2006 Triumph Tiger 955i |
Adventure Motorcycle Review
The Triumph Tiger 955i may present a conundrum for the categorically obsessed. Though tall, narrow and seemingly trail-ready, it is not a dirt bike. The Tiger may be built for comfort, but it is far from a cruiser. And, while minimally terrain flexible, it will never be confused with a dual sport. The Tiger, according to the current zeitgeist of marketing buzzwords, is classified as an adventure touring bike. Like the Buell Ulysses and the BMW R 1200 GS, the Tiger seeks to satiate the wanderlust of a generation who wouldn't be caught dead on a Honda Gold Wing, but rather considers itself youthful, rugged, and somewhat sporty. Semantic vagaries aside, the best spokesperson for the bike is, of course, the bike itself.
At a standstill, the Tiger is so tall it puts most riders on tippy-toes. Though finding footing on uneven pavement can be a challenge for those under six feet tall, the elevated seating position enables a long view of traffic that ultimately results in less stressful riding. Clearance diminishes with a passenger, and the bike lowers proportionately, according to the pillion rider's dietary habits.
While the Triumph Tiger 955i's ride is tuned more stiffly and with less wheel travel than prior models, the suspension is nonetheless capable of absorbing potholes and rough surfaces with composure. However, as flexible as the ride may be, the plush suspension will show strain under the most extreme surface irregularities. Though all-weather tires can handle most potholes, the bike's eventual limits of road shock absorption serve as a reminder that the Tiger is not configured for true off-road duty.
Light steering makes turning a breezy, lean-angle intensive endeavor that feels surprisingly sporty, in spite of the suspension's long, accommodating travel. Once acclimated to the Tiger's handling dynamics, there is a certain confidence that inspires a desire to explore the bike's tossability and ride it more like a sportbike, in spite of its erect posture. That confidence rises with speed. On fast sweeping turns with undulating road conditions, the Tiger is capable of impressively taut handling; when competing against a crotch rocket on poorly paved twisty roads, the more compliant Triumph can actually give a stiffly sprung sportbike a serious run for its money.
A smooth spinning, 955cc three-cylinder motor aids the Tiger's ability to hang with bikes more specialized in their dedication to speed. Power is distributed evenly from idle to redline, and the triple's characteristic whine accompanies its rising revs, while engine braking produces a mellow burble. Combined with the suspension's lithe handling and casual indifference to poor surface conditions, the Tiger's broad powerband provides an entertaining way to tackle a wide variety of roads, low and high speed alike. Thanks to the triple's flexibility, less attention is spent finding sweet spots in the powerband; aim and launch the Tiger, and the front wheel carves direction while torque gets dumped to the rear wheel.
Clutch play is easily negotiated, though the six-speed shifter is rather notchy. The triple's outstanding flexibility coupled with relatively tall gearing is consistent with the bike's “can do” spirit, allowing it to hum at low rpm, while maintaining effective highway velocities. The Tiger is no Speed Triple, but its 104 hp powerplant provides sufficient grunt to placate most enthusiasts willing to pry themselves away from a sportbike.
At steady speeds, the Tiger's ride is commensurate with the hybrid nature of its adventure/tourer niche. Some wind protection is offered by the relatively small screen, though riders are not exactly tucked in the luxurious lap of eerie silence. Above the legal limit in most states, you are on your own subjected to the tumults of headwinds and the forces that would otherwise go rebuffed by the full-sized windscreens found on touring bikes.
The seat is comfortable enough for long jaunts, and front and rear two-piston brakes provide adequate stopping power, though spirited riders will have to adapt to the relatively long lever action and front forks that dive under hard braking. Whether or not decelerative forces are in play, the bike's ergonomics dictate that the rider make a conscious effort not to slide forward and hug the tank.
The Triumph Tiger 955i includes custom fit hard cases, which add the appearance of heft and encourage the inclusion of the accoutrement long-range touring inevitably demands. Most of the bike's styling is innocuous, though the fuel tank—which resembles a sagging balloon slashed with “tiger stripe” graphics—undermines the otherwise dignified appearance of the bike. On the other hand, the tank's 6.3-gallon capacity ensures a considerable cruising range—a welcome prospect when tackling vast expanses of highway that, lacking refueling sources, might be capable of providing a new and frightening twist on the term “adventure”.
The Triumph Tiger 955i's capabilities seem consistent with its oh-so-specific classification as an adventure touring bike. Neither abjectly luxurious nor ready for off-road riding, the Tiger offers a sporty option for riders who wish to pile on the miles without fitting into the traditional mold of the nomadic motorcycling demographic. If nouvelle tourers demand new nomenclature, so be it; the Tiger lives up to its curious categorization by combining long distance ability with stirring performance.