Sunday, December 25, 2011

Building the Ultimate Adventure Motorcycle: The Essential Guide to Preparing a Bike for the Journey of a Lifetime Book Review by H.B.C.

Building the Ultimate Adventure Motorcycle The Essential Guide to Preparing a Bike for the Journey of a Lifetime

Author: Robert Wicks
Format: Hardcover, 176 Pages
ISBN: 9781844258369
Publisher: Haynes Publishing
Illustrations: 300 color
Size: 8.25 x 10.5 x .4
First Published: July 2010 (UK)
List Price: $34.95

This is the third book in a Haynes adventure motorcycling series, written or co-authored by Robert Wicks. The first was "Adventure Motorcycling" (April 2008) and the second, co-authored with Greg Baker was "Adventure Riding Techniques" (November 2009). Greg Baker also served as the Technical Editor for this third book.

For avid motorcyclists, particularly the long distance travellers with a bent for adventure touring, this book will immediately feel familiar in regards to the content and terminology used.

For those who are just starting to investigate the ins and outs of adventure touring, this book is a great introduction and resource guide.

Regardless of where or how you classify yourself within the motorcycling community in general and the adventure touring discipline specifically, there is likely to be something of value to be found in this publication, be it motorcycle, equipment, logistics or experience related.

The book is laid out in a simple and logical manner.

The Foreword by Grant Johnson, founder of Horizons Unlimited, defines the adventure touring environment from a global perspective and emphasizes the need to be well prepared before leaving home-base, nicely setting the tone for the rest of the book.

While major sections of the book might seem to be clever advertising for major industry players and adventure touring entities, it all actually comes off as an effective and efficient way to present the needed information textually, visually and credibly.

The credentials of the companies and their products, along with the many professional and personal testimonials and stories from individuals who live for adventure touring do a superb job in validating motorcycle, equipment, accessories and personal equipment requirements identified in the book.

Chapters 1 through 5 cover the modern adventure motorcycle, how to choose a motorcycle, selecting and fitting up equipment and accessories, including luggage systems and, selecting personal equipment. There is a lot of information presented in these chapters, some of it historical, but all in all very topical and relevant to identifying and getting your machine ready.

I did note a few exclusions, notably regarding newer technologies, particularly for lighting. Many lightweight and smaller displacement motorcycles that make outstanding adventure touring platforms have modest abilities for accessories; newer technologies like high-output, low-draw LED units are perfect for these platforms and are very cost effective.

Two Case Studies, presented as Chapters 6 and 7, look at the use of the BMW G 650 X-Challenge and the BMW F 650 GS motorcycles for adventure touring. They both provide a clear, realistic and component by component view of what is required to (literally) build and maintain these motorcycles for continued use over significant periods of time.

Chapter 8 is a short but detailed and hard look at competition rally raid motorcycles; those typically used for long-distance, long-duration events, like the Dakar Rally.

Although left to the end of the chapter, this section provides some valuable insight into equipment and technologies being widely adopted for adventure motorcycles. As with any good reference work, the Appendix is long, detailed and broken into sections to help track down book, multi-media or web-based sources and resources. Finally, the Index provides an alphabetical listing of the primary topic material.

Although I classify myself as a somewhat grizzled owner of adventure touring motorcycles and somewhat familiar with the adventure touring realm the book was an interesting read.
Simply put, it is an honest, factual and straight-forward reference publication. The text, narratives and testimonials are easy to read and with 300 colour pictures everything is captured and presented clearly.

Although I have not (yet) read the two earlier books in this series, there is obviously a common thread that binds them all together, that being "adventure touring does not need to remain a dream".
This publication will serve as a great source of information and reference to motorcyclists and not just those who are dreaming of or preparing their own adventure touring machines.

Review Date: January 2011

Pirelli Scorpion Trail Tires by Jerry Smith

Pirelli Scorpion Trail Tires 
[This Pirelli Scorpion Trail Tires gear review was originally published in the January 2011 issue of Rider magazine]

Some riders choose dual-sport and adventure bikes because they want to ride both on and off the pavement. Others appreciate the upright seating and plentiful aftermarket luggage options such bikes offer. That’s what led me to my Suzuki 650 V-Strom, which I’ve ridden off pavement for maybe 100 miles, but more than 31,000 on the street. Until now, however, I haven’t found a rear tire that lasts very long, because the soft compound necessary for off-pavement riding compromises on-pavement tire life. But I think I’ve found the perfect tire for me and my bike—Pirelli’s dual-compound Scorpion Trail.

