This is not just a terrific sport-touring motorcycle—although, yes, it is that. There’s more to it. The 2013 Trophy stands as the latest example of Triumph’s fortitude, a brave display of engineering moxie and marketing chutzpah. After last year’s launch of the Tiger 800 and the more recent debut of the Explorer, it’s clear that Hinckley had its sights trained on Munich in general, and the F800GS and R1200GS specifically. This is hunting big game, and it requires a good eye and a steady hand.
So, the Trophy arrives, ostensibly gunning for the BMW R1200RT, although because of the company’s dedication to the three-cylinder engine and a few other factors, the Trophy is more accurately aimed at a gap in BMW’s lineup between the RT and the K1600GT/GTL. The Triumph is bigger, heavier, and more powerful than the R1200RT, but slots below the K16 in all those categories. And although the Triumph’s U.S. price is closer to the K16’s, its level of standard features far outstrips that of the R1200RT.
Of course, the design issue becomes how to beat BMW at its own game, and in this case Triumph has relied on the strength and smoothness of the counterbalanced triple as well as uncommonly good chassis manners. To that end, the Trophy gets an entirely new alloy frame, said to weigh just 25 pounds bare, to provide a solid platform. Wheelbase tapes out at 60.7 inches, 2.3 more than the RT. A longer wheelbase helps stability, sure, but it also gives the Trophy the best rider/passenger accommodations in the class, according to the company. Much effort was given to providing fore-aft room for two without cramping either traveler’s style.
The Triumph is longer and heftier, with a claimed curb weight (all fluids, full fuel tank) of 662 lbs., a substantial 82 lbs. up on the RT. To be fair, that differential reflects a base-model R-RT, where ABS is standard but traction control and electronically adjusted suspension are options. Some of that difference is accounted for in the Trophy’s significantly more lavish standard configuration, which includes an integrated radio, ABS, traction control, and TES (Triumph Electronic Suspension).
Built by WP in its first collaboration with Triumph, the suspension features a 43mm inverted fork and a single shock with progressive linkage. Similar to BMW's ESA, TES allows on-the-fly adjustment of rebound damping front and rear based on three modes: Sport, Normal, and Comfort. When the engine is running but the vehicle is stationary, you can also adjust rear spring preload to one of three settings. There is no spring preload adjustment for the fork.
Forget what you’re thinking about the Trophy’s weight and length. Start down the road and it loses 50 lbs. by 15 mph and another 50 by city speeds. At first, the steering feels almost too light, but after a few minutes in the saddle the turning effort becomes familiar and, in time, delightfully confidence inspiring. Low effort is one thing, but feedback is what experienced riders appreciate most. On the Trophy, steering response is linear right to toe-dragging lean angles, with the very slightest of force buildup near the edges of the Pirelli Angel ST sport-touring tires. You won’t get a Daytona 675’s level of feedback, but for a large bike the Trophy impresses, and, critically, is way more involving than the dead-feeling BMW front ends.
As an aid to your hooliganistic tendencies, the Trophy is perfectly happy turning in on the strong, Nissin-supplied brakes, and shows no tendency to dive in toward the apex when you release the binders and start feeding in the power. In medium-speed corners the bike feels much lighter and more agile than it has a right to; the only indicator of its physical size is the rate at which the windscreen sweeps into and out of view. Shaft jacking is never in evidence, even with heavy throttle input.
Triumph’s head of product development, Simon Warburton, says that a key element in the Trophy’s gestation was the emergence of the 190/55 rear tire. Triumph started development with a 180/55 but liked the extra contact patch of the 190mm-wide tire; unfortunately, the 50-series profile proved a handling setback. The 190/55 was the perfect solution. Triumph also continues to use isolated saddlebags designed to reduce load influences on handling. The bags can swing through a 5-degree arc at the lower edges, a feature Triumph says “removes destructive resonances…and significantly improves handling.” A sticker for the rear surface that says, “Don’t worry, they’re supposed to flap alarmingly,” would be helpful.
