It’s not exactly a case of David challenging Goliath, but it’s close—real close. With its new 1200 Trophy SE luxury-tourer, Triumph, a comparatively small bike manufacturer, is challenging one of the industry’s giants when it comes to producing highly regarded over-the-road motorcycles: BMW. The Boys in Bavaria run a high-powered auto and motorcycle operation that has been building touring bikes of one flavor or another for many decades. So, when the movers and shakers at Hinckley decided to throw down the gauntlet against that powerhouse, it was like taking a knife to a gunfight.
But, as it turns out, that knife is a pretty sharp one. The Trophy 1200 is by far the most complex motorcycle that reborn Triumph has ever produced, and it takes direct aim not at either of BMW’s K1600s but instead has its sights set on the R1200RT Boxer. Aside from its displacement disadvantage, the Trophy is not a luxury-tourer in the K1600GTL, Gold Wing or Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic sense; rather, it’s a luxury sport-tourer. It allows you to enjoy all the amenities of those iconic superslab-devouring heavyweights—and a few features that even some of the others don’t have—while you’re ripping through the twisties as though you were on something far smaller and lighter than the Trophy’s 662-pound claimed wet weight (without saddlebags) and 60.7-inch wheelbase would imply.
“We started working on this project in 2008,” said Simon Warburton, Triumph’s Product Manager. “We looked at three bikes that were considered the models of choice at the time: the Honda Pan-European (ST1300 in the U.S.), Yamaha FJR1300 and BMW R1200RT. Our evaluations proved that the RT was the best of the three, so that was the bike we targeted.”
This is why the Trophy matches the RT point for point, and then some. Its book-length list of features includes traction control, ABS, linked brakes, 31-liter detachable saddlebags, cruise control, tire-pressure monitors, electrically adjustable windscreen, adjustable seat height (by more than ¾ in.), electrically adjustable headlights and shaft final drive. Of particular importance are the Trophy’s electronically adjustable suspension (three positions each for preload and damping, some of which can be selected on the fly, some that cannot) and elaborate FM/Bluetooth sound system that’s fully iPod compatible and will also play other formats (FLAC, WAV, MP3, OGG, ACC).
Practically everything that is adjustable on the Trophy can be configured using the designated buttons on the left handlebar switchpod in conjunction with the LCD information screen between the tach and speedo. This includes the screen display itself, which provides more information than those of any other motorcycle currently on the market and can be quickly set up to display the specific info you want in a choice of locations on the screen.
A sizable list of available accessories for the SE includes a larger touring windshield, a 50-liter top box fitted with a 12-volt power port (and that uses a built-in sliding plug mechanism that requires no unplugging or reconnecting of wires when removing or installing the box), heated seats and grips, a tankbag, a lower seat (which, like the stock saddle, is two-position adjustable), bag liners and a GPS mounting bracket.
Inclusion of all this equipment, the 6.9-gallon gas tank in particular, has taken its toll in the perception of the Trophy’s physical size. When you first climb aboard, the tank/fairing stretching out ahead of your knees splays out so far and wide that you almost feel like you’re looking down onto the deck of an aircraft carrier. But by the time you’ve ridden the bike a few blocks and snapped it around a couple of simple corners, that perception starts to change. You quickly forget about the shape of the plastic in front of you and marvel at how light and agile the big Triumph feels when it’s moving. The tall, wide cast handlebars give you lots of leverage while propping you in an upright, standard-bike riding position, and the 1215cc, ride-by-wire inline-Three grunts out tons of usable torque (well, actually, a peak of 89 ft.-lb. at 6450 rpm, says Triumph, but it remains above 74 ft.-lb. from 2500 to 9500 rpm) that effortlessly whisks the SE away from a stop and off of corners. The overall effect is that you feel as though you are riding a bike that is at least a hundred pounds lighter than what its manufacturer claims.