As a flat softball-sized boulder flipped up from beneath the rear tire of the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro I was following, the ringing of the krakebs from the previous night’s festivities grew louder and louder in my ears as I braced for impact. Subconsciously, I rolled off the throttle if only for a brief moment slowing myself enough to not make contact with the hurtling stone. Then back on the gas quickly to launch the 450(+)-pound motorcycle into the air over the rocks embedded in the road. Through bustling city squares, desolate tiny villages, and long barren stretches, our time onboard the Triumph Tiger 900 had been nothing short of an adventure. An experience of a lifetime; one perfectly suited for the Triumph Tiger 900.
After a hop over the States, a skip across the Atlantic, and a jump over to Africa, I found myself in Morocco to ride a highly-anticipated new motorcycle – the 2020 Triumph Tiger 900. We’d be testing the all-new platform in both GT Pro and Rally Pro trims to emphasize the touring and off-road capability of Triumph’s latest middleweight adventure touring motorcycle. We’d spend a full day on undulating tarmac led by resident fast guy and development rider (and TT racer), Joe Akroyd while the following day would have us navigating rocky dusty trails near the northwest coast of Africa with Triumph Adventure Experience Center’s Matthew Reed (also British and World Enduros racer, as well as British rally and Cross Country Championship competitor) before bee-lining it straight back to Marrakech via the motorways on the third day.
The modern Triumph Tiger has been around in one iteration or another since 2010, but the model’s legacy stretches back to off-road competition models dating back to 1936. The Tiger 70, 80, and 90 models once won the British manufacturer three gold medals in the International Six Days Trial (now known as the International Six Days Enduro). With this, Triumph makes a claim that it’s been in the ADV game long before any of its competitors. Not to mention along the way folks like Ted Simon did some pretty incredible globe-trotting on Triumphs – that’s the Ted Simon who penned the lauded travel novel Jupiter’s Travels, of course.
The Tiger 800 lineup has been a solid performer in the adventure category since the model’s most recent reincarnation, even if somewhat road-biased, but with a hint of what was to come in the Tiger Tramontana prototype, we’ve been curious to see what Hinckley’s been cooking up for its middleweight cat for some time now. And here we have it. A ground-up redesign of a model that has sold more than 85,000 units worldwide since 2010.
The Triumph Tiger 900 is an almost entirely new motorcycle. There isn’t much, if anything, that hasn’t been put under the microscope and revised in order to make the new Tiger the best yet. Since the name’s changed, let’s start with the motor. The all-new 888cc Triple has been redesigned to provide a package that’s just over five pounds lighter while simultaneously being shorter from cam cover to sump and no wider than its predecessor. New Nikasil plated aluminum liners are used as well as new connecting rods and pistons. Lightweight magnesium engine covers and optimized cylinder thickness also add to the weight savings.
Aside from the boost in displacement, the most notable change for the 900’s Triple is its crank. Now using a 1, 3, 2 firing order, this gives the Tiger’s motor different character and more tractability lower into the rpm-range. We’re told the new Tiger is putting out 64 lb-ft of torque at 7250 rpm, a 10% increase over the previous year while also moving that power lower into the rpm range. Power delivery from the new mill is like buttah as the new crank allows for smooth linear power delivery as you roll on the throttle. This of course comes in the wake of criticisms that the Triple didn’t have much bottom end and then, once spun up, felt a little too busy and rowdy off-road. Horsepower figures remain the same with a claimed 94 ponies, though peak hp is reached 750 rpm lower and is said to be 12% higher through the mid-range.
The new 888cc engine has brought that low and midrange grunt closer to the kind of performance found in Twin cylinder engine configurations without losing much, if any, of its top-end. The soundtrack is also distinctly different between the new and outgoing models. The “T-Plane” crank, as Triumph calls it, gives the motor a raspy and raucous sound that makes mashing the throttle a sonic delight.
Triumph has also positioned the engine nearly seven degrees further forward in the chassis as well as 1.7-inches lower thanks to newly engineered sump and cooling systems allowing for a lower center of gravity without sacrificing ground clearance. The shallower sump also allows the new Tiger to carry less oil. Twin radiators are now used to improve cooling performance and redirect hot air away from the rider as much as possible.
