The Triumph Tiger 800 is perhaps one of the most important models for Triumph Motorcycles India. It is the market leader too in terms of ADV sales in the country as well. It is versatile, tough and has the ability to take you places where most motorcycles won't. But the new Triumph Tiger 900! It is such a massive improvement on the Tiger 800 and that too on so many fronts! It is lighter, looks better, has an elaborate electronics suite and has punchier performance too! We test rode the all-new Triumph Tiger 900 GT Pro and the Tiger 900 Rally Pro in Morocco, Africa and come away suitably impressed!
The new-generation Tiger 900 wears a fresh new look! It was never a beautiful motorcycle to look at but now, it looks leaner and meaner, especially with the slim LED headlamps up front, the narrower face and the shorter beak. These make for a more aggressive and a purposeful stance, along with the new and lighter frame and the new bodywork. Needless to say, the Tiger looks much more menacing now!
The fuel tank and the body panels get a redesign too and are more angular now, shaving off some of the bulk that the earlier model carried! The other big changes include a new bolted on sub-frame, bolted on rear footpeg hangers (which can be replaced, if broken) and a bifurcated radiator which optimises heat management and offers more space for the new engine that sits 42 mm lower and is canted forward by 6.8 degrees. This results in lower centre of gravity and better weight distribution, which in turn makes handling better on the motorcycle, but more on that later!
Triumph has also moved on from WP suspension and now offers Marzocchi suspension on the GT range and Showa on the Rally range. The front suspension consists of 45 mm cartridge type USDs while the rear gets a monoshock. The GT Pro gets electronic suspension at the rear while the Rally gets manually adjustable ones. The GT has a travel of 180 mm at the front and 170 mm at the rear while the Rally gets 240 mm of travel all around.
Triumph has done well to offer a bucket-load of features on the new Tiger 900. First and foremost, there is a new TFT screen, which is bigger and offers a range of customisation options. Secondly, you can now connect your phone to the motorcycle via Bluetooth and access incoming calls, messages and even navigate yourself from point A to point B. One can also pair their GoPro action cameras with the motorcycle itself and operate the same from the switch cube on the left. Plus, the bikes get up to 6 riding modes with options to customise the ABS, traction control, suspension and so on. The riding modes are Road, Rain, Sport, Off-Road, Off-Road Pro and Rider.
The new Tiger 900 gets a slight bump in displacement (from 799 cc to 888 cc). Plus, there is a new T-plane triple crankshaft which along with new and lightweight internal components that reduce the weight of the engine by 2.5 kg. It remains a triple but now the firing order of the cylinders has changed from 1-2-3 to 1-3-2. In essence, the new engine now offers up to 10 per cent more torque which is 87 Nm at 7,250 rpm (up from 79 Nm at 8,050 rpm). The mid-range itself gets a 12 per cent boost. The peak power output stays the same which is 93.9 bhp at 8,750 rpm.
Our first day of riding saw us covering over 300 km from Marrakech to the small coastal town of Essaouira. The route was a mix of beautiful four-lane highways, peppered with the occasional broken tarmac and some twisties thrown in! We were on the Tiger 900 GT and after a few hours of riding, it was clear that the new Tiger 900 was a completely different beast compared to the old Tiger 800 XRx. Lighter, lower and stronger mid-range translated into effortless mile-munching and some serious pull too. The 900 GT is deceptively fast! You are cruising at 80 kmph and a slight twist of the throttle sees you doing over 150 kmph in 5th gear. The tractability of the new engine is its biggest USP. It never seems to run out of breath, no matter what gear you are in and what speed you want to ride at. The solid performance is accompanied by a gruff, bass-laden burble, more akin to a V-Twin than a triple! And the soundtrack is definitely sweet music to the ears. The 6-speed gearbox worked wonderfully too and the Pro range of Tiger 900s get a bi-directional quick-shifter as standard which means even less effort!
All of this improvement in performance comes at the cost of refinement! The Tiger 800 was silky smooth, with the barest hint of vibration. The 900 loses some of that refinement and vibrations are quite pronounced especially between 5,500 to 6,500 rpm. Maybe it is just a characteristic of the motorcycle but we have grown accustomed to the butter smooth performance of the Tiger.
Handling & ride quality
The Tiger 900 sees marked improvement here too! The weird, top-heavy feel of the old Tiger is gone completely and now replaced by a lovely, more connected feel, especially from the Tiger 900 GT. Turn-ins are quicker and so are direction changes. A lot of it has to do with the 5kg weight loss and a lower centre of gravity too! The riding geometry too becomes slightly sportier and the new Tiger feels so much easier to weave in and out of peak traffic. There is this new-found agility which the old Tiger never had! The 900 GT with its firmer setup and thicker tyres almost had a sportbike like feel to it on tarmac and on the switchbacks too. In fact, the twisties that we encountered over the Atlas Mountains, leading to Essaouira, made for some solid peg scraping fun too! And in all fairness, the 900 Rally, with its 21-inch front wheel too feels as nimble and the 900 GT.
We found that the roads in Morocco are more or less similar to roads found in India and even in the stock suspension setting, both the 900 GT and the 900 Rally gobbled up broken tarmac, potholes and speed breakers with utter disdain. The right suspension setting may end up making the ride even plusher! And the brakes! The new Brembo Stylema brakes offer solid bite and good progression and do a good job of scrubbing off speed.
Here comes my favourite part of the ride! While the vast, arid and beautiful expanse of Morocco made for a good highway ride, it was the trails and the slush and the rather short ride on the beach which made me fall in love with the new Tiger 900 Rally! In a sentence, the new Tiger is a world different than the 800 XCx as far as off-roading is concerned. The 800 XCx was a capable machine in its own right but the 900 Rally makes off-roading much, much easier! We rode the 900 Rally with Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres along with calibrated suspension over loose gravel, sand, packed sand, rocky trails and slush! Basically all kinds of off-road terrain that one could have packed in a day and not once did the Tiger 900 feel out of its elements. In fact, it encouraged you to push boundaries and do stuff that one would have thought twice about doing on the old Tiger 800.
The 5 kg weight loss coupled with the centre of gravity moved 40 mm forward and 20 mm lower meant that the Tiger 900 Rally felt more composed when going over loose surfaces and even when one had to hustle the bike over sand or cricket ball sized rocks, it took a lot less effort. Plus, we quite liked the way the suspension and its 240 mm of travel worked. The way the forks moved up and down was measured and not once did it feel wallowy or soft. There was no manic dive or rebound the forks even when we hit a bump hard or rode over a crest.
Riding the Tiger 900 Rally standing up felt comfortable, thanks to the raised handlebar and the forward set footpegs! Essentially, all of this means that the new Tiger 900 is much easier to ride off-road and this translates into less rider fatigue which means you can ride off-road longer and let the motorcycle do its thing, without having to worry about much! And that tells you a lot about how good the Tiger 900 Rally really is.
The new-generation Triumph Tiger 900 ticks all the right boxes for those who are looking to have a mid-size ADV in their garage. It becomes even more versatile, has better performance on tarmac and even when you take it to the back and beyond of civilisation and gets a lot more features too! Plus, Triumph says it has over 65 accessories for the new Tiger, so you have that option to give your bike a personal touch. It is a definite step up over the old Tiger 800 and makes sense even for current Tiger 800 owners, who would like to upgrade to the new one! From what we hear, Triumph Motorcycles India is looking at an April 2020 launch for the new Tiger 900 and if I had the money, I would be one of the first people standing in queue, waving my chequebook!