Triumph Tiger is svelte all over. Grrr

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

In its previous 955 cc incarnation, the Triumph Tiger was a circus animal. Sure, the adventure bike could pad through the jungle if it had to, but it was a lot more comfortable in front of a crowd on the street. Its 474-pound body was just too burly for the dirt, and most riders weren't adventurous enough to risk dumping it on roads less traveled. So, for the new 2007 Tiger 1050, Triumph scaled back the adventure and ramped up the sport.

Forget that Tiger tag. Cheetah is more like it.

The first time I laid my paws on the grips, the Tiger was ready to pounce just microseconds after I let out the clutch. Claimed torque is 74 pound-feet at 6,250 rpm, but I didn't have to rev it that high to appreciate it. The bike had as much pep as a national cheerleading championship, and it was just as congenial. The power was instant, but it was also manageable, smooth, linear.

With 114 horsepower, the Tiger's liquid-cooled, triple-cylinder 1050 engine doesn't pack as much punch as Triumph's Speed Triple and Sprint 1050 motors, with peak horsepower rated at 131 and 125 respectively. As its name suggests, the Tiger isn't about flat-out speed. It isn't king of the jungle but second in charge, which makes it fun and ferocious without all the pressure of being the biggest and baddest prowler around town.

The goal in creating this third-generation Tiger was to make it more of an all-purpose street bike with a sport-touring twist, so the frame was upgraded from tubular steel to an aluminum-beam perimeter and its swingarm is now braced; together, they stop the bike from doing a Chinese contortionist act in turns. Its fat, 43 mm fork tubes were turned upside down; they're also adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping, as is the preload and rebound damping on the rear monoshock.

The Tiger's body lost 38 pounds to weigh a swimsuit-ready 436. Its wheelbase was trimmed to a lean and mean 58.9 inches. The cast wheel out front was shrunk from 19 inches to a sport-standard 17 to allow more selection in the rubber department. And the rear tire was plumped up from 150 mm to a grippier 180.

Translation: The bike is so lightweight, agile and balanced, I merely had to think about where I wanted to go and it moved. On gridlocked highways, its 33.3-inch width made for smooth sailing along the dotted white line. Even in slow, sardine-like traffic, it could pussyfoot around cars with ease. And if a car happened to lumber into its path and force a quick stop, the four-piston, radial-caliper, double-disc front brakes were ready to prevent a T-boning.

That said, being stopped was an issue. The saddle height is a leggy 32.9 inches. Coupled with the bike's upright seating position, the visibility was great. Even the air seemed cleaner at speed. But I couldn't get a foot down at red lights. Just toes. At least the bike was light enough that I wasn't inclined to tip like a cow poked by a prankster.

Style wise, the "scorched yellow" Tiger I was riding seemed to take its cues from the actual animal. The body work was two toned. Its golden, semi-fairinged body was complemented by a black underbelly that had more metal studs than a Hells Angel's saddlebag.

On closer inspection, the studs are bolts that hold on the engine covers. It's these engine covers that have given the Tiger an even stealthier, more predatory edge. The Tiger 1050 is so hushed it's practically trespassing into BMW's whisper-quiet territory, thanks to a new backlash eliminator gear, a softer-sounding six-speed transmission, a clutch cover and a silenced, three-into-one exhaust.

Like its predecessor, the Tiger 1050 is fuel injected, but the electronic control unit has been upgraded with more memory so it's even more accurate and fuel efficient. According to the mostly digital dash, I was averaging about 33 mpg as I drained the 5.2-gallon tank. Throughout my travels, it also told me what time it was, how long I'd been on the road, the fastest I'd gone, how many miles I'd traveled and how many miles I had till the tank was snorting air.

That's good information to have on a bike that's still being billed as an adventure model, even though it's really a heavy-on-the-sport tourer. But lest you be fooled by the $10,699 price tag, none of the travel gear is included. Anti-lock brakes cost an extra $800. So does the pannier kit ($899), top box ($450) and touring windscreen ($157). Anyone taking this big cat out on the road will probably want all of those things, including the bigger windscreen since the pygmy that comes stock is merely adequate.

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susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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2007 Triumph Tiger 1050

Base price: $10,699

Powertrain: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, in-line three-cylinder, four valves per cylinder, six-speed

Displacement: 1050 cc

Horsepower: 114 at 9,400 rpm

Torque: 74 pound-feet at 6,250 rpm

Bore and stroke: 79 mm by 71.4 mm

Dry weight: 436 pounds

Seat height: 32.9 inches

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