Q&A: Simon Warburton

Triumph's Product Manager speaks Tiger Explorer

Posted: 27 February 2012
by mark forsyth

This man is responsible for the future of Triumph's model range...

How much of this engine is new?

Absolutely everything, crankcases... all the internals. Everything…

Is that what prolonged development?

Five years is about the longest for a ground up bike with a few challenges thrown in like the ride-by-wire and the shaft drive – all work to do – if you do a new chassis around an existing engine, that’s about three years depending on the chassis

Why did you build a new motor?

Because we thought we had to, to build the bike we wanted. We looked at the existing 1050 engine but by the time we’d made all the changes we’d wanted to make it as good as it needed to be and future-proof we just couldn’t do it

Was that forced by emissions or performance characteristics?

Both. Emissions is a hard limit to hit for the long term

Is that down to combustion efficiency?

Yes, it’s in the cylinder head mostly. We could have made those changes to the 1050 engine - and we’ll need to do it to keep that engine as efficient as possible - but once we’d made the decision to have shaft drive and a larger capacity we had to say ‘ok, well, let’s start again.’

Did the customers drive the shaft drive route?

Yes. We don’t do as much research as some people think but in this particular case, because it was a new sector we were going into, we did do quite a bit of research back in 2006. We talked to BMW GS owners - because that was all that was about at the time – in Italy, Germany, France and Spain. It formed the research for the Tiger 800 and the Tiger Explorer. It helped us arrive at the understanding that these bikes were essentially a touring machine but a bit more manageable either on tight and twisty roads or when the road surface is bad or through towns and cities

So seeing as you’ve spent all this time and money in designing and building a new motor are we going to see it in other models soon?

Yes, at least one

Imminently?

Obviously I can’t talk about the timing. At some point, within the next Millennium

Presumably it’d suit a big tourer?

Yes, this engine would suit a big tourer very well – were such a beast to have been snapped several times

We’ve already run the pictures of the 1200 Trophy, sorry...

It was unfortunate that bike (Trophy test mule) was snapped the very first time it went out in Spain

The new logo we can see on the Tiger Explorer? The new font? What's that all about?

This is just for the Adventure bikes. We use one font for supersport and roadsters, one for cruisers and one for classics and tourers which is the same as our corporate logo

How would you succinctly define what the Triumph brand stands for?

Ah, it does become difficult because we’ve got such a wide range of bikes. But engine character and chassis dynamics are what you could put across for all our bikes

Even the Bonneville?

That’s relevant to the class it’s in and that reflects the difficulty in coming up with a snappy one-liner that covers all our bikes because our bikes are so wide-ranging. There’s not much you can say about a Bonneville and a Daytona together other than engine character and handling within their own sectors relevant to their own class

What rival brands do you admire?

I think Ducati have been really adventurous and I applaud them for that. They’ve been brave

Do you see the Japanese tightening their belts and see opportunity for Triumph?

Absolutely, yes. In the European/North American arena we’re pushing hard and doing well and whilst the Japanese aren’t pushing so hard, that’s an opportunity for us. Looking at the bigger picture, what we historically thought of as the biggest bike market (Europe and N America) is actually a small niche

So what about the Indo-Chinese markets?

We’re going into India by setting up a subsidiary so it’s a Triumph owned venture. We don’t work with other people. John (Bloor) doesn’t like joint ventures, he just wants to have his own. We’re going to do CKD, complete knockdown. India, like Brazil, puts something like 110% tax on imported bikes but if you knock it down into its component forms and reassemble it in India, using Indian labour, the tax goes down to something like 30% - a huge difference

Logiclly that’d be an ideal base to produce a small capacity bike for the Triumph range?

It would and I believe that senior management have only just confirmed that’s what we are about to do. It probably won’t be a product with global appeal. India has very specific requirements. For the next five or six years I think we’ve got a very good opportunity to fill the gap left by the Japanese contraction and there’s plenty of room for us to grow as we’ve still only got a 7-8% market share in the Western markets. Maybe in twenty years from now we’ll need to be established in the emergent markets. John’s always looking a long way ahead –that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to do well

There must be some building opportunities for Bloor Homes in India, surely?

I don’t think he’s looking at that, no (laughs). The bikes are now bigger than his building company – it crossed over a couple of years ago. I don’t think he expected it to take this long to establish Triumph but it was always a very long term plan. With no shareholders to appease he’s been able to take a long term view. It’s just about making it work. He doesn’t actually draw a salary from Triumph

What particular aspect about Tiger Explorer do you want to communicate?

For me, the enjoyment of riding it. It ticks all the boxes on numbers and spec but it feels great to ride


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