Last year we said farewell to the Triumph Tiger 800 because Triumph unveiled a completely new Tiger 900. Completely new indeed, because there’s a new engine, a new frame, new brakes and suspension, and a new dashboard …
When the press release came in I must say it wasn’t love at first sight. The 800 looked good with its double headlights but the 900 tried something else which I didn’t fancy right away. But hey, a test could maybe change my mind. So I decided to head out on the Tiger 900 Rally Pro, five days in the Moselle region (of which you can find the travel report right here).
Love at second sight?
Pictures don’t always tell the whole story so I was curious to see if sparks would fly on our first real life meeting. Unfortunately, they didn’t. Something about the proportions. The headlight seems a little small and looks less ballsy than the previous model. The rear light is okay, but is mounted into a plump construction. And even though the fuel tank with its sloping frontside doesn’t deviate that much from its predecessor’s looks and the finish is right up to Triumph’s standards (read: very high), the 900 just doesn’t do the trick for me design-wise. A shame, because the 800 was one of the best looking adventure bikes if you ask me.
In our last Tiger 800 review (the XCa in 2018) we suggested a few improvements. We missed a quick shifter in the options list, the tire choice was dated, it was impossible to mount tubeless tires and wasn’t it time for lean-angle technology to make its way onto this bike? Triumph went to work and added all of it to the new Tiger, or at least when you pick the right version.
Just like with previous generations, the Tiger 900 is available in different versions. Next to the standard 900 there are three GT models and two Rally versions. Pretty self-explanatory: the GT models are road focused, while the Rally Tigers are better off-road. The biggest differences are in the rims (cast vs. spoked), front wheel size (19” vs. 21”) and the suspension travel (180 and 170 mm vs. 240 and 230 mm).
The top of the line with the Rally models is the Rally Pro. It offers 6 riding modes, adjustable suspension, LED day running lights, LED foglights, crashbars, aluminum bash plate, cruise control, handguards, heated grips and seat, center stand, 7” TFT-display … It’s obviously a lot more expensive than the base model, but the extra equipment corresponds to the pricing.
Love at third sight?
The engine is the same for all versions: the new 888cc three cylinder engine that offers 10% more torque than the Tiger 800 with a peak of 87 Nm at 7.250 rpm. The power stayed equal but makes all 95 horses trample at 8.750 rpm, that’s 750 revs earlier than on the 800.
With a two year hiatus in between it’s difficult to say if the new Tiger feels really more powerful than the previous one, but it surely spanks. Sprints from a standstill go really well thanks to the spotless quick shifter. And the three cylinders have a very broad powerband. Accelerations and reprises are always very supple and effortless. Yes, I’m still a fan of Triumph’s triples.
Yet I have to say that during the chunk of highway at the start of my Moselle trip it took some time to find my way on the bike. The adjustable screen and winddeflectors in combination with the wide tank try very hard to keep the wind of your body, but you’ll need some time to find the ideal position. Adjusting can be done while riding, even though it’s a bit of one handed pushing and shoving. It was hard for me to get it into the perfect position: sometimes I got the full wind blast on my helmet, some other times I felt turbulence on top of my helmet.
Going 180 on the German Autobahn with loaded panniers: the Tiger seems to be on rails, no instability whatsoever. That was not the case on the 800. The riding position is good too. Straight up, legs in a not too sharp angle: long distances aren’t a burden. My behind thought the seat was a bit too soft though: after a few hours everything went a little numb. But a quick stop-over once in a while never hurts, does it?
The seat is height adjustable on all Tigers. On the Rally Pro there’s the choice between 850 and 870 mm (on the standard 900: 810 and 830 mm). In the highest position I could easily reach the ground with both feet flat on the ground, which also means that smaller Tiger tamers shouldn’t experience any trouble reaching the ground from the seat of this Brit.
When arriving in the Moselle I didn’t feel connected to the Tiger just yet and that’s mainly due to the soft suspension. A brisk pull on the brake lever makes the front-end dive for the asphalt quite dramatically while the rear starts dancing around when the cornering gets a little more dynamic. Even though the engine wants to play, the suspension puts a … damper on things. That evening I checked how I could adjust the suspension.
Love at … I’ve lost count
Day two in the Moselle started by tightening up the compression damping up front and preload in the rear. This really made all the difference. The Tiger reacted less upset to steering input. It stuck easier to riding lines and there was less dramatic ‘diving’ from the front. Suddenly I did feel butterflies when riding sporty. Only on lesser asphalt, the rear stayed a bit unsettled.
