Reviews First Ride: 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa

18:26  03 august  2018
18:26  03 august  2018 Source:

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a motorcycle parked on the side of a mountain© Provided by

BORMIO, Italy – Let’s describe the perfect motorcycle shall we. Or, at least the perfect motorcycle for your typical fiftysomething — OK, sixtysomething — long term biker who has fond remembrances of strafing backroads and hitting the road for 10 hours straight, for whom typical sport bikes (too crouched over) and/or touring bikes (too heavy) no longer appeal.

The perfect bike, then, would have more than a modicum of power — 120 horsepower would be nice; 140 even nicer — but retain compliant suspension. It would be able to carve a corner, but also have a riding position rational enough to eat up miles. Belying those tender years, it would also have to be relatively light — no motocrosser flyweight needed, but then a 319 kilogram sport tourer (BMW’s K1600 GT) is ridiculous — yet have all the luggage carrying capacity of a Gold Wing (actually more since the latest Honda is cargo challenged). In other words, the perfect motorcycle is probably an adventure tourer.

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More specifically, Triumph’s latest Tiger 1200 XCa might have a shout in at this perfection thing. First of all the engine: Though Triumph makes no claims for increased power — officially, the 1,215-cc triple is still rated at 139 horses and 90 pound-feet of torque — said power certainly feels more usable. Perhaps, it’s the new triple’s lighter flywheel which encourages more forceful tugs at the ride-by-wire throttle. Maybe it’s the superior fueling — not a strong point for Triumph for many a year — that makes throttle response, even at low rom, feel so linear. Whatever the case, the big triple felt like a giant electric motor so easily did it move the Tiger’s 242 kilograms up even the steepest mountain passes in Europe.

Haring after KTMs and Ducatis through the switchbacks, the Tiger proved fairly fearless as well. Put the top-of-the-line XCa version — there are road-oriented XR variants available as well — in Sport mode, crank up the electronically-adjustable TSAS semi-active WP suspension to its firmest setting and the big 1200 tracks through switchbacks with precision. It takes a little work, what with those 242 kilos and slow steering 19-inch front tire, but you really can hustle the big Triumph along.

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a bag of luggage sitting on top of a motorcycle© Provided by

As long as you’re solo. Fully-loaded you’ll start feeling the Tiger’s weight. Or, more accurately, it’s relatively high centre of gravity. That brilliant triple is a tall engine and the Tiger’s passenger perch is also one of the tallest in the biz and the two to make the 1200 a little tippy at low speeds (i.e. in all those aforementioned switchbacks). It would have helped if I could have jacked up the rear shock’s preload to tighten the rake, but that aforementioned semi-active suspension has an automatic load-leveling function which always keeps the Tiger on an even keel. That’s brilliant — no fiddling with manual rear preload adjusters or even digital adjustments — in ordinary circumstances, but a pain when you’re facing the Stelvio Pass’ 48 hairpins and really would like quicker steering.

That said, the 2018 1200 handles better than the previous big Tiger, the XCa — thanks to a lighter flywheel, lighter exhaust system and a few other technical tidbits — having lost about 10 kilos. And, truth be told, its slowness of steering on tight switchbacks won’t matter to 99 per cent of North American riders, the only road on this continent as twisty as an Alpine pass being the famed Tail of the Dragon, which, as far as I can see, remains, for most of us, a once in a lifetime pilgrimage. On equally-curvaceous, but not quite as constricted, roads — Switzerland’s Julierpass better emulates North American twisties — the Tiger handles a treat.

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Much more important, however, to we Nord Americanos is that the new Tiger is even more comfortable than its already accommodating predecessor. Part of that, of course, is to the easily adjusted suspension damping which can range from a full soft, if a little wallowy, to a seriously stiff Sport setting. The seat, thanks to a new crown shape and different density foam is even more comfy and the handlebar rise allows an ideal riding position. Said seat, both rider and passenger portions, are heated on the XCa as are the handlebar grips.

But the biggest difference from the first generation is the new windshield. The new XCa’s windshield is a little larger than the item on the base XR and XCs and besides being aerodynamically efficient it is also electronically adjustable. Even in its lowest position coverage is excellent and in its most elevate position, it virtually eliminates all wind blast and turbulence, at least for someone of six-foot frame like yours truly. This is the first adventure tourer’s windscreen I wouldn’t immediately replace with an aftermarket item.

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Said adjustability is not, as is common with most such systems, through a handlebar-mounted button but accessed through Triumph’s new electronic interface. Yes, that sounds like a pain, but the Tiger’s interface is an absolute doddle to use. A single four-way toggle allows you to choose the menu you want — by moving left or right — and then the setting within that submenu by toggling up and down. Extremely easy to use, the same single toggle finds and adjusts the semi-active suspension, ride modes — on the XCa, there are six, including an Off-Road Pro setting that shuts down both traction control and the anti-lock braking system — and even things like odometer settings. Well, done Triumph for making digital access so simple.

Another big bonus is the Tiger’s available aluminum hardcases. Sourced from Givi, the cases offer 37 litres of cargo capacity while the rear topcase swallows 42L of crap, er, herself’s ablution products. Besides being rugged, they offer a truly ingenious and simple-to-use single locking and latching mechanism. One key — built into the electronic key fob — serves both locking and unlatching. All three also have tie-down hooks galore so you can really load the Tiger down with little add-on cargo bags designed specifically to fit atop the lids. The bags only fault is that they are water-resistant rather than waterproof; one particularly monsoon-like downpour did see some seepage, but regular rainfall was totally contained.

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All these creature comforts — and that great lump of an engine — make the new Tiger 1200 an excellent adventure tourer — big emphasis on the touring part of that equation— for those who like to rack up copious mileage in complete comfort. Indeed, there’s only two things I’d change, one relatively simple, the other only possible with the next redesign.

The first would be an override for the automatic, load-leveling rear spring preload adjuster, something that would allow each rider to calibrate the system for their desired ride height rather than Triumph’s proscribed setting. Since the hardware is already in place, this would probably be possible with nothing more than a software update. The other would be making the three-cylinder engine more compact, more specifically shorter so it might have less effect on the bike’s centre of gravity. Obvious alternatives would be a wider bore and shorter stroke combination or maybe a dry sump oiling system, both of which would reduce height.

Those are the only improvements I would make to Triumph’s newest Tiger. I suppose I could wish for a slightly lower price tag. The top-of-the-range XCa starts at $23,750. Factor in another $2,310 for the powder-coated aluminum bags and another $340 for the (well worth it) tire pressure monitoring kit and there’ll not be much change from 27 large.

That said, the Tiger 1200 XCa is the most comfortable adventure tourer I’ve tested and worth every penny Triumph Canada is asking.

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“So-o-o,” I replied. “It’s not a DCT model then?” Kim from Honda turned towards me. Her years as a PR wrangler extraordinaire had attuned her to early signs of journalistic whining. “Hey, you’re the first journo in Canada to ride it”, she countered. Okay. Point taken. Kim from Honda turned towards me.

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