Triumph Trophy 1200 review: UK roads

We review Triumph's 1200 Trophy on UK roads. Check in for the full specs, mpg, prices and more

After a mere 250 miles there was a general feeling amongst the assembled scribes that Triumph have pitched the new Trophy’s manners and behaviour in just about the right parameters.

After another 400 miles, their (and my) opinion hasn’t shifted.

We rode back from St Andrews via Edinburgh and then SW through Penicuik to Moffat. If you don’t know this road – the A708 -  there are very few nasty surprises. Visibility ahead is excellent allowing you to use the full width of both sides of the road in many places and thanks to a surface dressing of granite chippings, there’s a massive amount of grip on offer, even in the wet. Which was just as well. 

It was wet.

Along this stretch of asphalt biking heaven the Trophy was really impressive. On less than half a tank of fuel the tendency to sit up and run wide on the brakes was less pronounced than we’d experienced the day before. 26 litres is a lot of gas and a lot of weight so it’s probably not surprising that it can affect the bike’s behaviour. The 708 is the sort of wide open, twisty, undulating and flowing piece of road – especially in the rain - that makes you use mid-range, high gears and big throttle openings to keep your momentum up, to keep things smooth.

It was here the Trophy found its rhythm, or rather, I found the Trophy’s rhythm. With the guttural moan of the three throttle bodies as the soundtrack (I’d long since turned off the tinny audio system) and a really predictable, grip-sniffing wave of torque to ride, the road to Moffat was something of a revelation after the hideous rush hour traffic around Edinburgh.

Not many of our group had nice things to say about the Pirelli Angels fitted as standard to the test Trophys. I liked them, though. The profile (that’s a 190 on the back) suits the bike and the way it rolls from upright to the chosen angle of bank is smooth, progressive and always consistent. High speed stability is good on every plane of the tyre, be it just off the crown or towards the braver edges of the chicken strips. At the end of the day any tyre is only as good as the surface it’s riding on and I was surprised by how much grip was on offer on the glistening-wet A708. Not sure I’d like to have gone much faster even if I was on a full-on sports bike. Other recommended tyre options are the Metzeler Roadtec Z8s and Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart 2s.

Catchy names, I’m sure you’ll agree.

With the standard seat position (it will adjust 20mm upwards for taller riders and there’s an optional-extra 40mm lower seat for shorter people) the footrests feel high. You’re either going to have to be brave or crashing to deck them out regularly. There’s almost too much ground clearance. Even for a short haus like me, getting your feet flat on the floor isn’t a problem. The bike is narrow where you need it to be when it comes to paddling around at walking pace.

The cast-alloy handlebars are massive and only need light counter-steering pressure to make the Trophy change direction really quickly at high speed. Being 301kgs you don’t so much hurl it into a bend as progressively load it up and into a corner but once you adapt to its ways, it’s a very quick and comfortable way to tramp on. Put it this way, if your mates all ride sports bikes and you go for a long blast out, if you know what’s what, they’re not going to leave you behind on your Trophy. It is deceptively quick and more than a little tasty through the twisty stuff.

You’d never have thought it, would you?

That barn-door fairing is half the problem, there. The first time you clap eyes on its bug-eyed face, the Trophy look absolutely massive. You make an assumption that it’s going to feel like riding a wildebeest on a water bed just because it looks unwieldy..

It’s not.

The weight, in general, feels low-down and the WP suspension (why did they change their name from White Power I wonder?) is surprisingly stiff – even on ‘comfort’ setting. Maybe it’s not stiffness, though. I think it’s a question of being spoiled by a never-ending stream of adventure bikes with their cosseting long-travel suspension.

It rides small bumps really well, isolating the rider from the sorts of ripply imperfections thrown up by stuff like water-filled cats’ eyes. Bigger bumps – in the realms of longer travel, high speed damping territory - aren’t shrugged off quite so capably. If this wasn’t Triumph Electronic Suspension and it was, instead, a fully adjustable race shock, you’d definitely be wanting to soften off the high speed compression damping a tad. But like I said, maybe we’ve all been spoiled by adventure bike feather-bed ride qualities.

As it is, TES allows three stages of rear shock damping – sport, normal and comfort and three stages of spring preload – solo, solo + luggage and 2-up.

TES is complicated to operate if your brain is as small and as damaged as mine. Personally, I’m not sure all the time, trouble and expense is worth it when a simplified set of external adjusters (like on the non-SE spec Trophy) would be far simpler and cheaper and offer much more than just three stages of spring pre-load and three damper settings. Market forces are illogical sometimes.

Stability, particularly when you’re cranking through a fifth gear sweeper with the taps fully open, is amazingly good for a bike this porky. You can run over white lines, even at fairly serious angles of lean and at fairly serious angles of speed and it won’t waggle or shake, there’s never any hint of a weave. Impressive.

