Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hold That Tiger!



About 5 months ago, the first Triumph Tiger 800s reached the Seattle area. Today, I got to test ride one. It was awful, ran poorly, had abysmal build quality and I want nothing more to do with the bike.

Not really...this is a fantastic motorcycle and I think soon I will be counting the days until I can own one. It's likely to be 1-2 years but oh well...it gives earlier adopters the chance to debug issues for me. :)

The picture above is from Tiger's debut at Lynnwood Cycle Barn and that's where I went today to test ride the Tiger. Cycle Barn and I go way back: that's where I bought a Speed Triple, a bit over 4 years ago. Today, I rode my current Speed Triple into their lot and set about securing a test ride. The sales guy, Luke, set me up and soon I was riding around Lynnwood on the Tiger 800 XC (like the one in the picture but more offroad-oriented).

What is the Tiger 800 like? Bloody brilliant. I test rode the comparable BMW 800 GS a couple years back and remember feeling like it was a little gutless. Not so the Tiger 800: it doesn't have the Speed Triple's raw power but I knew as soon as had been on it for a few minutes that it had plenty of power. It accelerated briskly and with the Triumph triple soundtrack that I have known and loved for some time now.

I presently have two bikes, the Speed triple and a DRZ400 supermoto and one question in the back of my mind is whether I should try to have three, adding the Tiger or else stay at two Triumphs by trading in or selling the DRZ. After today's test ride I'm thinking I'll just trade in the DRZ: it's a nice bike but a little underpowered for getting to the places where I'd like to ride it. Part of the appeal to the idea of keeping the DRZ is how surefooted and nimble it is. Could the Tiger do what the DRZ did a couple months back, easily dispatch The Box figure 8 test in an experienced rider class?

One of the first things that I did in today's test ride is get a feel for what the Tiger's steering radius is like, on a quiet street nearby. The answer is: fantastic. The Tiger feels almost as nimble as the DRZ and is clearly a capable replacement for it. Tight U turns were a piece of cake.

As to the build quality, Triumph has clearly taken to heart the lessons from their 1980s near-death experience and are taking great pains to build high quality machines and taking customer problems seriously. This is an area that BMW should give some attention to because their promising 800 GS (as well as their other current bikes) have been bedeviled by a series of quality issues, greatly exacerbated by the company's reluctance to take these problems seriously. Triumph, on the other hand, has already had recalls to deal with some not unexpected first year bugs in the Tiger.

There's also the question of dealer attitude and again, this provides a reason to pick Triumph over BMW. While Seattle BMW dealers have either demonstrated a clear lack of interest in whether I bought a bike from them or a belligerently aggressive insistence that I opt for anti-lock brakes, local Triumph dealers have been enthusiastic about selling me bikes. And they ask ME what features I want on MY bikes. I vastly prefer that approach.

I think that Triumph has another winner on their hands with this bike and eagerly await the day when my garage has a Tiger in it. Thanks to the kind people at Lynnwood Cycle Barn for helping in making this decision. I think you just sold another bike!
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