MCN Fleet: Can the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro devour its rivals?
My love affair with adventure bikes started way back in 2006 when I blagged a go on a friends KTM 950 Adventure. I was still into my sports bikes at the time, mainly 600 supersports but the KTM brought something else to the party and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Over the last ten years I’ve been lucky enough to have a plethora of adventure bikes as my test bikes here at MCN – from a BMW R1200GS Adventure, through to a KTM 1190 Adventure R and 1290 Super Adventure S – the list goes on. Most recently, I’ve sampled the so-called adventure middleweight Honda Africa Twin Adventure Sport in 2018, KTM 790 Adventure R in 2019 and the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro in 2020.
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Due to lockdown, I only managed 3000 miles on the Triumph compared to the 14,000+ miles on the Honda and KTM, but it was enough real world action to evaluate. All three deliver a near identical 94bhp, the Honda weighs 32kg more than the 799cc 209kg KTM, but it holds over 4litres more fuel and has eight more ft/lb torque thanks to its bigger 998cc engine capacity. The 888cc three-cylinder Triumph has the least torque, just 0.8 less than the KTM and weighs in at 221kg. On paper there are differences, pluses and minuses, gratification and gripes.
If you were told right now to ride to the South of France (if only!) you’d take the Honda. Big tank equals big miles between fuel stops. High screen, comfy seat, easy riding position and soft compliant suspension.
If the keys for the Honda were taken it would be the Triumph. Arguably just as plush and comfortable, but lacking the wind protection you get from the wide Honda tank and a little bit too much engine buzz at high speed motorway miles. Last would be the KTM. Hard seat, firm suspension and inadequate, noisy screen.
It’s a toss-up between the KTM and the Triumph. There is no doubt the 790R is the sharpest tool in the box. There’s more urgency from the engine despite it having the least capacity, but it’s an aggressive ride, loaded with seriously advanced electronics and an inherently sporty DNA.
The Triumph is a match for it though, although its performance is achieved in a different, let’s say more sophisticated way. The silky-smooth motor is a pleasure wherever you are in the rev range and its ability to rev combined with more top end suspension (this time its Showa and not WP like the KTM) makes it real world brisk.
The Honda is the loser here. Still capable, but too lardy and vague - with not enough extra torque to induce involuntary grins.
The very things that compromise the KTM on road are the things that make it excel on the dirt. KTM’s off road pedigree runs through the veins of the 790R and regardless of your level you will go further on the KTM – especially when the going gets tough.
Next up is the Triumph. It’s revvy motor fights for grip, despite the T Plane crank, but it redeems itself with its good ergonomics and quality suspension.
The Honda runs the Triumph close due to its mild manners and easy-going motor, but its weight goes against it. Saying that it coped just fine with a seven day off-road, fully loaded trip across Spain on the Trans European Trail (TET) so don’t write it off if off-road is your thing.
Taking your pick
Three different takes on adventure from three different manufacturers. Ultimately it comes down to the type of rider you are and what you want to do with the bike. Yes, the KTM is the clear choice for the dirt, but if you’re not intending to go off-road you don’t need to be able to adjust your traction control on the fly or want to find the limits of the big money 48mm fully adjustable WP front forks.
The Honda is the most iconic and arguably the best looking with its classic paint work, while the Triumph runs the Honda close in the looks department and comes fully loaded in terms of quality TFT dash, heated seat, grips etc….
At the end of the day, you pay your money and make your choice… I enjoyed them all, but if I had to put my money where my mouth is, I’d buy the KTM. It’s the most fun and most capable – but it does lack the refinement of its rivals.
Update eight: Time to say goodbye to the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
Well it’s fair to say the last 12 months haven’t gone to plan for any of us. My ambition to cover serious miles on and off road on the new Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro ultimately ended in disappointment with just 3000 miles covered since March.
