f you love the adventure bike look with its commanding seating position, practicality, wide handlebars and whiff of go-anywhere glamour, but spend most of your time on tarmac, Triumph’s 850 Tiger Sport could be a bit of a find.
It’s easy to overlook in the firm’s large range, sitting as it does below the better-known Tiger 900s, but it packs in a ton of riding fun, style and quality, all at a lesser price.
Despite that 850 badge it actually has the same size engine as the 900, although the 888cc triple cylinder motor is tuned for 84 bhp and 60 ft/lbs, compared to the costlier bike’s 93.9 bhp and 64.2 ft/lbs.
Sure, equipment levels aren’t as generous as on the 900 but many riders don’t require a plethora of riding modes, fancy, finely adjustable suspension, connectable TFT screens or even a centre stand – and are more than happy to enjoy a no-frills package. Especially if they are on a tighter budget.
So what do you get if you decide not to go for the £11,500 900, keep £2,100 in your pocket, and go for the keenly-priced £9,400 850 Sport instead?
For starters, it is a cracking looking bike, with plenty of attitude thanks to its go-getting stance, attractive colour schemes, sharp graphics, keenly styled front end, long forks, high rise exhaust, great looking LED lighting and rakish, adjustable screen.
In the blue/grey hue of the Press bike, it looked very tasty indeed, ready to take on the world.
It’s the bike’s easy-riding nature, however, that will captivate potential buyers who drop into Triumph’s showrooms for a spin. Because right from the off, the 850 feels beautifully balanced, perfectly poised, manoeuvrable and light – even in London’s swirling traffic.
Connection between the throttle and engine is nice and linear, the engine is super smooth, the suspension good and squashy over lumps and bumps but firmer than on a ‘full’ off-roader, and the seating position is nice and spacious, the wide bars making tight manoeuvres a cinch.
Punch from the engine at lower and mid-range engine speeds is well matched for road work, including in town and on faster roads, while the light, smooth clutch and gearbox make riding this bike a real pleasure.
After a faster ride on open roads – where the wind protection was reasonable thanks to that easily adjustable screen – I particularly enjoyed exploring quiet back streets in east London. The bike is easy to ride at a crawl and to spin around, with a reasonably tight turning circle, and lightweight, too. It weighs in at just 192 kgs and – being well balanced – is easy to push around, or shove into a tight parking spot.
This Tiger handles sweetly at higher speeds too, the 19-inch cast aluminium front wheel giving plenty of feedback, and confidence (it’s a 17-inch on the back). True, you won’t be taking this one very far off road – not least as it sits on road-focused tyres – but it would be fine for a little light green laning, if that’s your thing. Or for bumping up over a kerb or ramp, perhaps to access your parking space.
There’s no adjustability to the front suspension and only preload to alter the rear, whie there are only two riding modes – rain or road. There’s no cruise control either, or heated grips and while there is ABS and traction control, it’s not angle-sensitive.
You do however get a decent five-inch TFT screen that is configurable, a 12V socket and a two-stage adjustable seat, while there’s also an assist/slipper clutch. And – if you’re prepared to dip into those savings – the list of optional extras is pretty extensive.
If you do fancy tackling more demanding lumps, bumps and mud, you’d better relinquish that £2,100 (and a little more besides) and go for the 900 instead, maybe the £12,100 Rally with its larger 21-inch, spoked front wheel and additional riding modes.
For most riders however – including many in London – the 850 hits the sweet spot; not too costly, not too many fancy extras you don’t need, while it’s great in traffic, enjoyable on a longer journey, and won’t look out of place if you fancy plodding along the occasional gravel byway.