The Scorpion Trail rear tire has dual compounds—a harder compound in the middle of the tire, flanked by stickier shoulders. You can thank the Ducati Multistrada for this, because it’s the bike these tires were originally designed for. Both the front and rear tires have a 0-degree radial steel-belt carcass, a design Pirelli says promotes easy handling and good road holding. The tires’ profiles are also sporty, with the front mimicking that of Pirelli’s Diablo sport tires, and the rear slightly more rounded than a traditional sport tire for better off-road performance.

The tread pattern is claimed to be optimum for off-road and supersport riding, which seems like a tall order, if not a contradictory one. The tread sipes are deeper in the middle of the tire than on the shoulders, putting more rubber, and a more stable contact patch, on the road in corners. The sticky stuff comes into play at 30 degrees of lean and hangs in there for as long as you can hang on.

Enough press kit summary. How do the dual-compound Scorpion Trails perform? On road, very well. On my first ride with the new tires, I sensed a very slight firming up of the ride, nothing objectionable but nevertheless noticeable, probably due to the 0-degree carcass’s stiffness. After a few days, either it went away or I stopped noticing it. As I got more aggressive on the tires, the sticky shoulders came into their own. I found myself leaning farther into familiar corners, and the front end especially seemed more planted. The bike steered with less effort, held the line through a corner better, and let me use more throttle out of the turns.

Pirelli claims the Scorpion Trails have an on-pavement/off-pavement bias of about 90/10, meaning they’re for riders who ride almost all of the time on the street. I’m no Dakar vet, unless you count watching it on TV, but it’s my gut impression the Pirellis aren’t as good on a graded gravel road as the softer, more off-pavement-biased Dunlop D607s they replaced on my V-Strom; a better rider might think otherwise.

What really intrigued me about the Scorpion Trails was their promise of better mileage on the street. So far, after more than 2,000 miles of pavement riding, neither tire shows any significant change in the profile compared to new; most other brands of dual-sport tires I’ve used would have at least shown some squaring off in the rear by now.

Scorpion Trails come in six front (MSRP $161-$191) sizes and seven rears (MSRP $165-$257). I’m happy with the ones on my bike, and the way things look right now, I expect I’ll go on being happy with them for a long time.

For more information: Call Pirelli Tire at (800) 747-3554

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Revisiting the cult classic: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZMM), a 1974 philosophical novel where the author, Robert M. Pirsig, explores his Methaphysics of Quality (MOQ).

One of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century, Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a powerful, moving, and penetrating examination of how we live . . . and a breathtaking meditation on how to live better. Here is the book that transformed a generation: an unforgettable narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America's Northwest, undertaken by a father and his young son. A story of love and fear -- of growth, discovery, and acceptance -- that becomes a profound personal and philosophical odyssey into life's fundamental questions, this uniquely exhilarating modern classic is both touching and transcendent, resonant with the myriad confusions of existence . . . and the small, essential triumphs that propel us forward.

Also cracked open Che Guevarra's 1952 classic: Diarios de Motocicleta The Motorcyle Diaries, a memoir that traces the early travels of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, then a 23-year-old medical student, and his friend Alberto Granado, a 29-year-old biochemist.

Also available online from the Ernesto Che Guevara archive.

2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS by Kevin Duke,

2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Kevin Duke
Contributing Editor

A legend in the motorcycle industry, Duke Danger is known for his wheelie riding antics, excellent writing skills, appetite for press intro dinners and a propensity to wake up late. Once a fearless member of the MotoUSA team, the Canadian kid is often missed but never forgotten.

Monday, December 02, 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.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GSOutfitted with BMW saddlebags and tank bag, the workhorse is augmented by a second tank bag strapped to the luggage rack that lies beneath the passenger seat. Slick.
The GS is loaded with features and engineering details the Tiger can't match. It boasts a seat that is height adjustable in three positions, a standard luggage rack, accessory outlet, and the best tool kit in the business that even includes a tire repair kit complete with CO2 cartridges. BMW's utterly unique (and amazingly functional) Telelever adds to the gee-whiz factor, and one look at the lovely casting of the GS's transmission case will convince you the Germans know a thing or two about engineering.

The Boxer engine, meanwhile, is a bit of an eccentric. Yes, it does want to rotate the bike when revved in neutral, as horizontally-opposed engines do. But once past that odd sensation, the engine rewards a rider with strong grunt right above idle with a flat, linear torque curve that offers decent power whenever a rider is looking for it.