The famed Triumph wobbly pannier system (not sure that’s what they call it in the brochure) that allow five degrees of side-to-side movement to isolate troublesome frequencies from the bike’s chassis, helps here. It must do. But it’s not just the panniers, it’s every other aspect of the bike’s chassis and configurations that strike this satisfying balance between rock-solid high speed stability and an uncanny ability to hitch its skirts up and scratch like it has no right to bearing in mind it’s size and weight. The 31 litre panniers, by the way, are standard fitment on all Trophys.

Hinckley chassis fellers can take take a well-deserved bow. Top job.

The motor is plucked from the recently launched 1200 Explorer and was always designed to have more than one role. The differences are minimal between the two bikes – just airbox and exhaust system. Minor ECU tweaks accommodate these changes. Sixth gear is much taller though allowing 90mph @ just 5,000rpm.

Because this is a bike designed to travel vast distances – maybe in one hit – service intervals are usefully long with minor ones happening at 10,000 miles and majors at 20,000. The cassette style gearbox also makes life easier for maintenance. Power figures? 134PS @8,900 rpm and peak torque of 120Nm @ 6,450.

Now, you might read those figures and think that they’re produced a long way up the rev rage for a 1200cc motor designed to cruise. The real story isn’t the peak torque figure, though. It’s the shape of the torque curve.

It’s not flat – that’s the stuff of electric motors – but it’s a very smooth curve. The big bulge might be at 6k but there’s over 100Nm of torque (or more) from way down 2,500rpm all the way up 9,500rpm.

It feels like it, too. You never have to thrash the Trophy to get a move-on. You find yourself banging gears home early and just riding the torque. The fly-by-wire throttle gives great connection and not only is it nice and light in operation but it gives lightening quick response, too. Bowden cables are so yesterday.

Scrubbing all that speed off is done courtesy of the combined braking system that’s also fitted with ABS – a luxury I did need when our lead rider became disorientated at what he thought was a junction but wasn’t. I didn’t expect him to stop. Thank heaven’s for ABS.

I’m not a linked brake fan but Triumph’s system is nowhere near as intrusive or as confusing as Honda’s early attempt on the VFR800 which is where my hatred stems from.

Applying the front brake operates all four pistons in the front left calliper and just two in the right hand one. The rear brake pedal has three functions depending on the severity of application. Under light loads it behaves like a rear brake should. When a set amount of pressure has been reached then the forces are switched to the right hand front calliper. The proportional control valve is at the route of this decision making. Traction control and cruise control carries on from the Explorer.

Rider aids aside, it’s the ergonomics that really make the Trophy a strong challenger in this market sector. That fairing may have polarised opinion in the styling stakes but, by crikey, it works. Wind blast (and rain) is neatly diverted from hands and feet by the fairing’s deflectors. Even in pissing rain your gloves stay dry and if you ride on the balls of your feet, your feet do, too. The electric screen is a godsend. At the flick of the rocker switch you can direct a rain-drop clearing blast of air to your visor or you can choose to peer through the screen at maximum extension which also cancels out pretty much all the wind noise. The fairing and the electric screen, if you ask me, are the best bits about the new Trophy.

The seat is soft and supportive and offers an inordinate amount of flat, wide space for the pillion, too. A heated seat for rider and pillion is available, too.

Class leading ergonomics? Check. Shaft drive and torquey engine? Check. Massive service intervals? Check.

But what about fuel usage and tank range?

We didn’t hang about on our blast back from St Andrews to Hinckley. I think it’s fair to say that the previous sentence is an understatement designed to protect me from self incriminated, third party retributions.

Even so, my trip computer predicted that our enthusiastic motorway cruising speed (that’s enough said on that matter) was still delivering 50mpg. Slightly more, actually. The blast across country from Edinburgh to Moffat yielded slightly more. 54mpg average, to be precise. Considering the performance on tap, the weight, the way we were riding and the frontal profile, that’s pretty impressive, don’t you think? Ride it like a nun and you’re looking at more than 300 miles between fuel stops. Very handy.

But the price is key in this market, too. There are some strong rivals out there and I think Triumph’s plan to price the standard Trophy at £12,949 and the SE (extras include audio system, tyre pressure monitoring, electronic suspension and an extra 12v socket) at £14,299 might just be the deal clincher for those in the market for this kind of mile muncher.

My money would go on the standard bike, not the SE version. Why? Becasue the SE's audio speakers are only any real use up to 40mph and the TES just doesn't give me the kind of ride quality I'd expect from a bike this posh. But how could it when there are only three pre-load and three damper settings?

The SE may also give me in-built tyre pressure monitors and an extra 12v pillion socket but the £1,350 cost saving would buy me a few nights in nice hotels and enough fuel money to smash most of central Europe...