Following an unforgettable day riding the 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 through the Sierra Nevada mountains and with a full stomach of roast lamb and Rioja, I sat down with Triumph Chief Engineer Stuart Wood to talk modern bikes and the design process of Hinckley’s newest high-end ADV tourer.
Wood, who joined me on the ride earlier in the day, made it clear that Triumph’s primary objective for design and engineering is to build bikes for the customer, as obvious as that sounds.
“There are real customers who want real things,” Wood said. “They might have ideas and dreams and be interested by specials and ideas, but actually they’re going to buy a motorbike. They’re going to buy a bike to use, to ride. What’s going to be a genuine benefit to them?”
To answer that question, Triumph relies on focus groups to test a proposed design. Assessing existing customers and customers who own competitors’ bikes gives an inkling of what technology riders are willing to pay for.
At the same time, Triumph tests engineering and styling feasibility and gauges customer responses to confirm the direction of the project.
By the first phase of design, called “scheming,” every area of the bike is understood; from the engineers come CAD drawings submitted to suppliers. By this time, all kinds of calculation, simulation, and analysis have been done, creating production drawings that represent a high level of confidence; what’s on paper (or screen) will become the production bike.
“The drawing board is communication,” Wood added. “All the work’s done before that.”
Triumph doesn’t do a lot of prototyping, relying on mule bikes to determine the precise geometry, ergonomics, and weight distribution of the motorcycle. Production tooling begins after this phase. There’s no turning back; the next time anyone rides the bike, it will have components (e.g., frame, wheels, brakes) built from production tooling.
Wood stressed that “the bike is not designed or tuned by mathematicians; it’s designed and tuned by riders—the guys who are doing the development. The guys who are running the team are riders, and they get how a bike should work. For us it’s 100 percent about the ride.”