Triumph’s latest Tiger 1200 has seen the British manufacturer’s flagship adventurer transform from what was admittedly a rather hefty elephant into a toothy tiger ready to take a bite out of the competition.
Some claim mid-capacity bikes like Triumph’s own Tiger 900 Rally Pro are largely making the large-capacity adventure market irrelevant, but I think the Tiger 1200 Rally Pro makes a good argument that the class is far from it.
To call the 2023 Triumph Tiger an update on the Tiger theme would be underplaying just how much work Triumph has done to bring their flagship adventurer into the pointy end of the pack.
While the earlier Tiger 1200 models gave the English manufacturer a foothold in large-capacity adventure touring game, even Triumph is happy to admit these earlier bikes left some room for improvement.
With a thorough revision from the ground up, the new Tiger 1200 not only throws down a very competitive 110.4kW from its triple-cylinder engine but Triumph's near full redesign has seen the model dropping more than 25kg in weight. That weight loss in particular has seen the Tiger go from a rather imposing heavyweight machine to a lithe contender in the flagship adventure class.
Weight is the natural enemy of the adventure bike and Triumph has aimed the new Tiger at attracting more adventurous riders to the Triumph brand. With the Rally models in particular, the new Tiger makes an excellent case for those riders unsure of where to spend their hard-earned dollars splitting the difference between the world traversing BMW R 1250 GS and the off-road monsters in the KTM 1290 Adventure range.
Also splitting the difference between its two biggest competitors is the Tiger’s final drive, which like its predecessor is of the shaft variety, but this too has seen a thorough redesign. The result is the bike doesn’t suffer so much from the negatives associated with traditional shaft drives, though I’d be lying if I told you I could tell the difference.
The new Tiger 1200 range comes in four forms, the alloy wheel-equipped Tiger 1200 GT Pro and GT Explorer, and the 1200 Rally Pro and Rally Explorer equipped to explore rougher roads. The Explorer models gain extra touring range with huge 30-litre fuel tanks while the Pro models utilise 20-litre tanks.
The model we picked up for testing was the Rally Pro model in the classy Snowdonia White. That means it has a larger 21-inch front wheel in the laced style along with a taller electronic Kayaba suspension. Since I rode the Tiger 1200 Rally Pro, Triumph has added even more appeal through a firmware update which enables the suspension to electronically lower the bike up to 20mm.
Following the success of the Tiger 900 range which introduced the world to Triumph’s T-plane crank for its triple-cylinder adventure machines, the Tiger 1200 also receives this feature. It’s taken the engine note from a swift whistle into a toothy growl.
One of my favourite updates Triumph has pulled off with the new 1200 is its radiator positioning. On the older bikes, the radiator was placed in the traditional position directly behind the front wheel. Off-road this is naturally a vulnerable position, especially to stones and debris flung up from the front wheel. Triumph’s solution is to take the radiator and split it before placing it up under the fairings, which is also protected by the optional upper crash bars.
As with all Triumph’s premium machines, the Tiger 1200 range features a comprehensive electronics kit controlled through a very clear TFT display. Navigating the menus for adjusting everything from the rider modes to suspension settings, through to phone connectivity is very intuitive, and the heated grips were very welcome as I traversed the central plateau on the hunt for a photoshoot location.
Triumph really has transformed the Tiger 1200. From its durable design and added protection that actually works (as I found out to my embarrassment) to its brilliantly agile chassis, the big Tiger has come a long way from the first-generation Tiger Explorer.
Whether it is the King of the large ADV segment is likely to fall within personal preferences, but it is undoubtedly a strong contender for the title no matter what perspective you come from.
AT A GLANCE | Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally Pro
Price: from $37,990
Engine: 1160cc 3-cylinder 12-valve DOHC
Power: 110.4kW @ 9,000rpm / 130Nm @ 7,000rpm
Pros: Lighter, more durable design, growly triple-cylinder engine
Cons: The Tiger 900 Rally Pro is $12,000 cheaper