Triumph’s Tiger 800 has proved a popular model for the Brit brand since its introduction for 2011. With two versions (a road orientated standard version and dual purpose XC) the lusty triple hit a sweet spot for riders looking for a versatile machine that was as at home on the daily commute as it was traipsing two-up across Europe.
An update in 2015 added a plethora of new variants and an electronics package to keep it in touch with competition from the new Honda Africa Twin and BMW’s F850GS, but for 2020 Triumph has gone back to the drawing board with an (almost) completely new bike, with a bigger engine and even more spec – as we discovered at the new model’s launch event in Morocco.
A glance at the Tiger 900 GT Pro’s specification confirms that Triumph has made a big effort to create a contender in this most competitive of market segments. Along with its larger and more powerful engine, the GT Pro has electronic rear shock adjustment, Brembo Stylema front brake calipers with cornering ABS, plus a quick-shifter and a long list of other useful features including heated grips and seat.
Yet arguably the Tiger’s most significant innovation is one that doesn’t show up on paper: the redesigned crankshaft that makes this Triumph’s first ever triple with an irregular firing order – and a subtly different character and sound as a result.
The GT Pro is the top road-oriented model of the five-strong Tiger 900 family. There’s also a less lavishly equipped GT plus more off-road focused Rally and Rally Pro models, in addition to the basic 900. All are powered by the new 888cc engine (up from the Tiger 800’s 799cc), which adds roughly ten per cent torque through most of the range while keeping the maximum power output of 94bhp almost unchanged.
It’s that new, irregular firing order – designed to give one short gap between sparks, then two longer ones, for a “big bang” style power delivery – that you notice first. The Tiger fires up with a notably throatier sound and accelerates from low revs with a subtly different feel, almost more like a twin than the smooth-revving Tiger 800 with its 120-degree crankshaft.
The bigger-bore engine’s extra midrange delivery is welcome, whichever of the GT Pro’s five easily-changed riding modes the bike is in. (Along with the standard Road and Rain, it also has Sport, Off-road and a customisable Rider mode.) It’s a delightfully flexible powerplant, delivering useable shove from below 3000rpm, and making the Tiger effortlessly able to cruise at 80mph or more, and to accelerate from there towards a top speed of about 125mph.
Its new firing order helps the Tiger find traction on loose surfaces, too, not that most GT Pro owners are likely to take it off-road. The GT Pro is Triumph’s road-focussed mid-range Tiger, with the sister Rally Pro variant more suited for riders looking for a machine with a taller stance more suited to the occasional foray away from the asphalt.
If that revised firing order and the extra performance are the new engine’s benefits, its drawback is some additional vibration above about 5000rpm, which equates to about 80mph in top gear. I didn’t find the slight buzz through bars, seat and footrests a problem, even when cruising at roughly that speed on the third day’s highway ride back to Marrakesh, but some riders might be less tolerant, especially on a long trip.
That ride, in bright but cold weather, highlighted some of the GT Pro’s other attributes, including respectably good wind protection. Its screen gives 50mm of easily used manual adjustment, via spring-loaded bar, and did a good job of diverting the wind even though I’m very tall. The handguards, heated grips and seat – a pillion even gets their own switch – contributed to a comfortable ride.
The chassis, which combines a redesigned tubular steel main frame with an all-new tubular aluminium rear subframe, played its part too. The Marzocchi suspension is fairly long-travel, with 180mm up front and 170mm at the rear. Inevitably the Tiger is quite tall but the GT Pro’s saddle height of 810 or 830mm – easily adjustable via traditional Triumph bar under the seat itself – means most riders will find the bike’s weight of just under 200kg dry manageable. The standard GT also comes in a low version, which is 50mm nearer the ground.
Low-speed manoeuvrability is very good, helped by the fairly wide handlebar and the GT Pro’s 19in front wheel (the Rally models have a more dirt-friendly 21-incher). There’s enough suspension travel to deal with most road surfaces, and the Marzocchi forks can quickly be manually fine-tuned for both compression and rebound damping via plastic knobs at the top of each leg.
Better still is the shock’s electronic adjustability of preload and rebound damping, which can be done while riding, using the joystick on the left handlebar. The range of adjustment isn’t huge, and although this set-up isn’t as good as a semi-active system it’s impressive for a middleweight and will be especially useful for riders who sometimes carry a pillion.
Other chassis aspects are equally rider-friendly. Steering is precise, suspension control good, and the Metzeler Tourance Next tyres give sufficient grip to encourage use of the adequate ground clearance. The superbike-style Brembo front brake set-up, in conjunction with cornering ABS, makes for powerful and reliable stopping.
The GT Pro is practical in other ways too. Many owners will get better economy than my launch average of around 50mpg, which combines with the fuel tank’s increased capacity of 20 litres to give a realistic range of over 200 miles. Details of that and much more are clearly outlined on the 7” TFT instrument panel, which can also display basic navigation info via the My Triumph smartphone app.
It adds up to a classy mid-sized machine that combines fine performance and handling with an impressive list of features – plus that subtly different and distinctly more involving character. At £12,800 the GT Pro is competitively priced given its high specification (which can be added to with a choice of hard luggage) and puts Triumph right in the mix in this most dynamic and hard-fought of categories, where its up against machines as distinguished as BMW’s new F900XR, Ducati’s Multistrada 950 and even Honda’s punched out, 1100cc, Africa Twin.
|Specifications: Triumph Tiger 900 GT Pro|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled transverse triple|
|Valve arrangement||DOHC, 12 valves|
|Bore x stroke||78 x 61.9mm|
|Fuelling||Multipoint sequential fuel-injection|
|Maximum power||94bhp (70kW) @ 8250rpm|
|Maximum torque||87N.m @ 7250rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed with two-way quick-shifter|
|Front suspension||45mm telescopic usd Marzocchi, 180mm travel, adjustment for compression and rebound damping|
|Rear suspension||Marzocchi monoshock, 170mm travel, adjustment for preload and rebound damping|
|Front brake||Twin four-piston Brembo Stylema radial monobloc calipers, 320mm discs with cornering ABS|
|Rear brake||Single-piston Brembo caliper, 255mm disc with cornering ABS|
|Front wheel||2.50 x 19in; cast aluminium|
|Rear wheel||4.25 x 17in; cast aluminium|
|Front tyre||110/90 x 19in Metzeler Tourance Next|
|Rear tyre||150/70 x 17in Metzeler Tourance Next|
|Fuel capacity||20 litres|