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Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro

SUZUKI V-STROM 1050XT VS TRIUMPH TIGER 900 RALLY PRO

A twin battles with a triple at the Rally Moto Tour of Wales Challenge. Actually the fight was bigger than that as the weather proved the biggest battle

Adventure bikes like adventure riders come in all shapes and sizes. They come with a similar range of aspirations too. Some bikes seemingly have their sights firmly set on exploring the world’s great deserts, some are just content to comfortably tour the home counties with maybe a little gravel driveway action thrown in for a gentle challenge. There can be no right or wrong, just options. And given the diversity you can pretty much find one that’ll suit you, whatever your needs.

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally pro
The Triumph resting in a Kent field ahead of the Tour of Wales, we took the panniers and bag off for the big ride
Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
The Suzuki mid Welsh ride, you can see the lack of preload on the shock in this shot

And so we have these two. They’re not adventure-centrestage, not grandstanding BMW GSs nor KTM SAs. But both are bona fide adventure bikes, and they share some common ground. Both in the 1000cc bracket, more or less. Both come with something of a hop-up kit to make them even more adventure-some. And they share a similar price ticket: the Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT with Explore Accessory Pack costing £13,798, the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro, with panniers and crash bars to match the V-Strom, £14,724. They’re not direct competitors with each other, either, but there’s a definite overlap in their spec and capability so we thought that was more than enough reason to put them together to see how they really compare and which you might choose and for what reasons.

So we’ve put them through their paces, with a decent cross-country road ride or two and a very testing adventure ride ­– 14 hours non-stop riding trails and back roads along the length of Wales. Editor Jon ‘JB’ Bentman on the Suzuki, Craig Keyworth on the Triumph.

Comfort break for Mr Keyworth

SUZUKI V-STROM 1050XT

107hp – 1037cc – 247kg

JB: My home is not the best starting point for a tour of Wales, being as it is on the furthest tip of Kent, and especially when that tour starts up at the northern end of Wales, in Chester (which is actually still in England, but inches from the Welsh border). However, being in possession of the Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT complete with Explorer kit made the prospect of a six-hour ‘prologue’ somewhat more palatable. And sure enough it romped its way up the M2, M25 and M40 with absolute ease before we deferred to the navigational superiority of the Garmin Zumo XT and hit the little roads from Warwickshire onwards – gotta have some bends on every ride.

Arriving in Chester was simple enough. So should have been locating the start point of Rally Moto’s Tour of Wales Challenge. However, it’s not so simple when you forget what ‘avoids’ you’ve ticked on your sat nav settings and the location is at a motorway services. It only took about 45 minutes and some comedic reroutes before the penny dropped…

There at the start I found my RUST co-rider Craig (Keyworth) with the Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro. We were a strange clash of styles. The Suzuki is big and brash in its Marlboro-inspired orange-and-white colourways (Gaston Rahier Dakar rep, but I have to say I think see it as much as a Wayne Rainey YZR500 rep what with the black wheels!) while the Triumph is quite muted in its very reserved green-grey camo look. Conversely I was attired in muted greys and greens of a KLIM suit while Craig looked like he’d just stepped out of the Dakar (which is a legitimate claim on his account) being dressed in his yellow/red/black/pink Alpinestars MX gear. A bit mixed up you might say. Anyway, we picked up our road books and sandwich box readers, connected the wiring for the GPS trackers (a great safety provision by Rally Moto), applied the official rally sticker and set off for our hotel, to return in the morning.

Low cloud and rare moment when Craig wasn't riding the Triumph
Another rare moment...

After a month in the saddle (on and off) the big Suzuki has become like home to me, I’m so used to it now. It has a few mode options, with varying levels of ABS, traction control and what I’d call ‘engine eagerness’ (mapping) but I have to confess I just ride it with whatever settings it’s in at the moment; only when faced with some extreme slipperiness will I make the effort to fumble with the switches to turn off the traction control. At all other times we just muddle along quite happily and effectively. But yes, okay, if pushed, I’d say my favourite settings are no TC, ‘most alert’ engine and limited ABS – I don’t turn it off.