While it didn’t get the use I expected, it’s still delivered the goods with whatever riding I have done. It’s the first time in my 17 years at MCN that I’ve had a Triumph as a long-term test bike and my lasting impression will be of a genuinely high-quality product, strong support from the factory and a friendly and accommodating dealer network.
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And while I’ve only done 3000 miles – they’ve been varied. Regular motorway trips were intertwined with some B-road blasts, a camping trip through to taking my daughter as a pillion. Not forgetting two trips to Wales where it made a good account of itself off-road especially on fast, wide fire tracks.
The overwhelming characteristics are of a smooth, but punchy motor and super plush, high spec suspension. The Rally Pro model is also very well equipped with heated grips, seat and trick TFT dash all as standard.
The only gripe of the last year of ownership is never being able to successfully sync my iPhone to the bike so that I could get turn by turn navigation on the TFT dash. A first world problem I know! And overcome by fitting a Quad Lock phone mount to the handlebars and using Google maps.
In terms of modifications, I had a set of Triumph’s excellent black, aluminium Expedition panniers fitted (Panniers £635, Mount kit - £275 Top Box - £340 Sliding carriage - £138 + fitting). They proved secure and spacious without being too bulky with the only small issue being the slight movement of the top box.
The only other addition was a set of Pirelli Rally STR tyres. I’ve used these tyres on a range of adventure bikes and they give reassuring levels of feel on road while offering acceptable grip off-road - making them ideal for the trips I made to Wales where I rode 200 miles before spending a day in the dirt.
Ultimately, I haven’t done enough with the bike for it to really have a place in my heart, but that’s down to circumstance and no fault of the bike. In a crowded middleweight adventure bike market – it more than holds its own.
Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro: The story so far
- Update one: An introduction
- Update two: First impressions
- Update three: Off-road on the Tiger 900 Rally Pro
- Update four: Digital dash frustration
- Update five: Mini break on the Tiger 900 Rally Pro
- Update six: Slow start but impressive finish
- Update seven: Rally Pro is a Jack of all trades
Update seven: Triumph Tiger 900 is a Jack of all trades
Like all of us, lockdown is having a seriously detrimental effect on any riding aspirations. With the dawn of the New Year, I was hoping things would be looking up and I’d already started to tease myself with the joy of going out for a ride.
Instead, the supremely capable Triumph Tiger Rally Pro sits dormant in my garage. If this inanimate object did have any feelings it would be wondering what the hell it did wrong to cause our once blossoming romance to come to such an abrupt end.
With no riding planned on the horizon I at least have the luxury of looking back to my last pre-lockdown ride and thankfully it was probably the best of our ten months together. A 430-mile round trip, overnight stay, with a day of off-road riding around the sprawling Sweet Lamb adventure academy in Wales.
By the time I got home I was tired, but not exhausted and it got me thinking about how we are in a golden era of motorbikes and technology.
For the five-hour journey each way I was warm and comfortable despite it being November thanks to the factory fit heated grips and seat. I’d raised the screen to reduce buffeting when on the motorway and listened to music and followed directions through my securely Quadlock mounted phone and Ultimate Ear Protection earphones.
My valuables were secure in the rock-solid Triumph panniers and the combination of considered ergonomics and beautiful Showa suspension I had very little in the way of discomfort despite the amount of time in the saddle. And with 94 easy-to-access bhp on tap, progress was swift and overtakes were easy.
Preparing the bike for the off-road part of my trip was also a pain free experience. Two seconds to slide the screen down to its lowest setting, one minute to remove the panniers, a further 15s to take the electronics out of the road/sport setting and dial in the Enduro mode and I was ready to ride.
The day was spent blasting along fire tracks, negotiating river crossings and climbing up rocky gullies – all of which it did with poise and relative ease. And at the end of the day and faced with the five-hour return journey there was no feeling of dread, safe in the knowledge that it would take everything in its stride.
