Triumph developed their 800 Tigers into excellent motorcycles over the years. Continuous refinement resulted in smooth, powerful and good handling bikes with a high specification level as standard. The motor was both its biggest strength and weakness. The 1-2-3 firing order produced a sonorous “whoop” exhaust note translating into decent performance. A little too decent in the dirt though. The regular power pulses into the crankshaft tended to break back wheel traction easily on loose gravel resulting in the bike “spinning up” and losing drive.
Opposition manufacturers in the same segment utilize twin-cylinder engines with 270-degree crank throws. The longer gap between power pulses allows the back wheel to find traction and the resulting drive. The other inherent design feature of the 800 is that the engine is slim, which is good, but tall, which is bad when you are trying to keep the bike’s centre of gravity low. Triumph’s R&D must employ some clever fellows, because they came up with a solution which is truly brilliant.
Enter the T-plane crankshaft. In the 800, the crank received a shove after every 120 degrees of rotation, whereas with the 900 engine the crank gets pushed at 0, 90 and then 180 degrees courtesy of a new “1-3-2” firing order. On the road, this translates into a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Low down you get the feel and sound of a silky torquey twin, mutating into a ripping triple through the midrange and top end. The sound is wild too. Gone is the whoop-whoop of old, replaced by an urgent ripping shriek which stirs the soul.
The bike has over 10% more torque across the rev range, peaking at 87 Nm @ 7,250. Peak power is pretty much the same as the 800 at 94 bhp, but the 800 only catches up at the very top of the rev range. All the way there the 900 out powers it by quite some margin. The new bike has a totally different temperament. It feels mellow and under stressed at lower rpm and has a thrum at higher revs that gives the bike real character. To call it vibey would be unfair, as it compares favourably with any of its competitors. It is only when compared to the silky 800 that you would even notice the thrum (our new word for a throb and a hum).
I currently own a last-generation Tiger 800. Getting back on my bike after 4 days of riding the 900 in its GT Pro and Rally Pro form, I promptly stalled the 800 pulling away. Easing the clutch out just off idle is no problem on the torque-rich 900. Overtaking is a non-event, stay in top gear and just open the throttle. You would have to drop a gear to match it on the 800. I am going to discuss the GT Pro in-depth, as I spent way more time on it than on the Rally Pro.
The styling is typically Triumph Tiger, but in a thoroughly modern way. The subtle use of colours and brushed aluminium, LED lighting and generally sharpened features give the Triumph a modern, handsome and purposeful look. The windscreen and deflectors are smaller and neater, yet work every bit as well, if not better, than the bulkier items on the 800. They now sport a bar which allows easy single-handed adjustment for height.
Airflow is smooth at all heights. The GT sports a 100/90×19 front alloy wheel mated to a 150/70×17 rear. These hang from Marzocchi suspension. Front USD forks have full manual damping adjustment with preset preload, whilst the back shock is an electronically adjusted unit allowing fine-tuning of preload and rebound damping. Preload is done via the setting screen easily accessed with the familiar Triumph toggle cube on the left-hand switch-gear.
I was hugely impressed by the quality and refinement of the 45mm Marzocchi suspension. The ride quality and control on offer from the 180mm of front and 170mm of rear-wheel travel is of the highest order. Riding down a bumpy Hekpoort and then over poor road surfaces to the dam, saw the suspension transform the ride from a potential pain to a pleasure. Steering intuitively and tracking straight and true, the GT is so aptly named–a swift and sure-footed Grand Tourer in the true sense.
The 900 engine has a shallower sump and is placed a smidgen further forward in the frame. Gone is any feeling of top-heaviness. You feel the difference just pushing the bike around. The seat height is moderate, with adjustment between 810mm and 830mm. Brilliant for the urban commute and when traversing uneven terrain.
The 6-speed gearbox is sublime. Light, positive and precise at all rpm. Triumph Shift Assist [up and down] is on a par and better than the best quick-shifters I have ever felt. It is as flawless at 2,000 as it is at 10,000 rpm. Should you choose not to use it, and utilise the clutch, it does not interfere as on some other shift assist bikes I have ridden.
