Review by Victor Wanchena
I was going way too fast as I headed up a local interstate on this month’s test ride, the 1999 Triumph Trophy 1200, well in excess of the posted speed limit. The lack of vibration and wind blast had lulled me into a daydream. That’s the beauty of a large sport-touring motorcycle, it eats up the miles in sporting fashion while you lounge about in relative comfort. I had picked up the Trophy only a little while ago and was already falling in love.
The large emerald green Trophy was mine for a while, on loan from the good folks at Trackstar Motorsports. The rounded bodywork, deep green paint, and abundance of power quickly led to me nicknaming it “The Green Hornet”. A ride worthy of a motorcycling super hero or at least someone who wants to be one.
The real strength of the Trophy is its speed and power. For your motivation on the Trophy you get two choices, a 1180cc in-line four cylinder or 885cc three cylinder. The four makes 107 horsepower and 77 foot pounds of torque, while the three has 97 and 61 respectively. The motors are identical in their construction. They share the same bore and stroke, the same compression ratio, and the list goes on. So for all intents and purposes the four cylinder motor was made by grafting an extra cylinder on the three. And what does that extra cylinder gain you? Well, it adds roughly 10 horsepower, 16 foot pounds of torque, 33 pounds to the total weight and about a grand to the price of the Trophy. Is that extra power worth the money? Well more power is all ways good isn’t it and the Trophy 1200 does pull stronger from low rpms, but the reduced weight of the 900 might make it a better choice for smaller riders. Otherwise the two Trophy models are identical in all respects.
Both motors are just plain smooth. All the way through the rev range the rider feels only minor vibration leaking up through the handle bars. Running at roughly 3800 rpm at an indicated 70 mph in top gear, I could not find vibration anywhere on the bike. I went so far as to feel around the fairing and motor while at highway speeds, but still could only find a gentle hum. Just enough to let you know you’re not riding an electric bike. Top speed for the Trophy is in excess of 140 mph, but I never had enough road to find out how much in excess.
All that power is fed through a six speed transmission and out to the rear wheel via a chain. The transmission shifts solidly, but requires long throws of the shift lever. The six speeds give the bike great flexibility when riding in the city and on the open road sixth gear keeps the motor spinning lazily along. This does bring me to my first criticism of the Trophy. On a machine so obviously intended for long distances a shaft drive instead of the chain would be nice. The chain adjustments were easy enough to perform roadside thanks to the eccentric adjusters on the rear wheel but with a shaft being nearly maintenance free it would still be a better choice. The slight loss of horsepower with a shaft would hardly be noticed. The good news is that rumors from the Triumph factory are that the Trophy may be shaft driven within a year or two.
The suspension and frame of the Trophy went rather unnoticed by me as they were hidden by the fairing and bags. The frame is stiff enough for heavier loads. The suspension is only adjustable for rebound dampening and spring preload on the rear mono-shock, and the owners manual advises that only your dealer perform the preload adjustment. Not good, if I ride solo to Mexico and buy three cases of Tequila to bring home, I don’t want to be looking for a Triumph dealer to crank-up my preload.
The Trophy is not a small bike. The large fairing and the standard equipment hard bags give it a very large feel while at rest. The seat height is 31 inches and the dry weight of the 1200 is 517 pounds. Pushing the Trophy around the garage is not difficult but does require a little muscle. Thanks to a fold out lifting handle it does roll easily onto its center stand. Triumph has done Trophy owners right by including a large set of hard saddle bags. One bag is big enough to hold my XXL full face helmet and still has room for a light jacket. A color matched top-case is also available from Triumph.
The Trophy isn’t like your father’s Triumph. The wide full coverage fairing cheats the wind, allowing only a little air along the bottom of your leg and across your head and shoulders. On even chilly autumn evenings I found that only standard riding gear was needed. There are also two handy glove boxes in that hold just about that much, a pair of gloves, sunglasses, and maybe a road map, but no more. Wind buffeting over the top of the windshield can be rather strong. If I raised my head high or ducked down the buffeting disappeared. If the Trophy was mine I’d be asking about a taller screen. As I rode along I found the gauges easy to read and the mirrors actually did their job. No fuzziness and only a slight view of my elbows. My only ergonomic complaints are that the bars are a little low and forward for my sit-up riding style and the seat is far two narrow and slopes forward, pushing you against the tank.
When it comes to being a road holder the Trophy is no slouch. On the straights it’s very stable especially at higher speeds. A stiff crosswind will cause the Trophy to drift somewhat. Part of the blend and appeal of sport-touring bikes is the fact that they handle nearly as well as pure sport bikes. I wouldn’t call the Trophy nimble but instead predictable and solid. High speeds and tight corners are needed to make any parts scrape. I did things on the Trophy I would never dream of on a Goldwing.
The Trophy is not the flagship of the Triumph line, but instead a workhorse with more function than flash. A well rounded machine, just as good for transcontinental dashes as it is for more mundane chores like traveling to and from work. In its class the Trophy faces tough competition from the likes of the Honda ST 1100 or the Kawasaki Concours and is about mid pack for price and features.