Riding past the terraced orange groves of the Sierra Nevada foothills in Andalucía, Spain, I’m struck by the foreignness of the place. The landscape is wild and seemingly untrammeled, though it’s dotted here and there with long-entrenched civilization. The sleepy mountain villages with narrow lanes and whitewashed facades seem as native to the environment as the olive trees that attract my attention from behind the windscreen. I’m riding the top-spec 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA ($21,750), a motorcycle capable of tackling any adventure inspired by the allure of the roads we ride and the vistas we behold.
For 2018, the Tiger 1200 receives significant updates to improve ergonomics, shed weight, and to include next-gen tech such as self-balancing semi-active suspension, a rev-matching up/down quickshifter, linked brakes with cornering ABS, a hill hold feature, adjustable traction control, and adaptive cornering lighting. You’re forgiven if your eyes glaze over reading such a list. While you’ll need an engineering degree to comprehend how the systems work, it’s immediately clear the way they work, palpably changing the character of the motorcycle and improving rider control.
Starting off on the motorway heading out of Almería, I use the five-way joystick on the left handlebar to adjust the windscreen’s height, creating a body of still air around me. Next, I toggle the joystick to adjust the suspension damping on the fly, optimizing it for comfort as I take in the snowcapped peaks in the distance. The stunning views and the Tiger’s all-day comfy ergos have me wishing the panniers were full and my wife was on the back of the bike to share the experience. Besides, that would give the suspension’s self-adjusting preload another chance to shine.
After stopping for lunch beneath the gaze of Castillo de La Calahorra, an earthy red Italian Renaissance castle built in the early-16th century, the roads grow narrow and winding as they ascend into the mountains. When I put the ride mode in Sport, and the suspension firms up and the throttle map becomes more aggressive, though it maintains its incredibly neutral and linear characteristic. When I roll back the throttle, a claimed 141 hp and 90 pound-feet of torque propel the Tiger out of the corners with gusto even from low revs, the three-cylinder engine insistently and smoothly accelerating to peak power while the three-piston symphony sings through the titanium Arrow exhaust. Throttle response is exceptional with zero on/off jerkiness. When it comes to natural-feeling electronic connections between rider input and hardware, Triumph is on its game.
Slowing for the blind tight corners of the mountain road, I leave my hand off the clutch and gently click down the gearbox, the revs matching perfectly without any rider assistance. It’s an action that goes against instinct, but the effectiveness of the system soon has me changing my habits. I take advantage of the linked braking system and the reassurance of the cornering ABS, braking deeper into corners than I would ordinarily, the Tiger responding predictably as the suspension maintains its superb contact with the road. Grabbing another gear exiting the corner, it does the job just as well. In fact, when upshifting at neutral throttle positions, using the quickshifter is less invasive than at full chat where many quickshifters operate best.
The road winds through the deciduous forests of the mountains, mist clings to the trees beneath a low gray sky, and the Tiger 1200 remains poised, agile, and amazingly easy to ride as the asphalt descends toward the sea. The Tiger is equally happy galloping through the corners as it is trotting along at a leisurely pace, a light push on the bars dipping it toward the apex. It places no demands on the rider in terms of how it must be ridden. It makes everything easy.
The next day, on bikes fitted with Pirelli Scorpion Rally knobbies, former Dakar racer Nick Plumb and Charley Boorman (of Long Way Round fame) guide the group of assembled journalists through the canyons and hills of the Tabernas Desert. Setting off, I switch to Offroad mode, which turns off ABS in the rear and softens the suspension, effectively increasing rake as the rear squats. As I’ve not ridden in the dirt since I was a teenager, I avoid the new Offroad Pro Mode, which turns off both ABS and traction control. I, for one, am reassured by feeling the computer take over as the rear end steps out in sandy washes.
I would expect a motorcycle of such size, weight, and power to be a bit of a handful in the gravel and sand, but the Tiger is just as unflappable and easy to use as it is on pavement. I get a bit overeager in the soft stuff, the front wheel seeming to gain senescence and guide me of its own accord, but the tractable and immediately responsive power quickly straighten the bike out. I’m grinning ear to ear at this point. To be honest, it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a motorcycle.
The Triumph caters to the rider’s needs to the benefit of the larger riding experience. Its utility, comfort, and reliability mean it can carry you to whatever winding mountain road, dusty desert trail, or lush forest glade that inspires you. On paper it’s a big, heavy machine, but underway, it’s so easy to use and balanced as every system works in concert. It’s a bike that puts the rider first. And when the road or trail overwhelms the senses with the grandeur of the landscape it bisects, the Tiger justifies the sum of its impressive parts and transforms into a magic carpet into the unknown.
|PRICE||$21,750 (as tested)|
|ENGINE||1,215cc liquid-cooled inline three-cylinder|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||141.0 hp @ 9,350 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||90.0 lb.-ft. @ 7,600rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||WP 48mm fork with adjustable spring preload with semi-active compression and rebound damping; 7.5 in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||WP shock adjustable for preload with semi-active compression and rebound damping; 7.6 in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Brembo four-piston calipers, 305mm discs with ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||Nissin two-piston calipers, 282mm disc with ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||32.9/33.7 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||5.3 gal.|
|CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT||534 lbs. (as tested)|