Once acclimated to the inseam-stretching seat heights of these two-wheeled SUVs, we packed the hard-shell saddlebags for a trip from SoCal to Sonoma, California.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
The Tiger cuts a fairly attractive profile in black and silver, also available in orange or silver for 2003. Check out the chain slack for the reason why some riders only will consider a shaft-driven bike.
As adventure-tourers, both bikes have optional hard bags so we can carry all the crap we think we need to bring on a trip with us. Here, BMW's well-engineered System Cases are superior. Unlike the Tiger, the GS's bags are keyed to the ignition key, resulting in one less item to either scratch the bike's upper triple clamp or, worst case, lose. And although the storage capacities are nearly equal, the Triumph's bags (same as the Sprint ST) have dual latches, making opening and closing a bit more fussy. Plus, the fact that the clothes we packed in the Tiger's right saddlebag (over the muffler) ended up smelling like exhaust fumes sealed (or not) the luggage contest.

The GS, however, loses the engineering wars in the switchgear department. As eccentric as the GS's Flat-Twin is, it's nothing compared to BMW's weird turn signal arrangement. Instead of the left/right/push-to-cancel single-button switch on every other bike (except Harleys), BMW uses three buttons to perform the same task. Separate push-button switches on the left and right handlebars aren't so bad in themselves, but why BMW adds a third switch to cancel is beyond intuitive reasoning. Worse still is that the cancel switch requires lifting up your right thumb, which distracts an already-busy (with throttle and brake) hand. BMW's designer David Robb swears by this arrangement, so don't expect assimilation from the Germans anytime soon. Truth be told, a rider eventually gets used to it, but we wonder why we should have to.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Bags packed and a coastline to follow, these adventure-tourers helped us leave behind the pressures of deadlines.
Out on the open road, the GS performs better than its switchgear. Ergos are upright comfy, though the pegs are a bit high with the seat in its lowest position. Raising the supportive seat provides more legroom, but at the expense of a longer reach to the ground than 32-inch inseams can handle.

The Tiger offers a shorter reach to the ground at the expense of relatively less legroom. Its wide, flat seat feels good for the first hour, but its soft padding ends up letting down posteriors by the end of the day. Non-adjustable levers are too far from the grips unless you've got hands like Jimi Hendrix.

By the time we reached the fun-filled roller coaster that is Santa Rosa Creek Road near Cambria, we were ready to let loose. The Tiger soaked up the bumps better than the GS on the narrow, twisty road, but its handling deficiencies became obvious when ridden hard. Its high center of gravity results in slower turn-in than the GS, and it takes considerable effort to right it once leaned over. Flip-flop transitions bring out its worst. Plus, the slightly grabby brakes and soft fork springs that cause the front end to dive hard under heavy braking also don't transmit much of what's happening at the front tire when leaned over. A rear shock lacking rebound damping further hurt the Trumpet's cause on this tight road.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Fog is just part of coastal road running. Note the high-mount exhaust pipe of the Tiger (left) that intrudes on luggage space and causes fumes to permeate clothing packed inside.
The BMW, despite its formidable size, is easier to handle in the blind corners and steep drop-offs here. Its Telelever (with spring preload adjustment) virtually eliminates fork dive, leaving the front shock able to eat road imperfections. And you can lay this rig over in a hurry, as its wide handlebars and noticeably lower center of gravity work together to reduce the feeling of the bike's size.

We were greeted the next day by typical light coastal fog and a morning rain shower, but the curves of the Pacific Coast Highway were not to be denied. The GS, with its heated grips, ABS and more communicative front end, was delightful. The ample spread of power from its torquey motor made shifting optional. We were able to use third gear even with corner speeds as low as 25 mph, torquing out of corners like a 4-stroke motocross bike digging fresh knobbies into a damp golf green. The Boxer motor may not have a big top-end lunge, but it pulls cleanly from as low as 2500 rpm, then quite strong from 3000.
Wide bars make for quick steering  wide cylinders give a low center of gravity  and wide bags offer plenty of stowage room. Not so good for lane-splitting  though. Note the Telelever shock between the fork tubes. Wide bars make for quick steering, wide cylinders give a low center of gravity, and wide bags offer plenty of stowage room. Not so good for lane-splitting, though. Note the Telelever shock between the fork tubes.
The Tiger, too, has power down low, but with a healthier midrange that picks up steam the harder you rev it. Its handguards kept finger dry (as did the GS's), and the Inline-Triple, surprisingly, did a better job at keeping a rider's feet drier than the Beemer's big jugs.

