Marketing is a funny thing. Usually, manufacturers exaggerate the displacement in model names—even if only by a little bit. However, in the case of the 2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport, the Hinckley-based company rebadged its Tiger 900 as an 850 with a couple of goals in mind. Although we’re mildly interested in motorcycle marketing, we are always ready to ride. That’s what we did with the Tiger 850 Sport, and we logged long miles in the saddle of this adventure-touring-sport fusion.
The 2021 Triumph Tiger 900 GT and Tiger 900 Rally are higher-performance ADV motorcycles with premium prices. The GT is $2705 more than the Tiger 850 Sport, and the Rally is $700 more than the GT. With an MSRP of $11,995, the Tiger 850 Sport offers an exceptional value for the rider who doesn’t demand features such as adjustable suspension damping, IMU-supported electronic aids and riding modes, a larger TFT screen, and various other upgrades. The Tiger 850 also replaced the standard Tiger 900.
A2 licensing compliance was a motivator for Triumph to create the 2021 Tiger 850 Sport. The standard 900 put out a bit too much peak horsepower to suit European regulators. Triumph padded down the output a bit, as it concurrently moved the powerband down the rev range. The 850’s motor puts out less peak power; instead, it focuses on low and midrange power, which is of no concern to bureaucrats. The 850’s 888cc inline-3 still manages 84 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 61 ft-lbs of torque at 6500 rpm. That’s plenty for the motorcycle’s intended use as a street-oriented ADV machine. There are two power modes—Road and Rain. If it’s not raining, stick with Road.
Triumph didn’t change the standard 900’s chassis in the conversion to the 850 Sport, though it made an odd tire swap. The standard 900 had Metzeler Tourance Next tires, which are a 90/10 street/dirt tire. The 850 Sport gets Michelin Anakee Adventure rubber, which is 80/20 street/dirt. At the same time, Triumph indicates that the 850 Sport is more street-focused than the 900 it replaces. The difference in tire focus isn’t great, though one look at the tread pattern of the two tires tells the story—they’re two different genres.
When out on the road and sport-touring, the 10-horsepower drop isn’t a big concern. Most of the time, you aren’t running the engine at the rev counts required to feel a big difference—it’s only noticeable when overtaking on a two-lane road or busy freeway. The strong performance up through the midrange is thoroughly satisfying and makes for a sporting ride. The slick six-speed transmission doesn’t have a quickshifter, but it hardly needs it. Shifts are effortless when required, and the broad powerband requires less shifting if you’re not trying to set a blistering pace. The clutch is of the assist-and-slipper persuasion, and your hand will appreciate that in traffic.
Triples have long been an odd cylinder configuration, and the 850’s motor makes you wonder why. The Tiger 850 splits the difference between the slower revving of a twin and the busyness of an inline-4. While we’re not always big fans of compromises, this is a good one for sport-touring. Also, the triple gets a 1-3-2 firing order with a gap before and after the third cylinder fires. This produces a bit of a twin’s rumbling feel, and it makes for a favorably visceral ride. Really, every moment the motor is running is a cause for celebration.
Handling on the 2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport is pleasantly neutral. The chassis neither makes demands nor encourages you to do more than have a good time. The fixed-damping Marzocchi suspension is calibrated for a balance between comfort and sporting capabilities—another well thought out compromise. As such, you’re not tempted to test its limits. Instead, you enjoy the confident handling that allows you to experience the scenery in addition to the ride. Putting in 300 miles in a day with a 50/50 mix of Interstates and tight twisties does not exhaust the rider. Instead, it’s a rewarding experience that leaves you looking for more—exactly what sport-touring is about. The 5.3-gallon fuel tank allows you to stop less often, if that’s your style.
Although the Michelin Anakee Adventure tires have a bit more of an ADV focus, they perform exceptionally well on the Tiger 850 Sport. Leaning the 850 over far enough to touch my toe down is drama-free. This is not a motorcycle for testing limits, and the Michelins work fantastically within the Sport’s parameters. In our winter test, we hit some dirty roads. The Anakee Adventures provided more grip than a pure-street tire would, and that adds confidence. We did a bit of dirt-road experimentation, and the Tiger felt good. The tires’ jagged-block pattern has a good feel on a good-condition hard-pack dirt road where you wouldn’t want to take a strictly street motorcycle. Don’t buy the 850 Sport for the adventure, but know that it has some ADV in its blood.
The Brembo raking is outstanding. Those are Stylema calipers in the front, and they live up to their recommendation. Feel is outstanding, and the initial bite is as smooth as Country Life butter. When you need more braking, all it takes is a bit more pressure by your hand. The ABS is unobtrusive, though non-adjustable, and runs the same setting in Road and Rain modes.
The five-inch TFT display is a beauty, and Triumph allows you four screen layouts. The layouts are all on the gimmicky side, especially the rev counting display. There is something for everyone, except traditionalists. Scrolling through the menus is mostly intuitive, though the UI isn’t flawless. The combination of a right-thumb Home button and a left-thumb selector/scroller switch gets the job done nicely. The power modes are lightly customizable—if for some reason you want Road power and Rain traction control, you can have it.
Comfort is a high priority on the Tiger 850 Sport. The two-position seat is comfortable for those 300-mile sport-touring jaunts, and that’s without a meal stop in COVID locked down California. The rider triangle is upright, natural, and adjustable—another reason to keep riding and minimizing rest stops.
The fairing and windscreen are small, yet protective. Wise use of deflectors makes the difference, so there is a nice still area in the cockpit. Runs up to 100 mph don’t make you feel like you’re going to get blown off the motorcycle, despite your upright seating position. I was most comfortable with the screen in the highest of five positions. It’s a no-tool, hand-manipulated adjustment system, though not one I’d recommend while riding. Triumph says it’s okay while underway to change screen positions, so make your own determination. I do miss handguards; it’s winter, and heated grips are not standard.
You always want to look good on a motorcycle, and the 2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport does its part to make you presentable. Adventure bikes are often considered the ugly ducklings of the motorcycle world. However, the Sport is a looker. The Caspian Blue turns heads in the right way.
The cross-pollination of ADV and sport-touring improves the travel motorcycle breed. I’m always on the lookout for motorcycles that inspire me to go for a ride. Most are quite successful at that endeavor, yet some are extraordinary. The ease-of-use of the 2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport sends me elbow-deep into Google Maps, looking for roads that need discovery. We tested it without bags, and I can’t wait to retrieve the Sport with bags attached and ready for a trip.
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.