Tyre choice was also crucial to making it a successful trip and the Pirelli Rally STRs delivered on both the tarmac and gravel. While it’s not the best road or off-road tyre, it performs extremely well in both environments giving good grip and even better feedback and feel.
Just like the tyres the Triumph Tiger isn’t the world’s best road bike or in fact the world’s best off-road bike but as a do it all package it really does tick all the boxes of a true adventure bike.
Update six: A slow start but impressive finish for the Tiger
With the current lockdown coming to an end, I’ve begun hatching plans to get out and at least do some riding before saying good riddance to 2020. Having sat idle for the last month, I took the time to give the handsome looking Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro a once-over.
The voltmeter showed a healthy 12.69v but for the sake of a couple of minutes I hooked up my Optimate1 battery charger just to ensure the battery was in good health especially given how electronically loaded the Triumph is. With heated grips and heated rider and pillion seat to power plus any heated riding kit the last thing you want to do is run down the battery.
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With 3000 miles showing on the odometer, it feels like I’ve just scratched the surface of what the Triumph is capable of. My adventures have included a couple of days off-road where the bike has been axle deep in mud and water. I have to confess I’m not a lover of cleaning bikes and while I’ll always do what is necessary to keep them functioning correctly, I’m definitely not one to sit in the garage polishing – I’m a rider not a polisher!
With that in mind I was impressed to see how the Tiger has fared after six months of on and off-road use in all weathers. Although the looks have grown on me, I wasn’t sure about the bright white frame. My concern was that although it looks a million dollars when I first saw the bike at the end of last year parked up under the lights at Motorcycle Live, I wasn’t sure it was the way to go on an adventure bike. I was worried my hard plastic encased enduro boots would eat into and scratch the flashy paint.
But my cynicism was misplaced and there is zero signs of wear or scuffs. On close inspection I have to say I’m impressed with the finish, there’s no rust spots creeping in and even the exhaust headers, although discoloured, look in incredibly good condition despite the exposure they get.
The next couple of months will prove a further test into the impressive finish of the Tiger. With temperatures plummeting and overnight gritting now becoming common place we’ll have to see how good that white frame looks come Spring.
Update five: A Triumphant Mini Break
Like many of us, I had lots planned for 2020 – most of it of course has all been written off. Historically this far into a year the odometer on any of the long-term test bikes we’re lucky enough to test here at MCN would be reading over 10k, not the 3k the practically new Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro is showing.
Persistent thoughts that travelling would get easier have failed to materialise and with further lockdowns and restrictions dropping into place I decided I just had to go and do something. Unfortunately it wasn’t the week long trip I’d hoped to complete into Europe or the trip to explore Scotland, instead it was a single night away in the Cotswolds.
To make it feel a bit more adventurous I decided to camp - a decision that was influenced by the recent fitting of Triumph's rather cool looking luggage system (Expedition panniers - £635, Mount kit - £275 Top Box - £340 Sliding carriage - £138 + fitting)
The all black aluminium paniers and top box are like the bike, top quality and 100% fit for purpose. The fit is secure and there’s ample space without them being overly huge. The panniers come with internal dry bags which make loading and unloading easy.
There isn’t much difference in terms of preparation and things you need to pack whether you’re away camping for a night or a week but by the time I’d loaded the tent, thermarest, sleeping bag, stove, food and a change of clothes I was still a way off capacity so in a bid to make this a 2* experience rather than a 1* I managed to stuff a full size pillow in the top box and strap a camping chair to the back seat!
Put simply, the Tiger is a nice place to be – especially the fully loaded Rally Pro version with it’s TFT dash, heated seat and grips as standard. The additional weight of the panniers and kit I was carrying certainly affects the character and performance of the bike. The geometry changes with the weight bias moving towards the rear, which in turn takes a lot of weight off the front, yet it maintains excellent stability.
