There comes a time, or maybe tipping-point, in the life of some single male riders when chasing women gets replaced by the pursuit of motorcycles. The routine is the same – the sometimes awkward introduction, followed by a getting to know one another phrase, and then a decision to make the arrangement more permanent or to part ways – and so is the emotional investment.
The similarity between dating and demoing a bike came to mind more than a week ago weekend while riding a new 2013 Triumph Trophy SE, which was loaned by the manufacturer. The introduction was indeed awkward. The setting wasn’t a dimly-lighted bar, rather Mark’s Motorsports in Enfield. After filling out the paperwork, I waited while a tech re-mapped the engine (the motorcycle equivalent of going to the powder room to apply fresh makeup). The bike was then rolled outside so that I could be given a quick tutorial.
(Photos by Siro Soliani)
On an old British bike, you immediately know that something’s wrong when there’s a puddle of oil beneath it. On modern new bikes, the clue can be found in the digital instrument cluster. In this case, a “Warning” light was flashing in reference to the Trophy’s electronically adjustable suspension. Seems the ignition in the Trophy needed to be left “on” for several minutes after remapping to allow the bike’s computer to reboot, and it only took about 90 minutes, a call to Triumph and, ultimately, dumb luck and patience to figure this out.
Suffice to say the state-of-the-art Trophy is as high-tech (and as eye-catching) as the attractive fembot in the KIA commercials. Triumph classifies the bike as a “touring” model. It’s directly aimed to compete with BMW’s R 1200 RT, although after riding it, I suspect that it might lure riders who are considering a Yamaha FJR1300 or Kawasaki Concours 14.
The only features on the Trophy that is old school are the manually-adjusted mirrors and the hard luggage. The seat and grips are heated, the substantive windscreen is raised and lowered electronically, the brakes are linked and ABS, and the throttle is ride-by-wire. There’s also cruise control, traction control and the aforementioned suspension, which has “normal,” “sport” and “comfort” settings available at the touch of a button.
Over five days, the Trophy and I went on several “dates.” With its upright riding position and relatively comfortable seat, the bike made a great first impression and a great lasting one, too. While weighing 662 pounds and having a 6.9-gallon gas tank, the Trophy felt surprisingly light at speed. It handled nimbly and tracked flawlessly through curves. Power from the 1,215cc, 132-horsepower inline triple engine was nicely linear. However, as with the Trophy’s Tiger Explorer adventure sibling that I tested and wrote about last year, the throttle can be touchy.
The real test of the relationship came Sunday when I rode the Trophy to the 35th annual British Motorcycle Meet in Auburn, Mass., which is put on by the BSA Owners Club of New England. The ride up on I-91 was pleasant. By the time it came time to ride home in early afternoon, the temperature had heated up and the breeze had picked up. The result was some engine heat around the feet, and severe and tiring buffeting from the wind. That’s certainly expected on a faired bike with a large surface area.
It did take me a while to get used to shifting from first to second gear – firmness is required – and I gave far too many glances to the dashboard readout that gives miles per gallon while riding. The lowest was 20.9 mpg when rolling on the throttle in second gear; the highest was 99.9 mpg rolling downhill in sixth gear.
The romance, excuse me, demo lasted 531 miles, and left me feeling like a high school kid who somehow convinced a “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit model to attend the prom. Deep down, I knew the Trophy was out of my league, with far more power and touring capability than I’d ever use. Being frugal, the Trophy’s $18,999 price tag is far too high for me as well. I don’t need to trade in an existing motorcycle for a trophy bike to show off to friends and strangers.
It’s now four days since the bike went back. I’m not mourning the breakup, although I am nostalgic over some of the bike features, such as the large readout that lets the rider know what gear the bike is in as well as the SiriusXM radio, spotty though the service may be on back roads. Triumph is taking dead aim at BMW with the Trophy. Despite its rather generic styling, the Trophy is a worthy competitor. I do wish I could have taken KIA’s fembot for a ride.