2010 Triumph Tiger 1050 Adventure Shootout

JC Hilderbrand | September 27, 2010

Triumph Tiger 1050
The Tiger is more competitive on the street, but it lacks the outright performance to best the Ducati and the comfort of BMW’s touring package.

The Tiger posted the highest objective scoring total thanks to a consistent presence in each category. It took three wins for having the most affordable price (even with the added cost of ABS), plus good mileage (over 42 mpg) and therefore the best range. It also held its own on the dyno with the second-highest horsepower (107) and it’s not as portly as the BMW. The only category it came in last was the torque comparison which favored the burly Ducati and notoriously grunt-laden BMW. The Multistrada is the lightest and fastest, but it pays the price for that voracious appetite with the lowest mileage, range and highest pricetag, which allowed the Triumph to pull a two-point advantage. Unfortunately for the Brit, that’s where the scorecard success comes to an end.

On top of the rpm range the Tiger wails with the sportiest intentions. However, even compared to the heavier, bulkier BMW, the Triumph feels deceptively slow during a launch. Its power curve is completely linear. Where the BMW growls through its gearbox and the Ducati simply ravages everything in its path, without any notable character throughout the rev range the Triumph just never seems to get with the program. Knocking out 107 horsepower means that it definitely will, but the rider perceives otherwise. On the pavement, riding in the upper rpm is preferred for performance and rider satisfaction. The Triumph’s wail is distinct compared to the Twins, and gives the rider a thrilling sensation of speed.

Staying high in the revs also minimizes the lurching throttle application. Fuel injection is wonderful for all sorts of reasons, but it can prove difficult to modulate, and this is one of the Triumph’s most annoying features in an otherwise pleasant, albeit vanilla, engine department. The other two bikes are much more forgiving while trying to hold a smooth mid-corner pace and it definitely makes the rider feel more uncomfortable. Off-road this is also a problem. The Tiger has very street-biased tires and the rear spins easily with the jerky EFI. Running a gear high is best, though we also learned that breaking loose the Michelin Pilot Road tire can actually improve handling in the dirt.

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Watch the 2010 Triumph Tiger 1050 in action during the 2010 Adventure Touring Shootout Video.

With a few extra pounds positioned on the front, plus the additional emphasis created by moving the handlebars forward, we struggled to get the 1050 to turn on the gravel. The front end wanted to wash out and so instead of arcing through a turn, we’d head straight in, spin the rear end around and head straight out. Once we got a feel for it, this proved to be the preferred method as much as possible. Even though it has a neutral stance compared to most street bikes, the Tiger definitely feels most like a sportbike in this group. A strong emphasis on the front end with lots of feedback make it fun in the twisties, but it can be a handful when traction is limited. Off-road riding is difficult on this bike due to the ergonomics and adjusting the controls was met with limited success.

For every change we made to improve off-road handling, there was a negative consequence for the street. The 43mm Showa fork was stiff in stock form, but we backed off the spring tension which made it plusher for minor off-road chatter. However, it didn’t improve the weight bias on the front, and it wallowed horribly at speed on the pavement. The first time we hopped on the blacktop and wicked it up through a bumpy corner, our heart rate spiked. And speaking of moving the bar position, this was a direct result of the bike’s uncomfortable ergonomics. It was virtually impossible to stand up while riding. Rotating the cheap handlebars helped minimally, making it possible to get up on the pegs for any unexpected rough patches, but that was about it – no cruising on the pegs, Dakar-style. Consequently, it turned decent street handling into awkward, and somewhat dangerous, behavior. With the bars up, the TT 1050 lurched into corners, initially resisting turn-in and then falling off-line abruptly. It’s a lose-lose situation, and ultimately it’s best to deal with the bars in stock position.

Triumph Tiger 1050
This isn’t necessarily the best use of the Tiger’s suspension, but it survived and our photographer was excited.