While both fairings keep rain away from a rider's torso, the Triumph's wider nose is significantly more protective than that of the GS. The annoying buffeting from the BMW's fairing was reduced once we figured out that angling the windscreen back was the way to go, but we never were able to dial out the GS's propensity for being grabbed by crosswinds, dangerously so at times.

With pavement steaming as the sun burned off surface water on the blackened road, we burned our way north. Arid grasslands and rolling hills gave way to lush vegetation, with pines and oak hybrids surrounding the serpentine coastal road. A leisurely cafe latte in Big Sur fueled us for the blast through Monterey and San Francisco to our layover in near Sonoma. We arrived fairly fresh, and with the capacity of the saddlebags, we had enough wardrobe and supplies to look good (as good as we are able, anyway) for a well-deserved dinner at the end of a long day.

To find out if one bike could really do it all, we had a surprise in store for the big dirt bikes. We enrolled in Reg Pridmore's excellent CLASS riding school, in which we'd find out on the twists and hills of Sears Point Raceway how much of an adventure these adventure-tourers can handle.

With semi-knobbie tires, long-travel suspension and torque-tuned motors, there's plenty of reasons why you don't see many of this type of bike on a racetrack (duh!). But you may be surprised, as were we, at how well Rodan and Godzilla get on it. We started off in the slower group and quickly (very quickly) realized we needed to move up to the faster sessions.

The Tiger's revvier nature felt more at home with the throttle held to its stop, and its bulging midrange kept it not far from a Yamaha R1 down the straights. Rider smoothness paid dividends by not taxing the soft springs in the non-adjustable fork, and the R1 rider was dispatched during a corner entry thanks to powerful 2-pot brakes. Demoralizing for the sportbike rider, no doubt. Lean angle is plenty generous with the tall suspension, but even so we managed to get the pegs digging into the tighter corners on the track.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
With its big beak and protruding cylinders, the GS looks out of place on the racetrack. Just don't tell that to the sportbikes that fell victim to its ample ground clearance, strong corner exits and powerful brakes.
The GS acquitted itself quite well, also. Using its eminently tractable powerband for strong corner exits, the Flat-Twin doesn't lose much to the higher-revving Triple. Indeed, it has more hp and torque than the Tiger up to 6000 rpm, after which the Triumph builds a slight horsepower advantage. The well-controlled suspension kept its composure, and the Telelever allowed full use of the powerful Brembo brakes. The version of BMW's ABS on our bike was not the Integral ABS that links front and rear brakes, and this simpler iteration is much preferred, with less abrupt application and independent use of the brakes at each end. The anti-lock system was thankfully transparent in its operation, not interfering too early.

Afterwards, as we dismounted our faithful steeds outside the hotel, faces flush from a great time on the track, we posed the question of whether we would've had more fun at the track on a pure sportbike. With a few seconds of rumination, thinking about the juxtaposition of these dual-purpose bikes on a racetrack, we agreed that we probably had a better time on this long-legged duo!

Saddlebags stuffed to the gills once more (both sets are comparable in capacity), we saddled up for the return journey south. We decided to take a side route on the famous Skyline Boulevard that runs through Portola State Park. Skyline didn't meet our inflated expectations (too much traffic), but the roads a little further south through Big Basin Redwoods State Park blew us away. Highway 9 leads to Highway 238, a magical, secluded 1.5-laner that is graced by a canopy of 100-foot redwoods and 60-foot oaks. Sunlight filtered through the branches to make snowflake-like patterns on the twisty asphalt, providing a surreal canvas on which to carve up.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
The Pacific ocean reflects on the 6.3-gallon tank of the Tiger. The GS holds 5.8 gallons. Over 2000 miles, the GS averaged 34.5 mpg, while the Tiger slightly better at 38.0.
The high and wide bars on both bikes make up for conservative chassis geometry, endowing each with nimbleness that belies their size. Bumps the Triumphs's rear shock erased under acceleration were much more evident on the GS, as its Paralever (designed to counteract the rising effect of its shaft drive) objected to sharp-edged bumps much in the same way a solid-axle, leaf-spring suspended car does. Adding to the "character" of the GS is the way the chassis exhibits a flexy feeling when shifting while leaned over. Interrupting the power delivery with the clutch causes the driveshaft gears to climb over each other, subtly changing the orientation of the rear wheel. Weird.

The Tiger, meanwhile, drew criticism for its notchy shifter. The 6-speed box has short throws, but shifts on our well-worn test unit were sometimes reluctant. We also experienced the occasional false neutral on the shift from fifth to sixth gear.