Jumping on Craig’s ride, the Triumph, for a brief while (thanks Craig!), highlighted just how road-biased the ride and ergonomics are on the Suzuki, a feeling which had dulled with familiarity. Given the comparison I could see the Suzuki’s handlebars are actually quite narrow and low, while the footpegs are quite high – something I hadn’t noticed so much since having raised the seat. It is not then a regular off-road ride position, yet as I found over the 14 hours of the tour-challenge it still works and at no time did I feel compromised.

Both of us agree the Suzook feels ‘solid’ when riding off road. It’s a good 40-odd kilos heavier than the Triumph and when we made the swap it was noticeable immediately. If the Triumph hadn’t been on road tyres it would have made the increased agility of the Triumph even more noticeable, but the excellent Dunlop Trailmax Missions on the Suzook meant the big twin could keep the nimble-footed triple in sight (just). That solid feeling is a good thing, not bad, the bike kept a secure planted foot on the terrain at all times. Craig, when riding it, exploited this feel to its limit, bowling along at fair speeds, enjoying the deep-throated roar of the exhaust as the rear tyre scrabbled in the loose gravel. He delighted – his mile-wide smile gave it away – in skipping past a succession on GS and KTMs on one particular trail. The Kayaba suspension might be on the soft side but it’s not incapable and you can use the extra squish to find traction at both ends.

Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
Craig's rallying background make the Triumph a win for him, JB likewise enjoyed the Suzuki as chilled works for him
Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
The Suzuki's ground clearance isn't big, but it's enough for everything except extreme trails
Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT
Cracking long distance Welsh trail and the Suzuki on the Dunlops just ate it up

The new fairing, with small screen and instruments, also give a distinct rally bike feel when you’re looking forwards, and for what in the Suzuki marketing blurb looks like a big road tourer that can occasionally turn its hand to this dirt riding malarky the V-Strom is in fact a surprisingly natural and assured trail bike.

Riding the Tour of Wales Challenge was a seriously long day’s ride. It might have been 14 hours but it felt like 14,000 turns such is the nature of the Welsh lanes and trails. Again, bearing in mind its size and weight the Suzuki was at no time a burden, in fact a delight. You can blast the road sections with some fair speed (ha ha!) but it takes to the tight gravel-strewn turns just as well. Skipping along the off-road sections my only concern was going too fast and possibly pinch-flatting the tyres – I’ve seen this happen too often, even on tubeless tyres – but again the Dunlops feature specially reinforced sidewalls and riding on road pressures (36/42) the chances of a flat was probably pretty minimal. Thinking about those pressures it’s amazing it gripped so well (given some time and consideration I’d be thinking something like 20psi or 2.0bar would be a better setup – see note at end of feature). I will one day soon try these tyres off road at proper pressures.

Ground clearance is another issue you bear in mind on the Suzuki. Somehow we started and finished the day in Wales on minimal preload on the shock, not something I’d usually do. I prefer max preload and having the bike run high, but I’d not really paid attention and was absently thinking how much my legs must have lengthened of late as I could plant both feet firmly on the ground at all times. The lower setup made making the odd dab easier and in some circumstances running a lower bike and lower centre of gravity is advantageous, but it did mean I hit the sump plate running down on a few rock steps where I wouldn’t chance a wee hop-off. It’s an odd thing, to have high pegs and low ground clearance.