Controls on the bars aren’t great either. The clutch is the only cable-actuated unit in this test and it has the heaviest pull. Obviously it isn’t designed to be slipped like a dirt bike, but in order to control the jerky EFI and smooth the uncertain handling, we kept fingers on the lever at all times, using it more than was appreciated. We noted distinct play in the lever as the clutch heated up. Even without abuse, the clutch still requires four fingers to fully disengage where the others could be done with only two. Shifting isn’t as clunky as the BMW, but it’s not as smooth as the Ducati. Also, freeway cruising at around 80 mph had us instinctually clawing for another gear

With dual 320mm floating discs, we expected the Tiger to haul down from speed with a vengeance. That isn’t really the case, however, with a very wooden feel from the four-piston Nissin front calipers. It takes a significant squeeze to force enough fluid through the lines. Hop straight onto the Ducati and that’ll have your crotch up on the windscreen. The rear brake is better with average (meaning good) feel and power, and the ABS upgrade was nice for the street portions, if a bit unrefined.

Triumph Tiger 1050Triumph Tiger 1050Triumph Tiger 1050
Being that the Triumph is a true street bike, upgrading to the ABS package is a smart move. We rode with it engaged for a full day of off-road and it didn’t kill us, but if cruising dusty backroads is really in your future, the extra $800 is just a waste.

“The Triumph’s anti-lock brakes remind me of slamming on the brakes in my truck,” says MCUSA IT Project Manager and test rider, Joe Wallace. “They tend to be very clunky and surge like an automobile system would. The other downfall with the Triumph is that you can’t turn off the anti-lock brakes at all.”

It’s true, you can’t turn it off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fool the system. After tiptoeing through off-road corners for the better part of a day, we finally tracked down the appropriate fuse and yanked it out. Being able to at least control the brakes fully made it much better in the dirt, but again, with the negative tradeoff. Triumph, and any ADV bike manufacturer for that matter, absolutely needs to make this a switchable feature. Between the cranky ergonomics, sketchy tires, small wheels and a lack of protection, the Tiger just isn’t cut out for off-road riding. This goes back to our intro – it can be done, but isn’t necessarily the best idea.

Triumph Tiger 1050
Triumph Tiger 1050
The windscreen isn’t very protective, but the
saddlebags are much better than the Duc’s.

When it comes to touring on the Tiger, the sporty rider compartment makes it less appealing along with a significant amount of buffeting, even when tucked in. Droning for long stints is definitely not the best idea with the 1050. Where possible, take the time to find a curvy alternate route. Shifting the body and working through corners takes pressure off the rider’s back and arms, plus it doesn’t allow for as much time contemplating aerodynamics. We did like the metal tank, however, as it was the only one which would accept our magnetic MotoCentric tank bag.

“The Triumph is about even with the Ducati here as far as loading it up,” Wallace comments, noting that the bags offer a better seal. “You could tour on it, but the wind protection isn’t very good. It’s really just your basic standard motorcycle.”

“The 1050 is pretty clean, but very basic,” says photographer/tester, Tyler Maddox, of its appearance, and our other riders agreed. The orange color is catching, but there’s nothing visually remarkable about the Tiger. The X-ring chain was far more durable than the Ducati’s drive chain. Also, the two-sided swingarm is more traditional for off-roading than the other European designs. The small, pointed fairing that protects/conceals the exhaust pipes lowers ground clearance. Located directly behind the front wheel, this will spear right into any obstacle as the 17-inch front hoop drops over.

The Tiger never toppled the BMW in previous testing, and without significant changes, that hasn’t changed. Also, the new Ducati entered the fray swinging with both fists, so the Triumph was the least favorite for all of our riders in every subjective category. Hopefully a new Tiger drops some weight rearward, comes with a larger front wheel, better wind protection, expanded ergonomics, fully loaded instrumentation, better fueling, added torque, on/off-road tires and switchable ABS. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and our eyes peeled, because there are already rumors and spy shots indicating that a new Tiger is in the development pipeline.


JC Hilderbrand

Off-Road Editor| Articles | Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

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