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2008 Triumph Tiger 1050MSE Ratings

2008 Triumph Tiger 1050There have been many underrated motorcycles throughout history; bikes that perform perfectly well, get good reviews, and yet, outside of a few enlightened individuals, fail to generate a huge following. Bikes like the Honda Hawk GT650, Suzuki Bandit

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Editor Contributor's Review

The Tiger is good looking (lots of people think so), has a fun and entertaining amount of power, and can do almost anything you ask of it. Unfortunately, the Tiger 1050 has not been a runaway sales success for Triumph. Why? I think the biggest issue is that not a lot of people seem to "get" the Tiger 1050.

Many times I was asked "but what type of bike is it? It seems that motorcycle riders want to be able to classify their ride into one category or another. Why are we so interested in our motorcycles fitting into a specific category? Does it give us a sense of place in the motorcycling world?Does being able to say something like "my bike is a sport-touring bike therefore I am a sport-touring kind of person" validate who and what we are as motorcyclists?

Before we delve too deeply into the murky and convoluted depths of philosophy let\'s look at what the Tiger 1050 can do and what it can\'t.

When Triumph re-designed the Tiger in 07 they decided to drop the pretense that it was an "adventure" bike as everyone knows that a bike of that size really isn\'t made for serious off road trail riding (although doing so does often lead to "adventures"). Instead Triumph decided to build the Tiger 1050 as an all-road bike; the kind of bike that would take the worst that the local D.O.T. could throw at it and laugh (growl?). A bike that when the going not only got tough but full of potholes and uneven pavement the tough (namely the Tiger 1050) would get going. To that end Triumph kept the bike tall and equipped it with a relatively long-travel suspension (5.9" of travel both front and rear) to eat up both the bumps in the road and sometimes the things that go bump in the night (was that an armadillo?).

Another great benefit of a tall bike is the commanding view of the road and traffic around you. Looking over cars is much preferred to looking through them. A downside to a tall bike is that unless you, the rider, are also tall there will be an issue of contact between your feet and the ground. There are three ways to combat this issue; 1) Never stop. This, as one can imagine, is not very practical. 2) Grow or stretch your legs longer; again not very practical. 3) Offer a "low" seat option. Much more practical than the first two and the one that Triumph used to help make its bike more accessible to a wider range of body types. The Tiger 1050 that I tested did indeed have the low seat on it when I picked it up. Now I have a 32" inseam and while I was on tippy-toes while riding a different Tiger in Gatlinburg a few months ago (the stock seat height is 32.8"), I was on the balls of my feet on the test bike with both feet down so the low seat lowers the seat height by about an 1" I\'d estimate. I did have a few other people of varying heights sit on the bike and the low seat seemed to work pretty well for a wide range of them. Triumph also makes a "tall" seat for those of you who play in the NBA.

Not only is the Low seat low but it is also a squishy gel seat to provide high levels of comfort for long rides. I can attest to the comfort level as, even after the 500 mile day I had bringing the bike back to the 2WF lair, I still felt like I could ride another 300+ miles with no issue. All is not perfect with the seat however as my wife and I found out one afternoon while running some errands. If you leave the bike outside in the sun for an hour or more the seat gets extremely hot. Not only is it hot on initial contact but it doesn\'t cool down like a normal foam filled seat will after a few minutes. During a 20 minute ride around town I actually was checking to see if the bike had caught on fire as the seat stayed hot for that long. Even after being off the bike for 3 hours the tops of our legs/bottom of our butts were still beet red. Triumph has been made aware of this and I\'m sure is working very hard to figure out the design flaw in the gel seats. If you take precautions it shouldn\'t be too big of a problem and the comfort level of the seat for long rides greatly outweighs the heat issue.

One thing this bike does extremely well is sport-tour. The passenger seat itself and the passenger seat-to-peg relationship gets two thumbs up from my wife and the rider\'s seat-to-peg relationship gets two thumbs up from me. The bike has more leg room than any sport-tourer on the market and a better all around riding position for racking up the mileage. Wind protection is not as good as a dedicated sport-touring bike but on hot days here in the south that is actually a desirable trait. With the stock screen the wind hit me right on my upper chest/neck area without any real turbulence at the helmet level (the top of the screen sits 19 1/2" above the Low seat). Taller screens are available from both Triumph and the aftermarket so finding the perfect height for you should be simple.

For those that want to sport tour or even commute with the bike Triumph has you covered with accessory saddlebags and/or top box along with a tank bag and tail-bag options. Since the muffler sits up high on the right side of the bike, the Triumph branded saddlebag kit comes with one saddlebag with 23 liters of internal space (left) and one saddlebag of 18.5 liters of internal space (right). While the bags aren\'t huge they should provide enough room for the kinds of doo-dads one usually carries for day trips. Of course you can go aftermarket if you just gotta have 45+ liters of space. I can honestly say that given the choice to ride the Tiger 1050 or any current sport-touring bike on a 500+ mile day I would choose the Tiger hands down every time.

