During my last three riding seasons in Ontario, Kawasaki’s venerable KLR650 was the best bike for me.
Ontario’s archaic speed limits of 80 km/h on two-lane roads and 100 on freeways meant the KLR could stay with traffic on Hwy. 401 quite comfortably and zap the two-lane roads with little strain. The generous dual-purpose travel and well-damped suspension swallowed up all the potholes, craters and frost heaves quite nicely, meaning my spine wasn’t driven up through the top of my head every time I went for a ride. Also, a good friend and fellow KLR owner lived close by, so we’d often take off for an afternoon and explore trails and unimproved roads everywhere between Oshawa and Bancroft.
The KLR was simply a good fit for what I wanted to do.
Eighteen months ago, my significant other and I moved to British Columbia and it’s different here. For starters, speed limits are very civilized with 100 km/h on many two-lane roads, 110 on most freeways, and several post a Euro-like 120 km/h. I always felt I was abusing the KLR at those velocities and when passing on two-lane roads, that extra 20 km/h meant there was a little less oomph available for a safe, efficient pass.
Most BC day trips are 700-km plus loops, all at an average speed of 110 – 120 km/h, and at the end of the day, it was a little fatiguing.
Off-roading is different here, too. Go off the trail in Ontario and you get a bit muddy or bug-bitten. Here, there’s a lot of mountains and canyons. Leave the trail and Lassie couldn’t find you if you were wrapped in bacon. And basically, I’m a pavement guy. I enjoyed puttering around in the dirt and was fairly competent, but I always had the feeling that any minute, I was going to ruin a perfectly good femur.
So if I wasn’t going off-road and virtually all my riding is sport-touring, it was obvious that a change in motorcycles was necessary. What was ideal before became lacking.
I made a list of features and characteristics that I wanted for my “Here And Now” motorcycle.
I wanted decent power, it had to be comfortable, handle well, have good brakes and decent wind and weather protection. It should be capable of a 600- or 700-km jaunt without requiring a chiropractor the next day. And ideally, it should have some cachet, not be a run of the mill “belly button bike,” where everyone has one.
I dismissed adventure-touring bikes because if I was going street, I was going all-in, so a 17-inch front wheel for sport rubber was mandatory. Which ruled out motorcycles like the Yamaha Tenere, BMW GS and 650 and 1000 V-Stroms (bikes that I really like) because they have 19-inch front wheels. Nobody seriously takes these things off-road anyway, so it’s purely nonsensical style over function.
Sport bikes were a no-go because I’m too old to be folded, bent and mutilated into an ass-up, wrists-down riding position for a full day, and soft luggage looks dorky when attached.
How about a nice cruiser? Not even if it came with superpowers.
I got mildly interested in a couple of ZRX1200s, and was thinking about Suzuki 1200 Bandits, first-gen FZ1s and looked at a low-mileage Honda CBF1000.
Finally, my significant other said, “At this stage of the game, shouldn’t you stop mucking about and just go and buy your dream bike?” (at least, I think she said, “mucking.”) And, bless her, she gave me the green light to spend some of the children’s inheritance.
The problem was, after riding virtually every motorcycle on the market for the last 15 years or so, I didn’t really have a “dream bike.” But looking back over some of my year-end wrap-ups, one motorcycle that consistently made the “Bikes I’d Buy With My Own Money” list was the Triumph Tiger 1050.
One morning last August, a 2008 Triumph Tiger 1050 popped up at a reputable multi-line dealer just across the Fraser River in Langley. The bike had just been taken on a trade from the original owner, all the service records were present, it only had 21,000 km and was absolutely mint. I made arrangements to bring the KLR over the next morning for an appraisal and to test ride the Tiger, and at 1 in the afternoon, I rode the Tiger home. I moved fast because the only thing that comes to those who wait is old age.
The children’s inheritance didn’t take much of a hit, and they allowed me in trade what I paid for the KLR three years ago.
Life with a Tiger
After living with the Tiger for a while and going on a few trips, I’m really glad I caught the 1050 from Hinckley. It just might be my “dream bike.”
For starters, I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall with long legs, and the Tiger is physically big — its 835mm seat height fits me just fine. It’s got really good wind and weather protection, heated grips, a comfortable, upright riding position and the factory hard bags. Mine even had aftermarket engine guards and genuine Triumph accessory colour-matched, billet multi-adjustable brake and clutch levers.
