Living with a Tiger

My Caspian blue Tiger 1050 was released to me on April 23, 2009 and now, two years 10 months later with 52,000 miles on the clock how has it behaved?

In the main, fine As soon as I took delivery I had a long weekend to get the first service out of the way and gave it a decent run; London to Fort William and over to the Isle of Bute, stopping at Glasgow enroute.

So I was able to give the luggage its first proper test. I always found that in the battle between styling and being practical the latter lost out and that certainly applies to the Triumph luggage system.

To usefully pack sloping panniers you need to live on a hill as it is otherwise very awkward. The top box also has its problems – it’s either difficult to open or very difficult to close, especially in the wet and with only one free hand.

But what of the bike itself? I have ridden motorcycles for 35 years and I found the riding position to be ideally suited to me and I like the engine and styling very much.

I haven’t broken down by the side of the road but I have had a few engine oil leaks and a water leak and I’ve had my concerns about the electrics.

I have had little faith in the battery retaining its charge, the bike has been tested for any electrical discharge and no apparent fault can be detected but I have resorted to riding around with a spare battery.

In the nearly three years I have consumed four batteries even though I would keep the bike on trickle charge just to be extra safe.

My cautious behaviour has paid off as on one occasion it refused to start having already ridden 20 odd miles. Fortunately I had the spare battery. Annoyingly the spare from my Bonneville was a fraction larger than the Tiger’s, not that I had noticed, so in my desperation I forced it to fit.

I had to ride on the terminals which I insulated with my waterproofs and bungeed the seat on over the protruding battery – but needs must.

I have found the computer system an unnecessary tool, I have never used any of the facilities or even had the clock tell the right time, but the idea of having to wait for it to reset itself I have found to be a little frustrating when a quick turn of the key and off use to be enough, sometimes if it doesn’t start straight away you have to sit for a while so it can reset before you can have another attempt.

To be ultra critical I have also found that the gap between the ignition barrel and the handle bars just a little too close and the leather key fob gets jammed.

I had a touring screen fitted which is good for my head but throws water directly onto my hands. If it was wider by an inch either side the problem wouldn’t occur.

I also found that the left hand mirror is cleverly designed to fill with water so when you right the bike all the water falls onto your hand and then up your sleeve.

I also had hot hands fitted which due to the weakness of the electrics I have seldom used but the other reason has been that the switch fitted on the fairing is so difficult to reach with waterproofs on.

But on the open rode the Tiger beats along effortlessly and I have enjoyed racking up the miles, but in town I have found the gears very difficult to use.

It seems the bike gets very hot when riding about town and will often refuse to change gear – they all get welded together. But once out on the open road the gears become free again.

I have had the clutch looked at but the problem has never really been solved and on some occasions I have had to ride in second gear simply because I can’t get it out of gear.

I just don’t have the time to keep going back to the dealer to get the bike looked at, if it works then that is my main consideration.

I have also found oil consumption to be quite high, which means this is a bike where you have to do regular oil checks and with a bike that consumes a lot of oil it’s a shame they didn’t put a window in instead of a dip stick.

To check the water level is equally awkward and difficult to read. I understand that the best way is to look from under the fairing but I’m afraid to say I can never see the markings.

I use to ride about on its predecessor the old 955 and the thing I liked about that bike was the fact that the seat split in two so I could make my own modification of carrying two top boxes.

I have had to change the head lamp bulb a few times; four screws come out but only two go back in. I am sorry to say a light bulb change is something that should be feasible on the side of the road and in the dark with a torch.

On the Tiger 1050 it is virtually impossible to get your hand in with a small stubbly screwdriver to unscrew the tiny four screws holding the cover on.

But to re-fit the bottom two screws even in daylight is a time consuming task of immense patience. It is these design features which I find very infuriating as a headlight bulb change is so crucial to riding safely.

So what of the build quality? The paint around the engine is beginning to bubble and will soon start to flake off, the paint on the metal rack for the top box has flaked off, the wing mirror stalks in the joints have rusted, some of the engine bolt heads have gone off colour and the rubbers have worn away.

But on the whole the build quality is not that bad however I have to remember it is not yet ready for its first MOT and clearly showing signs of wear. It is inevitable to make comparisons to other bikes which is often an unfair comparison because price is an important factor.

If you compare it to a BMW in a lot of respects its build quality fails, but I have had friends with GSs and they have suffered from a number of small problems, but I paid £7,500 for my Tiger whereas they paid almost double.

An important part of owning a bike is the relationship with the dealer, I bought mine from Jack Lilley’s in Ashford and although servicing is expensive they have been excellent and every one down there rides and is friendly and enthusiastic about bikes and the coffee is free!

The costs of servicing my Tiger at the dealer at 6000 mile intervals has come in at an eye watering £4,418. In addition I have spent £896 on hard compound tyres.

It is interesting to note that the cost of owning a motorcycle is definitely not cheap. I have spent more money on running a new bike than I have on the overall running of my Mercedes for the last seven years.

The bike is reputed according to the digital display to give me a distance of 220 miles per tank, of course that depends on how fast you’re riding, but although I can’t say how many miles on average I get to the gallon I can say that the fuel economy when ridden fairly hard is reasonable.

So if I factor in all the other bits associated with running the bike excluding renewing any clothing, in less than 3 years I have bought the bike again.

The cost of running a new bike is therefore quite staggering when running a motorcycle use to be regarded as the poor man’s only means of transport.

But on the plus side the Dartford Tunnel is free, parking generally is free, congestion charge is free, bus lanes (in London) useable and travel times much shorter.

So although I am shocked at the cost the enjoyment factor is not really quantifiable and as bikes are also a hobby I guess on balance the costs I can just about justify.

However, running costs are important factors and pockets are not deep. I now have the new Triumph Explorer on order so with shaft drive I can save on the costs of chain and sprockets at the very least, but what would be more useful and less costly is if the servicing intervals could be set further apart.

I already have my first road trip planned across to Bulgaria via Morocco so I should be able to give an interim road test report.

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neil fitzgibbon

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By neil fitzgibbon