spoke wheels, a dirt-worthy 21-inch front hoop, and greater suspension travel from Showa components. It retails for $ 15,000. 

But what we have here is the Rally Pro, which adds most of the GT Pro’s upgrades, plus a skid plate and engine guards. It costs an eye-watering $ 16,700. That seems like a lot for a “middleweight” adventure bike, but this thing feels like it’s worthy of all those Benjamins. Indeed, it makes us question why we’d ever want a bigger adventure bike.

The Rally Pro

The Tiger 900’s new motor has a broad, predictable, and hunky powerband, putting down tractable low-rpm power more controllably than the peakier Tiger 800 and yet still enjoys having its tail yanked higher in the rev range, peaking with 94 horsepower at 8,750 rpm. It also has more torque at every point on the tachometer, cresting with 64 lb-ft 

at 7,250 rpm. 

The Tiger builds speed quickly thanks to its robust midrange power. More than a few times I was shocked to see the TFT speedo reading above 90 mph when I thought I was traveling much slower. Triumph claims the Tiger’s 0-60-mph time was reduced from 4.7 to 3.8 seconds with this new 900. Regarding the speedo, it’s optimistic. A radar display said I was going 61 mph when I had the lovely electronic cruise control set at 67. 

Yes, this new T-plane engine is a gem—almost. A half-dozen times it flamed out on me while maneuvering at ultralow speeds and revs, sometimes when feeding out the narrow-engagement clutch and sometimes not. Ghosts in the ride-by-wire machine? Also, it’s worth mentioning the throbby vibration from the T-plane motor, especially above 5,500 rpm. It wasn’t really bothersome to me, but riders who are sensitive to vibration might want to test it out before writing a check. 

Short riders might wince at the Rally Pro’s seat height, which is really high. Triumph claims a height of 33.46 to 34.25 inches. With my 31-inch inseam, I was either on my tiptoes or scootched over on just one foot, even with the seat in its lower position and despite a fair amount of sag when aboard. The payoff from that long-travel fork and shock (9.4, 9.1 inches, respectively) is an amazingly plush suspension that makes almost any bump disappear. 

Indubitably, the Tiger 900’s cockpit is a pleasant place to inhale miles. The windscreen is narrow but quite protective, and it’s tall enough to keep wind off a rider’s face even when it’s set in the lowest of five positions, conveniently hand-adjustable over a 2-inch range. A nicely padded seat includes heating elements, which the passenger also enjoys along with an amazingly generous amount of legroom. Cruise control allows hands to be light on the bars when droning on the highway, while grip heaters and handguards keep digits toasty. 

The Tiger 900s, even the base version, are equipped with Brembo Stylema monoblock brake calipers, the best brakes in the industry. In this configuration, with steel-braided brake lines and 320mm rotors, they are beyond reproach, with excellent strength and control. Heavy braking causes the long-travel fork to compress significantly. Damping adjusters are expediently finger-tunable atop the fork tubes. The Showa shock, surprisingly, has no compression damping adjuster.

The Rally Pro is a confident handler but isn’t especially agile with its 21-inch front wheel, despite its narrow 90/90-21 size. Triumph frustratingly doesn’t provide a curb weight (like most OEMs) for the Tiger but claims a 443-pound dry weight. Our bike was fitted with street-biased Bridgestone Battlax Adventure 41 tires, which performed well on the street but didn’t offer much grip off-road. 

In the dirt, experienced riders will want to choose the Off-Road Pro ride mode, which switches off rear ABS and wheelie control. A wide handlebar (36.8 inches!) enables forceful maneuvering, while cleated footpegs (with removable rubber inserts) and a cleated brake pedal provide sure grip in slippery conditions. 

The Tiger’s slip/assist clutch delivers a light clutch pull, but like most other slip/assist clutches, it has a small friction zone. Once rolling, a rider can forget about the clutch and rely on the quickshifter that allows swapping gears—both up and down—without pulling a hand lever. Using it is pleasingly seamless. 

An LED headlight produces a penetrating swath of white light; using the high beam in the daytime causes traffic to part in front of a rider. Other nice touches are an illuminated switchgear, a five-way joystick, and self-canceling turn signals that switch off intelligently. A USB charger and phone storage reside under the seat, augmenting the standard 12-volt outlet at the seat base. 

Small gripes? The ultracrisp, multiconfigurable iPad-size TFT instrumentation can read your text messages and can link to a GoPro but can’t easily display and reset the tripmeter, at least not in my case. Also, the tire valve stems are of the appreciated angled design, but the rear would be easier to access if it faced the right side instead of the chain. 

Overall, the Tiger 900 has vaulted near the top of the vigorously contested ADV category. KTM’s 790 Adventure R might be better in a pure off-road environment, but the Triumph wouldn’t be too far behind and could be preferable on paved surfaces. BMW’s F 850 GS Adventure claims 90 horsepower and is also a worthy competitor. And there’s also a new V-Strom from Suzuki and a recently updated Honda Africa Twin before we even get to the 1200-plus-cc segment. 

These are the best of times for adventure bikes, and the Tiger 900 is one of the greatest.