The new frame is now just over five pounds lighter and features removable footpegs and a bolt-on subframe. Suspension set up across all five model trims has been updated with road-biased versions receiving Marzocchi components and the Rally models using Showa suspenders. More on that later.
All trims from Base to Pro also receive top-o-the-line Brembo Stylema front calipers with radial front master cylinders and steel braided lines clamping big ol 320mm rotors. Yea, those are the same calipers once found exclusively on the Ducati Panigale V4. As you can imagine, they’re pretty fantastic.
Overall, the bike looks and feels slimmer with the new bodywork and frame giving it a slim shape at the tank and seat heights that range from 29.9 inches on the Low Ride Height version (only available in GT trim) to 34.3 inches on the Rally models with the seat in the highest position. Each model has two seat positions available giving the rider 0.8-inches of adjustment. A slight bump in fuel capacity is always welcome, and the Tiger 900 holds 0.2 gallons more petrol from its previous five-gallon capacity. The new windscreen allows for two inches of adjustment giving riders four positions to choose from while also being relatively easy to adjust with one hand.
The Base, GT and GT Pro models make up the road-biased portion of the Tiger 900’s five trims. The Base model goes for $12,500 while the GT rings in at $14,300 and the GT Pro a further $16,200. Each model gets upgraded as the price increases, not all of which can be added as accessories.
Across the three models, Marzocchi suspension is used with the Base model featuring a non-adjustable 45mm USD fork and a preload adjustable rear shock. On the GT model, the same diameter 45mm USD fork is used though adjustments can be made – thanks to the fork’s cartridge system – to rebound and compression damping while the shock also has rebound and preload adjustability. The GT Pro model is where things get a bit more high-tech. The GT Pro uses the same 45mm cartridge-style fork with compression and rebound damping while an electronically adjustable shock is manipulated via the large seven-inch TFT display. Four preload presets are available and nine levels of rebound damping can be tuned from what Triumph calls Comfort, at its most plush, to Sport, for when things need stiffened up. All cast-wheel shod models have 7.1 inches of travel up front with 6.7 inches out back.
The Base, GT, and GT Pro also feature narrower handlebars and slightly more rearward footpegs from the Rally models, giving them a more compact feel in the cockpit. The 19/17-inch cast wheel combo on these three models provides very light and quick turn-in when flicking the bike side to side through twisty roads. The GT and GT Pro (as well as the Rally and Rally Pro) also feature IMU-based cornering ABS and traction control, whereas the Base model includes standard ABS and TC.
The seven-inch TFT display found on the GT, GT Pro, Rally, and Rally Pro offers a staggering amount of information and adjustability with Pro models coming standard with Bluetooth connectivity (an option on the GT and Rally). The screen itself is stunningly vivid and easy to read in any lighting condition thanks to the glass being bonded directly to the TFT rather than a few layers behind. The first screen we saw using this style of construction was BMW and its most recent TFT fitted to their adventure motorcycles. Navigating the large screen is made easy via the toggle joystick on the left switchgear.
Connectivity through Bluetooth allows riders to not only pair their phones, but also headsets and GoPros. As we’ve seen on a few of Triumph’s more recent model updates, the Tiger has dedicated GoPro functionality giving users the ability to start and stop their cameras as well as see whether or not they’re recording, a helpful feature if you have a camera mounted somewhere out of reach. The My Triumph app has now also integrated Google and What3Words navigation that can be shown on the side of the TFT while riding.
What3Words is “a simple way to talk about location,” says the company’s website, and we agree. It’s an intriguing new way of pinpointing exact locations with ease rather than using a 16-character GPS coordinate. What3Words’ creators have laid out a three by three-meter grid over the entire world and assigned each square a three-word “address” (ie: filled.count.soap is the company’s front door at the office). This amounts to 57 trillion squares around the globe. What3Words is also available in 35 different languages. Currently in use in the UK by emergency response personnel and being tested by logistics companies, What3Words can be found in travel maps, books, and is even integrated into Mercedes vehicles with app availability also available through the Ford SYNC 3 and now, through the My Triumph app which we used during our ride. It’s a lot easier to find trailheads, the correct entrance of a large building, or just your friends on the beach by using What3Words.
