The ‘big’ adventure bike market has got some seriously strong contenders in it, and they’re only getting stronger. Last year we got a new Ducati Multistrada and KTM 1290 Super Adventure, the year before that a new Honda Africa Twin, and the year before that a new BMW GS. But 2022 is the year of the Tiger. The all new Tiger 1200 boasts a brand new engine, chassis, ergonomics, electronics and tech. It’s got more power, less weight, it can do more and go further, but is it the BMW GS beater that Triumph are telling us it is? I went to Portugal to find out…
Despite the new Tiger 1200 having adjustable foot pegs, adjustable handlebars and an adjustable seat, I decided that for my first sortie on the new machine, I’d leave everything be. And I’m glad I did, because as it happens, the first Triumph Tiger 1200 I jumped on fitted me quite nicely.
It was a Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer; that’s the top of the range GT version, with a 30 litre fuel tank. You can also opt for the cheaper GT Pro, with it’s 20 litre fuel tank, or the cheaper still base model GT, which doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.
Then of course there are the Rally models, but we’ll get to those in a moment.
I settled into the riding position on the GT Explorer double quick; it’s a comfortable bike. It’s got to be though, because there aren’t any adventure bikes that are uncomfortable, these days.
One thing I quite quickly discovered it had going for it, even before we got out into the more exciting roads, was the bike’s weight. Or lack of it. I’ll accept that at 240kg, you can hardly call the Tiger 1200 a lightweight, but for a 1200cc adventure bike, that’s pretty good. In fact, it’s 25kg lighter than the outgoing Tiger 1200. And you can tell. The fact is, that the 1200 doesn’t really feel like a 1200 (in actual fact, it’s not, it’s only 1,160cc, they’ve just rounded it up). On the road, it felt a lot lighter on its feet than I was expecting it to, and that, combined with the fact that the new chassis is considerably narrower, could easily kid you into thinking you were on a smaller bike, say a Tiger 900, for example.
But to lose 25kg in one fell swoop is no mean feat. So where have they taken it from? Well the answer is everywhere. Some small bits, some big bits. The frame is 5.4kg lighter for a start and the engine’s a bit lighter too. They’ve also saved a bit of weight by binning off some ‘unnecessary’ equipment like the electrically adjustable windscreen; the windscreen is still adjustable, but you’ve got to do it by hand now, which is actually dead easy and actually quicker than doing it electrically on the old bike.
If I enjoyed the Tigers lightweight tekkers in town, that was nothing compared to how much I enjoyed them when the roads got twisty. Adventure bikes aren’t designed to go scratching on, but the Tiger 1200 is one that will oblige, if that’s what you fancy doing. The Brembo brakes (with Stylema callipers) are as sharp as you’d expect them to be, you can corner almost as fast as you’re likely to want to, and there is plenty of mid-range drive to fire you out of the bends.
One quick thing to note about cornering though, is that the footpegs did start to scrape when I got carried away and started going faster. And I can only imagine that would be worse if you are two-up, loaded up with camping gear.
One thing to mitigate that though, is the Showa electronic suspension. Unlike some other suspension systems, the Showa kit electronically adjusts the preload as well as the damping. That means that if you are two-up, or you’re a bit of a bloater, like me, the bike will wind a bit of preload on to try and keep you supported.
The electronic suspension adjustment was something that I decided to have a bit of a play with. You can decide whether you want the suspension to be sporty or comfortable, on a sliding scale. At first, the GT Explorer I was riding was set right in the middle, so I banged it all the way up to the sportiest setting it had. The difference was quite noticeable. It was more difficult to scrape the pegs on the floor, for starters. In the stiffer, sportier settings, everything seemed a lot better supported, from braking, to cornering and accelerating. For a big adventure bike, I was genuinely impressed with how the bike handled on tarmac.
And the engine wasn’t bad either. The new motor, with its T-plane crank (giving it an uneven firing order) makes 148bhp and 130Nm of torque (that’s 9bhp and 8Nm more than the last one). Whilst the new engine didn’t have the grunt of a GS 1250 or the top end of the Multistrada V4 S, I thought it was quite a nice compromise. You’ll have to accept that you’re not going to win any drag races on the Tiger 1200 (against its contemporary adventure bikes), but what is has got going for it is usability. It’s a mega sweet engine, that’s got a really wide spread of smooth power. Sometimes compromise is good, and I think the Tiger 1200’s triple engine is an example of exactly that.
For the most part, I was dead happy with all the Tiger’s electronics. The radar enabled blind spot detection worked a treat, even if it did take a little while to get used to. What happens is this; when someone, or something enters your blind spot, a small light is illuminated just beneath the wing mirror on the corresponding side. I asked the man from Triumph why they stopped short of going all in and putting front facing radar and adaptive cruise control on the bike (it’s already got standard cruise control), and they said after beating round the bush a little bit, that it was about keeping the cost down. Fair enough.
I struggled a bit with the menu systems on the dashboard. Whenever I wanted to try adjusting something, or have a faff with the bikes settings, I found myself having to have two or three goes at it. It’s certainly not as user friendly as I would have liked. But I always got there in the end.
On day two of the Tiger 1200 launch, I rode, almost exclusively, a Rally Pro. The Rally Pro and the Rally Explorer are the more off-road biased bikes (the explorer, remember, has the 30 litre fuel tank). They’ve got an extra 20mm travel in the suspension (front and rear), some extra off-road electronic settings and wire-spoke wheels, the front of which is a 21-incher (as opposed to the 19-incher on the GT models).
Our ride was mostly off-road, with a few dusty tarmac and gravel roads thrown in for good measure, so I set the Rally Pro to its Off-Road Pro mode and let rip.
The good thing about Off-Road Pro mode is that it turns the traction control, anti-wheelie and ABS systems off, so you can do big burnouts, wheelies and skids. So, childishly, that’s exactly what I did.
Once I’d got that all out of my system, I spent the rest of the day getting to grips with what the Tiger 1200 was like off-road. And I’ve got to say, I was pretty impressed with that too. As per the road ride, it didn’t feel anywhere near as big as it ought to have done, and that only gave me more confidence to attack more and more stuff, off-road.
The Tiger felt as composed splashing through muddy puddles at 5mph as it did power-sliding along the firebreaks at 50mph and if the truth’s known, as is so often the case when I ride off road, I started getting a bit carried away; I had to have a bit of a word with myself before it ended in tears.
The fact of the matter is this though, we did a full day of trail riding and there was nothing that really challenged the Tiger 1200’s capabilities off-road. As good as that was, it would have been nice to find the bikes limits. Although I suppose we might have ended up halving Triumph’s press fleet, if we were allowed to.
Triumph have built a really good bike in the 2022 Tiger 1200. It’s as capable off-road as any Triumph Tiger has ever been, and it’s even more capable on the road. In fact I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best adventure bikes out there. As for whether it is the best though, it’s probably too close to call.
But I’m as desperate as anyone to find out whether it’s a GS/Multistrada beater, so I think we’d better organise a 44Teeth adventure bike group test. Watch this space.