But generally speaking, the Tiger steered very well. Lighter than the 800, even though I wouldn’t say the 900 is playful or light-footed. You don’t have to put in much effort to get some lean angle, but still it takes some force to put it from one ear on the other. Sure enough, it’s still a high bike with a 21” front wheel.
It’s no coincidence that the Tiger 900 feels lighter. The Rally Pro’s dry weight is 201 kg which is 7 kg’s lighter than the 800 XCa. On top of that the engine moved more to the front and it hangs lower in the rolling frame. The top-heavy feeling that I can recall from the 800, simply disappears.
It’s a difference you’ll also notice when you go off-road, even though I just sticked to asphalt. The Bridgestone Battlax A41 tires reach their limit quite fast in the dirt, so if you really want to go there, you’ll probably need a set of knobby tires anyway.
I do wonder if the bit of delay the throttle response has won’t cause any troubles off-road. When opening a closed throttle, the Tiger reacts just a bit too late for my taste, which was a nuisance in some very tight hairpin corners. Off-road the throttle response can make the difference between a crash or a pass. Next to that, I found the clutch gripping a little too late.
You won’t have to count on a lot of engine brake either, but luckily the rear stopper works very well and it’s perfectly dosable. The calipers up front know what they’re doing too, but what would you expect from a set of Brembo Stylema’s?
The Tiger 900 Rally Pro is equipped with a heap of electronics, including cornering ABS and cornering traction control, six riding modes and a 7” display. The buttons to control and adjust settings are the same as on the previous generation. There’s plenty of them, but it remains user-friendly especially thanks to the five-way joystick and foolproof menus.
Before we conclude there are two more things: the sound and speedometer. The typical high-pitched zooming triple soundtrack is still there, but is accompanied (and sometimes even drowned out) by a deep gurgling exhaust note. This gives the Tiger a more sporty sound.
And finally there’s the speedometer. Two months ago I was bothered with the big difference in speedometer speed and real GPS-measured speed on the Ténéré 700. The Tiger has the exact same problem. When the Triumph displayed 110 km/h on the Dutch highway, my TomTom said 100 km/h. Oh well.
No, it definitely wasn’t love at first sight. The Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro really needed to put in some work to convince me. But in the end, perseverance paid off. Most of all, the Tiger 900 is a very strong allround contender. The spicy triple loves sporty riding and with the right setup for the Showa suspension, the rolling frame has no problem keeping up. There’s a lot of comfort for long distance traveling and you won’t have to skip the off-road section either. Even though I didn’t test the bike off-road, the lowered weight and improved weight distribution will only make it better on unpaved roads.
Only one question remains: Which adventure bike is the best at this moment? A question that’s impossible to answer. Undoubtably there will be competitors that are better when you go off-road, but not everybody buys an adventure bike for that reason. If you’re looking for a jack of all trades, the Tiger 900 is a good contender without any doubts.
+ Gotta love that triple
+ Very complete standard package
+ Good allrounder
– Design can’t really convince me
– Gas response should be better
– Too many bells and whistles for real adventurers?
Engine and transmission
Type: Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
Capacity: 888 cc
Bore: 78 mm
Stroke: 61.9 mm
Max Power: 95.2 PS / 93.9 bhp (70 kW) @ 8,750 rpm
Max Torque: 87 Nm @ 7,250 rpm
System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust: Stainless steel 3 into 1 header system, side mounted stainless steel silencer
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox: 6 speed
Frame: Tubular steel frame, bolt on sub frame
Swingarm: Twin-sided, cast aluminium alloy
Front Wheel: Spoked Tubeless, 21 x 2.15 in
Rear Wheel: Spoked Tubeless, 17 x 4.25 in
Front Tyre: 90/90-21
Rear Tyre: 150/70R17
Front Suspension: Showa 45mm upside down forks, manual preload, rebound damping and compression damping adjustment, 240mm travel
Rear Suspension: Showa rear suspension unit, manual preload and rebound damping adjustment, 230mm wheel travel
Front Brakes: Twin 320mm floating discs, Brembo Stylema 4 piston Monobloc calipers. Radial front master cylinder, Optimised Cornering ABS
Rear Brakes: Brembo single piston sliding caliper.
Dimensions and weights
Width Handlebars: 935 mm
Height Without Mirror: 1452-1502 mm
Seat Height: 850-870 mm
Wheelbase: 1551 mm
Rake: 24.4 º
Trail: 145.8 mm
Dry Weight: 201 kg
Tank Capacity: 20 L