Project Motorcycles
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1996 Triumph Tiger "Steamer" Adventurization Project - Part 1

    I enjoy having a motorcycle project.  Not necessarily tear down to the frame, rebuild-the-engine type of projects but serious modifications that change the look and/or utility of the bike.  I hope to do a complete teardown /restoration/customization at some point in the future but am working my way up to that project.  This Tiger project is probably more personalization than reconfiguration but the end result should be a motorcycle significantly more adventure worthy than the Tiger that came from the factory in 1996.
    Since buying my 1996 Triumph Tiger “Steamer” last autumn, modifications to make it more adventure-riding friendly have been on my mind. Weighing in at approximately 500 pounds wet, the Tiger is too heavy for single-track riding and, at least as ridden by me, will not likely see serious single track, sand and bumps.  More likely, freeways, two-laners, dirt/gravel roads and hard-pack twin track are the environments this bike will most likely explore.
   Considering the riding I intend to do, it’s taken me a while to decide on the modifications that would be most useful for my purposes.  While not finalized, what follows, in no particular order, are some of the mods currently under consideration.

1.Suspension upgrades – The mid-90s Tiger were almost unanimously criticized for the stock suspension.  The front forks are considered soft; they dive under hard braking and provide poor feel and stability through hard fast paved corners. In the dirt, the softer suspension might seem more usable but, in fact, the rebound is too slow.  The Tiger feels unstable.  What I have is a bike the suspension of which is poorly set-up for both paved and dirt environments.
        Past experience with my XR650L adventure motard conversion project and Husqvarna SM450R supermoto race bike taught me that a properly set up suspension makes a huge difference in handling, comfort and overall enjoyment of the ride.  With both motorcycles, Dave Bowman, owner of Small Displacement Motorsports and Tech-Care Suspension, rebuilt my suspension and set it up for my weight and riding intentions / capabilities.
        Prior to having the suspension work done on the XR, the bike was unmanageable in loose gravel, sand, washboard and generally bumpy road and trail situations.  The previous owner must have been significantly larger than me because the suspension was set up far too stiff.  The bike hopped and bounced after hitting even minor bumps and control was lost.  My connection to the road or trail was vague. I considered selling the bike.
         I talked with Dave, a friend and customer, about the problem. He seemed unsurprised and told me the problem was easily fixed.  A couple days and some bucks later, the XR rode like an entirely different motorcycle.  The ride was more comfortable but, more importantly, I was in control no matter how bumpy or loose the road or trail surface. The suspension work was, without question, the most important modification made to the XR.
          With this background in mind, a suspension rebuild will be one of the top priorities in this adventurization project.  I plan to ride this motorcycle a lot in a wide variety of environments.  I don’t want to fight or muscle it all of the way.

2.Engine / body work protection – The Tiger is not only 16 years old, it’s also a somewhat unique motorcycle.  Few were imported to the U.S. and many of those that were imported are no longer in service.  Replacement parts, especially the bodywork, can be difficult, if not impossible, to find.  Engine parts are more readily available.
        My plan is to add crash bars from one of two companies offering such protection.  Thunderbike Engineering (a New Zealand company) sells crash bars that protect engine covers, fairings, instruments handlebars and footpegs.  The crash bars are constructed of steel, can be installed in 60 to 90 minutes and won’t restrict ground clearance.  The Thunderbike crash bars are quite expensive at $545.
The alternative is a product sold by Hepco Becker for $263.24.  An illustration on the H-B website suggests that these crash bars provide adequate coverage and easy installion. Internet reviews indicate that H-B bars are less effective and more difficult to install than those made by Thunderbike.  It's hard to pass up 50% savings but the most effective protection for the Tiger is the ultimate goal. Right now, Thunderbike seems to be the best option for protecting the key components and difficult to replace bodywork.  Need to save up for these.  Still researching the best option.

3.Center stand – A center stand is a no brainer for any motorcycle but especially those with tube-type tires.  These are tough to find but apparently SW-Motech, a German company, is still making them at a price of just over $200 at Twisted Throttle. If you have to do any work on your bike on the side of the road, a center stand almost always makes the job easier not only for tire repairs but other repairs and maintenance as well.