The fully-adjustable suspension has 150 mm of travel, front and rear, and is generally well sprung and adequately damped. Brakes are excellent with four-pot calipers sinking their fangs into twin 320 mm discs up front and a single 255 mm disc out back.
Three cylinders is a natural fit for a motorcycle — power pulses spaced 120 degrees apart make for a smooth-running engine, and a triple is narrower and lighter than a similar four-cylinder motor. Fewer spark plugs to change means fewer valves to adjust, and so on.
The 1050 cc motor is smooth, flexible and torquey with a guttural purr that’s as sexy as Charlize Theron whispering in your ear. Of course, the power is great, especially when you figure the KLR had 43 horsepower pushing 196 kg, while the Tiger weighs 23 kg more but has 116 horses. Acceleration isn’t violent or retina-flattening — it’s more of an inexorable, increasing push that just keeps on going.
The six-speed box shifts precisely with a short, crisp throw and when going into first from neutral, there’s a little snick instead of a huge CLUNK like on some bikes. And it’s got attitude: it’s the kind of motorcycle that if it went to the bathroom, it’d deliberately leave the seat up.
So far, I’m really happy with El Tigre. Last fall, I squeezed in several day trips as well as a couple of overnighters down through Washington state, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. A pre-emptive complete service in January revealed a slight problem of pitting on the cam buckets, probably caused by improper storage (21,000 km on an 8-year-old bike means it was sitting for a while somewhere). Every Triumph expert I’ve talked to (as well as all the internet owners’ forums) indicates the issue on my bike is unheard of.
While he was at it, my tech re-mapped the EFI, set the valves, tightened and torqued every nut and bolt on the bike, greased all the pivots and installed genuine Triumph filters. And now I have a pristine, almost-brand-new 2008 Tiger that’s ready for the open road.
I’ve got lots of day trips, overnight and weekend jaunts planned, culminating in an early July road trip through Washington, Oregon, northern California and finishing up at the World Superbike round at Laguna Seca.
Two years ago, I was okay with puttering around Ontario on a KLR650, but now, happiness is a twisty BC mountain road aboard a Nuclear Orange 1050 Triumph Tiger.
Are you happy with your bike? Or not? Let us know!
“Leave the trail and Lassie couldn’t find you if you were wrapped in bacon.”
I loved that! Made me laugh out loud whilst reading the article 🙂
I traded my ’09 Triumph Bonnie T100 for a ’06 Tiger 955i. Best decision I made.
It has loads of power, compliant suspension and is comfortable enough to put in a 550 mile day.
It came with the full set of factory bags (panniers and top box) which was an unexpected bonus.
I had the dealer replace the Heidenau K60 Scout tires with Anakee 2’s after I bought it. Since then have replaced the sprockets and chain and the front brake rotors and pads all around.
It’s a bit ponderous at low speeds with a full tank of gas (22 litres!) and I’ve dropped it three times. I thought it might be more or a handful around town but it’s actually more nimble through traffic.
All that said, I’d love to try a Tiger 1050!
David – they are very nimble in traffic but another advantage is that we sit up nice and high, allowing us to see over a lot of vehicles. Also, other vehicles should be able to see us better too.
“Are you happy with your bike?”
My BMW R1150GS was a great bike for the 130k kms that I did on the Quebec-sait-faire roads. Unfortunately, the thing is not as reliable as the BMW myth would suggest (yes, it was very well maintained, and no, it was not abused). Two final drives and one ABS control unit later, I think I’ve done my share for the German economy.
My go-to ride is the super reliable Honda Big Ruckus. I can’t do without the auto transmission in the city traffic. I’ve ridden that poor beast from Montreal to South Carolina and the Maritimes, carried everything from beer fridges to stacks of pizzas and rode in every kind of weather imaginable. I even get the standard cool wave from the Harldey crowd, which is quickly retracted when they realize it’s not a “real” bike. I really miss the luxury of an adventure-type suspension, though.
I’m going to genetically breed my GS and Ruckus to get my perfect-ride-for-now; and I think the offspring will look like a DCT Honda NC750X.
