Triumph's entire production of 2005-specification Tiger 955i adventure tourers was sold out by May, hence the early introduction of the 2006 model with a number of significant upgrades. Many of us were hoping it would have the 1050cc motor of the new Sprint ST; while this will probably happen eventually, for the moment the engine remains at 955cc.
The crankcases, however, are the same as on the ST and most of the earlier engines' untidy plumbing and wiring has been neatly tidied away. The gearbox has been revised for slicker shifting and fitted with a backlash gear for quieter running.
It works; the test bike had the quietest idle I've heard on any Hinckley three-cylinder machine. Accelerate away though and the familiar Triumph transmission whine overlays the three-cylinder blare from the airbox (the standard exhaust system is way too quiet.)
There's a new cylinder head with revised porting and combustion chambers, fed by French-made Sagem multipoint fuel-injection via 43mm throttle bodies.
The engine has been detuned from the 109kW at 10 700rpm of the 955i Daytona to a claimed 78kW at far a more sensible 8900rpm. What it does have, however, is torque - great gobs of it that'll pull this 215kg tourer from a ferociously power-thudding 2000rpm all the way to the red line at 9500.
Triumph claims 91Nm at 4400rpm and, believe me, every Newton-metre is on parade and doing its thing. As an example of usable real-world grunt, cracking it open hard and changing gears at 6000rpm will take you from a standing start to160km/h (the old 100mph, Cyril) in about 12 seconds without any fuss or even signs of hard work from the bike.
Keep it wound on and the bike will keep pulling to 205km/h at 8600rpm. It exhibits a slight nervousness at speeds over 160km/h that seems to be a function of rider input from the wide, high, handlebars because the more loosely I held onto the bars the more stable the bike became.
On the way back from the performance testing session I was cruising at 180km/h, sitting comfortably upright, with the bike tracking true despite an occasional slight weave over longitudinal cracks in the tarmac.
And all of this uses less than 6.7litres/100km, which should give you a range of about 350km on a 24-litre tankful of unleaded.
The Sagem fuel-injection is superb; without resorting to double butterflies or similar high-tech complications it achieves a smooth action with a (reasonably) gentle pick-up at small throttle openings and a instant response at high revs.
Closing and opening the throttle on slow corners - which would have most spritzer-fed bikes stumbling over their own inertia - has little or no effect on the chassis' composure and is often imperceptible to a passenger.
All this very satisfying urge is fed through a predictable if slightly grabby clutch to an impressively slick six-speed gearbox, which is a little vocal on downshifts but as crisp as breaking glass when changing up.
With a little practice I was able to achieve completely seamless upshifts - always a little difficult on fuel-injected engines.
This paragon of powerplants is housed in a somewhat old-fashioned tubular steel chassis with punched and formed box-section engine plates. It has the advantages of being easy to fabricate in relatively small batches and durable under external impacts - ok, Cyril, let's be blunt - they crash well.
The aluminium swing-arm is equally straightforward, two rectangular extrusions joined by a central casting, all held together by some superb welding.
This is where the bike suffers a little from being neither fish nor fowl; the original 885cc tiger of 1995 started out trying to be a big dual-purpose bike but needed a really expert rider to be a decent off-roader.
Over the years it has morphed into a strictly tar-and-good-gravel-only adventure tourer with road tyres on cast-alloy wheels but the beetle-crusher styling and long-travel suspension remain. The latter inevitably compromises the handling to some extent, especially under heavy braking.
The bike is also intimidatingly tall; the saddle is a vertiginous 840mm off the ground, broad and deeply padded so that unless you're well over 1.8m tall you'll have trouble touching the ground with both feet at the same time.
This is, of course, only a problem when the bike is being paddled, but it can be embarrassing. When you're on the move the tall saddle lets you see right over the cars in heavy traffic and the relaxed posture allows you to look over your shoulder easily before making lightning lane-changes.
The suspension has, however, been upgraded with firmer damping for 2006; if you're prepared to put a fair amount of body English into the wide 'bars, you can throw the Tiger around like a big motard, tanks to a quick turn-in and accurate steering. The Tiger inspires immense (and well-founded) confidence in its roadholding.
The upside of the equation is that the Tiger delivers an impressively comfortable ride; the bumpy section on of our standard test route is so bad most road bikes will bounce you out of the saddle at 80km/h - the Tiger wafted me through there in comfort at 100km/h.
The brakes are better than they have any right to be, considering that we are talking about low-tech 1970's floating callipers here; they offer plenty of bite and enough stopping power to bottom the front suspension if you're not careful.
While the switchgear is positive in operation and doesn't look out of place, the instrument panel gives away the bike's age. We're not talking about the clear, easy-to-read ivory-faced instruments here but the flat, plasticky fascia that belongs on a 1980's Ford Fiesta.
It certainly has no place on a modern motorcycle - especially with its tiny liquid crystal clock hidden away at the bottom of the panel so you have to duck your head to see the time.
The 2006 Tiger comes with heated grips, panniers and a centre stand as standard; the grips work, which is all you can say about them. The big weatherproof panniers are genuinely quick-detachable, using the simplest and cleverest key-operated system I've seen, with comfortable handles so you can carry them like suitcases.
The downside is that their key is not the same as the ignition key - which means having to carry two keys that look the same but are not interchangeable, with obvious potential for confusion. If the bike were mine I would definitely have a locksmith re-master the six pannier locks to operate using the ignition key.
The centre stand is sturdy enough to support the weight of the bike even when fully loaded; unfortunately it's a few millimetres too high and it takes a lot of strength to get the bike up onto it. I'm 106kg and a burly 1.8m and I can only do it when I've had my Weeties.
The basic bike, however, is a superlative tourer. It lacks an on-board computer and sound system; instead it has superb power delivery, all-day comfort and top-drawer handling. It's more than R20 000 cheaper than a BMW 1200 RT or Honda Pan European and handles better than either.
At R97 900, think of it as the simpler alternative for very long rides.