4.50/50 tires  - Several companies produce 50/50 tires (designed for motorcycles ridden on paved roads 50% of the time and in the dirt the other 50%.  Continental TKC 80s, Heidenau K60s, Kenda K270s (a more aggressive tread but still considered 50/50), Pirelli MT 60 RS Corsa or Scorpion MT 90/AT or MEFO Explorer are all in the mix.   Right now, I’m leaning towards the either the Heidenau, MEFO or Pirelli tires because, by appearance only, their tread patterns look a little less aggressive which means they might wear longer for the type of riding I plan to do.  Were I to ride 70-80% in the dirt, the Continental or Kenda tires would move up the list significantly.  Still research to do in this area.

5.Storage / Luggage – Currently, the only luggage I use on the Tiger on a regular basis is an older Wolfman tank bag. I’ve had this particular bag for several years and it’s been a solid product.  However, it doesn’t quite fit properly.  It slides around on the top of the tank and is a distraction while riding.  I use the tank bag for items to which I want quick, easy access while traveling.  A bottle of water, sunglasses, handy wipes / Purell, ibuprofen, cameras (both video and DSLR), journal, snacks, maps, cell phone, and a few other miscellaneous items are essentials for the tank bag. I will be replacing the Wolfman for a tank bag with a better, more stable fit.
            I plan to use the Tiger for a variety of trips the most which will mean camping at the end of the day.  I will need the usual space on the bike for a tent, ground cover, mattress pad, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, food, water purification, clothing, tools, etc.  I’m  thinking an aluminum or plastic lockable top case but am mixed on panniers.  On the one hand, I like the durability and look of aluminum panniers.  The added advantage could be the additional protection solid panniers provide the bodywork when a fall occurs (which it certainly will.)
         One consideration is the lack of choices in a hard pannier system including mounting brackets for the Tiger.  So far, I have been unable to find a complete hard-shell system.  Hepco Becker, in addition to the crash bars, also sells luggage racks to prevent bags from contacting the mufflers or getting entwined in the rear tire and chain.
Soft, dry panniers are the alternative to the hard shell type. One of the most important advantages of the soft panniers for me would be the ability to quickly switch the bags from the Triumph over to a thumper dual sport (brand and model to be announced later when I actually make a purchase.)  This flexibility would eliminate the need to have two full sets of bags for each motorcycle.  Giant Loop has a variety of products that might best suit my needs.

6.Heated Gear – Heated gear seems to me to be an essential element in any adventure rider’s kit. Especially those of who live in the northern tier of the U.S. and/or desire to explore even further north. Heated grips, jacket liner and socks are the essentials for me.

That’s it.  Not exactly a plan but definitely a starting point.  The Steamer is a motorcycle that I like very much and hope to be riding for years.  It’s going to be a more versatile bike once these modifications are implemented.  Stay tuned as the project progresses.

1996 Triumph Tiger "Steamer" Adventurization Project - Part 1

    I enjoy having a motorcycle project.  Not necessarily tear down to the frame, rebuild-the-engine type of projects but serious modifications that change the look and/or utility of the bike.  I hope to do a complete teardown /restoration/customization at some point in the future but am working my way up to that project.  This Tiger project is probably more personalization than reconfiguration but the end result should be a motorcycle significantly more adventure worthy than the Tiger that came from the factory in 1996.
    Since buying my 1996 Triumph Tiger “Steamer” last autumn, modifications to make it more adventure-riding friendly have been on my mind. Weighing in at approximately 500 pounds wet, the Tiger is too heavy for single-track riding and, at least as ridden by me, will not likely see serious single track, sand and bumps.  More likely, freeways, two-laners, dirt/gravel roads and hard-pack twin track are the environments this bike will most likely explore.
   Considering the riding I intend to do, it’s taken me a while to decide on the modifications that would be most useful for my purposes.  While not finalized, what follows, in no particular order, are some of the mods currently under consideration.