THE TOUR OF WALES CHALLENGE

by www.rallymoto.co.uk

500km

12 hours

100% roadbook

Chester to Abergavenny

Big bikes, 600cc+, 145kg+

GPS tracking

Challenge/Expert routes  

 

 

Life on the Tour of Wales Challenge was certainly special. The sky was never less than grey, but often grew to be dark grey and then black – first on account of a simply torrential downpour and then when the sun well and truly disappeared over the horizon (it was a 10pm finish!). But the mood was pretty exultant. Living on the tip of Kent (in the East of England) summer rainfall gets pretty limited and all the fields are yellowish this time of year. Wales in the West gets so much more rain and so everything was a verdant green, or deepest brown. And everywhere there were puddles – just as well I’d put waterproof socks inside the Tech 7s.

I’d made a poor job of loading my roadbook so toward the end of the first roll (six hours in) I had the thing jam so I couldn’t navigate any further. And then when it came to loading the second roll I found that had got soaked in the downpours (being stored in a non-waterproof rucksac). But by then Craig was well into his stride as Pathfinder – he later commented that the Rally Moto road books were flawless in detail, better than he gets in international rallies proper – and so he was towing along not just myself but two KTM 690 buddies (Steve and Rob) and later a 701.

In these events you live for the long trails and we came across some of these in the second half of the ride through the Elan Valley and beyond. There’s nothing like riding a valley where there are no houses, no roads, just nature (and maybe a man-made lake/reservoir!). Even with the day growing long these were a joy to ride with some astounding views and, but for one Swiss 4×4 enthusiast, were completely deserted.

Suzuki has fitted a couple of spotlights to the crash bars on the XT and, well, fair play – they are very good. And if riding off-road forest sections at night in a rainstorm is your thing then they are indispensable. At other times, like lane splitting on an overcrowded M2, I use them to alert inattentive motorists to my approach.

The day ended at one of those ersatz motorway motels, this one on the edge of Abergavenny. We arrived at 10pm, a clean 14 hours after the start. It had been a long day. The first two hours had felt long enough, and the ride from there to the halfway point felt like an age. To then ride another six hours was simply redefining ‘long time’ by a whole new multiplication factor. Food would equally dull and sharpen your energies, so it paid not to eat too much, instead snack modestly and often. I’d forgotten my hydration pack so had a dehydration headache at about the four hour mark, but pills and a good drink at the halfway point put me straight again.

The ride kind of blurs into one long succession of hedges, skiddy gravel over bitumen, rutted twin-track, slate, mud, banks, trees, grass, more mud, so many brown puddles, then forests, bare hills, little villages crammed into tight valleys, stone walls, heavy skies, saturating rain(unless you’re riding in a KLIM suit!). Without doubt it was more challenge than tour and on your own, without the support of fellow participants, you’d probably pull the plug on the ride long before even the halfway mark.

But we saw so much, inspecting Wales, North to South, by the inch it would seem. Equally we really were really adventuring, doing what adventure bikes are meant to do, riding back country, riding trails, taking the path less travelled. And that we can do this in a very proper sense, here in the UK, is in some ways quite a revelation, and we must thank the tireless folk of Rally Moto for bringing us to this. If these trails and tracks were not the hundreds if not thousands of years old that they are we’d say Rally Moto were trailblazing. Certainly within the parameters of the motorcycle industry in the UK they are. The importers would do well to swing in with some proper support for this venture.

And through Rally Moto’s inspiration I can at least confirm that the new V-Strom is every inch a serious adventure bike, and was more than capable of taking on the expert route at this event. Great for long distance – I love the 20-litre tank – and dependable in the rough stuff. Others have demonstrated this too, there are RTW V-Stroms out there, there are rallying V-Stroms too, but this is a humble straight-out-of-the-showroom V-Strom and with just a change of tyres it’s out there, going bar to bar with the 690s and the Ténérés. It does adventure in a traditional big bike way – which contrasts with the Tiger, as you’ll see – but it does it well.

Ah yes, and three days after I set off, some 1,100 miles later, I got back home, neither the rider nor bike worse for wear, but all the better for the experience. A little Muck-Off and a power wash and you’d never know what we’d just been through. And just one sleep later both bike and rider were whizzing up to London’s East End for some proper city work. A weekend warrior and weekday worker. It’s a great bike.