A dedicated ride mode button on the left switchgear lets users easily switch between modes altering traction control, throttle maps, and ABS. For the Base model, only Rain and Road modes are available whereas the GT offers four: Rain, Road, Sport, and Off-Road. The GT Pro receives a fifth mode, Rider, in which settings are customizable (ABS cannot be turned off completely). As one might expect from Rain to Sport traction control is less intrusive as throttle response ramps up while Off-road maintains front wheel ABS and disconnects the rear wheel’s and dials TC back to allow rear wheel spin.
Touring niceties are most plentiful on the GT Pro featuring auxiliary lighting, heated seats (driver and passenger), an up and down quickshifter, and tire pressure monitoring systems with the Triumph accessory catalog offering 65+ more accessories.
The Rally and Rally Pro trims are decidedly off-road-focused with the necessary accouterment to keep the adventure going when the road ends. A larger front tire, more suspension travel with dedicated settings and a few other bits and bobbles give the Tiger what it needs to handle the unexpected. Pricing rolls in at $15,000 for the Rally and $16,700 for the Rally Pro.
First off, and what I’m maybe most excited to see, tubeless cross-spoked wheels! Hooray! Tubes on any street-biased motorcycle can be a real pain when you pick up a nail. We’re glad the Rally and Rally Pro are finally tubeless. The Rallies also feature a 21/17-inch wheel combo which is great, but I’d still prefer the rear be bumped to an 18-inch wheel.
Keeping those tubeless wheels sprung are Showa suspension components. The 45mm fork features preload, rebound, and compression adjustment while the shock allows for preload (via a handy knob) and rebound adjustment only. Both Rallies feature 9.5 inches of travel up front and 9 inches aft.
A 10mm wider handlebar and slightly more forward footpegs from the GT models provide a more open seating position. During our off-road portion on the Rally Pro, the Triumph folks opted to flip the risers and roll the bars forward slightly as well as raising the levers a skosh to ensure more comfortable riding ergos while standing. And it was perfect for standing. Once sitting though, the bars felt a long way away from the seat, I’d probably opt to leave them in the stock position as it seems like a better compromise.
The Rally model features ride modes Rain, Road, Sport, and Off-road, whereas the Rally Pro gets the Rider (customizable) and the, for-pros-only, Off-road Pro mode. Pro disables TC and ABS giving the rider full analog control of the machine with the Off-road throttle map. Since the new engine puts power to the ground in such a linear and smooth fashion, I felt the Off-road mode’s TC was simply too intrusive for me to behave like a child on the beach and in the loose stuff. I didn’t mind leaving the ABS on up front, but ultimately the preferred setting amongst my heavy-handed group was Offroad Pro. Again, the motor does such a great job of spreading on the power that, combined with the throttle’s crisp response, makes dialing in the desired amount of wheel spin a predictable affair, no TC needed. Of course, at the end of the day, after our fun drifting on the beach, we all discussed the lingering possibility of a nasty highside hovering in the back of our minds.
The Rally Pro that we spent our time on off-road was fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Rally tires which, while “handbook approved”, are not available off of the showroom floor (aside from your negotiation with the dealer). All trims will come with Metzeler Tourance rubber as stock fitment.
Our street ride began after an hour or so of Triumph employees making sure each rider was connected to his or her motorcycle. Whether it be their phone, GoPro, headset, or all of the above, it was important that Triumph show us the functionality. Thankfully for owners, this process should be more painless as it’s a one-and-done operation. For us, as soon as we changed motorcycles we’d need to reconnect. We used the My Triumph app’s new functionality with What3Words to plan out our route from Essaouira to Marrakech. It’s a pretty cool mapping function that, until our tech presentation, I had never heard of.
I was handed the key to a Korosi Red GT Pro to begin our ride. I was happy to start out on the lower, more compact Pro the morning of our ride, unsure after seeing the traffic in Marrakech of how easy it would be to navigate our way through the organized chaos that’s prevalent in large Morrocan cities. Being able to flat foot on both sides with my 30-inch inseam is a welcome comfort on a new bike in a new location.
The first thing I noticed about the Tiger 900 GT Pro, aside from the comfortable riding position and low seat, was just how agile the bike felt once moving. Very nimble, and as I would find out later during the twisty portion of our ride, quite quick to turn in.
