By: Dave Abrahams
Cape Town – The trouble with most long-haul tourers is that they’re built for maximum comfort in a straight line, with huge fairings, sophisticated suspension and sound systems, heated seats and handle-bar grips, and storage space for the contents of several kitchen sinks.
All of which adds up to a wet weight of at least 300kg, and all the agility of a steam locomotive – which is why it’s a pleasure to be able to use the words ‘full-dress tourer’ and ‘handling’ in the same sentence without feeling silly.
Beginning with the 1997 Sprint Sport, and a decade-long series of 955 and 1050 Sprint triples, Triumph has made something of an art out of building big, heavy bikes that actually go round corners. OK, we’re not talking race replicas here, but all Hinckley’s big triples are amazingly light on their wheels.
So it came as a real shock when I battled to get the 301kg Trophy SE off its side-stand and ready to roll. That got easier over time (there is a knack to it) but getting the Trophy up on to its standard-issue main stand remained a matter of brute strength for as long as we had it.
But then, as soon as the wheels start turning, the weight simply evaporates and you are riding a big, extra-comfortable sports-tourer. Yes, I said sports-tourer; without the standard panniers I hustled it through the ride and handling section of our standard test route at an average of 118km/h where 120 is the qualifying threshold for sports bikes – and, with the electronic suspension preload set for one person plus luggage and the damping to ‘sport’, there was no sign of the dreaded ‘hippy hippy shake’.
With handlebars almost a metre wide there is plenty of leverage to get the Trophy to turn in - or change line if needed - and, if anything, the steering is a little too light. I know I’m nit-picking here, but it feels as if a light damper would help to provide the ultimate in precision steering.
in fact all the controls are light and a little remote; everything works, especially the antilocking brakes, but without much feedback, especially as you are cocooned behind one of the biggest fairings in the business.
NO-NONSENSE INTAKE ROAR
One of the effects of that cocooning is to throw all the buzzes, whirrs and clattery noises that Hinckley triples are heir to right up at you - until you reach 4500rpm; then it all disappears behind a throaty, no-nonsense intake roar that reminds you why Triumph concentrates almost exclusively on three-cylinder engines.
This particular triple is a smoothed-out version of the 1215cc Explorer. Power is marginally down from 101kW at 9300 revs to 99 at 8900, torque from 121Nm at 6450rpm to 120 at 6450 - but with a far more linear, totally fuss-free delivery.
Seat-of-the-pants measurement says the Trophy is a lot slower than the Explorer (it is after all, more than 40kg heavier) but in fact it revs willingly, if noisily, up to its rev limiter at 10 000rpm, without anything remotely resembling a power band or more than just enough secondary vibration to remind you that this is a Real Motorcycle.
Give it a fistful through the gears (light, short throw, slightly notchy) and it gathers momentum at an intimidating rate.
Triumph says the Trophy’s top speed is electronically limited to 220km/h: the test bike hit its true Vmax of 215km/h less than halfway down our six-kilometre test straight, with 224 and 7700rpm on the splendidly legible analogue clocks for a speedometer error of only 4.2 percent, and seemed willing to hold that all day, steady as a rock.
The trophy is very comfortable on good roads – relaxed, a little remote, ergonomically superb. The wide, deeply padded saddle places the rider’s weight on the thigh muscles rather than the points of the pelvis, delaying the onset of the dreaded Numb Bum Syndrome beyond even the Trophy’s impressive tank range of more than 450km.
Fuel consumption averaged 5.52 litres per 100km over five days of mixed commuting and hooning around the countryside, rising to 7.26 during performance testing.
TRADITIONALLY CONSERVATIVE STYLING
On our the bumpy test section the bike’s 301kg simply bludgeoned the bumps into submission and very little unevenness got as far as the rider – and then mainly through the ‘bars and ‘pegs.
For once Hinckley’s traditionally conservative styling doesn’t pay off – the general consensus down at the Clubhouse was that the 2014 Trophy looks too much like a previous-generation BMW RT.
Nevertheless, the flight deck is superbly laid out, with everything in the right place and most of the controls falling intuitively to hand – the one exception being the switch for the hazard lights, which is in the middle of the control panel and is one of the few that aren‘t backlight at night.
CLEAR, CRISP SOUND
Practically everything else, including the switches for the radio, the cruise control and the trip data computer can be operated without taking your hands off the handlebars. The radio, in particular, delivered clear crisp sound, especially with the electrically adjustable screen at its highest position to create a cocoon of still air.
A small cover with an automatic lock (it only opens when the key is in and the bike is switched on!) in the left side of the fairing conceals a 12-volt charging socket, as well as USB + aux ports; there’s another 12V socket on left rear frame as well for a heated waistcoat.
Luggage capacity is bigger than that of some small hatchbacks, with 31 litres in each of the standard-issue panniers, plus 55 (as well as yet another 12-volt socket!) in the top box, an optional extra at R3750.
Triumph’s Trophy is a real GT among touring bikes, superbly comfortable and lavishly appointed, yet capable of surprising average speeds between here and the next town – or the next time zone.
Price: R192 500.
Bike from: Mike Hopkins Motorcycles, Cape Town.
Engine: 1215cc liquid-cooled transverse triple.
Bore x stroke: 85 x 71.4mm.
Compression ratio: 11.0:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 99kW at 8900rpm.
Torque: 120Nm at 6450rpm.
Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with three 46mm ride-by-wire throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by shaft.
Front Suspension: 43mm WP inverted cartridge forks electronically adjustable for preload and rebound damping.
Rear Suspension: WP gas-charged monoshock electronically adjustable for preload and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Partially-integrated dual 320mm floating discs with Nissin four-pot opposed-piston callipers and ABS.
Rear brake: 282mm disc with Nissin dual-piston floating calliper and ABS.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 190/55 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 800/820mm.
Kerb weight: 301kg.
Fuel tank: 26 litres.
Top speed (measured): 215km/h.
Fuel consumption (measured): 5.52 litres/100km