2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Head to head, the GS has more refinement and features, while the Tiger counters with a more enjoyable engine and a lower entry fee.
Once the roads straightened out, we appreciated the Tiger's soft suspension that flattens bumps as clean as anything else we've sampled. It's cushy, all right, but sometimes it feels unrefined and clunky. Both bikes have a hydraulic preload adjuster on their rear shocks, but unlike the GS's knurled knob that allows simple adjustment even while riding, the Triumph's adjuster disappointingly needs a wrench to turn.

Straight-line cruising brings out the subtleties of a bike. The GS engine has more pronounced vibration, but its low-frequency vibes are less obtrusive than the higher-pitched tune of the Tiger that will result in hands feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle after a long day. GS vibes intrude above 4200 rpm, but a super-tall, overdrive sixth gear keeps revs below that level up to 85 mph.

On the Tiger, an indicated 75 mph in sixth equals to about 5000 rpm, nearly at its power surge around 6000 rpm. As such, the Triumph stomps the GS in sixth-gear roll-on contests. But in fifth gear, it's the GS (now out of overdrive) that jumps to an early lead and holds the small margin through 100 mph. And in a drag race from 20 mph (so that the variable of start-line techniques is eliminated), the Tiger pulls a small gap, but doesn't increase its advantage through "the ton." An unexpected result considering the snappier impression from the Tiger's engine.

2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Bikes that are competent during freeway running, backroad strafing, racetrack blasting or even playing on the beach - all while hauling a bunch of cargo for a few thousand miles - are rare beasts.
Our fears of being disappointed were laid to rest, as the last detour of the trip proved there is no other class of bikes we could have the same array of adventures on, and certainly not with the same level of comfort, speed and grace.

Pismo Beach is a sandy playground along the coastal waters of California, a place where ATVs and paddle-tired dirtbikes roost. While the street-oriented Tourances weren't suited to the deep sand, the 500-plus pound bikes are deceptively competent in the damp stuff at the ocean's edge. Try that on your R1 or ST1300!

So, what have we learned during this 2000-mile adventure?

Well, BMW's GS is a finely engineered machine that offers features the Tiger can't match. But these attributes come at a price, $14,500 to be exact ($12,990 without ABS).

The Triumph can't compete in its level of refinement, but you'll have a big wad of cash left over in your pocket to comfort you. The Tiger lists for $10,999 (plus $1250 for the luggage), but a local dealer told me I could take one home for just $8999.
2002 Triumph Tiger vs. BMW R1150GS
Ken uses the wide powerband of the Tiger to carve up Pismo.

So if shaft drive, anti-lock brakes and standard heated handgrips are on your must-have list, you won't be disappointed by choosing the R1150GS.

If you consider the above items nice to have but not absolutely necessary, Triumph's Tiger 955i offers better value for the money.

One last thing: If manufacturers are going to market these kinds of globe-trotting bikes, how about fitting more than one tripmeter to the instruments, please?

Carole Nash Review

Do you like your bikes big, funky and British? You do, then check out the Tiger 900 trailie from the boys at Hinckley.

It might not be the fastest thing on two wheels, or the prettiest, but it’s tough, user friendly and makes a very decent alternative to the BMW R1150GS, especially if you feel all patriotic.

With a re-worked three cylinder engine lifted from Triumph´s sportier offerings of the mid 1990s, the Tiger has a truly unique feel, in a market segment where most of the opposition is twin cylinder powered.

It had all been so deceptively easy. For the last few miles, tailing a GSX-R750 along curving A-roads, I’d been conscious of using a few more revs than before, of wind tumbling over the low screen, and of the softly-sprung bike rocking slightly in the bends. But the ride had been no sweat; the Tiger totally at home. Then I glanced down at the speedo. It was indicating over 100mph, and had presumably been doing so for much of the last ten minutes - keeping pace with the speeding Suzuki so effortlessly that I’d assumed we were travelling a good 20mph or 30mph slower.

Perhaps the wind roar and fork dive that had been starting to become annoying weren’t so unacceptable after all. As a trail bike, the Tiger makes a pretty reasonable sportster - and so it should. This latest 900 may be the most obviously different of Triumph’s range, with its big tank, desert-race styling and long-travel suspenders. But of all the big trailies it is not only the fastest and the only one with more than two cylinders.

It’s probably also the least suited of all to off-road exploration. Which is quite all right by me, and probably by most potential owners. This 900 remained on the road, and stayed shiny side up even after being booted up the back by a dozily-driven Peugeot when I braked slightly late for a roundabout.

