HARTBEESPOORT – Yes, Triumph is back. Fans of the iconic British motorcycle brand have reason to rejoice after a period of uncertainty following the change of distributorship earlier this year. Previously imported by Kawasaki Motorcycles South Africa, the products will now be handled by Triumph South Africa, a joint venture between automotive industry veteran Bruce Allen and the Fury Motor Group.

New-look dedicated dealerships

According to Allen, it is time for Triumph to stand alone locally and be the brand it can be with dedicated, upmarket dealerships taking care of clients’ needs. The first two dealerships, styled according to the international “World Black” look, will open in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with a third location planned for Cape Town. A temporary dealership in Johannesburg has already started selling bikes.

For the ride

What better way to show intent than to gather a large group of journalists, with the entire range of Triumph motorcycles on hand to experience? The company has decided to offer a line-up of 17 motorcycles locally in its Adventure, Modern Classic and Roadster ranges, including the following six new or extensively updated 2018 models:

  • Tiger 800
  • Tiger 1200
  • Bonneville Bobber Black
  • Bonneville Speedmaster
  • Speed Triple
  • Street Triple

So, how do they go?

Riding a large selection of the Triumph range in quick succession, it was clearly evident that there is a motorcycle for virtually every biking need. The limited time aboard each machine did not allow for a detailed review, but left the following quick impressions:

Tiger 1200 XCa (R248 000)

Triumph Tiger 1200

The large-capacity adventure market is booming and it's clear that Triumph is targeting the segment leader: the BMW 1200 GS (it also has shaft drive). Getting on the bike, it is clearly a large, heavy machine (248 kg) and the focus is on comfort. The digital TFT screen is easy to read and different riding modes cater for pretty much any road scenario. The 1 200 cm3 triple (104 kW) is buttery smooth from low engine speeds with an angry rasp when revved. It will suit the rider needing an adventure machine to cover long distances in comfort given the pliant suspension set-up. It does not feel as torquey at low engine speeds as the boxer twin of the BMW and not as peaky as the KTM 1290 at higher engine speeds, thus providing a good middle ground. It has all the modern toys, including heated seats and grips, cruise control, electric adjustable screen and keyless start, to name but a few.

Tiger 800 XCa (R199 000)

Triumph Tiger 800

By all accounts, this is the jewel of the adventure range. Jumping from the 1200, the machine feels narrow and light with the suspension soaking up everything the short off-road section could throw at it. Adventure Pro riding mode allows slides and the experienced rider can test the bike's limits. The lively three-cylinder engine (70 kW) sound is more superbike than adventure machine, and it loves to be revved. It responds beautifully to inputs and puts a smile on the rider’s face. Sometimes it's difficult to quantify what makes a motorcycle special as it is often a combination of both objective and subjective factors, which is the case with the Tiger 800. If you're in the market for a mid-range adventure bike, then the 800 should be at the very top of your shortlist. Unfortunately, my time on the machine was soon up, with the Street Scramble idling next to the road…

Street Scrambler (R153 000)

Triumph Street Scrambler

What a stunning machine to look at, in true retro scrambler style, especially the twin, high-rise exhaust pipes on the right-hand side. Unfortunately, it was grouped with the above adventure machines and hated the bumpy stretch of dirt road we were riding at the time. The suspension travel is too short and the bike easily loses composure. This was not the case on smoother dirt roads, where it is capable enough. Getting back on the tar it was much happier as this bike is probably more of a “poser” than a pukka off-road bike. It will cruise at the national limit as it is powered by a 900 cm3 parallel twin engine, but it is not intended for higher speeds. Therefore, buy it for the looks but know its limitations.

Speed Triple (R210 000)

Triumph Speed Triple

The next group of bikes sampled included the road motorcycles and I started on the sportiest bike: the 1050 Speed Triple. Even just starting the bike and listening to the note from the Arrow pipes is enough to know it means business. The seating position is more upright than that of a superbike, but the foot pegs are still high for decent ground clearance. The roads did not allow us to test its dynamic ability, but it felt nimble and eager to change direction. The highlight is that motor with its instant response and enough drive to get you in trouble quickly. Yes, it is the hooligan of the bunch, especially when you turn off the electronic nannies…

Truxton 1200 R (R183 000)

Triumph Truxton 1200 R

There is good reason this motorcycle won the South African bike of the year award a couple of years ago. It blends classic café racer looks with modern performance. In R spec (the only model offered locally), it is equipped with Brembo monobloc callipers, Showa big piston forks, Öhlins rear suspension and Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa Tyres. The parallel twin engine of 1 200 cm3 has a 270-degree crank resulting in a V-twin-like character. With 72 kW on tap, it has the go to match its show. Do not expect to harass the litre-superbike brigade, but their coffee won’t be ordered yet when you arrive at the stop. It’s a lovely torquey bike to ride without being intimidating.

Tiger Sport (R164 000)

Triumph Tiger Sport

This must be the bargain of the range, if you're looking at pure value for money. It has the riding position of an adventure bike but has been developed predominantly for road use. This is a very comfortable bike to ride long distances because of the seating position and weather protection. The 1050 engine is tuned for torque and makes for a relaxing riding experience, without the need to search for the rev limiter to accelerate.

Bonneville T100 and T120 (R141 000 and (R157 000)

Triumph Bonneville T100

If you talk about Triumph heritage then the Bonneville is as good as it gets. The modern interpretation comes in T100 (900 cm3 twin) and T120 (1200 cm3 twin with 59 kW) specification. Both are wonderful machines to ride in classic retro style, with the rider sitting on top of the bike on the lengthy seat. Steering is light and the bike feels nimble. Obviously, the T120 has more torque, but even the T100 has plenty of go when needed, surging on waves of twist rather than outright power. The Bonneville is my pick from the classic range (if the Truxton appears too modern for your liking) in terms of looks and rider enjoyment.

The Speedmaster (R175 500) is much the same in character although the riding position is more traditional cruiser with sweptback bars completing the look.

Bonneville Bobber (R166 000)

Triumph Bonneville Bobber

This bike easily won the prize for the most attention thanks to its styling. This is a cruiser done by the British and differs from the Americans by the fact that it feels lighter and more nimble.  The Bobber also comes comes with a 1 200 cm3 parallel twin engine (and not a V-twin), chain-drive rather than the expected belt, and the brakes are better than most in the cruiser segment. One reservation I have is that the shock travel, especially at the rear, is short, resulting in a bumpy ride over broken surfaces. The single seat looks good but does not allow the rider to move around. Do not expect to cover long distances with the bike in comfort; rather cruise the scenic spots where it can attract all the attention it deserves.

Author: Nicol Louw