1.Suspension upgrades – The mid-90s Tiger were almost unanimously criticized for the stock suspension.  The front forks are considered soft; they dive under hard braking and provide poor feel and stability through hard fast paved corners. In the dirt, the softer suspension might seem more usable but, in fact, the rebound is too slow.  The Tiger feels unstable.  What I have is a bike the suspension of which is poorly set-up for both paved and dirt environments.
        Past experience with my XR650L adventure motard conversion project and Husqvarna SM450R supermoto race bike taught me that a properly set up suspension makes a huge difference in handling, comfort and overall enjoyment of the ride.  With both motorcycles, Dave Bowman, owner of Small Displacement Motorsports and Tech-Care Suspension, rebuilt my suspension and set it up for my weight and riding intentions / capabilities.
        Prior to having the suspension work done on the XR, the bike was unmanageable in loose gravel, sand, washboard and generally bumpy road and trail situations.  The previous owner must have been significantly larger than me because the suspension was set up far too stiff.  The bike hopped and bounced after hitting even minor bumps and control was lost.  My connection to the road or trail was vague. I considered selling the bike.
         I talked with Dave, a friend and customer, about the problem. He seemed unsurprised and told me the problem was easily fixed.  A couple days and some bucks later, the XR rode like an entirely different motorcycle.  The ride was more comfortable but, more importantly, I was in control no matter how bumpy or loose the road or trail surface. The suspension work was, without question, the most important modification made to the XR.
          With this background in mind, a suspension rebuild will be one of the top priorities in this adventurization project.  I plan to ride this motorcycle a lot in a wide variety of environments.  I don’t want to fight or muscle it all of the way.

2.Engine / body work protection – The Tiger is not only 16 years old, it’s also a somewhat unique motorcycle.  Few were imported to the U.S. and many of those that were imported are no longer in service.  Replacement parts, especially the bodywork, can be difficult, if not impossible, to find.  Engine parts are more readily available.
        My plan is to add crash bars from one of two companies offering such protection.  Thunderbike Engineering (a New Zealand company) sells crash bars that protect engine covers, fairings, instruments handlebars and footpegs.  The crash bars are constructed of steel, can be installed in 60 to 90 minutes and won’t restrict ground clearance.  The Thunderbike crash bars are quite expensive at $545.
The alternative is a product sold by Hepco Becker for $263.24.  An illustration on the H-B website suggests that these crash bars provide adequate coverage and easy installion. Internet reviews indicate that H-B bars are less effective and more difficult to install than those made by Thunderbike.  It's hard to pass up 50% savings but the most effective protection for the Tiger is the ultimate goal. Right now, Thunderbike seems to be the best option for protecting the key components and difficult to replace bodywork.  Need to save up for these.  Still researching the best option.

3.Center stand – A center stand is a no brainer for any motorcycle but especially those with tube-type tires.  These are tough to find but apparently SW-Motech, a German company, is still making them at a price of just over $200 at Twisted Throttle. If you have to do any work on your bike on the side of the road, a center stand almost always makes the job easier not only for tire repairs but other repairs and maintenance as well.

4.50/50 tires  - Several companies produce 50/50 tires (designed for motorcycles ridden on paved roads 50% of the time and in the dirt the other 50%.  Continental TKC 80s, Heidenau K60s, Kenda K270s (a more aggressive tread but still considered 50/50), Pirelli MT 60 RS Corsa or Scorpion MT 90/AT or MEFO Explorer are all in the mix.   Right now, I’m leaning towards the either the Heidenau, MEFO or Pirelli tires because, by appearance only, their tread patterns look a little less aggressive which means they might wear longer for the type of riding I plan to do.  Were I to ride 70-80% in the dirt, the Continental or Kenda tires would move up the list significantly.  Still research to do in this area.

