The Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T is an historically signifiant motorcycle that remains largely unknown – it’s particularly noteworthy as it was Triumph’s first official attempt at creating what we would now call an adventure bike.

The impetus for the creation of the Triumph Tiger Trail came not from Britain but from France, specifically from French Triumph importers who wanted a large dual sport motorcycle to compete with the popular new BMW R80G/S – a bike now considered to be the origin of the adventure bike species.

Fast Facts – The Triumph Tiger Trail

  • The Triumph Tiger Trail remains one of the rarest production Triumphs of the 1980s with just 180 or so believed to have been built between 1981 and 1982 before the model was discontinued.
  • Two main variants were developed, the 750cc TR7T and the 650cc TR65T. The TR7T was the most popular and the most powerful, with 42 bhp vs 35 bhp.
  • The bikes were offered with a kickstarter only for weight savings. They were fitted with a 21″ front wheel and an 18″ rear with slightly longer rear suspension travel, braced handlebars, off-road mud guards, and a sump protector.
  • In 1981 the Triumph Tiger Trail won the 750cc and above class of the Rallye des Pyrénées, beating the R80 G/S and a slew of other serious contenders in the process.

The Rise Of The Adventure Bike

Most consider the first official adventure bike to be the BMW R80G/S of 1980. It was a heavy-weight, large capacity dual sport motorcycle designed for use both on road and off. The legend of the R80G/S was greatly helped along by its wins in the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1981, 1983, 1984, and 1985.

BMW R80GS Adventure Motorcycle

Image DescriptionThis is the BMW R80G/S, the first adventure motorcycle and the bike that the Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T was built to compete with.

Of course there had been many adventure-type motorcycles built before the R80G/S but it was the BMW that kickstarted the entire genre – a genre that’s now among the fastest growing in the global motorcycle market.

British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph is now one of the largest manufacturers of adventure bikes, the company has been building off-road and dual sport bikes since the mid-20th century and they created the “desert sled” concept with their Triumph TR6C that was used extensively for desert racing in California by the likes of Steve McQueen and Bud Ekins.

With this in mind it should be no surprise that Triumph wasted no time at all in developing their own competitor for the BMW R80G/S after the German bike first appeared in 1980. The development of the TR7T must have been lightning fast in fact, because it was first shown to the world just a year later in 1981.

It’s important to note that the idea behind the TR7T didn’t originate in Britain, but rather across the English Channel in the same country that had invented the Paris-Dakar Rally – it was the French Triumph dealers who wanted their own adventure bike to sell.

The Arrival Of The Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T

Triumph engineers based their new heavy-weight dual sport bike on the 750cc TR7V road bike. The same engine, frame, and forks would be used – in fact as many pre-existing Triumph parts as possible were used to reduce development cost and complexity.

Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T 8

Image DescriptionThe 21 inch front wheel and purposeful front mud guard made no mystery of the Triumph Tiger Trails off-road intentions.

A 21″ wheel was fitted up front and matched with an 18″ rear, a set of braced handlebars were bolted into place along with proper off-road specification mud guards front and back, a headlight grille, and a bash plate was attached under the sump.

The 750cc TR7V is an air-cooled parallel twin with unit construction and a built-in 5-speed gearbox that sends power to the rear wheel via a chain final drive – not a shaft like the R80G/S.

The engine was detuned for off-road use, a single 30mm Amal carburettor was installed as well as lower compression pistons to help the engine run cooler – they have the additional benefit of allowing the engine to run on the kinds of lower octane gasoline you’re likely to find in places like Africa and South America.

Period reviews of the Triumph Tiger Trail were overwhelmingly positive, in fact the largest drawback seemed to be the use of Avon Mudplugger tires which most reviewers took umbrage at. It’s worth noting that back in the early 1980s the world of dual sport and adventure motorcycle tires was really in its infancy, and so issues like this were hardly surprising.

Despite showing great promise and even winning the 750cc and above class of the Rallye des Pyrénées  in 1981 the TR7T didn’t sell in particularly impressive numbers. It’s believed that fewer than 200 were made, with most agreeing that it was around 180.

Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T 18

Image DescriptionThe engine was tuned for off-road use, it was given a 30mm Amal carburetor, a new cam, and lower compression pistons.

Most of the blame for these poor sales figures likely lies more with Triumph than with the TR7T model itself however, the company was struggling financially and had difficulty producing any model in significant numbers.

Triumph would succumb to receivership in 1983, before being quickly saved by John Bloor and turned into the Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. we all know today.

The 1981 Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T Shown Here

The motorcycle you see here is unquestionably the best-preserved example of the Triumph Tiger Trail TR7T that we’ve ever seen come up for sale. It’s covered just 6 miles from new and remains in remarkably original condition throughout.

It’s currently being offered for sale out of Suffolk in England and it comes with its original handbook and sales leaflet, a Triumph Owners Club dating certificate, and a small collection of contemporary magazine articles.

Interestingly this bike was registered for road use for the first time ever just a year ago in 2021, and the mileage is so low that the engine still needs to be run in.

If you’d like to read more about this unusual early adventure bike you can visit the listing here on Car & Classic.

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Images courtesy of Car & Classic.

Published by Ben Branch -