What's it like:
The Tiger 90 is a classic British bike.
It's mechanically noisy, vibrates, leaks oil and kicks like a mule but the
sound it makes from the twin pipes is pure stereophonic thunder. You can blat
about town on this thing and everyone notices you but no one complains. The
exhausts are straight-through cherry bombs that produce a loud but deep and
mellow throbbing. If this bike were human it would be Barry White. The motor
pulls strongly from idle and it is easy to get ahead of the traffic at the
lights. You can squeeze right along side the front cars confident that you
can launch it instantly the lights change - and you can't do that on an RD250
because it is likely to bog down on take-off. Once you are on the move you
get the full Brit-Thunderbike experience along every stretch of road. Because
it is a small motor, you get to work it hard through its four speed wide
ratio gearbox without running out of road too quickly or breaking the speed
limits by too much.
The midrange is flexible and mostly you use the 2500 to 4500 range. Twist the
throttle in any gear and she's off. Upper mid range doesn't have much more to
offer and just produces more vibration - I need to work on this. This baby
does like to rev though. A 7500 redline may not seem much to you but when you
hit it you know it. This is the sporting version of the Triumph 350 motor and
from 6000 to 7500 it really goes. The cacophony of noise, vibration and
discomfort assaults every sense. You feel like you're doing the ton past the
Ace Cafe even though you're only actually doing 70. After a 30 mile thrash
with my brother on his Bonneville I looked and felt like I'd come last in the
Paris-Dakar rally. To him it was just a gentle cruise. The brakes are weak.
Fortunately you don't need them. Engine braking is strong. The front is a
non-standard 8 inch single leading shoe drum (the original is 7 inch) and
needs a hard pull to have any effect. The rear brake is a 7 inch SLS drum and
is quite good having a very long pedal. You can actually lock it up. The
suspension is stiff and unforgiving. Despite a great deal of effort and
various different grades of fork oil I have never managed to get much damping
effect in the front forks. You hit every bump hard so you carefully scan the
road ahead to avoid the worst of the potholes. A full time job given the
dreadful state of London suburban streets. The roads have had 35 years of
damage since this bike was made. Triumph handling was always considered poor
compared to Nortons of the same era but I have to say that the T90 is not
that bad. The thin large diameter tyres make cornering totally predictable.
Sure, potholes throw it off course but we avoid those don't we. This bike is
great for hammering round tight bends and thundering off up the road.