Despite getting shunted forward quite violently, the Triumph suffered no more than a scratched number-plate. The car, to my delight, copped a shattered headlight and a dented bonnet. The Tiger’s that kind of bike: big, butch and apparently indestructible. It has been created to provide the necessary all-terrain image while retaining as much of the modular format as possible.

Many parts are shared with the Trident and other bikes, notably the steel spine frame and much of the watercooled, 12-valve 885cc engine. (Five of Triumph’s eight models are powered by the long-stroke triple.)

However, a comprehensive revamp has been necessary. A new twin-headlamp half-fairing merges with the plastic fuel tank whose new-found legality has allowed the Tiger to go on sale here earlier than expected.

Bright blue paint (red and sand are options) extends not just to the sidepanels and tailpiece, but also to engine covers and the hefty steel tubes holding an alloy bashplate. Front suspension is all new, of course, with 43mm Kayabas giving 235mm of travel up front.

The rear shock is a fully adjustable unit from the same Japanese firm, with its remote reservoir positioned high near the left side of the black-barrelled engine. There’s 200mm travel at the spoked 17-inch rear wheel, which like the 19-inch front wears one of Michelin’s tarmac-friendly T66 tubed trail radials.

Triumph don’t claim that this is an off-road bike, and the Tiger has none of the dirt-friendly folding levers and quick-release fasteners seen on some trailies. What it does have, alongside the black-faced speedo and tacho in its cockpit, is a digital clock that looks a bit like an afterthought but is no less useful for that.

So too are the hand-protectors, theoretically intended to catch flying rocks but equally adept at diverting cold air. As well as having deceitfully ’desert-racerish’ styling the triple is also suitably huge, thanks partly to a seat which at 850mm is a good 60mm higher than that of any other Triumph.

It’s heavy, too, at around 500lb fuelled-up. But once you clamber onto the beast, its soft suspension compresses so much that tall riders can put both feet flat on the ground and the bike feels barely bigger than most other Trumpets.

The Tiger certainly has the trademark triple sound and feel when you hit the button, ticking over smoothly with a similarly muted three-pot burble from the high-set silencers. The engine is not quite a Trident lump, though. Its camshafts are new, with less lift and duration. Along with airbox and carb jetting mods (the trio of 36mm CV Mikunis remain), the changes bring claimed peak power down from the Trident’s 99bhp at 9500rpm to 84bhp at 8000rpm.

Power is reduced all the way from four grand to the 8500rpm redline, although there’s an improvement at very low revs and the Tiger’s torque curve is virtually flat from 2000rpm upwards. Triumph won’t confirm as much, but the changes are presumably less to do with adding low-rev performance than with restricting the Tiger’s top whack to around 130mph to prevent the high-speed weave that afflicts many similarly styled bikes.What you feel about the new motor depends on what you compare it to. It’s smooth and torquey by any standards, but in comparison with the original triple the Tiger seems more like a friendly tabby. Okay, that’s exaggerating. But the Tiger is a little less eager to rev, although it still accelerates crisply and cruises at a ton with pleasantly relaxed ease (and commendably vibration-free mirrors).

A slight loss of top-end performance is predictable, but I’d hoped for even more bottom-end bite in return. In fact the Tiger felt barely stronger than the other triples at low revs, and was less keen than the half-faired Trident Sprint to pull stonking wheelies using just the throttle.

And while I’m moaning, the new motor’s laid-back nature meant it had even less need for all six of the ratios in Triumph’s ubiquitous modular gearbox. I won’t complain too much, though, because this is still one meaty motor. Simply winding back the throttle in top is guaranteed to send the 900 surging forward, regardless of revs.

When picking off lines of cars on a crowded A-road, for example, it’s perfect. From that high perch you can see for miles. The Tiger stomps forward instantly from below 50mph in top - and if held wide open it keeps on pulling, with no pause for breath, until you’re holding on tight at two miles per minute.

By trail bike standards that’s fast, and the good news is that Triumph’s detune works in that the Tiger chassis is well capable of coping with that speed. The wide bars showed no signs of getting into a flap even close to the max, and the 900 stayed pretty stable at all times - although with this much soft suspension travel around you’re never going to get the taut feel of a decent sportster.When on the power hard coming out of a bend and the shock compresses to let the bike rock a bit, but there’s enough damping to prevent it turning into a wobble. The Tiger cornered well on the standard settings, and winding on a few extra clicks of both compression and rebound (easily done, unlike spring preload adjustment which is dealer-only) firmed things up slightly.

