August 1, 2021

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Triumph Tiger 900 Rally review, test ride

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There’s this flyover on the way out of the city in Navi Mumbai that I’ve grown excessively wary of thanks to its aggressively rippled surface. It recently threw my 790 Duke into such a violent and prolonged tank slapper that I was surprised not to have ended up on the ground. Since then, I tend to ride over it with a deep breath and minimal usage of the throttle, but not so on the Tiger 900 Rally. This bike just steamrolled its way over the flyover like it was any other – it was only once we were on the other side that I realised I’d completely missed it on that dark winter morning! I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, “god, I love adventure motorcycles”. 

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally: Chassis

And this one takes the ‘adventure’ tag even more seriously than the impressive Tiger 900 GT we rode a couple of months ago. The Rally is the all-dancing, off-road-biased Tiger 900 thanks to its 21-inch front wheel and massive suspension travel – 240mm at the front and 230mm at the rear. Oh, and those lovely looking side-laced spoked rims support tubeless tyres, which is great for folks who cringe at the thought of having to take the whole wheel off just to repair a puncture. 

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Side-laced spoked wheels support tubeless tyres.

You can read/watch our earlier reviews of other models in the Tiger range for all the nerdy details about this bike’s brand-new chassis and frame, but here we’ll stick to what the Rally’s riding experience is like. Thanks to its extra suspension travel and bigger front wheel, the Rally sits quite tall, with an 850mm (adjustable to 870mm) seat height versus the welcoming 810mm unit on the GT. Still, a slimmer waist than the old Tiger 800 makes it easier to get the feet down, and with a kerb weight of 217kg, this bike is also a little lighter than before. 

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The Rally deserves more than a plastic bash guard.

It may be easier to manage than the Tiger 800, but this is still a big, big motorcycle. As with all large ADVs, you’ve got to boss the bike around and not be afraid of it, but man does it respond when you do that. The adjustable Showa suspension feels soft but offers good control and progression once you travel further into the stroke. With the big front wheel and all that suspension compliance, you can ride the Tiger into and over obstacles that look pretty daunting from way up where you’re sitting/standing. And with just a gentle twist of the wrist, there’s heaps of power to propel the bike out. 

Just like the old Tiger, this chassis also does a good job of finding traction in slippery conditions, this despite the fact that the Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A41 tyres are unashamedly street focussed in their tread pattern and the new engine has a stronger bottom end. 

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally: Engine

Ah that new engine, what mixed feelings this 888cc motor with its new firing order creates. While the stronger bottom end is great, the deep, almost V-twin soundtrack, doesn’t make a great first impression, especially if you loved the sportbike howl from the Tiger 800. But having spent time with the bike, I actually prefer this sound – it’s more in tune with the character of an ADV and it isn’t as intrusive over long stretches at highway speeds. Sadly, the same can’t be said for other aspects of this engine. 

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Left radiator vents hot air onto the rider’s knee.

The first issue is in the vibrations that become apparent above 110kph and grow proportionately to how fast you’re willing to go above that – with 95hp, there’s plenty of potential. The buzz itself isn’t overwhelming, but if you’re familiar with the silky-smooth motor from the Tiger 800, this will be hard to accept. Another issue is the heat coming off the left radiator. It wasn’t too bad on a nice winter 30-degree afternoon, but a couple of months ago, I rode the Tiger 900 GT in 36-degree heat and my left knee was directly in the path of an uncomfortable and continuous blast of hot air at highway speeds. 

While we’re addressing grievances, the radiator shroud plastic sticks above the fuel tank by a couple of mm and my knees kept rubbing against this. It probably won’t be an issue if you ride with substantial knee guards or braces, but this was irksome. 

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally: Handling

Nevertheless, those irritants were soon forgotten because after Kuldeep was satisfied with the off-road photography we headed out to find some corners. This is, by some margin, the best handling motorcycle I’ve ridden with a 21-inch front wheel, and it’s on another planet compared to the Tiger 800. 

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The Tiger 900 rally corners incredibly well for a bike with a 21-inch front wheel.

The 900 is stable, confident and the front end never misbehaved when leaned all the way over. You need to put some effort into the wide handlebars while changing direction and with so much mass, you’ll also have to manage the line to prevent the bike from running wide on exits. But the amount of lean and confidence available as the Rally blasts through the bends is something I’m still struggling to believe. The progressive, yet consistently powerful brakes are marvelous too, with dual Brembo Stylema callipers biting down on 320mm rotors. 

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally: Verdict

When you aren’t hammering it off road or slicing through corners, the Tiger settles into being a big and plush juggernaut that excels in our environment. At Rs 14.35 lakh, it’s quite decently equipped too, with features like a large TFT display, a powerful LED headlamp, heated grips, cruise control and four riding modes. But at this price, it should have had an up/down quickshifter and a metal bash plate instead of the plastic unit supplied. 

Of course, you could buy the top-end Rs 15.5 lakh Rally Pro model to get better crash protection and additional features like the quickshifter, heated seats, a tyre pressure monitoring system and six riding modes. 

As things stand, the Tiger 900 Rally is a thoroughly capable motorcycle with many endearing qualities. It’s so good that despite the downsides of its engine, this is a bike you should consider very seriously if you’re in the market for a big, off-road capable ADV. 

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