Spitfire

In my last blog post I discussed the four year history that my 2011 Kawasaki KLR and I had together. I rode the KLR over 11,000 miles that included two Back Country Discovery Routes, portions of the Trans America Trail and Continental Divide Trail, and an epic cross country trip that took us from the Great Plains to the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. While the KLR was a great bike it did have limitations that had started to become more and more apparent and I changed my riding style a little bit over time. The KLR was great in terms of reliability, ease of maintenance, and smiles per gallon. However, I was wanting more power, a better suspension, and something that was a little bit more modern.

The KLR evolved very little over the last thirty years compared to the BMW GS which seems to evolve every few years

The search for the KLR’s replacement began about five months ago after I had ridden it from Minnesota to South Carolina. I knew that I wanted a bike in the 800 to 1200cc range that rode great on road but could still tackle dirt and gravel roads and maybe some mild two track trails. It needed to have the ability to haul some gear on long distance trips while tearing up miles and not my body. For months I watched YouTube videos and read numerous articles on the latest and greatest bikes as well some older models as well. What I started to gather through my research was that the idea of a budget friendly “big adv bike” was somewhat out of the question. Compared to the KLR to get what I wanted out of a bike I would have to start in the $6,000 dollar territory and go up from there. Immediately anything that was brand new was out of the picture along with some of the bigger adventure bikes such as the BMW GS’s and KTM’s. I was also limited by my immediate area as well. Charleston, South Carolina isn’t exactly known as a hot bed of dual sport or adventure bike activity so the used bike market was hit or miss. I did look at a few Suzuki Vstrom’s which were great bikes and I did find a sweet deal on a KTM 1090 Adventure R but some of the bikes I was really interested in such as early model Honda Africa Twin’s and Yamaha Super Tenere’s were few and far between.

Charleston is a great city but the dual sport/adventure bike market is lacking a little bit

As my search went on I did stumble across a bike that I knew very little about however I had heard great things about it, the Triumph Tiger. The Tiger for some reason wasn’t on my list of bikes to research and I’m not sure why. Two of my good friends own Tigers and have raved about them for years and have even said that in some aspects they are a poor man’s BMW GS. Everything that I was looking for in my next bike the Triumph Tiger certainly had. Luckily for me the KTM 1090 Adventure R that I mentioned previously was at my local Triumph dealer and they actually had a 2014 Tiger 800 that had very few miles. After seeing the bike in person I was intrigued by it, so much so that I actually watched a few videos reviewing the Tiger line up and they were all fairly favorable. After a few days I decided to go back and test ride it and I had a mixed reaction to it. The Tiger is a big bike and the ergonomics were a mix between a sport bike and dual sport. The fuel tank is massive and the bike is wide, personally I think it’s wider then the KLR. It was also heavy weighing in around 465 pounds which to some may seem heavy however it actually wore its weight fairly well and was pretty nimble. Despite this the Tiger did check the block on everything I was looking for in a bike. The 800cc three cylinder engine has a pretty healthy power band and it was instant power on demand. The suspension was a lot better then my KLR especially on pavement and it was pretty good off road as well. Lastly, the Tiger was fairly modern. It had electronic fuel injection, a nice digital dash with all kinds of options, and it had some options that I had never had before such as ABS. While the Tiger fulfilled most of the criteria that I was looking for in a bike it did have one turn off, it had cast wheels instead of spokes.

The 2014 Triumph Tiger 800 ABS that I took for a test ride

Following the test ride I put a small holding fee on the Tiger and told the dealer that I would let them know in a few days on what I thought. Over those couple days I looked at the local stock of used bikes in the area and nothing really jumped out at me and at this point I didn’t want to settle. During this time I was also researching quite a bit into the abuse that cast wheels can take and talked a little bit with Steve Kamrad who used to rally race a Triumph Tiger and Jenna from Jensmotoadventures who used to ride her Triumph Tiger everywhere. In the end I realized that the style of riding that I was going to do didn’t really warrant spoked wheels. I wasn’t planning on rally racing on rocky gravel roads or riding difficult single and two track. I also reached out to a couple of friends and some followers on Instagram who had Kawasaki Versy’s, Suzuki Vstrom’s, and BMW GS750’s and they told me that cast wheels held up fairly well on their bikes while riding the Trans America Trail or the Mid Atlantic BDR. At this point a lot of my fears were set aside and I figured if their bikes can do it then certainly the Tiger can.

The Tiger putting in some off road miles outside of Charleston

And well I guess the rest is history, a few days later I went back and picked up the Tiger and brought her home. The Triumph Dealer in Charleston, North Ridge Cycles was great to work with and they were amazing every step of the way and certainly worked with my busy schedule. They put on some Kenda Big Block tires and ordered the OEM upper fender from the Triumph Tiger XC also known as the ‘beak”. It was by far the smoothest experience I’ve ever had with a motorcycle dealer and I would gladly go back for parts and service and Craig if you ever read this thank you.

Already loaded up with my old Wolfman enduro tank bag and tail bag

So where do we go from here? Well I mounted my Wolfman tail bag and tank bag from the KLR onto the Tiger and I added some OEM 1 inch bar risers and I have a taller windshield from Touratech on the way. Other then that I plan on getting as many miles as I can in on pavement and off road as I try to get used to the Tiger like I was with the KLR. Over time crash bars, pannier racks, and a stronger skid plate will get added on but other then that their isn’t to much I really need to do to the Tiger. So as the KLR’s chapter ended the Tigers is just beginning and before I forget in the true fashion of naming my bikes the Tigers will be Spitfire. Those who know about World War Two and my love for fighter aircraft can probably figure out why.

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