After leaving Markham , Ont ,15 months ago for Van Isle,the opportunities seem endless to ride the BC roads . I have pondered the purchase of some model of Triumph for a while to replace my aged Suzuki GSX1100G. It’s just the fact that the Suzi has been the most comfortable sport touring bike for me and I prefer shaft drive to belt drive . I’m 6ft 2ins so the Tiger may just fit the bill .
If there is one piece of technology I crave,it would be ABS .
Rode wee Stroms for a number of year here in BC and then a cross country jaunt too – great bikes reliable …. but as I was waiting for the ferry on last leg home to Van Is from cross country trip a Tiger 955 rolled up, and the rider turns out to be a former work colleague – hadn’t been thinking of a change, but now I’m the owner of 06 Tiger 955, and flying it to Europe this year with ACanada!
You do need long legs as Steve says, but the Triumph triple is a thing of beauty, and because of the model change ups over the past 10yrs, older Tigers can be found for a song.
Hey “Pavement guy” this is your KLR friend from Oshawa, well somewhat south west of Oshawa at present. But I will be awakening my KLR from its hibernation soon enough. We had many great rides on our KLRs Steve and I miss that but time moves on and motorcycles come and go. I was a little disappointed when you first told me you were thinking of trading the red thumper but I couldn’t argue with your rationale for doing so. The Tiger makes sense and I hope you get many miles of enjoyment from it…. and its red!
I picked up a mint KTM SMT last year, and having had VFRs, Multistrada, R1200rt, etc, found it to be the best combination of crazy fun and touring comfortable. Lots of room, lots of suspension and lots of attitude.
Put Michelin pilot road 3 on my old 650 vstrom. Sporty enough for me.
I always thought I’d like a higher top gear on my 1200;. Just such a nice torque oomph at around 3000 rpm, would like to have that at 100 km/h.
Congrats on your new ride!
Interesting that you mentioned the CBF1000 – I picked one up last season myself (a 2010) after extensively shopping around for different models. I never saw that model of Tiger, but I did sit on the newer 800 and found its size/weight a bit off-putting, and found the footpegs in an awkward position. I am a good few inches shorter than you though, so that likely factors in…
Just wondering what pushed you towards the Tiger over the CBF, since I too was looking at both?
Two thngs pushed me off the CBF. I had ridden a couple at various press events but when it came to living with one for myself, it felt cramped to me. Nice bike and typical Honda – does a lot of stuff well, but not very exciting. The second thing – one guy who was selling his was a total dick so it never went past the first conversation.
“…one guy who was selling his was a total dick…”
Not guilty. I’ve never had a CBF to sell. Although, if I did….. 🙂
Congrats, Nice all round bike for sure, stunned it didn’t sell better, especially its brother the Sprint. And no ugly beak!
“Are you happy with your bike? Or not? Let us know!”
– I really love my VFR1200, love my Road King, really like my Fireblade, and have a love hate with my heavily modified DRZ400S/SM (hence why I can’t stop modding it).
Still, no one bike does it all for me – maybe IF the R1200RT had more power then it would be close.
A Super T was the first ADV bike I rode when debating whether to switch from the all-purpose/sport-touring bikes I’d had. it convinced me to switch, although it was the year they came out and the $18,000 price tag convinced me to look at the used V-Stroms and Varaderos. First time I ever saw one it was ridden by – Bondo!
What a playground BC must be! I ride a Super T in and around Montreal, love my 19″ front wheel… I think my bike is one of the best all around bike on the market. The drive shaft makes it a very nice long tourer, remove all the cases and it becomes a mean machine on twisty roads and most surprising is how fun that 1200 engine is on city streets. I test drove several Triumph and loved the 3 cylindre engine, it’s the only thing I would change on the Tenere 😉
Great article; I love reading about used bikes, especially when it’s someone who’s tried a whole bunch of newer, older, and other-styled bikes to compare. Being of much shorter stature than you, I lean towards going back to a Bandit if I get tired of stopping tip-toed on the Varadero. When you mentioned Bandit, it was 1200; why not 1250?
No huge difference between the 1200 and 1250, except as I recall the 1250 got a six-speed, which is just silly. Three speeds is all that thing needs, based on my decade-long experience with one.
You can get a lowering kit if you want. Just Google around European suppliers.
“Leave the trail and Lassie couldn’t find you if you were wrapped in bacon.” HAHA!
Great review. I been thinking about a Tiger for a while now. Thanks