It’s nothing severe and could easily be counteracted by the easy to access pre-load adjuster, but in the first instance I was keen to ride it without making any adjustments. The extra weight has another detrimental affect when it comes to power. Ridden solo and without luggage the Tiger is real world fast thanks to its accurate fuelling, keen to rev motor and super compliant top spec Showa suspension. But like any 94bhp middle weight adventure bikes on the market – Honda Africa Twin (1000cc), BMW F850GS, KTM 790 Adventure – the extra weight takes the edge off the performance. Add a pillion and the once lively and engaging package can feel a bit flat.
Cheeky night camping in the Cotswolds on the @UKTriumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro. @MCNnews #ride5000 #longtermer #adventure @alpinestars @ShoeiHelmetsUK @ultimatehearing @TheRealBerghaus @Thermarest @msrgear *ignore time stamp...! pic.twitter.com/3j9GvB1XtM— Michael Guy (@michaelguy01) October 6, 2020
All in all my night away has to be classed a success, I was the only person in the campsite, which was a bit weird, but I managed to find a non water logged few square meters to pitch my tent and I got through two bags of logs on the fire pit I hired which kept me warm while I stared at the stars….
Update four: Digital frustrations on the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
I have to admit I was pretty excited about the possibility of getting step by step 'what3words' navigation, phone calls and to be able to control of my music through the impressive 7" TFT dash on the Triumph Tiger Rally Pro. It’s the first bike I’ve had which gives this level of connectivity and the fact that I usually cover big miles on my MCN long termer meant that it was something that would be genuinely useful; even a game changer due to me spending hours in the saddle.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm has been quashed by the difficulty and ultimate failure to get any of the promised connectivity working.
Having downloaded the Triumph app, it all seemed intuitive enough as I worked my way through the easy to navigate menus, but after ultimately failing to get the bike to see my phone I had to do what most males deem as the last resort and revert to the instructions!
It turned out I was actually doing it right, which was a surprise, but the device search feature still wouldn’t activate. A quick call to Triumph quickly identified the problem, which resulted in a trip to my local dealer North London Triumph in Watford for the Bluetooth to be activated by a friendly technician and his laptop. Happy days, or so I thought.
Unfortunately, even with the search facility now working and my phone visible and seemingly connected – it isn’t. When trying to get the on screen 'next turn' navigation working it asks for the phone to be paired again – but however many times I try, the bike and the phone won’t speak to each other. It’s the same for music, it can now see my phone, but for some reason won’t connect.
Further investigations reveal that my iPhone XR isn’t actually on the list of approved Triumph Bluetooth devices, despite only being 18 months old, where as a four year old iPhone7 is. It’s all left me a bit frustrated to be honest so while I’ll continue to try and get it working I’ve gone back to what is already a good set-up of syncing my phone direct to my Sena headset, with the phone held in place by the brilliant Quadlock phone mount.
Update three: Easy Tiger! Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro gets wild on the dirt
Not everyone has the desire to take their adventure bike off-road, but for me it’s always something I relish, especially when it’s the first time your wheels leave the predictable grip of tarmac and roll on to rough, loose terrain.
There’s not many routes local to my home where you can really enjoy an adventure bike off road and I didn’t need much of an excuse to make the 220 mile journey to the on and off-road playground that is Wales.
Having already done a couple of 200 mile days on the new Tiger I knew my journey there would be an easy one. With a willing motor, super plush suspension, cruise control and plenty of electronic wizardry, it’s simply a nice place to be to eat miles whether that be the 100 or so miles of motorway or the progressively twistier and more enjoyable A-roads as I neared my destination.
But while the Tiger is fun on the roads that’s not what this trip is about; I’m heading West for the plethora of off-road routes, fire tracks and spectacular scenery.
With Enduro mode selected, the electronics allow the rear wheel to spin before the traction control kicks in and the off-road specific ABS is the same and as a result isn’t intrusive even under relatively hard braking. Given that I’m in Wales I am as surprised as anyone that the ground is so dry, in fact it’s actually dusty which has to be a rare occurrence in these parts!