Our ride turned from straight roads with the occasional long sweeping turn to tight, twisty roller coasters of pavement laid out like single-lane ribbon across the countryside. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to give those sweet Brembo Stylemas a go. The engine is fun too, allowing you to let the revs drop into hairpin turns and slingshot out of them toward the next without shifting thanks to all the wonderful midrange grunt of the new motor. And just as I flew into the next corner behind TT racer, Joe Akroyd I could smoothly dial in the required brake pressure without the machine ever feeling out of sorts. The brakes are fantastic, and the stable chassis is confidence inspiring. Be smooth with the bike and it rewards you with more than enough sporting prowess to smear a smile across even the most jaded of moto-journo’s face.
Dialing up the shock’s damping from Comfort all the way into Sport was a great option to have coming off of the long straight roads into the serpentine bits. It allowed the Marzocchi suspension to soak up bumps without feeling too springy where it may have otherwise.
Having a go halfway through the day on the Rally Pro during our road portion led to a somewhat surprising revelation. The 10mm wider bars of the Rally Pro, more forward footpegs, and different suspension, for me, was actually preferred on the tight canyon roads. The extra ground clearance also meant the footpegs were less likely to touch the ground. There’s no denying the 21-inch front wheel’s gyroscopic effect slows turn-in, but the wide bars provide plenty of leverage to muscle the Tiger 900 around. All of that combined with slightly stiffer suspension led to more fun than I was already having on the GT Pro atop the Rally Pro during the curvaceous bits of our ride.
The following day we set out to test the Rally Pro offroad with a quick photo stop by the river, a moment to do some drifting on the large open beach during low tide, and then a day of trail riding in dusty rocky conditions similar to what one might find in California. The Tiger Rally Pro is easily manageable in the sand and our brief spin on the beach was a perfect showcase of just how well the new engine works. I know I’ve already applauded the T-plane crank’s character, but the beach allowed perfectly dialed in drifts with only a fleeting worry of disaster. With TC off, highsides are just a touch too much throttle away, but then that didn’t stop us from seeing how long we could hold power slides through the virgin sand, smoothed out as the tide receded. Each of us wanted to see how far out we could keep the rear before our flirting with the limits of traction would send us flying into the Atlantic. I’m happy to say my group managed to keep ‘er on two.
Then it was off into the rocky trails. Our ride leader, Matthew, suggested at the beginning of the ride that we may prefer Offroad mode in the rockier sections to have the traction control safety net and to not spin up quite so easily when the going got bumpy. Again, for a novice rider, or one that didn’t find the constant need to break the rear loose at nearly every opportunity, it may provide the compliance one desired. That being said, neither of those riders were in our group. I switched back to Offroad Pro and left it there for the remainder of the ride.
I also learned not to follow too close to some of my fellow riders. The Pirelli Scorpion Rallies do a great job at hooking up and launching boulders like they were fired out of a cannon. With all of the embedded rock we were riding over and the occasional hard hit, I was curious whether or not the new tubeless spoked wheels would hold their own under the abusive speeds we were carrying. Just at the last stretch of the fastest section of the day one of our group members ended up with a flat front tire. I took plenty of hits, but whatever happened on his bike was too much for the rim to handle.
We found little bumps and jumps to send the Rally Pro off throughout the day, none of which caused the Tiger to be, for 175-pound me, anything but perfectly composed upon landing. The stability felt on-road was just as steadfast off. With the damping set in the middle of the possible range, the Showa suspension provided a good balance for the speeds and terrain we were riding, none of which was too terribly fast off-road.
I’ve heard some other journalists complain about the Brembo Stylemas being a bit much off-road, but I actually found them just as easy to modulate in the dirt as on the street. Sure, if you mash the front brake lever you stand a good chance of tucking the front faster than Buffalo Bill, but if you’re smooth with it, it provides the feedback needed to feel what’s happening at ground level, plus the Scorpion Rally front tire isn’t bad itself.
What should come as no surprise is that the 2020 Triumph Tiger 900 range doesn’t stray from its intended and established place in the market. It’s not trying to compete with KTM for the most off-road worthy adventure bike, nor is it trying to come in as a great budget option to battle the Yamaha Tenere 700. The entire Tiger 900 proves itself as a fantastic tech-laden choice for touring comfort without giving up much of anything to larger adventure bikes. A point I’ve always found interesting in Triumph’s motorcycles is that they have that English DNA built into them. The UK-based engineers and designers and employees inject themselves into these motorcycles and this comes through in their intended purpose. In England, as a generalization, folks don’t push adventure bikes to the extremes that some others do and that’s evident in the Tiger 900’s place in the market. A fantastic touring bike with more than enough audacity to take on rocky muddy Welsh trails should the rider be up for it which is then able to cart you home comfortably with a toasty bum and warm hands.
