First ride: New Triumph Tiger 1200 XRT sharpens its claws

Published: 01 December 2017

While in Spain testing Triumph's new Tigers, something occurred to me that may surprise you: BMW sell almost as many R1200GS models every year as Triumph build bikes!

So, in an effort to take a bigger percentage of the lucrative big adventure bike market, Triumph have basically thrown the electronic kitchen sink at the third generation of Tiger 1200 (which is no longer called the Explorer) for 2018…

As well as injecting a bit more immediate power into the motor through revised internals and a 3kg lighter crank and flywheel, and altering the ergonomics by moving the bars 20mm closer to the rider, the Tiger 1200 is now right up there in terms of gadgets. The top spec model, the XRT, comes with just about everything you can imagine including multiple rider models, semi-active suspension, cornering ABS and TC, keyless ignition, hill start control, heated everything and even a TFT dash, adaptive cornering headlights and an up and down quickshifter.

There is a price to pay, and at £16,150 (£525 more than the GS TE) the XRT is the most expensive adventure bike currently on the market, but as standard the Triumph does boast features its competition lacks. And if you want to save a few quid, lower spec options are available. But have Triumph done enough to rival the GS’s superiority and steal a greater percentage of its sales? For my money they have as the Tiger 1200 is now a serious alternative to the GS as it offers all the practicality and technology of the Beemer, but with a unique Triumph feel.

The best way to sum up the Tiger 1200 XRT is to call it refined. It’s a very easy, and plush, bike to ride and much of this sensation stems from the triple motor. Yes it’s more powerful than the GS, but that’s not the point, what makes it stand out is a superb throttle connection and overall feeling of quality. The transition from a closed throttle to a partially open one is probably the smoothest of any bike I’ve ridden and the triple motor is vibe-free and oh so easy-going thanks to its abundant mid-range as well as pleasingly zingy up the top end. It just feels a classy unit and this impression of refinement in its ride is further enhanced by Triumph’s clever use of technology.

The likes of TC and ABS work their merry wonders in the background, but what Triumph have done so well on the XRT is give the rider easy and quick access via the TFT dash or well-placed buttons to the things you actually use regularly such as the electronically adjustable screen, heated grips and suspension damping.

I’m not usually one for playing around with gadgets while riding, but Triumph’s joystick system is so simple to use and the dash’s menus so clear I was altering the screen’s height depending on if I was on the motorway or back roads as well as tweaking the semi-active suspension’s damping to suit the tarmac’s surface. It’s so quick and easy and noticeably enhances the ride, which is important on bikes designed to cover miles. And you can easily cover miles in total comfort on the Tiger.

At slow speed you are aware that the Tiger is taller and heavier than its rivals by about 20kg (Triumph won’t admit a wet weight), but the updated riding position helps mask this by moving the bars closer to your body, putting you more in control. Once on the go the semi-active suspension delivers such a lovely plush ride you quickly forget the extra weight and it feels just as agile as its rivals while the Metzeler Tourance Next E tyres deliver bags of grip and the up and down quickshifter is faultless. But as good as it is, the Tiger certainly isn’t perfect…

Annoyingly, there are a few small areas that Triumph haven’t quite got right on the XRT that I feel owners will moan about. The mirrors have a small vibration that clouds your rear vision slightly, the centre stand touches your left boot (like on a Multistrada) when you ride on the balls of your feet, the self-cancelling indicators are a bit too keen to cancel and the heated grips aren’t quite warm enough to penetrate winter gloves. Also, while the ignition is keyless, the fuel tank still requires a key to open it and there is no smartphone connectivity built into the dash, which is a shame. But these are pretty small gripes in the grand scheme of things.

Realistically, GS owners will always buy another GS and so Triumph needs to appeal to those new to the adventure market with the Tiger 1200. I think they might just do this as it boasts all the GS’s features, but in a package that looks and feels noticeably different – and in a good way.

The XRT highlights

• Over 100 updates and improvements

• 11kg lighter than outgoing model

• 3kg lighter flywheel and crank

• Revised ergonomics

• TFT dash, updated electronics, adaptive cornering lights

The details...

Engine: The triple motor has a 3kg lighter crank and flywheel to allow it to rev faster amongst other significant internal upgrades. Low-end power has been improved while peak power has been boosted by 2bhp to 139bhp. Peak torque is marginally down. The XRT comes with a titanium Arrow silencer as standard.

Chassis & bodywork: The Tiger’s frame is unchanged, however the rider ergonomics have been altered with the bars’ position moved 20mm closer to the rider and the seat’s foam altered to provide more support. The cast wheels are new and the styling has been enhanced and an electronically adjustable screen added. Overall the XRT is 11kg lighter than before, but it is still 243kg dry…

Electronics: The XRT comes with cornering ABS and TC, cruise control, an up and down quickshifter (TSA), semi-active suspension (TSAS), heated grips and seat, TFT dash, hill start control, LED adaptive cornering lights, 5 riding modes, keyless ignition, daylight running lights, powered sockets (12v and USB) and an immobiliser.

Suspension & brakes: The XRX and XRT gain semi-active suspension (TSAS) through 48mm WP forks and a WP monoshock. The TSAS automatically adjust the forks’ and shock’s damping while on the go and also self-levels and adjusts the shock’s preload. Cornering ABS and TC is standard on the X and R variants.

Accessories: Triumph have over 70 genuine accessories for the Tiger 1200 models including aluminium panniers and a top box, engine protectors, bash guard, high screen, various seats and heated grips/seat. All come with a 2-year warranty.

And the facts!

Price: £16,150 (XR £12,200, XRX £14,150)

Engine: 1215cc (85x71.4mm) liquid-cooled, DOHC, 12 valve, triple

Frame: Tubular steel frame

Seat height: 835-855mm

Suspension: 48mm WP inverted forks, semi-active damping. Rear: WP monoshock, semi-active damping with automatic preload adjustment

Brakes: 2 x 305mm discs, four-piston Brembo radial calipers; 282mm disc, two-piston caliper. Cornering ABS.

Colours: White, red

Available: Mid January 2018

Weight: 243kg (dry)

Tank capacity: 20 litres

Power: 139bhp @ 9350rpm

Torque: 90ftlb @ 7600rpm

The Tiger 1200 range explained

The Tiger 1200 range explained The Tiger 1200 is sold in two forms, the road-orientated XR with its cast wheels and the rugged off-road XC with spoke wheels. These models are then split into versions with varying spec.

The XR comes in standard, X and T spec while the XC is available in X and A. The XR has a digital dash, non-semi active suspension and conventional ABS/TC but does have cruise control and an electronically adjustable screen while the XRX gains a TFT dash, semi-active suspension, cornering ABS/TC, keyless ignition and an extra riding mode. It is also available in a low seat height model, which is 815mm compared to the standard 835mm.

The T version adds to the X’s platform with an up and down quickshifter, adaptive lights, Arrow silencer, hill start, heated grips and seats and a further riding mode. The XC’s base model is the X, which is the same platform as the XRX, but gains spoke wheels, a centre stand, crash protection and off-road riding modes.

The top of the range XCA adds an up and down quickshifter, adaptive lights, an Arrow silencer, an extra programmable riding mode, hill start, heated grips and seats and billet pegs.

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