There’s no such opportunity at the non-adjustable front end, which predictably makes like a base-jumper every time the reasonably pokey front-brake set-up of 276mm discs and twin-pot calipers is used in anger. Braking hard into a bend pushes the narrowish front Michelin towards its limits and uses up ground clearance. But there’s a reasonable way to go before, on right-handers, the rear brake lever digs in.

Rapid direction changes require a fair tug on the wide bars but the Tiger will hustle if it has to. Comfort is good, thanks to a combination of relaxed riding position, big seat and reasonable wind protection from the stubby screen. And the Tiger is pretty practical, too. Its 5.3 gallon tank gives a minimum 150-mile range, even when hard use brings fuel consumption down towards 30mpg (40mpg and 200 miles would be more typical).

The fuel tank’s shape hampers fitting a tank-bag, and the upswept pipes would make fitting throwovers dodgy, but at least there’s a decent-sized luggage rack. Course if you really want serious horsepower, taut handling, powerful brakes and mile-eating comfort a trail bike is not the logical choice. Triumph’s own Trident Sprint 900, to name one obvious rival that costs only £150 more than the £6299 Tiger, is better in every way apart from its lack of notional off-road ability and the absence of a clock.

For anyone harboring even vague ideas about off-road use, on the other hand, Yamaha’s Super Tenere or Honda’s revamped Africa Twin (to name but two) are slightly lighter, slightly lower and a fair bit cheaper.

The Tiger savages them with its performance on the street, though - and anyway, when did logic or off-road performance ever have much to do with buying a big trailie?

It’s hard to dispute that big, squashy posemobiles like these are fundamentally flawed, yet the irony is that they can make very capable bikes. The ones that succeed match off-road style and feel with the engine performance of a long-legged tourer. Perhaps as much by luck as by judgement, that’s just what Triumph’s modular mud-plugger does best.

Vital Statistics

Engine Water-cooled DOHC 12-valve transverse triple
cc 885
Claimed power (bhp) 76 x 65mm
Compression ratio 10.6:1
Transmission Six speed
Cycle parts
Front tyre 110/80 x 19in Michelin T66
Rear tyre 150/70 x 17in Michelin T66
Front wheel 2.50 x 19in
Rear wheel 4.50 x 17in
Front suspension 43mm telescopic Kayaba
Rear suspension One Kayaba damper, adjustments for preload and rebound damping
Front brake Twin 276mm discs, twin-piston calipers
Rear brake Single 255mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Wheelbase 1560mm (61.4in)
Dry weight 209kg (460lb)
Top speed 130 mph
Fuel capacity 24 litres
Buying Info
Current price £7,149

Friday, December 23, 2011

Steamers, Girlies and Roadies

From the TRIUMPH Tiger List on Yahoo !

Group folklore. One of our ex-members (J Sagar) and one of the other listers were having some friendly banter and it was mentioned that the bike look quite industrial and J had a picture of his in front of coal-skip. The conversation went on about coal-powered, steam-driven it's been Steamers and Girlie efi's from there on Smile

Girlie ... just have a look on the eye-linered face of the 955 , you understand why.
and the Roadie name came from the same group maybe cause when the new tigers came out they are not as adventure type bike oriented in looks at least .

and there you have it

Motorcyle History

The Triumph Tiger wasn't my first motorcycle. I grew up around dirt bikes. I learned to ride on a
Honda Trail 70.

My childhood heros were Hurricane Hannah, Marty Smith, and Roger DeCoster.
My first street bike was a Kawasaki EX500 which I used to commute to work.

I soon traded the street bike for a dedicated road race bike: a Yamaha FZR 400 RR-SP with a full race kit which was imported from Japan by Del Amo Yamaha and raced in the late 1980s by Nick Ienatsch, Motorcyclist Magazine editor of 'The Pace' series. I purchased that bike from his tuner: Steve Biganski.

Bitten by the Road Racing bug, I gave up on riding on the street. On my first outing with the Willow Spring Motorcycle Club (WSMC) New Racer school, I crashed coming out of Turn 4 at Willow Springs Raceway. I roadraced Pro-Am with AMA CCS, WERA, GLRRA, and WSMC from 1988 to 2001, and continued to do track days until 2003. To train, I would ride fire roads and race flat-track.

I did extensive 'wrenching', which evolved into a short but successful career as a mechanic and Data Acquisition Enginner 'Geek' (DAG) in IndyCar from 1997 to 2001. But the experience was a distance memory from a different life.