So with the upright seating position, commanding view, wide handlebars that give the bike a light and nimble feel, a dry weight of only 436 pounds, and rock solid stability at speed, the Tiger 1050 excels in the comfort, touring, and commuting areas, but how does it handle itself when the ride gets sporty?

Remember that long travel suspension that eats up almost anything in its path and makes the bike such a joy to attack the urban jungle with? Well that same suspension is the only thing keeping this bike from being a perfect all around 10.

When Triumph designed this bike they were looking to create a bike that could do almost anything as close to perfectly as possible. While that is a noble goal and one that should be appreciated by every motorcyclist on the planet, it is, sadly enough, impossible (at least for now). The one area that Triumph knew was going to be a week spot was the suspension when the bike was in the hands of someone that really pushed it in the corners. The good news? There are only certain types of corners that really affect the bike negatively and even better news is that a lot of the wallowing and damping issues can be adjusted out. The suspension really only ties itself into knots during fast transitions while staying mostly composed in almost every other types of corner.

Triumph knows that the bike will need some "additions", in the form of aftermarket suspension pieces, for those riders that really want to push hard and pretend that they are on a sportbike or for those that are packing a few extra pounds. For the rest of the riders the bike should be fine with just some suspension adjustments. One thing I did find was that any mid-corner bumps were taken in stride with only the worst kicking the Tiger off it\'s line, and then only by a little and never enough to give me any pucker factor.

The front brakes on the Tiger are quite good offering good feedback and modulation while easily stopping the bike with only 2 fingers on the lever. The downside once again focuses on the suspension as saying the bike dives under hard braking is a tad bit of an understatement. Due to the shortish wheelbase (compared to big sport-touring bikes) the rear brake is not very effective. It feels much like most sportbike rear brakes in that it takes a lot of pressure on the pedal for very little slowing of forward speed. Not horrible just something that someone coming from a long wheelbase sport touring bike will need to adjust to.

I have now ridden every size triple that Triumph makes and I continue to be impressed by each and every one. If you look at the bare specs (114bhp at 9,400 rpm & at 6,250 rpm) you may find yourself underwhelmed. If that is how you feel you are doing yourself a grave disservice. Sure it\'s not going to beat a \'Busa in a drag race but some bikes are more about how the power is delivered rather than how much power is delivered. When you ride a Hayabusa or ZX-14R it is all about the motor; everything else is secondary to the warp core situated below you. When you ride the Tiger 1050 the motor and the way it delivers the power allows you to appreciate not only the bike but the ride itself.

That\'s not to say the bike is a slug or slow or lacks power; indeed Triumph managed to disguise a hooligan in the guise of an upstanding motorcycle citizen. Wheelies are but a throttle twist away starting as low as 2k rpms. The motor provides such nice power that even I, a person that usually suffers from WD (wheelie dysfunction.....I can get the bike up I just can\'t keep it up), can execute awesome looking wheelies for hundreds of feet merely by nailing the throttle at 2k and riding it on up to the redline. The test Tiger had the Triumph accessory exhaust canister installed along with the re-map which restores the 10hp that the stock canister steals to meet emissions standards. The accessory exhaust sounds better than stock, giving the bike a nice growl while still being quiet enough so as not to draw unwanted law enforcement attention when the rider is being silly (not that THAT ever happens). Even two-up the Tiger 1050 had plenty of oomph when you needed it. On the ride back to 2WF, the bike was averaging 45mpg on the highway (traveling at something more than the speed limit). Around town the bike got between 35-40mpg depending on how hard the throttle was being twisted. On the highway the bike was going about 180ish before the fuel light came on and 160ish around town with a refuel putting in about 4 to 4 1/2 gallons into the 5.2 gallon tank.

The Tiger 1050 has a nicely laid out dash area with all the buttons within easy reach. All your normal warning lights are accounted for and the digital speedometer/analog tachometer combo is very easy to read in any lighting conditions. The Tiger 1050 also come with a trip computer that will tell you all kinds of useful information; top speed, average speed, miles to empty, avg. mpg, and the like. Of course since accessing that information requires you to take a hand off the bars and push a little button, it really is only easily accessed when you are at a stop. A handlebar mounted switch would be a great addition and one that would allow the rider to access the info while riding.

Besides the suspension the only area I found fault with was the clutch and transmission. Neither were bad or anything I just had a hard time making smooth clean shifts. You know the kind that make your passenger feel like they are riding on an automatic motorcycle. For some reason I couldn\'t seem to get the clutch and transmission to work together that well; never missed a shift and the shift action was smooth so it may have merely been an adjustment issue with the clutch itself (or the rider needed an adjustment).

This brings us full circle back to the question of what type of bike the Tiger 1050 is. After riding one for a month I can answer that question easily; it\'s a sport-touring-hooligan-commuter-supermoto with a touch of sportbike thrown in. What, that doesn\'t answer the question to your satisfaction? OK then how about this;

Think back to when you first started riding.....remember how that felt? You didn\'t care if it was a straight road, curvy road, a road without traffic, or a road with traffic you were just happy to be out riding. THAT is the type of bike the Tiger is a time machine that takes you back to the days before you got all complicated and focused as a motorcycle rider.

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