5.Storage / Luggage – Currently, the only luggage I use on the Tiger on a regular basis is an older Wolfman tank bag. I’ve had this particular bag for several years and it’s been a solid product.  However, it doesn’t quite fit properly.  It slides around on the top of the tank and is a distraction while riding.  I use the tank bag for items to which I want quick, easy access while traveling.  A bottle of water, sunglasses, handy wipes / Purell, ibuprofen, cameras (both video and DSLR), journal, snacks, maps, cell phone, and a few other miscellaneous items are essentials for the tank bag. I will be replacing the Wolfman for a tank bag with a better, more stable fit.
            I plan to use the Tiger for a variety of trips the most which will mean camping at the end of the day.  I will need the usual space on the bike for a tent, ground cover, mattress pad, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, food, water purification, clothing, tools, etc.  I’m  thinking an aluminum or plastic lockable top case but am mixed on panniers.  On the one hand, I like the durability and look of aluminum panniers.  The added advantage could be the additional protection solid panniers provide the bodywork when a fall occurs (which it certainly will.)
         One consideration is the lack of choices in a hard pannier system including mounting brackets for the Tiger.  So far, I have been unable to find a complete hard-shell system.  Hepco Becker, in addition to the crash bars, also sells luggage racks to prevent bags from contacting the mufflers or getting entwined in the rear tire and chain.
Soft, dry panniers are the alternative to the hard shell type. One of the most important advantages of the soft panniers for me would be the ability to quickly switch the bags from the Triumph over to a thumper dual sport (brand and model to be announced later when I actually make a purchase.)  This flexibility would eliminate the need to have two full sets of bags for each motorcycle.  Giant Loop has a variety of products that might best suit my needs.

6.Heated Gear – Heated gear seems to me to be an essential element in any adventure rider’s kit. Especially those of who live in the northern tier of the U.S. and/or desire to explore even further north. Heated grips, jacket liner and socks are the essentials for me.

That’s it.  Not exactly a plan but definitely a starting point.  The Steamer is a motorcycle that I like very much and hope to be riding for years.  It’s going to be a more versatile bike once these modifications are implemented.  Stay tuned as the project progresses.

1996 Triumph Tiger "Steamer" Adventurization Project - Part 1

    I enjoy having a motorcycle project.  Not necessarily tear down to the frame, rebuild-the-engine type of projects but serious modifications that change the look and/or utility of the bike.  I hope to do a complete teardown /restoration/customization at some point in the future but am working my way up to that project.  This Tiger project is probably more personalization than reconfiguration but the end result should be a motorcycle significantly more adventure worthy than the Tiger that came from the factory in 1996.
    Since buying my 1996 Triumph Tiger “Steamer” last autumn, modifications to make it more adventure-riding friendly have been on my mind. Weighing in at approximately 500 pounds wet, the Tiger is too heavy for single-track riding and, at least as ridden by me, will not likely see serious single track, sand and bumps.  More likely, freeways, two-laners, dirt/gravel roads and hard-pack twin track are the environments this bike will most likely explore.
   Considering the riding I intend to do, it’s taken me a while to decide on the modifications that would be most useful for my purposes.  While not finalized, what follows, in no particular order, are some of the mods currently under consideration.

1.Suspension upgrades – The mid-90s Tiger were almost unanimously criticized for the stock suspension.  The front forks are considered soft; they dive under hard braking and provide poor feel and stability through hard fast paved corners. In the dirt, the softer suspension might seem more usable but, in fact, the rebound is too slow.  The Tiger feels unstable.  What I have is a bike the suspension of which is poorly set-up for both paved and dirt environments.
        Past experience with my XR650L adventure motard conversion project and Husqvarna SM450R supermoto race bike taught me that a properly set up suspension makes a huge difference in handling, comfort and overall enjoyment of the ride.  With both motorcycles, Dave Bowman, owner of Small Displacement Motorsports and Tech-Care Suspension, rebuilt my suspension and set it up for my weight and riding intentions / capabilities.
        Prior to having the suspension work done on the XR, the bike was unmanageable in loose gravel, sand, washboard and generally bumpy road and trail situations.  The previous owner must have been significantly larger than me because the suspension was set up far too stiff.  The bike hopped and bounced after hitting even minor bumps and control was lost.  My connection to the road or trail was vague. I considered selling the bike.
         I talked with Dave, a friend and customer, about the problem. He seemed unsurprised and told me the problem was easily fixed.  A couple days and some bucks later, the XR rode like an entirely different motorcycle.  The ride was more comfortable but, more importantly, I was in control no matter how bumpy or loose the road or trail surface. The suspension work was, without question, the most important modification made to the XR.
          With this background in mind, a suspension rebuild will be one of the top priorities in this adventurization project.  I plan to ride this motorcycle a lot in a wide variety of environments.  I don’t want to fight or muscle it all of the way.

