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2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS

Monday, December 2, 2002
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Adventure-touring To The Limits

We, perhaps like many of you, never really understood the appeal of adventure-touring motorcycles. Who in their right mind would take a nearly 600-pound bike off-roading? And climbing aboard one of those tanks is, especially for short people, like trying to ride Shaq piggyback.

Well, after nearly 5000 miles on BMW's quintessential A-T, the R1150GS, and Triumph's challenger, the Tiger 955i, we're turning into believers.

Before leaving on our adventure, Editor-in-chief Ken Hutchison and I weren't sure what we were getting into, fearing we may be disappointed.

We had some surprises in store for our preconceptions.

The Tiger was the first of the tall duo to get miles under the Metzeler Tourance dual-sport tires fitted to both bikes. Though it's not the latest evolution of Triumph's three-cylinder range, it is nonetheless blessed with that satisfying combination of torque and revvyness combined with that delicious exhaust note that makes us fans of Triples. It's a tenor rather than a soprano, and it plays a soulful tune unlike anything else on the road.

The Tiger uses an older-version cylinder head that is visually bigger than the new head on the '02-and-later Sprint series and the Speed Triple, using shim-under-bucket valve actuation. The lanky Trumpet is also fitted with a fuel-injection system that is a generation behind its brothers, though it is still fitted with an automatic fuel enrichener that makes cold starts a no-fuss affair. The three-cylinder powerplant is thoroughly enjoyable in use, with wonderfully seamless "carburetion." Its only glitch is a fuel pressure regulator that intermittently whined annoyingly.

The GS version of BMW's R1150 platform was revamped a few years ago, and the German company has refined it into an engineering masterwork befitting a Teutonic-developed machine. The 1130cc Twin makes more torque at just 3000 rpm than the Tiger does at its 5200 rpm peak, though the Triumph has a half-dozen more peak ponies it its corral on its way to a 1500 rpm higher redline at 9500 rpm.


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