SECOND OPINION – CRAIG KEYWORTH

The V-Strom hadn’t ever featured on my radar. JB had one previously of course, I saw it once when he rode it to Yorkshire last year when we did a pre Scottish Six Days session with Wayne Braybrook. He talked at us about it, and how impressed he was with it, but aside from hanging our jackets on it, and congratulating him on an early start for a journey to The North it was very much in the background. Fitting.

Not this bad boy. Look at it! If it was made of Lego and I was five it’d be my new favourite thing. It’s big, bold, clunky and…. a very real contender. Firstly the paint. Nothing can look bad in Marlboro Dakar retro blocks. Nothing. Then of course you get aboard it. Despite the huge amounts of camera gear JB had strapped to it, it was a total cracker. Shod with the superb Dunlops, my stint on the Strom saw me passing a few GSs just because they were there, popping off and around things and treating it very much like it was indeed made of Lego – a proper boys toy. It’s weighty, but you only really tell once it’s going a bit awry and you’re sliding. There were a few very wet gravelly corners where the Dunlops finally let loose and only then did the Strom let its mass be known. We never scratched it though. It was perfectly capable.

As mentioned I didn’t really let JB play on the Triumph, so he mostly rode the Suzuki all day, but it was more on account of the gear strapped to it that I avoided it. Again though, it lapped up the load. It’s definitely now well and truly on my radar, and not just because of the fabulous paint job.

TRIUMPH TIGER 900 RALLY PRO

95hp – 900cc – 201kg

CK: Triumph makes a big claim for their new Tiger 900s: “A quantum leap forward in capability, for maximum adventure in every ride.” The one we have is the Rally Pro. It’s got a sticker to say so on the beak. Bold marketing claims for sure. Rally Pro? We’ll be the judge of that….

Let’s get the first thing out of the way. I’m spoiled. For every ride, and on any bike (except the sports stuff), I’m going to claim I’ve got the market leader tucked away in the workshop ready to go. They’re there for a reason: accomplishment. You see, if I’m going to do a thing, I want to do it on the best bike to do that thing on, plain and simple. On this basis all of my adventure bikes have been German, and all of them have been full fat 1150/1200/1250 GSs. So in a sense, it’s fair to say I’ve been rather biased, but I make no apologies for my choices and about the cross references. I’d pondered (before writing this) whether to try and avoid these references to the Bavarian, but that’s just be daft, as I’ve a lot of experience on them and of them, plus that’s what everyone else will do anyway.

My first impressions of the Triumph are all preconceived. All in my own head. Looking the bike over I can take or leave the all-black shine of a spanking new bike. I should mention our exact Triumph has already been doing the rounds with the journalists, but you’d not tell to look at it. The lack of scratches or abrasions suggest it hasn’t done any hard work. Least not of the off road kind. The fairing / screen looks like a styling exercise also, they don’t appear to offer much in the way frontage or protection. And I’m not really revved up by the triple noise people talk about. I could me more positive, eh?

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
Craig demonstrates the correct way to load a roadbook – take note chaps
Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
Somehow, despite being an across the frame triple, the Triumph appears slim – tall and slim

The new Tigers are priced from £9,500.00 OTR, and the Rally Pro is £13,010.00 and to be fair, it’s the one to have. It has heated seats, posher brakes, cruise control, riding modes, decent suspension, spoked wheels… and ours has road tyres on it. Road tyres? Oh dear.