Heading off on wide and relatively smooth fire tracks, I’m surprised how comfortable the Tiger feels and - as a result - how fast I’m going with everything very much in control. Thanks to the 45mm Showa front forks and fully adjustable Showa rear shock, the Rally Pro’s road plushness is largely transferred to the gravel.
- Related: How to ride a motorbike off-road
Only when the going gets rougher are you reminded that you are onboard a 201kg adventure bike and not even top spec suspension can mask that.
A lot has been said about the 'T' crank introduced by Triumph on the latest generation Tiger, too, that gives an irregular firing order 180-90-90 degree intervals. The aim is to add character and make the 888cc motor feel a bit more twin and less triple given that the quick revving three cylinder on the out going model meant it span up really quickly and could make it hard to find grip.
There is no question that the new motor is more pulsy, but with 93.9bhp on tap and a set of Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s as a opposed to a more focussed off-road tyre, it was certainly a lively ride. And with Rally Pro mode selected, which essentially disables and traction control and ABS, it only got livelier! Combined with the loose, dusty terrain it was hard to keep the smile off my the face as the Tiger span up wildly with the rear snaking from side to side as I threw gears at it. With the rear wheel spinning significantly faster than the front it certainly revealed the wild side of the Tiger, a side that has to be treated with respect, but also a side I’m keen to explore further.
Update two: Tiger 900 Rally Pro is worth the wait
It’s been a long time coming due to lockdown and the Triumph factory temporarily closing, but now 1100 miles into life with the all new Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro and I already know it’s going to be a good summer. Having not ridden a bike since March my first ride back was always going to be feel pretty damn good but I didn’t truly appreciate just how good.
Now I’ve got over the 'kid at Christmas' levels of excitement of riding regularly again it’s time to get dialled into what the Tiger has to offer. In terms of spec it’s bordering on being overwhelming. The TFT dash has a plethora of information displayed, rider modes, rider aids and connectivity features that I’m only just starting to get my head round.
But parking all the electronic wizardry for a moment, the base of the bike feels very good. In terms of ride it feels incredibly plush with the 45mm Showa forks giving almost a magic carpet sensation not dissimilar to a BMW GS; a sensation that is also helped by having such wide (830mm) bars.
Along with the easily adjustable screen that can be done on the fly, it’s a quite simply a nice place to be. So far my longest ride has been just under 200 miles which it took in its stride with consummate ease. So now it’s time to start stretching it’s legs and I already have a trip planned to the Sweet Lamb Adventure Rally Bike Academy in Wales to get a taste of the Tiger’s off-road capabilities.
In preparation I’m going to fit a set of Pirelli Scorpion STR tyres due to their incredible on-road performance combined with their solid off-road grip meaning I’ll be able to have fun on the ride their as well as when I hit the dirt. In terms of other prep, the Rally Pro version isn’t wanting anything, with advanced off-road specific electronics and comprehensive crash protection – it really is ready to go.
All in all it’s been a great start to life with the Tiger and my gut feeling is that it’s only going to get better. The only gripe I have is a slightly melted number plate. Speaking to MCNs resident tech guru Bruce Dunn who speed tested the bike as part of its outing on the MCN250 road test, he believes it’s simply a case of the angle of the exhaust. His theory is it’s due to the size of standard UK size number plates and that Triumphs testing would have been done using smaller trade no. plates. Triumph are aware so I’ll report back on the solution.
Update one: Introducing the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
I want to see how the extra capacity and firing order of the Triumph Tiger 900 work on the dirt. I’ve got camping trips planned, plus I’m keen to explore the North of Scotland, and gain a clear understanding of what the Tiger’s like to live with.
The rider Michael Guy, MCN Sports and Features Editor, 47, 5ft 9in. Riding 37 years. Ex-racer, now prefers adventure. Michael.email@example.com
Bike specs 888cc | 93.9bhp | 201kg (dry) | 850mm seat height
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