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Common Tread

2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport first look

Nov 17, 2020

Baseball legend William Keeler (1872-1923) is remembered for his phenomenal athletic ability and his time-honored strategy, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Keeler was not the largest man in his league, not by a long shot at five feet, four inches and 140 pounds. But by the important numbers of baseball, Keeler was a giant. He was infamously difficult to strike out, a superb contact hitter, and still holds the highest batting average of any left-handed player in history at .424. 

Triumph believes they’ve identified an underserved market segment "where they ain't," one that's only defended by the BMW F 750 GS. That segment is sport-tourers that are larger, more powerful, and more premium than budget middleweights, but less expensive than the opulent, tech-loaded flagships of the open class. Bikes of this variety are desirable to mature riders who are more concerned with real-world performance than spec-sheet shootouts, and they'd rather spend their money on gas and gear than blue-chip components they don't need.

Enter the new Tiger 850 Sport, derived from the Tiger 900 and priced at $11,995.

Triumph Tiger 850 Sport
Look familiar? Triumph photo.

The new Tiger 850 Sport actually replaces the base model of the Tiger 900 line ($12,500), which came out last year, and the two bikes share the same frames and engines. The 850 Sport’s displacement is even the same, just retuned to shift some power down from the top end for a fatter midrange. So why the drop from 900 to 850? The 850 Sport designation was chosen to communicate the new bike’s position as the Tiger family’s most accessible model for primarily on-road use. (“Sport” is not a trim package. All 850 Tigers are 850 Sports.) BMW had the exact same idea when they split the F 800 line into the 750s and 850s, which also share an engine while targeting different rider segments.

Check out Spurgeon’s review of the new Tigers for an in-depth look at the underpinnings of the new 850. Spurg preferred the new Tigers over the last generation, and found that the 900s compared favorably against BMW’s competition. 

Design brief

Triumph sought to design “what some would call the perfect motorcycle,” as they explained in a virtual introduction to the Tiger 850 Sport. Words like capable, manageable, quality, and affordable came up often. “Not everyone needs top specification or the highest performance numbers,” says Miles Perkins, Triumph’s head of brand management.

Triumph Tiger 850 Sport
A wide range of accessories will debut with the bike. Triumph photo.

A Tiger 850 Sport could be someone’s first big bike, or an intermediate to advanced rider’s Goldilocks choice. Triumph partnered with Givi to provide a wide range of cargo options for this motorcycle, including a top box that holds two full-face helmets.

Triumph tiger 850 engine
Same engine, new tune. Triumph photo.

Powerplant

Again, the engine is shared with the rest of the Tiger line, with the exception of that 850-specific tune that moves peak power and torque to a lower point in the rev range. Throttle and fueling remapping are responsible for the difference. That means the Tiger gets the same T-plane crank, slip/assist clutch, twin-radiator cooling setup, and the easy-access air filter. The engine produces 84 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 60.5 foot-pounds of torque at 6,500 rpm. That’s about 10 horsepower and four torques less than the Tiger 900, for those keeping score at home. And before anyone asks, no, you can’t go to your Triumph dealer and have them flash an 850’s ECU to make it run like a 900. Triumph claims the ECU is locked to prevent this. Hmmm. 

Chassis and braking

The tubular steel frame hasn’t changed, nor has the aluminum swingarm or bolt-on subframe. Spurg praised the new frame and its removable footpegs in his first ride review. Expect more of the same for the 850 Sport, then. Braking is provided by Brembo Stylema calipers gripping 320 mm discs via a radial front master cylinder. Suspension is all Marzocchi; the 45 mm front fork is not adjustable, whereas the rear is adjustable for preload. The 850 Sport rolls on 19-inch and 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped with Michelin Anakees. The whole package weighs 423 pounds dry (no gas or battery, same as the 900), and Triumph was quick to point out that the $10,995 BMW was heavier by a few pounds.

Tiger 850 sport
The adjustable seat can alter the ride height from 31.8 inches to 32.6 inches. An accessory seat can drop it as low as 31.1 inches. Triumph photo.

The Tiger wears a 5.2-gallon tank, and at 55.4 miles per gallon, its range is certainly suitable for touring duty. Tourers will also appreciate the easily adjustable seat and windscreen. 

Tiger tft dash
A generously sized TFT display comes standard. Triumph photo.

Electronics and ride modes

850 Sport owners get a substantial five-inch TFT display, LED lighting, switchable traction control, non-switchable ABS, a 12-volt socket, and two ride modes called Road and Rain. These modes have more to do with traction control than power, according to Triumph. A quickshifter is available as an accessory.

Triumph Tiger 850 Sport
For riders who don't need the performance of the GT Pro, nor the off-road prowess of the Rally Pro, there's the 850 Sport. Triumph photo.

So is the Tiger 850 Sport a replacement, a redesign, or both? At first look, it feels more like a revision of the base Tiger 900 than it does a new model. There’s no denying that the Rally Pro and the GT Pro were the most hyped Tiger models, and the most desirable, considering what they delivered over the base bike for most folks. By replacing their lowest-spec Tiger with the 850 Sport, Triumph hopes to give the base model an identity of its own.

Can the 850 Sport revitalize this unusual segment? Or will it mostly serve as a stepping stone into the Tiger line? We’ll let you know as soon as we get our hands on one. Dealers will get the bikes, available in Graphite and Diablo Red or Graphite and Caspian Blue, by the end of January 2021.

2021 Triumph Tiger 850 Sport
Price (MSRP) $11,995
Engine 888 cc, liquid-cooled, 12-valve, triple
Transmission,
final drive
Six-speed, chain 
Claimed horsepower 84 @ 8,500 rpm
Claimed torque 60.5 foot-pounds @ 6,500 rpm
Frame Steel tubular
Front suspension Marzocchi 45 mm fork; 7.1 inches of travel
Rear suspension Marzocchi, adjustable for preload; 6.7 inches of travel
Front brake Dual Brembo Stylema Monobloc four-piston calipers, 320 mm discs, ABS
Rear brake Brembo single-piston caliper, 255 mm disc, ABS
Rake, trail 24.6 degrees, 5.24 inches
Wheelbase 61.25 inches
Seat height Adjustable, 31.9 to 32.7 inches
Fuel capacity 5.2 gallons
Tires Michelin Anakee, 100/90R19 front, 150/70R17 rear
Claimed weight 423 pounds (dry)
Available January 2021
Warranty 24 months
More info triumphmotorcycles.com