On the journey, I've owned a:
Kawasaki H2 Mach IV

Yamaha XS650
Yamaha Virago XV750 Special
Honda CB125
Maico Adolph Weil AW400 'Coffin Tank'

Yamaha AT-1
Yamaha DT250

Yamaha TT500
Honda XL500S
Honda CBR600F2
Bultaco 250 Alpina

Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom
Ducati M750 Dark

Ducati M900


Honda SL125

Laverda 668 Ghost
and raced Grand Prix/Formula 3 on a Honda RS125 imported from Japan by Rising Sun Cycles and
a Ducati 916 Strada from Motor Cycle Center in Heavyweight and Unlimited Superbike classes.

My son started off with a Yamaha PW50, then traded up to a KTM50Pro Senior and a Husqvarna 50.

My brief experience with BMW was on my friend Dr. Paul's R1200ST which I felt handled odd with a tall seat hight, and the quirks of shaft drive. I gave up on riding motorcycles in 2005 for personal reasons.

Damage Assessment

I disassembled the front end of the bike, and brought the fork tubes, front axle, yoke assembly (triple tree), and front wheel to The Frame Man in Sacramento for inspection and straightening. The fork tubes were slightly bent at the lower triple tree mounting point. The lower yoke assembly stem was misaligned and the yoke base deformed. The axle was slightly bent. The front brake rotors were out of tolerance. Luckily, Pat at The Frame Man was able to repair all items for $310.
Straightened fork tubes and yoke

The dealer had quoted the lower yoke assembly at $326.99, each fork tube $450.73, and each brake disk at $205.79.

The body damge was limited to a bent cockpit subframe, a front fender cracked into 3 pieces, a cracked right side cockpit moulding and cracked right signal indicator lens. The coolant expansion bottle cap was missing. I promptly ordered the signal indicator  lens and expansion bottle cap from Bike Bandit for $16.06 plus shipping.

Cracked Fender and Cowling
I repaired the cracked front fender and cockpit moulding with a plastic welding kit I purchased form Harbor Freight on sale for $10.99. I had a local metal fabricator straighten the cockpit subframe for $30. The dealer had quoted the subframe at $376.99, fender $163.99, and cockpit moulding $86.99 .

Repaired Fender and Cowling
Sourced a rear fender on eBay for $9.99 from Pinwall Cycle Parts. Dealer quoted $71.99 .

Rear fender

I plan on sending the frame to The Frame Man for a detailed inspection.

The Deal

November 27th: While casually browsing Craigslist, I came upon an advert for a 2000 Triumph Tiger for $1000. I did not have plans to purchase another motorcycle, but it sounded like a very good deal, and I promptly replied via email. The owner, Chad, was involved in an accident on July 28th. While returning from the dealer where he had the bike serviced, he was rear ended while at a stop, and the bike was thrown against the rear bumper of a vehicle in front of him. We agreed on a time I'd come by and take a look. The motorcycle was the dealer, 35-miles away, and a number of interested parties had already called.
November 28th:The Inspection: a 2000 Triumph Tiger with 12,767 miles odometer reading. The front fork and cowling were clearly misaligned, the front fender shattered, and a cracked right side cowling and broken right turn indicator light lens.

The dealer estimated $7,278.76 in parts and labor to repair the vehicle.
Misaligned Front Forks, Cracked Fender, Cracked Right Cockpit moulding, Cracked Indicator lens
Misaligned Front Forks, Cracked Fender, Cracked Right Cockpit moulding, Cracked Indicator lens
Chad had acquired the Triumph in 2009 from the original owner who rode it 3100 miles down to San Ramon, California from Anchorage, Alaska. Service records shows the scheduled maintenance was completed by the dealer. Chad recently added a Givi top case and heated grips; changed the rear (EBC) brake pads, battery, sprocket and chain; and installed Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires just prior to the accident.

I had recently returned to motorcycling with a recent purchase of a 1993 BMW K1100LT, and really did not need another motorcycle, as I was restoring a 1973 Honda SLl25K2 with my son.
Another prospective buyer came down from Reno, Nevada the same time I scheduled to inspect the Triumph. I quickly decided that despite the issues, this would be a good deal, and I offered Chad $700 for the bike, which would cover his insurance deductable and compensate for the Givi top case. Chad had already used his checkfrom the insurance company to purchase a 2011 Ducati Multistrada 1200.

We promptly struck a deal, and I returned the next day to pick-up the bike. DMV advised me that since the vehicle was reported by the insurance company as a 'Total Loss', I would need California Highway Patrol to inspect the motorcycle, before I could register and license the vehicle for street use. The process seems relatively straight forward but time consuming.