Winning new friends, but keeping in with your mates

For Triumph there’s a lot riding on the new 1215cc Trophy, and we don’t just mean the mass of all-too-often-overweight journalists recently invited to throw legs over Hinckley’s latest offering. Having wowed the super-sport class with the delicious Daytona, seduced the nakeds with Street and Speed Triples, out-cooled the cool guys on their retro twins and even assailed the adventure market with the new Tiger Explorer, Triumph needed to fill a noticeable gap in their range. Put simply, the company had to have a bells and whistles tourer with the gadgets and comfort levels that can cut it with today’s riders.

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK. Click Image to go to Video

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK. Click Image to go to Video

The Trophy attempts to do this by a fairly straightforward attack on BMW’s hugely successful 1200RT; bidding for BM buyers by matching the Beemer spec, but undercutting on price. But while this may be better than one of Baldrick’s cunning plans, it might not be enough to secure success. The Beemer has had decades to refine itself and Triumph needs to beat the competition without alienating their own die-hard fans. The bike needs to trade blows with the boxer, and karate chop oriental competition like the revamped FJR, while not forgetting its own unique Triumph DNA; characterful engine, great handling and epic fun levels.

That’s a tough call. Now the Trophy is here in the showrooms, the question is, have they managed it? Bigbikemad went to Fowlers in Bristol to pick up the bike for some unbiased, real-world testing.

First impressions

2713183

Standing next to the Trophy you are immediately struck by how big it is. With a fairing seemingly the size of Nebraska, and a fuel tank that looks big enough to serve as an in-flight refueller to smaller bikes, it certainly has presence. Serious tourer buyers are likely to see this as a positive; aiding conspicuity and providing a roomy, cocooning platform with which to cover big mileages.

Shorter riders worried about getting their feet down need have no fears though. Triumph has borrowed a trick from Honda, narrowing the seat and tank a la Goldwing, so that almost anyone can sit squarely on the bike with both boots well planted.

Seat height is adjustable between 800 and 820 mm, and a further low seat option brings bum level right down to a cruiser-ish 760mm. Weight is about the same as the class average – a tad more than the RT when loaded, but somehow it feel lighter; the bike being easy to move around the garage or pop onto the OE centre-stand.

The Trophy is undeniably handsome, with a quality paint job and a muscular, purposeful presence. Its size is likely to get the right kind of attention too (we found drivers moving out of the way when the great ship hove into sight in their mirrors). But you can’t help but notice the similarity between the bulbous nose fairing and that of the RT. The up side is that it works just as well as the Beemer’s. The downside is that is does make it hard for the bike to muster the instant brand-recognition distinctiveness we are used to from Triumph.

Happiness is a warm cockpit

The cockpit is a calm and benign place to be; sheltered, dry, and with a huge range of information and accessory functions available at the push of a button. The basic model is better equipped than BMW’s entry level RT so that’s one goal scored for the Brits.

1352037001

However, while it’s nice to have the functionality, the execution could be better. The handlebars are all but covered in clusters of switches, making selection of the wrong one too easy. It’s also demanding of rider attention, dragging the mind away from the road. We wonder whether it’s possible to have a surfeit of gadgets …. However, while the button epidemic could be cured in future updates, for the time being BMW’s scroll wheel does the same but with less clutter.

On the other hand, useful information is displayed in one of the clearest dash layouts we’ve ever seen. Analogue speedo and tacho frame the now obligatory central LCD screen, which features a vast range of information, including fuel and engine temp, fuel consumption, range to empty, gear position and air temperature for examples. The display is controlled by a couple of switches on the left handlebar, meaning that what you see is effectively customisable. A bigger switch cluster inboard controls screen height, heated grips and audio. We didn’t play much with the audio, although output was not as beefy as we’d have liked.

Winning the gadget war

Electric Screen is effective and clever. Bigger option is available for larger riders.
Looking over the machine, build quality is very good – almost all up to BMW standards – and it’s also clear that the ‘obsessive attention to detail’ claim of the sales brochure is no idle boast.

1352037224

Electric Screen is effective and clever. Bigger option is available for larger riders.

We were impressed by places where the design team had clearly gone the extra mile; the electric screen with its memory function; quick release mountings for the accessory tank bag, a built in sat nav mounting point, ambient brightness compensation on clocks, speed-related sound output from speakers (the sat nav can be wired through them), and rubber- edged mirrors to prevent garage wall scrapes.

As you familiarise yourself with the bike you can tell that the spec sheet must be a yard long. And you can realise just how determined Triumph were to beat their rivals.

Shaft drive, traction control, linked ABS, electrically adjustable screen and TES (Triumph’s equivalent of ESA) fitted to the SE version all serve to make the machine competitive. The TES system is a first for Triumph and it’s a very similar system to the BMW’s; pre-load three way adjustable at rest, while three levels of damping control are available on the fly. Heated grips are standard on the SE, with heated seats an option – these proved to be very effective when the weather turned cold and nasty, which, this being England, it did immediately we turned up to collect the bike.

