Triumph Tiger Press Tour

Tiger by the Tail | A Triumph of Gravity Over Man

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Tom Riles

Blaming jet-lag instead of the obvious culprits, I caught myself doing everything wrong: watching the rider in front of me instead of the curve in front of her, apexing early, clenching mid-corner and grabbing brake—pretty much everything my Team Oregon instructor told me not to do. On the street sections, even when tightly wound, the Tiger has so much capability in reserve that it forgave my clanking reflexes and repetitive clumsiness.

Then we hit the dirt.

Somewhere near the midpoint of a 9-mile section of sandy road, I sailed by a fellow rider, waved cheerfully and nearly dumped it right there. Three cliffside corners later, I over-punched a tight left hook, stared deeply into the eyes of the rock wall I was approaching, then the front wheel hit a soft spot in my brain and I dumped it quicker than Little Richard flushing evidence.

A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-BOOM!

At the bottom of second gear, my sandy landing caused only minimal damage. I jerked the bike out of the sand and cranked ’er, imagining I might get moving before the next guy came along to point and laugh.

Then I looked 50 feet back along the trail and saw two things: my left saddlebag, and The Next Guy—who just happened to be President of Triumph North America.

“Are you okay?” Greg Heichelbech is patient with idiocy in the line of duty.

“Uh, yeah.” I shook my scratched Shoei sadly. “Sorry about your bike, dude.”

“Don’t worry about it! That’s what they’re for.”

He strapped my erstwhile bag across his pillion and blasted on up the trail.

Turns out Tigers crash pretty well. Their bikerotic nakedness saves about a thousand dollars in busted plastic versus a more sporting mount. Basic bits, including the shifter and clutch lever I bent, are quickly field-reparable.

Not so much the saddlebags, rugged though they appear with their aluminum lids. The left pannier was roadkill, both main mounting hooks snapped off clean. At least it didn’t burst open and festoon the adjacent cacti with sweat-soaked Jockeys.

This theme repeated itself as more than one fellow writer suffered a similar yard sale, destroying one spendy bag per biff. Once their hardpoints are made either more substantial or breakaway and replaceable, those bags will be the globetrotting business. Until then, they’re a market opportunity for companies like Jesse and Touratech.

Me, I’d probably ask Cyclepsycho to bolt on a pair of 20mm ammo cans.

That night, we pitched our little tents at the Pine Valley campground. The 12-volt powerlet adjacent to the key-coded ignition is always hot. Without even cranking the bike, we could blow up our air mats with whiney electric pumps instead of trying to remember whether we blew or sucked.

They say an alpha wolf will conceal his injuries to keep the pack from eating him. I had little to worry about—that night we feasted on catered Argentinian beef with chimichurri and Newcastle Brown Ale—but every time anyone asked how my large purple ankle was doing, I casually answered, “Oh, ferally well.”

Around 0300, I realized that it wasn’t John Burns’ gargling fortissimo snores keeping me awake. After hobbling over to water a bush, I chewed 800 mg of MILSPEC ibuprofen. Twenty minutes later, I sailed off to sleep on a wave of relief.

Reg’s second-day schedule specified PHOTOS and WHINING before breakfast, but I was moving slowly and came in at the tail end of the gripe session. Raising my hand, I asked, “Uh, Reg…?”

He gave me a Spaghetti Western squint.

“Quitcher bitchin’, Lewis.”

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