Monday, February 15, 2010

The Prowl: Experiences with the Triumph Tiger

Snow’s falling again and I’m daydreaming about the road and the Triumph Tiger I was riding back in late November. The last motorcycle of the 2009 season with temperatures hovering in the mid 40s the memory of that motorcycle fresh. And tempting. The Tiger story’s been hibernating in my brain all winter. Now may be the right time to revisit the prowl. Thanks to Craig Kissell of Kissell Motorsports I have the opportunity to ride such fine motorcycles.

The Tiger is sleek, powerful, and tall – at least in terms of getting onto the bike. With the hard side cases attached I needed to make a real effort to mount up without scuffing things up with my boots. On dicey terrain I didn’t want to step up on the pegs either. Some flexibility work would definitely be in order before I could bound onto the back of the Triumph. Once onboard the sense of height was gone.

With excellent planning I always seem to ride before breakfast. As much as I wanted to head out into the Moshannon Forest my stomach was making a stronger argument as I headed over the mountain towards Unionville. It doesn’t take long to realize how sweet the Triumph Tiger is. Everything about it is smooth – the ride, the transmission, the brakes. And the torque it puts out allows it to pull hard at just about any speed and any gear. Definitely a plus for a tourist like me who likes to wander and not be overly concerned with the workings of the machine I am riding. Coming down the mountain into Unionville I was pleased at how well the Tiger holds the road in a hairpin turn. I’m no racer but I’m sure this bike could fly through the curves if I made a request.

Railroad tracks strike a wandering chord in me. Looking at them vanish in the distance has me wanting to explore. What’s out there, over the next hill, around the next corner? It’s a big part of what riding is for me. The Triumph would be happy to come along and take me anywhere I want to go.

The Tiger is a nice looking machine. Even in a rush to get breakfast I couldn’t help buy admire it. This bike could take me to a lot of breakfast places. I can see myself in the northern reaches of the Adirondacks, or south along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or in front of a diner in Utah. Alas, if I only had the time.

The Unionville CafĂ© is a good, solid breakfast place. Any riders passing through the area will find a place to relax and eat. It’s always nice to stop when it’s cold outside. There are times when I get warm I don’t feel like climbing back on the motorcycle and facing the elements. This wasn’t one of them.

The road out of Unionville towards Moshannon State Park is a clean, winding road climbing up to the Allegheny Plateau. The Triumph Tiger could race to the top if good sense didn’t govern the throttle. I’ve been up this way many times on a variety of machines. I just never got there quite so fast before.

Central Pennsylvania is blessed with endless miles of roads that no one seems to use much. Concern for other motorist’s fade as I find myself more concerned with bear, deer, and dogs.

Local forest roads come in two varieties – paved and gravel. A path heading off the main road is hard to resist. While more aggressive tires might be a nice addition for some riding the stock tires on the Tiger were easily up to the choices I made. With so much natural gas drilling and timber cutting underway there are a lot of places to explore.

Riding along a road more packed dirt and sand than gravel I began to worry that the heavy, grey sky would begin to release rain. With little desire to return a mud covered bike to the dealership I returned to solid ground. But it was hard to resist the siren’s song of those long, winding, dirt roads.

Many of the smaller roads are uneven, the pavement heaved and twisted from the harsh winters. The suspension of the Tiger doesn’t blink.

There comes a time in almost every ride I make where I am not sure where I’m going. Riding down through some of the thickest growth of rhodendron I’ve ever seem I thought I might head towards Snow Shoe and a different kind of landscape. By this time I have been crisscrossing the region for most of the morning and was aware of how comfortable the seating position, seat, and handlebar position is on the Triumph Tiger.

A course correction and another little traveled road leads me to lost. The tank has plenty of fuel so I’m not too worried. I can’t remember exactly where this place was or whether I was crossing the West Branch of the Susquehanna River or Red Moshannon Creek. Lost is a gift in my book. And the reason why I’m not too keen on GPS. There ‘s something magical about being lost. And in the East, you seldom get that opportunity.

I eventually passed through Snow Shoe and headed off the plateau towards home. This little red and green building, some sort of remnant of the coal mining in the area just called out for a picture.

I had the option of trying the Tiger on Interstate 80 and see how it prowled along with the 18-wheelers. Passing on the freeway option I found more interesting roads that allowed me the chance to put the Triumph through some performance paces. Acceleration, check. Braking, check. Fun, check.

Tired, cold, and still not ready to take the Tiger home I make one last run along the rolling hills leading up to the Allegheny Plateau. Standing in the corn stubble and looking at the motorcycle and the valleys beyond I feel lucky that I am a rider. Being out here with the day fading and the temperature dropping is not what most riders strive for. But the spirit of adventure is something a lot of riders have in common. It feels good to stand up straight and take in the world. With this motorcycle I could take in a lot of places.

Until those rides come along I had to be content prowling home on the Triumph Tiger and hoping winter would not be too long or severe.


texinick said...

Nice article.. I LOVE my tiger!! :^)

Conchscooter said...

I need longer legs for the Tiger, a stronger back for the Sprint, more money for the Thunderbird. So I guess I shall stick with the Bonneville. Even though I like the riding position, the big tank, the integrated luggage and the pedigree...

Steve Williams said...

texinick: The Triumph Tiger is a fine machine. It's definitely in the running for "if I could only have one motorcycle..."