Out of the gate and the bike is small. There’s much less ‘presence’ than I’m used to. I’m straight into the Lincolnshire twisties. And to its credit the Tiger is light and very agile. I’m in no rush, a rare occurrence indeed, and I’m not going to head to the motorway. The first few miles things feel a bit breathless. It doesn’t quite have the grunt I’m used to, but all the same it catches on with a couple of sports bikes. As the pace quickens I find the brakes are good, not just for looks – the Brembos do a cracking job. I get past the sports bikes, but I’m finding the front-end dive thing feels strange (have I been too long on Telelever?). I’m conscious that despite dialing in all of the clicks to stiffen it up it still feels a bit soft. So I’m apprehensive about the off-road tech stuff in Sales…

Our test was to be the Rally Moto Tour of Wales Challenge. 500km (ish) of green lanes, trails and nadgery stone-ridden yet muddy single tracks showing off Wales’ finest. I now know I’ve done the much of the route previously on an R 1200 GS Rallye and we had a cracking ride. Only this is a road book event and so we don’t know, before we get there, where we’re going. I’d done it with my fellow GS Trophy Team UK Petes, and you’d be pushed to get better trail riding anywhere in the world. Even in the rain.

Back to my pre-event ride out: I elect to pop over the Peaks and again avoid any dreary motorway. Something happens. In between being a miserably critical, end of a typical week engineer and stuttering into a fuel station near Holmfirth, me and the Triumph have made friends. The brakes were making proper brake noises, the tyres were more than warm and I’d spent probably more time than appropriate at the end of the throttle. Up until realising I had used up all of the fuel I’d had a clear run, I’d enjoyed a break in the clouds and left more than my blinkered first impressions behind. I’d had a lot of fun. Once the Tiger is on song you want to keep it there, and this is a Rally Pro remember, not the more road-biased variant – yeah, we all know most adventure bikes will spend all of their life on tarmac, and clearly Triumph know this. Yep, this lightweight package really does deliver, which it neatly does all the way to the rendezvous in Wales, where this almost brand new (but with heat-blued headers) Triumph and enduro-kitted rider arrive, to look a little out of place…

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
Craig and Triumph mid slippery corner, note body positioning
Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
Audio would be a help in this shot, the triple sings a beautiful song

Wales was, as ever, soggy. With JB commandeering the poshest and newest Klim suit, I was grateful for the heated grips and the heated seat on the Tiger. As said, I was in poverty-spec enduro kit, purely to allow comparison between the top of line adventure gear, and the cobbled together left overs from previous rallies. So I’d dressed for the desert. Race preparation you see. Train in what you race in. Or was this all just terrible planning on my part, based on what I have in the garage and a lack of any real preparation. Rally Pro, er, yes, that’ me…

The bike had impressed on the road. Having cast aspersions on the fairing and screen, in my enduro helmet and goggles I’d been amazed at how little wind effect is received. The heated grips didn’t scald my hands off either (this is a compliment, I’m used to two settings on the BMW – 1: Are these on? 2: Heat blisters) and with the cruise set at a Rally riders’ 70mph, the little Triumph is stable enough to make a coffee. Who’d have thought that was going to be the case?

I worried though. Little bike. Road tyres. Road manners. Can the Tiger live up to the Rally Pro sticker when it really needs to? This is the model that, should you want to head to a rally on a big, out of class bike, you’d pick it from the brochure. Well let’s see.

And one more time, I’d like to cast an observation on my RUST compadre. Along with being head-to-toe in a well-tailored and very serious looking Klim suit, JB had also bagsied the best tyres. He arrived on the ‘Strom shod with serious looking Dunlop Trailmax Missions. Looking every inch ready for the kind of wet that only Wales can deliver. Hmm.

Come the morning and as ever, the journo’ faff (so infectious) means we’re flat last away. We’re using the Rally Moto issued manual road book holders – they’re rather nicely assembled into a plastic sandwich box, which sounds a lot worse than it turns out to be (more pre conceived ideas…). I apply experience and take my time carefully and diligently loading my road book. We’re off quick sharp, the tail enders, and I’m straight into my navigation game. The sandwich box is working out perfectly, although it looks a bit out of place on the shiny techno-Triumph.