What Triumph have done in the new Tiger 900 range is provide a motor that was once a great proposition between an Inline Four and a Twin and pushed it further toward the characteristic power delivery of a Twin without losing its free-spinning nature as the revs build. This is particularly useful in the Rally modes because that change is most welcome and appreciated off-road. The 2020 Triumph Tiger 900 is an engineering feat the folks at Hinckley should be proud of, with the goals met in the new engine and chassis, and since they told us this was the company’s largest press launch ever, I suppose they are a bit.
|2020 Triumph Tiger 900 Specifications|
|Tiger 900||Tiger 900 |
|Tiger 900 |
|Tiger 900 |
|Tiger 900 |
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, 12-valve, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||78.0 mm x 61.9 mm|
|Max Power||93.9 hp at 8750 rpm|
|Max Torque||64 lb-ft. at 7250 rpm|
|Fuel System||Multi-point sequential electronic fuel injection|
|Exhaust||Stainless steel 3-into-1 header system, side-mounted stainless steel silencer|
|Final||Drive O-ring chain|
|Frame||Tubular steel frame, bolt-on subframe|
|Swingarm||Twin-sided, cast aluminum alloy|
|Front Wheel||Cast alloy, 19 x 2.5 in. Spoked Tubeless, 21 x 2.15 in.|
|Rear Wheel||Cast alloy, 17 x 4.25 in. Spoked Tubeless, 17 x 4.25 in.|
|Front Tire||100/90-19 90/90-21|
|Rear Tire||150/70R17 150/70R17|
|Front Suspension||Marzocchi 45 mm upside down forks, non-adjustable||Marzocchi 45 mm upside down forks, manual rebound and compression damping adjustment, 7.1 inches travel (5.51 inches GT LRH)||Showa 45 mm upside down forks, manual preload, rebound damping and compression damping adjustment, 9.45 inches travel|
|Rear Suspension||Marzocchi rear suspension unit, manual preload adjustment, 6.7 inches rear wheel travel||Marzocchi rear suspension unit, manual preload and rebound damping adjustment, 6.70 inches wheel travel (5.95 inches LRH)||Showa rear suspension unit, manual preload and rebound damping adjustment, 9.06 inches wheel travel|
|Front Brake||Twin 12.6-inch floating discs, Brembo Stylema 4-piston monobloc calipers. Radial front master||Twin 12.6-inch floating discs, Brembo Stylema 4-piston monobloc calipers. Radial front master cylinder, Optimized Cornering ABS|
|Rear Brake||Single 10-inch disc. Brembo single-piston sliding caliper, ABS||Single 10-inch disc. Brembo single-piston sliding caliper. Optimized cornering ABS|
|Width||32.7 inches||36.6 inches||36.6 inches||36.8 inches||36.8 inches|
|Height (Without Mirrors)||55.5-57.5 inches||55.5-57.5 inches (54.5-56.5 inches LRH)||55.5-57.5 inches||57.2-59.1 inches||57.2-59.1 inches|
|Seat Height||31.9-32.7 inches||31.9-32.7 inches (29.9-30.7 inches LRH)||31.9-32.7 inches||33.5-34.3 inches||33.5-34.3 inches|
|Wheelbase||61.3 inches||61.3 inches (60.8 inches LRH)||61.3 inches||61.1 inches||61.1 inches|
|Rake||24.6°||24.6° (24.1° LRH)||24.6°||24.4°||24.4°|
|Trail||5.25 inches||5.25 inches (5.12 inches LRH)||5.25 inches||5.74 inches||5.74 inches|
|Dry Weight||423.3 lb, claimed||427.7 lb (425.5 lb LRH), claimed||436.5 lb, claimed||432.1 lb, claimed||443.1 lb, claimed|
|Tank Capacity||5.3 US gal|
|Fuel Consumption||55.4 mpg (claimed)|