Achieving the right balance of entertaining performance and smooth on-road capabilities is always difficult, but especially so on a bike intended to be both fun to ride and able to consume hundreds of miles at a whiff. Triumph, in the Trophy, absolutely nailed it. Ridden solo with a small amount of stuff in the standard hard-shell saddlebags, the preferred TES setting is Normal, though switching down to Comfort clearly frees up the suspension travel to deal with most common road shocks, and Sport helps reduce chassis pitch. The differences are noticeable but not extreme. What’s uncommon is the Trophy’s small-bump compliance, which felt extremely good on the range of Scottish roads we traveled during the press introduction. On occasion, the Trophy felt firm, but never, ever harsh.
For a long-range machine, rider protection is just as important as ride compliance. The Trophy scores well here, though we’re going to hang back on our final assessment for two reasons: The Trophys at the press launch were all fitted with the taller of two saddles to be sold worldwide; the U.S. will get only the shorter version. (Both can ride at one of two heights on the bike, 20mm apart. The seat we get provides a seat height of 29.9 or 30.7 inches.) And, some of the bikes, including the one we were assigned, came with a Triumph Accessories windscreen, which is an inch taller and 1.5 in. wider at the base than stock. In this configuration, wind protection was very good, particularly for the lower body, which gets an occasional tendril of free air and very little engine heat. A 5-foot-9 rider will experience slight helmet rock at 75-80 mph with the taller screen at the lowest point, and very little windblast with the screen lifted enough that you have to look through it. The combination of the stock screen and the lower seat should keep that relationship close, at the expense of legroom (which is very good). The screen moves electrically both vertically and in rake through a very long range.
In this exceedingly capable, comfortable chassis the Explorer-based triple seems perfectly at home. Triumph made minor changes in the transition from Explorer to Trophy, including new calibration for the ride-by-wire (RBW) injection system and a taller sixth gear that brings engine speed under 4200 rpm at 74 mph. Of course, RBW promises reduced emissions and fuel consumption as well as enabling traction control (standard on the Trophy, optional on the R-RT) and the chance for a broad torque curve. Triumph’s figures indicate peak torque of 88.5 lb.-ft. at 6450 rpm and more than 73 lb.-ft. from 2500 to the 9500-rpm redline. Maximum power is a claimed 132 horsepower at 8900 rpm, 25 up on the BMW.
It’s this broad torque band that dominates the engine’s personality, so it’s in line with bikes like the Honda ST1300 and Yamaha FJR1300, which dole out power so predictably that you never wonder what the engine’s going to do next. But you also learn never to expect a burly high-end rush; the march to the redline is quick, refined, orderly. Service intervals are long: 10,000 miles for minor, twice that for a major service. We didn’t get defensible fuel mileage measurements, but several times on the trip the instantaneous mileage readout showed 50 mpg or more at a steady 75 mph and recorded a 45-mpg average. A 6.9-gallon tank should offer a range of at least 230 miles with reserve.
Central to separating the Trophy from the RT and the like is a long list of standard features. For the U.S. market, only the up-market SE model makes the cut. It includes the aforementioned electronically adjusted suspension and an integrated tire-pressure monitoring system that’s an option on the base Trophy offered elsewhere. Also standard is a two-speaker audio system with a radio (including XM for the U.S.) that can mate with your iPod or iPhone through a USB port, or play a variety of other digitally encoded music from a memory stick. It also has dual Bluetooth transceivers so that the system can be paired with helmet-mounted speakers as well as your Bluetooth devices simultaneously. (That’s one headset and the iPhone or two headsets.) The automatically locking bin on the left side of the fairing also sports a 12-volt power outlet.
A pair of 31-liter saddlebags are standard, but a 55-liter top trunk is among the long line of Triumph accessories, which includes heated grips, heated seats in two heights, a GPS mount, clip-on tankbag, and bag liners. Now that you mention it, this could read like a list of BMW accessories, and that’s partly the point. Triumph, with the new Trophy, has gathered its courage, dug deep into its engineering and product-development resources, and produced a sport-touring bike ready to take on BMW’s best. We can’t wait to get a Trophy stateside.