Plenty for your pound

1352037466

But the key point in the Triumph’s favour is that a great spec has been delivered at a keen price, and this is its greatest threat to BMW sales. In plain language; yer gets a whole load of bike for yer money. The basic Trophy comes in at £12,949, as opposed to £12,695 for a more poorly specced entry-level RT. But even the most basic Triumph comes with cruise and traction controls and on-board computer as standard. With these and other matching toys, the RT will mug your wallet to the tune of £13,785. At the higher SE spec level, Triumph’s price advantage is even greater; a Trophy SE weighs in at £14,299, while its Bavarian competitor would set you back around £16,000. If the Brit is as good on tarmac as it is on paper then the new Trophy will prove to be a keen buying choice.

Start up

A press of the starter and the 1215cc triple is instantly alive. For us this is always a key moment – akin to the uncorking of a good bottle of plonk – there’s a lot you can learn about the character of the bike at this point.

1352037739

And it’s a mixed little number. First off, it’s a relief to find that at idle you still get the classic triple burble. Very little vibration, just a pleasant off-beat purr. Classic modern Triumph. Thank Hinckley for that. Blip the throttle and the note becomes deeper and fruitier – a hint of enjoyable mischief to be had. So far so good. Triumph fans will be relieved to hear it.

But over the engine rumble, the transmission whine is surprisingly intrusive, uncannily reminiscent of a 1970’s mini. While this was acceptable in the same engine’s incarnation in the rough-tough Explorer, it does seem a tad incongruous on a bike that externally seems so smooth. Rather like seeing Daniel Craig as the ice cool Bond, but finding that, when he opens his mouth, he talks like Ray Winstone. Of course the BMW’s boxer twin is also ‘characterful’ in a similar way, so it’s a moot point as to whether this matters.

Riding it

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

As soon as you pull away from rest, the sheer size of the bike vanishes. Manoeuvring out of a crowded car park and into Bristol’s nightmare traffic the Trophy was astonishingly agile. Rider inputs were responsively received and we had no trouble filtering through miles of choked four wheelers.

On the open road the upright riding position and lowish pegs, together with the cocoon-like fairing and plush heated seat created comfort levels pretty much as good as on the class-leading RT. You could ride until the light faded from the sky, but at day’s end, while riders of lesser machines rolled towards the hotel like chimps in leathers; arms and back forced into unnatural postures by cramped conditions, you could walk tall and relaxed. It may even be the most comfy bike of its kind ever made.

During our first ride, Britain’s autumn skies saw fit to deposit large quantities of the wet stuff upon us at regular intervals, together with strong winds and almost freezing air temperatures.

For a sports bike test this would have been a problem, but not for the Trophy. While the Triumph was liberally covered in road grime, the rider and pillion stayed clean and dry, the royal posteriors and hands kept nicely toasty and our camera equipment bone dry in the excellent hard luggage. Just what you’d want for an all season bike or continent crossing tourer. Impressive.

On open roads

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

As we headed out of town and speeds rose, it became clear just how closely the Trophy is aimed at the RT. Performance levels are very similar, which is confirmed by power to weight ratios. The Triumph puts out more, but weighs more; 132 bhp and 89 lbs/ft torque shifting 301kilos. Torque is strong lower down in the rev range, sending the bike flying forward from a slow speed or standing start. However, the mill revs to 10,000, and seems to lack satisfying oomph when the grip is twisted really hard.

A downside of Triumph’s decision to shift peak torque lower is that there is less punch higher up, just where you’d want it for gutsy overtakes or high speed motorway lane changes. To some extent suitability will depend on your riding style. But, while good enough to match the RT, power levels are well short of the turbine like thrust of the FJR, of older bikes like the K1200 / 1300 GT or indeed the newer K1600GT/L. This is not a hyper tourer best at home on the autobahns. Nonetheless, while we would hope to see a bhp hike on later models, engine character is hugely enjoyable, the exhaust note changing to a chesty roar as the bike gathers speed in a way that gets the adrenaline surging. Yes, it really is a Triumph.

Fuel consumption is better than on many rivals, pretty much matching the RT, with an average somewhere in the low fifties miles per gallon wise. Tank size is a generous 26 litres, giving a genuine 300 mile maximum range between fill-ups. This could be hugely useful on a long trip especially where petrol stations are sparse.

Round the Bend

Cornering is another area where the Trophy is true to its roots. The bike handles impeccably, being nicely flickable in fast twisties, yet, at higher velocities on the straight it matches this with rock-mass stability. Its a big improvement over the Sprint GT.

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

However, occasionally a positive shove is needed for counter steering, reflecting the fact that the centre of gravity is higher than BM’s RT. In real world terms this means that, while the Trophy is plenty agile enough, the BMW, with its boxer layout, just has the edge in rapid line switching.

