2008 Triumph Tiger 1050

On the prowl with Triumph’s 2008 Tiger 1050

As “adventure” bikes go, Triumph’s Tiger 1050 is one sexy cat. I’d thought as much since the first photos of this bike surfaced in 2006, but standing there looking at the bike, there was just no denying it.

I’ve long been a fan of bikes like the Tiger–BMW’s big GS, Ducati’s Multistrada, and Suzuki’s V-Strom–but I’ve always wondered why they had to look so…functional. With the Tiger 1050, Triumph has proven that it IS possible to build a sexy adventure bike. And, as I would soon discover, the bike is more than sexy. It’s a genuinely great motorcycle. A bike you can ride to work, to your favorite local twisty road, or across the country (with the optional hard bags and a few other accessories).

Earlier that day, a friend and I had driven two and a half hours through rain, hail, and snow to Eugene to check out the 2008 bikes from Kawaski, Suzuki, BMW and Triumph. Knowing the Triumph dealership usually had a demo bike, we saved them for last. The motorcycle gods smiled on us and the roads dried up enough for us to take the Tiger 1050 out for a ride after lunch.

After my buddy got back from his 15-minute demo ride (with Mike the salesman setting the pace on a Ducati Multistrada 620), I grabbed the rest of my gear and headed over for a quick pre-ride brief. I began to get an idea of what I was in for when I glanced over and noticed the full-on ear-to-ear grin still on my buddy’s face.

As I pulled away from the parking lot, I gave the bike a little extra throttle to catch up to Mike and my first thought was OH SHIT as the bike did its best impression of a pit bull trying to rip my arms from their sockets. Finesse, I chuckled to myself, seems to be the key here–that and remembering that I’m not riding my 35 horsepower KLR650.

We waited at a stop sign for what seemed like an eternity to make a left turn and head out of town. I did better pulling away this time–a good thing as the road was rutted and too much throttle would’ve been very bad. Navigating this stretch of road, the Tiger passed the suspension test with flying colors–allowing me to feel planted to the pavement without jarring my spine the way my other bike (an 06 Multistrada 620) would’ve.

Following Mike through the second stop sign, I listened for the distinctive Triumph triple growl I’ve read so much about, but didn’t hear it. Maybe you have to put on an aftermarket pipe on for the proper effect, I thought.

A little further down the road, I saw a red car turn in front of Mike (who had just signaled the same turn) onto a rural road. We followed the car–which turned out to be a rapidly accelerating Corvette. I immediately heard the Ducati roar forward (equipped as it was with carbon pipes it was hard to miss) catching the vette quickly. I couldn’t resist setting the Tiger loose and caught them both so fast I could barely process it–even with me short-shifting the Tiger to keep the revs down. I was pretty sure I’d heard the Tiger’s growl, but after catching the vette so quickly, we were suddenly decelerating to get around a rapidly approaching right-hander, and the growl was gone again.

Mike and I backed off the car’s bumper and got back to the test ride. Another few sweeping corners came and went with the Tiger once again proving just how good its handling manners are. I couldn’t help running the bike a gear low after I figured out the proper revs to keep the engine growling. Cresting a hill, I realized I hadn’t even gotten into the last two gears, so quickly upshifted to get a feel for the bike’s manners at speed. Running in 6th at about 65 mph, it was completely smooth. A 500-mile or more day would be no problem on this bike. Visions of an Iron Butt filled my head.

Too quickly, we were back in town and pulling back into the parking lot. After climbing off the Tiger, I pulled my helmet off and just stood there. Could this be the perfect motorcycle for me? It has all the bases covered well–touring, sporting, commuting, good looks, and great character. Mike told us the demo bike we just rode was available at a serious discount–and after running some quick numbers, he came back with a price that was significantly lower than MSRP–especially since that included ABS. Of course, being chronically broke, he may as well have said the bike was a cool million bucks. Still, if not for that one little difficulty, it would likely be sitting in my garage right now. It was that good.