The 800 has a slick box, but it is not in this class. Similarly, the cornering ABS-equipped brakes are superb. Brembo Stylema calipers mated to 320 mm front discs and a radial front master cylinder have loads of progressive feedback and power. The rear 235mm disc sports a twin-piston Brembo caliper.
The chassis is the familiar tubular affair but now sports a detachable sub-frame and passenger pegs. The instrument nacelle mounting bracket is also now bolted, rather than welded to the head-stock, a massive improvement. Speaking of instruments, the new 7-inch colour TFT display is absolutely excellent. I did not take to it immediately, but found the 4th screen display option to my liking and navigating around the screen is actually quite easy. A far cry from the confusion that is the switchgear and screen navigation on Honda’s latest AT.
Speaking navigation of another sort, Triumph has collaborated with Google on turn-by-turn navigation, brilliantly displayed on the screen via the “My Triumph Connectivity” app. GoPro control, music and phone calls are only a thumb toggle away. The Pro Triumphs have USB ports under the seat and a power socket near the dash. Cruise-control, heated grips, heated seats (both, happy wife etc) and fog lamps and tyre pressure monitors complete an incredible level of spec. The “mode” button allows access to 5 riding modes, being road, rain, off-road, sport and rider, which is customisable to your personal preferences.
The Triumph 900 GT Pro is way more than the sum of its parts. Its comprehensive spec contributes to what is quite simply a sweet ride. This is perhaps the epitome of the modern sports tourer: extremely comfortable, practical, swift and efficient, with real soul. It can assume so many roles. Commute in comfort, tour, courtesy of the 20-litre tank, decent comfort and economy, (5.10 l/100 over 350 k’s) then tear up your favourite set of twisties. I had the excellent GIVI built factory panniers and top-box on the bike for an extended 350k ride. They take a huge amount of luggage and are a doddle to use.
Triumph, as always, has a comprehensive set of accessories to meet your every need. This is the “thinking man’s” model. Perfectly capable of tar and dirt travel if your purpose is getting there, rather than styling with rear-wheel steering through all the bends and catching some air over the jumps. It is a more than willing and satisfying companion. And then, for the dirt donks out there who consider tar as a necessary evil to get you from one piece of dirt to the next, Triumph gives you the Rally Pro!
So what are the differences? The motors, gearing, frames and general spec are pretty much identical. It is the suspension and wheel sizes that change the bikes completely. In seeking to put the new-found trackability to maximum advantage, Triumph has turned to Showa for proper manually adjusted, off-road springers. 45mm fully adjustable USD forks with 240mm of travel complement a preload and rebound adjustable shock with 230mm of travel to smooth out the roughest of roads.
Wheel sizes follow the tried and tested off-road recipe, with a 21-inch front and an 18-inch rear, utilising tubeless spoked rims. Hallelujah! Plug, bomb and play. With the huge leap in travel, seat height goes up to between a choice of 850 and 870mm. Over and above the 5 engine modes of the GT, the Rally Pro gets a 6th “Off-Road Pro” mode which incorporates a type of stall prevention for technical low-speed manoeuvres. Engine protection bars and a sump guard join the already long list of standard fitment items.
Triumph make an emphatic statement with their new 900 Tigers. With apologies to William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger”, never has the triumph Tiger burned so very bright! When you buy a Tiger everything that you need and most of what you want, comes as standard. You now get to choose which recipe works best for you. Always a winner on the pavement, it gets even better in GT Pro guise and now with the Rally Pro, you can duke it out with the very best when the going gets tough.
You now need to get yourself over to Triumph in Sandton or in Cape Town, ride the new Tigers and experience what it feels like to have a dollop of Braap in your Whoop!
TIGER 900 GT
Starting from R215 000,00
TIGER 900 RALLY PRO
Starting from R229 000,00
For more information visit: www.triumph-motorcycles.co.za