2.Engine / body work protection – The Tiger is not only 16 years old, it’s also a somewhat unique motorcycle.  Few were imported to the U.S. and many of those that were imported are no longer in service.  Replacement parts, especially the bodywork, can be difficult, if not impossible, to find.  Engine parts are more readily available.
        My plan is to add crash bars from one of two companies offering such protection.  Thunderbike Engineering (a New Zealand company) sells crash bars that protect engine covers, fairings, instruments handlebars and footpegs.  The crash bars are constructed of steel, can be installed in 60 to 90 minutes and won’t restrict ground clearance.  The Thunderbike crash bars are quite expensive at $545.
The alternative is a product sold by Hepco Becker for $263.24.  An illustration on the H-B website suggests that these crash bars provide adequate coverage and easy installion. Internet reviews indicate that H-B bars are less effective and more difficult to install than those made by Thunderbike.  It's hard to pass up 50% savings but the most effective protection for the Tiger is the ultimate goal. Right now, Thunderbike seems to be the best option for protecting the key components and difficult to replace bodywork.  Need to save up for these.  Still researching the best option.

3.Center stand – A center stand is a no brainer for any motorcycle but especially those with tube-type tires.  These are tough to find but apparently SW-Motech, a German company, is still making them at a price of just over $200 at Twisted Throttle. If you have to do any work on your bike on the side of the road, a center stand almost always makes the job easier not only for tire repairs but other repairs and maintenance as well.

4.50/50 tires  - Several companies produce 50/50 tires (designed for motorcycles ridden on paved roads 50% of the time and in the dirt the other 50%.  Continental TKC 80s, Heidenau K60s, Kenda K270s (a more aggressive tread but still considered 50/50), Pirelli MT 60 RS Corsa or Scorpion MT 90/AT or MEFO Explorer are all in the mix.   Right now, I’m leaning towards the either the Heidenau, MEFO or Pirelli tires because, by appearance only, their tread patterns look a little less aggressive which means they might wear longer for the type of riding I plan to do.  Were I to ride 70-80% in the dirt, the Continental or Kenda tires would move up the list significantly.  Still research to do in this area.

5.Storage / Luggage – Currently, the only luggage I use on the Tiger on a regular basis is an older Wolfman tank bag. I’ve had this particular bag for several years and it’s been a solid product.  However, it doesn’t quite fit properly.  It slides around on the top of the tank and is a distraction while riding.  I use the tank bag for items to which I want quick, easy access while traveling.  A bottle of water, sunglasses, handy wipes / Purell, ibuprofen, cameras (both video and DSLR), journal, snacks, maps, cell phone, and a few other miscellaneous items are essentials for the tank bag. I will be replacing the Wolfman for a tank bag with a better, more stable fit.
            I plan to use the Tiger for a variety of trips the most which will mean camping at the end of the day.  I will need the usual space on the bike for a tent, ground cover, mattress pad, sleeping bag, cooking utensils, food, water purification, clothing, tools, etc.  I’m  thinking an aluminum or plastic lockable top case but am mixed on panniers.  On the one hand, I like the durability and look of aluminum panniers.  The added advantage could be the additional protection solid panniers provide the bodywork when a fall occurs (which it certainly will.)
         One consideration is the lack of choices in a hard pannier system including mounting brackets for the Tiger.  So far, I have been unable to find a complete hard-shell system.  Hepco Becker, in addition to the crash bars, also sells luggage racks to prevent bags from contacting the mufflers or getting entwined in the rear tire and chain.
Soft, dry panniers are the alternative to the hard shell type. One of the most important advantages of the soft panniers for me would be the ability to quickly switch the bags from the Triumph over to a thumper dual sport (brand and model to be announced later when I actually make a purchase.)  This flexibility would eliminate the need to have two full sets of bags for each motorcycle.  Giant Loop has a variety of products that might best suit my needs.

6.Heated Gear – Heated gear seems to me to be an essential element in any adventure rider’s kit. Especially those of who live in the northern tier of the U.S. and/or desire to explore even further north. Heated grips, jacket liner and socks are the essentials for me.

That’s it.  Not exactly a plan but definitely a starting point.  The Steamer is a motorcycle that I like very much and hope to be riding for years.  It’s going to be a more versatile bike once these modifications are implemented.  Stay tuned as the project progresses.

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