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro
Stunning wee valley, would be a proper stop if this wasn't a time-limited challenge

In no time at all we leave the tarmac and are into Wales proper. I pretend the Triumph isn’t on road tyres and it plays along. We’re in rally pro mode, literally on the mode settings, and also figuratively, and we pretty quickly catch up a few of our Challenge-comrades.

JB then demands the first of a few photo stops. Now I’d hastily cobbled together one of my spare rally ICOs from the rally proper, and it’s Heath Robinsoned to the screen. Unfortunately, in its solo guise I don’t really know how to use it! I’ve not fitted the additional bar-mounted control buttons (it’s a loan bike remember) and so I’m limited to the two buttons on the ICO itself. This unfortunately doesn’t allow me to adjust the distance travelled. JB has me run a few corners here and there (this is a massive understatement) in the interest of nice photos. Each time I’m increasing the complexity of my maths. The rod book instructions are distance based, so now, instead of my next turn or instruction being at 123.5km, I’ve to add on 2.3km, and then the next photo it’s 2.8km etc. Good practice, but a terrible practice and I dare say it’s this that gets most folk lost in the desert. Anyway, each time we click past the 100k mark I just reset it to make the maths easier! #RallyPro. Yes, I’d be better off with the iPhone app here… Still, we make one wrong turn all day, so, y’know….

The plan was to swap and change between us, spend time each on the Strom and the Tiger, rating each between us. Only I let JB have one go, and then once I’d got the Triumph back he never got another look in. We were having it, me and the little Triumph. Traction off, and with little traction from the tyres (this isn’t a tyre review, but we’re on full on sports/road tyres here) we make progress with guile and momentum, and the Triumph more than once gets up, across and over some very technical terrain which sees ‘proper’ off-road stuff laid at the side. We collect a few folk, pass a few more and make good progress. Until we stop for another photo at which point we give it all back to Father Time. Who for the day is Robert in Rally Moto’s mobile HQ, and who is tracking our every move via the GPS transmitters.

 

I was trying to think of where the Tiger let me down in the dirt, where I needed more or less, or where it had failed. I certainly had plenty of fun, and to be honest even the initial impressions of the suspension being over soft, even at full clicker (and compared to my proper rally bikes), didn’t really feature in my day. The bike was skipping between the puddles and drifting about quite nicely. It did however get a little exciting once we got airborne. Despite being ‘TC off’, over certain speeds it does seem that maybe there is some sort of control measure or panic attack from the ABS/TC, as on landing at, or over, said pace the bike had a little moment where it would stutter. But I don’t think it really worried me, and it probably shouldn’t you as it was in the ‘a bit much’ camp in terms of where we were speed wise on slippery off-road at that point, plus we were in the air!

And that about sums it up. The Rally Pro Tiger turned out to be a lot more capable bike than I imagined. Despite its road bike origins it does a lot better off road than just stats would imply. Even on road tyres in the wettest conditions it was manageable, and super-competent. And after years on the GSs I can see this big-bike-lite formula has a great deal going for it. JB might have properly optimized his setup on the Strom and was getting by just fine, but on the Tiger was going pseudo-rally very effectively. For those week- or fortnight long super rallies in Eastern Europe (like the Gibraltar Rally) I can see this bike would be a weapon. Just for plain daily ride with the occasional weekend adventure ride its good. Shedding those 40-odd kilos of the real heavyweights beings a lot more fleet-footed fun into the adventure equation. So in all this is a formula that piques at my rally-interests. Yep: hello, is that Triumph Motorcycles? May I have one with knobblies on, to compete on? Pretty please?!

SECOND OPINION – JON BENTMAN

I got to ride the Triumph around Kent for a day before Craig got his mitts on it, then for a short spell on the Tour. After the Suzuki it felt very much like a dirt bike. The bars are high and wide, the pegs low and narrow (narrow set, through the width of the chassis, not in dimension) and the front 21” hoop gives it a distinct dirt bike feel, even though, yes, it’s a road bike first.