Conchscooter: Life's tough on a Bonneville...*grin* Everyone should have it so bad like you. Temperate weather, ocean breezes, and a Triumph Bonneville.

Seriously though the Bonneville is a really cool motorcycle and one I have enjoyed riding. The Tiger is different and if I was heading out to Oregon to visit irondad I would probably choose the Tiger over the Bonneville for that trip. But since I know I could make it on the Vespa the Bonneville would be a breeze as well.

I must be becoming mentally spoiled...

canardtoo said...

A good winter time read. Makes one long for the back roads of any area.

bobskoot said...


I am also short of leg. At the Triumph open house last year I swung my leg over a Tiger and it felt a little high, so I did not take the demo ride. I also really liked the Sprint GT and was considering purchasing one. That 3 cylinder engine is legendary and unbreakable. I also liked the Speed Triple but I think the street Triple would have had more than enough power for me, but looks stupid with hard cases.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Joe said...

You ride three hours and 160 some miles away from home just for the fun of it? Oh, to be as adventurous!

Steve Williams said...

canardtoo: Winter. It's getting old isn't it? Can't wait for a chance for some more relaxed riding.

bobskoot: Sounds like you need to have a look at the BMW GS650 or 800 with the low suspension option. Very nice, with or without hard cases. And I bet similar in handling to the Tiger. Or the wee Strom.

Are you in the market for a new machine? I thought you have the Strom and a new Kymco 500?

I love the banner picture on your blog now of the Kymco in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Pinchot is a Pennsylvanian. Former forester, governor and federal appointee.

Charlie6 said...

Steve, nice shot of the bike at the railroad tracks....

texinick said...

@Conchscooter If legs are an issue on Tiger & back on the Sprint, how about the Street/Speed Triple? I test rode a Street Triple R a while ago, and that thing was incredible. Confidence inspiring handing comes to mind.

Shame about the back though, I've been a bad back sufferer for many years now, and personally, I never had any back problems with the Sprint. I think they improved the riding position from 2007, and my Sprint also had extra risers too, so maybe I'd have had more dramas with a pre-2007 stock?

This is directed @bobskoot too, have you considered a Tiger with the optional lower seat?

Steve Williams said...

Joe: Sometimes time slips away when you are riding. This was one of those times. Now if the weather would warm a bit I could let some more time slip away.

Alan said...

Steve, I enjoyed reading of your experience on the Tiger. I too have been out on a new bike, my new Yamaha Majesty I have wanted for so long. Winter has given us a break here in Oxford Hills,ME so I also was able to take it for a ride(although I did not travel quite as far as you). The roads here twisted and heaved as well but the Majesty handled so much better than the Vino, and no longer do I have to pull over for cars. Can`t wait till spring! Take care. Alan

Steve Williams said...

Alan: It's always nice to have winter offer a break an hope for warm weather.

Careful on your new Yamaha Majesty. Even when the roads seem clear in winter there is always someone washing the salt off their car and creating some nice smooth ice where the water runs across the road...

irondad said...

I rode 200 miles in the cold rain today. Reading your post, I want to go ride all over again. Preferably without the rain, though.

You are definitely The Bard. If only to write and make pictures half as well as you. You get such cool perspectives in your photos.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

I am delighted that the Triumph Tiger set your soul free, and the pictures were nice. In my book pf plsaces that Steve Williams haunts, I added Unionville to my list. I plan to have breakfast there one weekend this Spring.

Didn't you say something in a previous post about your dealer handling BMW's?

(Psssssst.... Try the GS Adventure next. It looks tall but sinks three inches when your butt hits the seat. )

See if you can get a ride on an ECO Mobile while you're at it.

Fondest Regards,
Jck • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

bobskoot said...


Jack is right. I just looked at your stunning photos again. You have such an eye for composition and perspectives. Plus the light always seems right. Every photo is a masterpiece, along with the matching prose which flows so gently and smooth

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Steve Williams said...

irondad: I don't know what to say other than thank you for your kind words.

Mr. Riepe: I suppose we will cross paths at some point in one of Pennsylvania's many fine diners. And since I will start riding some new BMWs once the weather breaks perhaps you'll see me going down the road on a GS Adventure.

bobskoot: I thoroughly enjoy riding and taking pictures of the machines I ride placed within the landscape. In a world so full of problems and pain it seems kind of selfish to turn a camera on the subjects I do. But then healing starts at home I'm told so I will do my best to take care of the world I live in and hope it rubs off on the next landscape.

Thanks for your kind words of support. I do appreciate them.

Sojourner rides said...

Lovely post, especially for this snowed in Midwest rider. Appreciated all the photographs feature the Tiger. I love the face of that bike--it looks no-nonesense and seriously fun!

dshaf said...

Thanks for the great review. I bought my Tiger at Kissell in July '09 and couldn't be happier.

I can't wait to spend a full riding season exploring PA back roads. (and maybe a longer trip to NC)

I love this motorcycle.

Steve Williams said...

Sojourner rides: The Tiger is a great machine and rides as nice as it looks.

dshaf: Glad to hear the Tiger is working out well for you. When I wander around Kissell's I find the choices overwhelming. I remember how much I went through before I bought the Vespa. I wish I could just buy 5 or 6!

second hand scooter said...

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