As part of the usual due diligence of contemplating a new bike I thought that I’d re-visit the Triumph brand again. Especially as they are the most local dealer to where I live. I’m not repeating the 80mile weekly round trip to the dealers to keep getting my brakes fixed as per my R1200GS owning days.
They will beat any Deal!
The dealership were also promoting the ‘best px offer for any bike’ nonsense that always happens mid-season. Could be useful when you have a leggy KTM1290 to move onto pastures new . They had also moved to a swanky new facility and I had not been in there yet. Mainly because the last lot of staff were useless ! Oh and I did fancy the idea of being the next James Bond if I bought a Bonnie Scrambler XC Hmmm, maybe in some parallel universe.
Time to Tame the Tiger?
Anyway; the sensible option was to re-visit the Tiger 1200. A similar thing to my current KTM1290 and earlier BMW R1200GS. It’s also the bigger brother and the bigger brother of the 800XC. A bike I had previously owned as my first ‘big-bike’.
In truth, I’d ridden a 1200 Explorer before when I was getting my 800XC serviced by the dealer. It was a lovely and smooth ride, great power delivery. The downside being it seemed very similar to my bike at the time. Add in one or two cosmetic disconnects that didn’t gel with me and that meant I never considered it as a replacement for the 800.
My Ride Awaits
Fresh from a Facelift
However, the 1200 has had a number of updates since my last experience: Therefore I wanted to double check I wasn’t missing anything. Apart from a more cohesive design package and some chassis updates the main change was the new T-plane crank. This is supposed to improve torque and give a more V-twin sound and feel.
Suitably freshened up. It’s blue! I really like blue!
If you look REALLY closely the Bonnie is in the background!
The dealer showed me the bike: he ran through some of the functional controls and suggested to start in street mode, then switch to sport later. After this brief pep talk I ventured out into the town traffic heading towards some suitably twisty roads.
Out into the Wilds of Warwickshire
Riding in traffic was simple: A nice high seating position, good balanced feel and a torquey engine. What I did notice is the change to the engine firing pattern: Gone was the silky smooth power delivery replaced by a slightly more lumpy sensation. Nothing new to a KTM rider like myself though.
Having broken free of the congestion, I finally got to explore the higher speed characteristics on the Warwickshire’s rural roads. It was a warm sunny day too! A bit of bonus. This is the UK you know!
Power delivery was good and linear but not breath taking. The 1200 tipped into the corners better than I remember. Also it rode the bumps and other road surface imperfections without issues. Brakes were effective but I didn’t really put them to the test being a old plodder of a rider by nature.
What I did notice is that the TFT screen was hidden from view without deliberately tipping my head. This is something I haven’t experience previously. Maybe it was the function of my slightly strange Bell crash helmet obscuring the view. Nevertheless I found it a little disconcerting, especially when on a demo ride. You do get used to a bike’s foibles in time.
Unfortunately, it took more than a fleeting glance down to get the info processed. This sub-optimal. As a daily ride, I suspected that this would seriously irritate me.
Added to the fact that I couldn’t completely remember how to switch rider modes meant that 1200 stayed in street mode. I have to say that one the rare occasion I actually changed the settings on the KTM or the GS, it was a much more intuitive method.
Having ridden a whole 20 mile loop, I returned to the dealers thoroughly under-whelmed. However, I had confirmed in my head that it wasn’t the bike for me.
A Better Option?
Maybe the Bonneville based Scrambler would be Triumphs saviour ?
Now, I already knew that this might be another style over substance selection very similar to the Ducati Desert-X I’d test ridden previously. However, it was intriguing me whether it would be a suitable KTM substitute? The only issue was that due to high demand for the Scrambler they only had a standard Bonnie to try. Oh well, let’s see what we can extrapolate from this brief ride.
Keeping it Simple
The instructions from the dealer were succinct as there aren’t that many buttons or modes: Just hit the start button and off you go.
Clearly the bike is a lot lower than the Tiger. I look a bit like a gorilla on a clown’s bike! It’s all a little bit cramped and the seats hard. Also, it’s a parallel twin, so even with its 270º firing pattern (for that ‘Ducati-sound’), it feels a bit weedy in comparison to the 1200 Tiger.
Mixed it Up a Bit
Rather than taking the same route as on the Tiger, I thought that I’d replicate my normal commuting rout. Meaning joining the dual carriage on the way out of town. Well, it turns out that a classic looking motorcycle is not quite as fast a KTM1290! Who knew? The poor old Triumph really needed to be worked to get to 70mph. The fact that when I sit up, I act as a massive airbrake wasn’t helping matters!
I persevered and pushed a little harder up to the point where the engine was just making more noise. All the frantic throttle twisting producing little more by way of significant forward motion. Subsequently, I rolled off and bumbled along at 60mph. This seemed to be a much more comfortable level. I took the time to appreciate the friendly handling around the next roundabout and the way that it coped with the winding A-roads home.
The return to the dealer would be the acid test, we have a long hill into town. It’s sufficiently steep to test the performance of all modes of transport: Trucks and buses struggle, my old Ford Mondeo estate required some planning and judicious application of the right boot at the appropriate time.
In contrast both my previous R1200GS and current KTM1290 just romp up the incline. Turns out the Mondeo approach was required for the Bonnie. All fine but you knew you were working it and there wasn’t that much more capacity for reckless overtakes.
Not for me – Not so much as a piccie!
Back at the dealers, it’s clear that the bike is built for weekend bimbles not my usual brisk commuting. The Bonnie looked ok parked up. In truth it didn’t realty tick any boxes for me and the low rent switch gear only confirmed that the bike is built to a price.
I was pretty sure that the Scrambler version wouldn’t be that different. You can tell how impressed I was by the fact that I didn’t even bother to take a picture of the bike!
Good, but no cigar
The post-ride debrief with the dealer resulted in an great px-offer on my slightly tired KTM1290. I respond with a ‘I’ll have a contemplate’ response from me. I don’t think he was very optimistic about a call back!
Words and Pictures: Stuart Holliday