Between the fancy TFT screen and myriad of rider modes and electronic aids there’s a sense of technological upgrade when you make the swap, too. And where the V-Strom has that ages-old V-twin lope, the Tiger is a very modern rev-hound. Only it’s a sophisticated rev-hound, and you can appreciate the quality in the build and the tech almost immediately. That goes for the suspension, too, slightly on the soft side but Triumph’s off-road settings have come on leaps and bounds over recent years (well damped leaps and bounds…). You have to appreciate some of the other refinements, too, like the anodized alloy crash bars, which save weight (over say the hefty painted steel ones on the Suzuki) and speak of attention to detail.

That 46kg (or thereabouts) weight advantage makes quite a difference both in pushing the bike around and in its ability to attack road and trail, yet the ultimate performance is not that far off the 1000-1200cc adventures. I did some motorway work and it was a smooth comfortable ride at 85-90mph. I can see a lot of riders trading their big ADVs for this less-big ADV. Like Craig, I’d love another go, with real knobblies on – such as I did a year or so ago with the old 800 at Triumph’s Adventure Centre – because this bike could really rumble. It’s not quite a KTM 790 Adventure R, but close enough while bringing real world road bike strengths. In all it’s a very nicely nuanced machine, kind of giving you the best of both…

THE CONCLUSIONS

Suzuki V-Strom 1050XT

No question, Suzuki has done a great job on the latest V-Strom. The looks alone create so much interest and it attracts so many compliments, so there’s no more V-Strom shame. It’s a very attractive bike. It’s actually not that much different in capability and purpose to the previous edition, but now it looks like its ready to do the job, with style.

Buy this one if, like for many of us, the full-spec GSs are just too pricey – and you’re not precious about electronic aids. The V-Strom XT has enough electronic rider aids to get you through but it does lack the final rally pro or off-road pro mode that allows the mega GSs and SAs to really boss the trails. Equally the suspension isn’t quite versatile enough to allow full attack. However, if like JB you prefer to ride trails at a more considerate speed – where you can take time to take in the nature and not offend other countryside users – the the V-Strom is there with you all the way. Off-roading holds no fears.

Equally the V-Strom is a very serious mile-muncher on the tarmac. It offers a lot of comfort for rider and pillion, shrugs off heavy loads, and with that 20-litre tank and decent frugality (50-55mpg) you can make a lot of progress in one day.

In all it’s a proper litre-class adventure bike, super versatile, super competent and now – in a first for any V-Strom – super attractive!

Triumph Tiger 900 Rally Pro

The extra engine capacity of the new Tiger is starting to blur the lines between segments. Once 800s were 800s, 1000s were 1000s. But now the Tiger is edging closer to the Africa Twins of this world and it’s a very viable alternative. That said, without a direct comparison to the old 800 model you don’t immediately notice a performance enhancement – both old and new Tigers like to rev, so the experience hasn’t changed, you’re not immediately feeling this one is faster, or torquier, even if it is.

It is though a smaller, more agile bike than the 1000s. And this is a good thing, you can really play with a Tiger in the dirt (more so on knobblies) whereas with the 1000s you need to be just that little bit more careful – they need bossing but you have to know when to back off. On the Tiger you keep going, keep taking liberties and it keeps coming back for more. It really does think it is a proper race bike, no one has yet told it that its just a road bike, so it happily races along, more Tigger than Tiger. So just watch out any of you 790 Adventure R riders, if you snooze, or are just a little timid, chances are you’ll get mauled by a well-ridden Tiger.

The handy ‘and there’s more’ here is that with that three-cylinder engine the Tiger is also an excellent road bike. Probably the only limitation to full-on road hooliganism is the 21” front so take it just a bit easier on the front into those turns. The only time you’d step off the Tiger and find yourself meaningfully heading for the V-Strom is when it comes to taking a pillion and luggage, then while the Tiger still copes it’s not quite as accomplished, not so damn rock-steady dependable, nor as all-day comfortable as the Suzuki (for two).

