Eating long distances in supreme comfort is what the Trophy does best. Added to that is its amazing ability to transform into a motorcycle that is equally happy to tackle the twisty roads.
That said, what better way to test these theories on a Training Road Trip from the twisty roads of KwaZulu Natal to the enduring straights of the Orange Free State. Yes I had this “comfy wagon” for little more than a weekend on a trip from Durban to Bloemfontein.
My Trophy SE test bike from East Coast Motorcycles came well equipped. The standard features list is impressively extensive; heated grips, AM/FM satellite radio with blue tooth / aux input and weather band, mag lock powered storage console unit with USB-input, ride by wire throttle, traction control, ABS, linked brakes, 31-liter detachable panniers, cruise control, tyre-pressure monitors, electrically adjustable windscreen, adjustable seat height, electrically adjustable headlights and shaft final drive. Eish a mouthful! Like I said, it was well equipped! What more can you ask for but near perfect conditions to ride in?
With the Trophy SE features electronic suspension and the result is the ultimate in touring bike luxury, with the most comprehensive levels of equipment ever seen on any Triumph. All paired up with the sharpest, best handling chassis in the class and a muscular, torque laden 1215cc engine immersed in three-cylinders.
- Three cylinder 1215cc engine generating 133 horses and 120Nm of torque at just 6,450 rpm
- Virtually maintenance-free, robust shaft drive
- Supreme rider and pillion comfort
- The most highly technologically advanced Triumph with ride-by-wire, traction control, cruise control, electronic suspension, electrically adjustable screen, integrated audio system with Bluetooth functionality, linked ABS, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
- Triumph Dynamic Luggage System as standard providing practicality with dynamic stability
Triumph launched the Trophy directly in competition to BMW, and it’s a good one. The first slap in the proverbial face was the 800 Tiger, second the 1200 Explorer, and the third with this Trophy SE launched in 2013.
In the case of the Trophy SE, Triumph clearly targeted the R 1200 RT. After spending quality saddle time on board the Trophy SE, I believe Triumph has the BMW RT covered, and in the process clearly dropped one-up to the more expensive K1600 series as well. By being much better equipped than the RT and much cheaper than the K1600’s while being comparably equipped, Triumph has impressed with a luxury sport-touring niche between the two that no one even knew existed.
So many things work so well on this bike that it’s difficult to choose one to begin with, so let’s start with what clearly makes this bike a Triumph – the 1215cc triple. This engine is the same one used in the Explorer, and it’s a gem!
If you have never heard a Triumph triple, you need to. It has character a plenty! The Trophy has a deep V8 muscle car like sound mixed in with a bit of turbine whistle and sprinkled with a bit of diesel clatter over the top. It sounds distinctive and wonderful, no matter the rpm. The power characteristics mirror the sound. It has fabulous grunt off the bottom, pulls hard through the mid-range like a V8 and spins freely to red-line in turbine like fashion. This engine doesn’t wow you as much as BMW’s inline six, but this 3-cylinders motor is strong, willing and full of charisma in its own right.
The ride by wire technology that Triumph attaches to that locomotive engine is second to none.
Unlike the lag feeling some throttles have, Triumph’s version delivers a smooth tip-in, no surging or hunting at constant throttle and responds perfectly to your commands. Combine this with the fabulous engine and you have one of the best packages going. In all aspects and situations, this EFI is the model of good behaviour and the standard that all others should be measured by. It also has amazing fuel mileage. I averaged about 23km/L during my trip; combine that with the 26 Litre tank and you’d better make sure you visit the bathroom before you leave!
It’s a good thing that the Trophy gets such great mileage, because it’s amazingly competent and comfortable. It’s so easy to cover distance on! The wind management and protection is the best I’ve ever had. Roll the windshield all the way up and you have a serene protective cockpit. Crank it all the way down and you have good airflow at helmet and shoulder level. Drop it just below your line of sight and you have sport touring bliss! The ergonomics and seat are excellent and I loved the mirrors; positioned below your arms and offering an excellent vibration free view of your rear right past your hips.
Complementing the engine and wind management is excellent handling. Triumph is known for good handling chassis and this is another for their Trophy case. Turn in is light, responsive and trustworthy, and rock solid at high speed. Helping with the handling is a top-notch electronic WP suspension (TES). Smooth and controlled at all times, it makes riding the Trophy a truly enjoyable affair. The TES has three settings you can use on the fly, “Comfort”, “Normal” and “Sport”. Comfort is a well-controlled couch. Sport is firmer in that you feel the bumps, but they are rounded off, and Normal is a mix of the two. They all work great and you’ll have fun playing with them in different situations. The TES also allows custom electronic preload, “Solo”, “Solo with Luggage” and “Two-Up”. No more turning shock collars or twisting pre-load adjusters, thank you!
