With the 2013 Triumph Trophy, the company takes a conservative approach in its challenge to the elite sport-touring category where the stakes are higher than ever.
Triumph Trophy : Strong Shift to Centre
To remain at the top of the game, sportbikes must constantly push the boundaries of performance. Because of this many riders believe they are the most complex motorcycles to produce. They’re not. Super-equipped, multifunctional touring models like Triumph’s all-new 2013 Trophy are.
It took Triumph six long years to bring the new generation Trophy from concept to production, roughly double the average development time for a new motorcycle these days. The result is an interesting addition to an exclusive category.
You don’t just build a true sport-touring model. Historically, to do anything close to credible in the class, you needed either the resources of the Japanese Big Four or to be called BMW. So for relatively small and still privately owned Triumph to challenge the sector is itself quite a statement. Which is hardly news, really, as in recent times, models like the Daytona 675, the Tiger 800 and the Explorer 1200 had the same mission: invade classes formerly reserved to the elite manufacturers.
According to Triumph, the big Trophy has been the most requested model by its dealers world-wide. Apparently they recognized the need and potential for a more dedicated touring model than the Sprint GT, which is really just a street bike with bags.
Back in 1996, during its “modular” years, Triumph offered a dedicated sport-tourer called Trophy. Produced until 2003, it was abandoned just as a new generation of sport touring bikes such as the FJR1300, ST1300, and R1150RT were being introduced and had begun to define how the class would look, feel and perform in the future. A fine balance between handling, performance, comfort and equipment, remains the gold standard to this day, recently bolstered by the addition of numerous electronic amenities. The new Trophy’s challenge is to meet that standard.
BUILT AROUND A PROPRIETARY frame and a 1200cc inline triple shared with the 2012 Explorer, the 2013 Triumph Trophy has styling that’s reminiscent of BMW’s current R1200RT, which happens to be the Triumph’s main target. When I asked Triumph product manager Simon Warburton about that he opened his laptop to side-by-side images of the Trophy and RT. “Are these two bikes really the same?” he demanded. “I think not. Of course, if you’re going to use this type of windshield and position mirrors in that spot and use a massive front light and integrate colour-matched panniers and so on, you may end up with something that looks generally sort of the same. But the Yamaha, the Kawasaki and the Honda also have that look. It’s how modern sport-tourers look like. But it’s not the same.”
When asked about the complexity of building a sport-tourer compared to a racer replica like the Daytona 675, Warburton said, “Clearly a bike like the Trophy is the toughest and most complex to build. There are so many dimensions, so many features that have to coexist.”
And features, the Trophy has to spare: traction and cruise controls, electronic suspension, ride-by-wire throttle, electrically adjustable screen, integrated audio system with Bluetooth functionality, linked ABS, tire pressure monitoring system and multifunction on-board computer. And all are standard on the SE, the only version offered in Canada for $19,999.
The only obvious missing features are heated seats and grips, which are available as options, but should really be standard on a bike like this—at the very least the grips. Aside from these exceptions, the generous equipment list makes the Trophy one of the category’s most equipped models, more or less on par with the R1200RT, and one of the best values in the class.
All features work well and without issues, but you do have to get used to all the menus and the audio quality from the speakers isn’t stellar. To the Trophy’s defence, none of these bikes are rolling boom boxes and at least there is an audio system on this one.
Triumph says it worked at making the Trophy feel light. And as soon the clutch is released, the 300-kg (661-lb.) motorcycle magically feels much lighter with steering effort minimal to initiate all types of turns, at both slow and high speeds. However, handling, while still very good, isn’t perfect. At slow speeds, the Trophy feels slightly awkward, like a bike would feel if the front and back tires weren’t quite matched. At higher speeds, precision and stability are good enough to make fast bends both fun and accessible. Banked over at speed though, the weight of the machine can be felt, especially over bumpy pavement where the Trophy feels like it wants to start wallowing, but doesn’t thanks to the stiffness of the chassis and the quality of the suspension action. Electronic adjustability really is the way to go with these bikes. Who honestly wants to get the tools out on the road to make a suspension adjustment? All that’s needed now is the push of a button on the go and voilà. The changes between settings are perceptible and the technology really is useful.
The engine used in the new Trophy is the latest and biggest incarnation of the big English triple. First introduced last year on the Explorer, the 1215cc powerplant makes a factory-spec 132 hp and 89 ft/lbs. torque, five hp shy of the Explorer’s numbers. With some models in the category now producing nearly 160 horsepower, the Trophy isn’t the fastest sport-tourer out there, nor does it claim to be. However, as is pretty much always the case with all Triumph triples, the power produced is perfectly usable. There’s an abundance of torque at low and mid-revs followed by a strong punch approaching redline. Overall performance is very satisfying, even for a horsepower hungry rider. What isn’t so satisfying is the subdued sound of the big triple. Being very familiar with the wonderful character of the 1050cc triple, I expected this next generation engine to deliver more of everything: more power, more torque, more sound and to be more smooth. But unless you pin the throttle and wait for high revs, what you’ll hear is a relatively quiet engine, not a roaring triple.
Warburton says potential Trophy customers are likely to be mature riders who prefer quieter bikes for the long distances the new model is very capable of traveling. For that reason, the triple’s aural characteristics were toned down. When I argued that a distinctive exhaust note might be what some expect in a Triumph sport-tourer Warburton stuck by his guns and said that right or wrong, that was the logic behind the decision.
Although I would have liked it to sound better and though there might be slightly purer handling sport-tourers out there, the new Trophy left me with a very positive impression. It’s the real deal and undoubtedly belongs to this category alongside the other few real sport-tourers on the market.
I’m not quite sure who will buy it, and I think that’s because Triumph played a bit of politics with this one. Unlike the controversial big-inch parallel Twin Thunderbird or the still strange Rocket III, the new Triumph Trophy isn’t taking many risks or making any bold statements. Instead, it seems to want to appeal to the centre with just the appropriate look, just the appropriate performance and just the appropriate tone, no more and no less.
By Bertrand Gahel, Jan/Feb 2013