The Tiger 800 has been a strong seller and the 900 will continue with that. For the rider who likes a keen energetic adventure ride but still would like his adventure bike to be a proper road bike then this Tiger nails the brief.

rally moto tour of wales challenge – in photos

'Hurry up!' Start time plus 20 mins and Team RUST still hasn't left the car park
We were not alone though
After riding her Sinnis Terrain to Mongolia, the Tour of Wales was a walk in the park for Holly Waller
Not lost, just waiting for the photographer
Fuel stop and a rare moment when some of the 30-strong entry came together
There were some serious bikes and setups on this ride
Steve and Rob rode pretty much the whole day with us, or was it us with them?
Roadbook 'lunched' – more time and care in loading would avoid problems such as this
Steve was a happy man on his nicely prepped 690, note taped boots to keep the water out
Rob in the enchanted valley
Steve goes on the attack for the benefit of the camera
Craig loves an audience!
Guaranteed wet feet at this point, shortly after this he was soaked entirely through, when the sky fell down
Steve keeping the action going
Sky, lake, skid – in that order
Rob rides into some stunning scenery
KLIM BADLANDS PRO
Rare image of JB in his fully coordinated KLIM and Alpinestars/Scott combo, Craig meanwhile in full Dakar kit
The tarmac sections were no less dramatic than the trails
Not a lake, it's a reservoir
Low sun is called sunset
A short stop in Llandovery before the last (wet) blast into Abergavenny
14 hours after the start...
...and this young man was ready for a four hour ride home
Holly and partner Paul Cottee were last to the finish on their Sinnis 125s, but to finish was an achievement, although nothing on riding to Mongolia!

TYRE PRESSURESDunlop Trailmax Mission

Following on from a comment from a sharp-eyed reader… you may have deduced that 20psi and 2.0bar are not the same thing. Indeed 2.0bar is about 29psi. The disparity is there because there can be some discussion/debate as to how far you should lower your pressures to find more grip on adventure bikes.

One starting point is the 13psi or thereabouts that is considered a decent pressure for enduro bikes running tubes – this is effectively the pressure running a bib mousse gives you. But if you’re riding across rocks most riders will increase pressures to the 18-20psi mark to avoid flats. You lose some grip, and you ride accordingly, but you get home without resource to spanners and levers.

Adventure bikes weigh considerably more than enduro bikes, mostly by a factor of 2x, so that 13psi figure is a non-starter. In sand they do work better on lower pressures, though. And it’s here the 2.0bar figure comes in as that’s the pressure I (JB) frequently hear being suggested for riding in the loose stuff at the International GS Trophy events I attend around the world (and of course outside of the UK/USA most people measure in bar).

However, I’ve also heard tyre technicians suggesting adventure tyres are best at the recommended road pressures – the 36/42psi kind of range – and deflation can cause the block pattern to close up, making for less traction. As well I’ve seen countless pinch flats and tyre tears caused by riding big adventures at lower pressures.

So would I, JB, ride an adventure bike on 20psi? Possibly, in real Sahara type sand, but the moment some sharp or solid stuff came along I’d up the pressures. You’ve got to be mindful as well that most adventure bikes run without rim locks, so, well, hmmm, would I really? Okay, would I ride off-road at 2.0bar? Yes, but I suspect there’s something of a limit to the level of attack you’d adopt before you might pinch flat, so while you might get more grip I’d be easy on the speed and slowing big time when rocks were around. And what about road pressures for off-road? Yeah, I’m lazy, fact is I mostly ride everywhere on road pressures, nine times out of 10 it all seems to work out fine. Just when it gets extreme do I start pressing on the valve!

There is quite possibly a full-on feature waiting to be written on this subject. Feel free to comment below on what your opinion is! And don’t take my opinions as rock-solid advice – consult with your tyre’s manufacturer every time.

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