"Sembra una vespa!"
No, we are not talking about the iconic Italian scooter; those were the words of an onlooker when I stopped my latest review bike at my office complex.
The onlooker’s exclamation was actually in English, but it immediately reminded of Enrico Piaggio’s response when he saw the prototype of what would become the world’s most recognized scooter.
And the onlooker was right: Triumph’s Tiger Sport does look a bit like a wasp, especially the insectoid fairing around the headlamp.
The Tiger Sport has generally been positively received by the motorcycle media. As a result, when I collected one from Triumph South Africa’s head office in Joburg, I had high expectations.
However, after the first few kilometres, I began to wonder what the hype was about: the bike was heavier than I expected, the instrument panel design was decidedly dated, and I wasn’t overly fond of its waspish appearance.
But the Triumph soon reminded me of another expression: that beauty is only skin-deep, and during the week I spent with the bike, I began to realise that there was much more to the Tiger Sport than what meets the eye.
For starters, the ergonomics were virtually perfect for my 1.8 m frame: the seating position is neutrally upright, the reach from the seat to the handlebars allowed for slightly bent elbows, and the reach to the footpegs didn’t force me into Houdini-like contortions.
The seat had just enough give to be comfortable without inducing numb-bum syndrome after 30 or so minutes.
The Sport’s manually-adjustable offers four height settings to cater for a variety of rider preferences. Adjustment is done by depressing two spring-loaded bolts while moving the screen up or down, a procedure I wouldn’t recommend while on the move.
Electronic safety aids are basic but adequate: three order modes (Rain, Road and Sport), ABS and traction control. Two other features uphold the touring capability promise made by the ergonomics: cruise control and adventure-style handguards, the latter a rarity on sport tourers.
However, since the Tiger Sport lacks throttle grip heaters, I can imagine that those handguards will be very welcome if you hit the open road in winter.
At 235kg wet the Sport is quite heavy, but as with many other well-balanced bikes, the weight evaporates when you are rolling. Even during commuting, the weight was not an issue – it was more than offset by the lively nature of the 1050cm³ engine.
A smile on your dial
And it is hard not to sing praises for the three-pot mill: in this guise, it produces prodigious amounts of torque right where you need it in the rev range.
The net result is that the Tiger Sport thrives on short bursts of acceleration, such as you might need to fit into a gap in the traffic or get away from the heavy iron at a traffic light.
That you will be able to get away from anything short of a supersonic jet fighter (very few of which I have ever encountered in rush-hour traffic) is just an added bonus.
A Triumph staffer referred to the Sport as Triumph’s secret weapon, and the secret is in the fun factor that is not immediately obvious when you first ride the bike: while it won’t peel your skin off with high-end acceleration, the punch on in the saner zone on the rev counter will put an involuntary smile on your dial and keep it there.
The Tiger Sport hides three pleasant surprises. The first is the fact that despite its weight, the bike is deceptively nimble at speed. That it takes you a while to realise how nimble, is a testimony to how stable it is – I was routinely surprised in sweeping curves to see that I was going a lot faster than it felt.
The next is its fuel consumption: the review bike returned 4.7l/100km, a level of frugality I would not have expected from a big bike being ridden hard. In fact, had I been riding it normally, I suspect I would have gotten very close to Triumph’s claimed 4.2l/100km.
But the third surprise is by far best: the price tag. At R164 000 the Tiger Sport represents downright astounding value for money. For those who prefer substance over style, I think the Sport is a no-brainer proposition.
I was genuinely reluctant to return the bike at the end of the review period. In fact, I told the Triumph representative that I hated the bike and would gladly take it off their hands to save them from having to palm it off to some unsuspecting customer.
They politely but firmly decline my offer, which, I assume, had as much to do with my smile when I took off my helmet as it has with the fact that they are undoubtedly very aware of how awesome a bike the Tiger Sport is.
Type: Liquid-cooled four-stroke, transverse three cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinderDisplacement: 1 050cm³Maximum Power: 93kW @ 9 475rpmMaximum Torque: 106Nm @ 7000rpmFuel supply system: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with SAIFuel type: Petrol, Premium Unleaded, 95 Octane RONFuel consumption: 4.7l/100 km (actual)
Type: 6 speed sequential
Final drive: Chain (X-ring)
Overall length x width x height (mm): 2 150 X 850 X 1 330
Wet weight: 235kg
Fuel tank: 20l
Front: 2 x 320mm Floating discs, Nissin 4 piston radial calipers, switchable ABS
Rear: Single 255mm disc, Nissin 2 piston caliper, switchable ABS
Front: Showa 43mm upside down forks with adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear: Showa Monoshock with adjustable preload and rebound damping
Wheels & Tyres
Wheel, front: Cast aluminium alloy multi spoke 17 x 3.5"
Wheel, rear: Cast aluminium alloy multi spoke 17 x 5.5"
Tyre, front: 120/70 ZR 17
Tyre, rear: 180/55 ZR 17
Price: R164 000