But nonetheless, the Triumph is all very predictable and somehow ‘friendly’. Riding quickly becomes easy, intuitive, and a whole load of fun. We can imagine other road users’ amazement as the speed with which such a large beast can be hustled through the traffic. It’ll make you look a bit of a hero, but is in fact incredibly easy to do.

The ease of control goes well with the comfort levels available, and adds to long journey suitability. If you need to go a long way, especially on windy roads, you would be very happy to be on the Trophy; travelling really would be better than arriving.

Brakes are a match for performance, although perhaps not quite as powerful as the stoppers from Bavaria. It also lacks the duolever’s ability to absorb barking mid corner while remaining unflustered. The system is linked, with the rear pedal bringing on partial front braking. Before anyone shouts that this will upset car-park manoeuvres, most reviews we’ve read don’t pick up on the fact that the linking only kicks in at higher speeds when the bike senses rapid and balanced deceleration is required. In practice braking is good, progressive and fuss free.

Smooth ride

Forks and brakes keep the bike accurate and agile while delivering class leading ride comfort.
Ride quality is world class, front forks giving good feedback, while the rear seems ‘just-so’ planted. TES, or ‘Triumph Electronic Suspension’, built by Austrian suspension maker WP owned by KTM, makes its debut on the Trophy SE, allowing push-button adjustments to front and rear damping (sport/normal/comfort) on the fly and to rear preload (rider only, rider + luggage, rider + passenger) when the bike is stopped.

Forks and brakes keep the bike accurate and agile while delivering class leading ride comfort.

Forks and brakes keep the bike accurate and agile while delivering class leading ride comfort.

There is a significant difference between settings, which makes the TES button a much used tool over changing surfaces and with varying loads. Mostly we kept it in ‘normal’, and rider and pillion’, but slow speed bumps were best in ‘comfort’ while, making progress was facilitated by the firmer ‘sports’ setting.

Wind protection is exemplary, especially with the higher optional screen. The fairing is actually very clever, featuring protection not just for the chest but also for the legs. There’s even a separate panel just to keep the muck and cold off your feet. There’s no doubting the effort and thinking that have gone into making this machine.

The plushness of the stock seat is an object lesson for other manufacturers in how to get butt-satisfaction levels right. It’s a great feeling to be at the helm of such an impressive beast; the rider sitting upright and relaxed surveying the world like a monarch looking over their territory. Come rain or shine this is a bike that, while seriously practical, will rapidly put a grin where it belongs, on the rider’s face. Pillions are likely to be happy too though. Not only do they get a wide comfy seat, massive grab rails and, with the top box, an integral back rest, they also have their own power socket and heated seat control. Buffeting is limited unless you reach very illegal speeds, and the bikes confidence inspiring grip quickly makes even the most nervous passenger unwind and enjoy the ride.

Living with it

It’s clearly too early to tell about reliability, although the 1215cc engine common to the Explorer seems to be settling in just fine. However, service intervals on the Trophy are long – 10,000 as opposed to 6,000 on the RT, making a useful selling point in terms of running costs.

1352038641

Fuel consumption is as low enough to save you cash over some of the Japanese rivals like the Pan European. The Triumph network is now big enough to ensure that skilled help and warranty back up is not far away should you need it.

In terms of practicality, the 31 litre saddlebags are easy to pop on and off and with the optional 50 litre top box provide ark-like carrying capacity. They were totally waterproof in our test.

The Verdict

1352039965

Picture courtesy of Triumph UK

The Trophy is a clever bike in many ways; accurately targeting the present class leader, incorporating detailed thinking, producing a bike responsive to rider needs and it managing to do all this while retaining some brand character.

The Trophy is not aiming to compete with super smooth large capacity tourers like the K1600GT, or the GTR1400. It lacks the sheer power and multi-cylinder refinement. Instead this is a hugely practical bike, aimed at people who want to travel distance while still retaining a real-bike edge.

The bike’s build quality is competitive with BMW’s RT, which it almost equals in handling and refinement, but it undercuts significantly on price.

The Trophy has succeeded in the all-important balancing act alluded to at the start of this article; delivering the goodies demanded of technophiles, while not forgetting that the mission of a motorcycle has to be to thrill and excite, retaining some of the rough edges and wild-man adrenaline at the core of two wheeled life. Looks could perhaps do with some development, to make them more distinctive, but overall it Hats Off to Hinckley; the bike is superbly well designed for its touring task. And those guys are smart where it counts, out on the twisty country roads. They made it hard for us to give back the keys and that says it all.

To see the Trophy in Action check out our video on YouTube or see our video library on this site!

Vital Statistics Forums For Advice

Engine: 1215cc, in line, 12 valve, liquid-cooled triple

Power: 132bhp / 89 lbs/ft

Weight: 314kg (with panniers)

Drive: Shaft

Acceleration: 0-60 in 4.0 secs

Top Speed: 130mph

Fuel Capacity: 26 litres

Fuel consumption: 50 mpg

Service intervals: 10,000 mile minor, 20,000 miles major

Cost Now: £14,299 (SE)

BBM Overall ****