During one long day to Bloemfontein from Durban, I had ample time to play with and appreciate the electronic gadgets and luggage the Trophy has. During this time, I was able to easily use and enjoy everything from the radio to the electronic cruise control to the numerous dash displays. I won’t get into the particulars, but I will say that having heated grips and cruise is a luxury I could live with! I spent some time in much needed OFS rain, dodging hailstorms and lots of fun in the KZN coastal winds on my return trip.
Packing and using the luggage was simple. It’s high quality, spacious, easily removable and has a unique mounting system Triumph claims aids handling. Although I didn’t have the pleasure of the optional top box, but I think it is absolutely worthy of a purchase with your Trophy.
I’ve ridden many different bikes in the touring and sport-touring class in my time with Bike Talk. I can truly say that this bike has the best combination of value, content and execution of them all. It is an excellent high quality piece of hardware from one of the most popular brands in motorcycle history. I regretted having to return it and I hope that a deserving owner will step up and take it home.
In the modern touring bike field, there are massive R300 000 luxury couches, there are relatively slender, sparsely outfitted R150 000 sport-tourers, and there are bikes that fall into a middle category – those that combine a long list of rider comforts with a highly responsive chassis design.
The Triumph Trophy SE is the latter of the three. To be sure, from the very beginning, it was a sport bike designed to cover distance comfortably.
The legendary triple’s grunt of a twin and smoothness of a four translates through fly-by-wire technology, which allows that above-mentioned rider information package to far exceed any other in its class.
In fact, the data bank is one of the key features of the Trophy SE, showing not only dual analogue gauges, fuel level, temperature, trip computers and gear position indication, but also range to empty indication, air temperature, frost warning, accessory heated seats/grips status display, cruise control and a service indicator. The really trick feature, however, is the ability to easily scroll through the menu options to manage the traction control and make suspension adjustments, choosing between Solo, Solo with Luggage, or Two-Up settings for preload and Sport, Normal and Comfort settings for damping.
The Trophy SE offered my 6-ft 2-in frame a standard upright seating position, elbows slightly bent in reaching to the bars, legs in a natural position, and posterior tucked comfortably in a generously sculpted, 790mm-high saddle that didn’t prove to cause any pressure points during a 1500 km trip.
Adjustable levers and foot controls were standard, with reach and pull of the levers proving easy and plenty of foot room despite the 1200cc motor pulsing between your legs.
But it’s the windshield that proves to be the focal point of the Trophy’s thoughtfully planned rider space. Not only does it electronically adjust 150mm to suit your pleasure, but it also actually remembers its last position. So, when you start the bike, you don’t have to waste time readjusting it. It is also curved at the top edge of the screen, leaving you a clear “over the top” view without that annoying screen edge that would usually obscure your view. Love it!
Starting the Trophy SE delivers a welcome message and light show from the dash and a boom from the three-into-one side mounted stainless steel silencer. At idle the bike sounds robust but passive enough for even the most conservative of neighbourhoods. Just off idle and the sound becomes more like that of a muscle car than a Gentleman’s Tourer.
Slipping into gear delivered a solid click and the bike proved easy to use at urban speeds, with the weight becoming null and void, and the engine and transmission working in sync to deliver a smooth ride. Keep it in second gear while downtown or during rush hour congestion and you may forget the bike has a clutch.
At 120 km/h in 6th gear the engine turns at a whisper quiet 3,800 rpm. Twist your wrist and the big Trophy moves away with a purpose; downshift one notch before twisting and the engine jumps up to 4,400 rpm. Now you’re in the sweet spot and the entire 300kg package leaps to attention and surges you down the road with force and the bark of a beautiful Triple tone. Forget about torque pull from the shaft drive, this baby feels drag strip precise as triple digits show up in two blinks of an eye.
Bringing the big Trophy SE down from speed was drama free, even in panic situations, with the twin 320mm floating discs bitten by Nissin four-piston callipers in front and single 282mm disc with twin-piston calliper in the rear. There wasn’t a lot of diving to upset chassis performance and the ABS did not hinder my inputs but in fact encouraged my trust in the bike.
Don’t be afraid to dive into the corners, either. The Trophy’s sport-derived design, electronically adjustable WP suspension, and 120/70 ZR17 front and 190/55 ZR17 rear tyres keep the bike in-line through the curves while its aero package introduces its excellent road manners; even on a day with major crosswinds down the KZN coast and the screen at full attention, there was very little to no buffeting on the bike. Even Triumph’s “dynamic luggage system” was designed for speed – allowing a small amount of independent movement from wind buffeting, which actually increases stability.
After having switched between multiple electronic suspension combinations, I can confirm that the system works – firming up the ride for solo action, and offering comfort for your better-half enjoying the experience as pillion.
What didn’t I like on Trophy SE? The moment I had to give it back!
In closing, riding this bike constantly reminded me how the Brits never seized to impress me on every kilometer and around every corner during my time on and off this bike. Truly a masterpiece second to none any time of any given day!
Triumph Trophy SE supplied by
East Coast Motorcycles