When my favorite local Triumph dealer has a demo day, you don’t let a little bit of rain stop you.
by Mark DT
Last year I published a quick guide to manufacturers’ demo days. I am a full blown demo day junkie, and never miss a chance to attend one when work doesn’t get in the way. I’ve been able to attend demo days so far for Kawasaki, Honda, and BMW. Triumph despite being my personal favorite of all the motorcycle manufacturers, has been a brand that I’ve never been able to attend. Thankfully, they are one of the best for offering demo bikes throughout the season, and because of this I have had a chance to try several of their offerings.
Today though was different. I received an e-vite from Western Powersports in Langley, BC. I bought my current bike there last year, and have always been very impressed with this dealership. Their sales and service people are all top notch, so I was optimistic as to how they would organize the day.
We have had a nice run of beautiful sunny weather locally now for over a week. Murphy’s law played with the forecast today and when I sparked up my 1050 Tiger to ride to the dealership. I had all my wet weather gear on to deal with the 12’c and heavy rain. Thank goodness for heated grips.
One thing I liked was that this ride did not allow people to “pre-book” the bikes days in advance. First come, first served. With the heavy rain, none of the less committed riders were in attendance. This in my opinion wasn’t a bad thing. I live near Vancouver, the rainiest major city in Canada, if riding in the rain scares someone off, I feel bad at the fact they will lose many great riding opportunities like I had today. Everyone here today wanted to ride, and wasn’t going to let the weather get in the way.
The group leaders gave great briefings and set an excellent pace. North and east of this dealership are lots of interesting winding side roads, as well as the Trans Canada Highway. There were plenty of opportunities to experience the bikes in many different riding environments in just a 45 minute ride. The routes selected were excellent, and seemed to be appreciated by all the riders in attendance.
I took the opportunity to try out three very different bikes from Triumph. I chose one retro, one naked, and one adventure bike. The following opinions are mine, and keep in mind I am not a professional rider, I am an enthusiast who pays his bills by flying Boeing 767’s for Canada’s national airline. These are seat of the pants reviews based on 45 minute rides on real roads in some miserable local weather. If you want a track summary, buy an issue of Motorcyclist Magazine.
I first demonstrated the Triumph Thruxton. Those that have read my article on riding in Hawaii, know that I am a big fan of the Bonneville. I’ve always liked the looks of the Thruxton, and wanted to know if the ride matched its good looks.
2013 Triumph Thruxton
Damn, this is a good looking motorcycle. Certain bikes just look awesome, and this is one of those bikes.
The riding position is much more aggressive than the Bonneville. Bars are lower and forward, the pegs are behind you. This is a modern retro cafe racer and it looks and feels the part. I found the riding position surprisingly comfortable. There is no windscreen so once you are above 40 mph/80 km/h the ergonomics of this bike make perfect sense. I expected the bike to give me sore wrists, however, this was not the case. The riding position while aggressive wasn’t uncomfortable at all, and put you in a great position to attack the corners and deal with the wind once at speed.
One nice surprise was how much torque the motor had, I found the response more sporty than previous Bonnies that I’ve ridden. The motor was perfect for running around on the back roads, and on the highway. In fact it managed pretty well at keeping up to the sportier modern Triumph’s that were in the group ahead of me.
Brakes, and transmission were also excellent. The gauges are old school, and thankfully are mounted forward and above the bars as opposed to on the tank so riding with a full face helmet was no issue. The mirrors were also very good and offered a decent degree of adjustment. The paint was hard to admire when the rain was pouring down, but the factory green color did look really sharp.
Overall I really enjoyed this bike and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a modern retro cruiser that enjoys more aggressive riding and is willing to compromise the comfort of the standard Bonnie for a little more performance and in my opinion better style.
2013 Triumph Street Triple
After sitting out one group ride to get a coffee and warm up a little it was time to try a bike I’ve been extremely curious about. The 675cc Street Triple. This is Triumph’s smaller naked, and is their base model naked bike. There is also an R-Spec model that has upgraded suspension amongst other improvements. However, this “base” model was anything but as I soon discovered.
I love naked bikes. I like the looks, I like the riding position… for short trips around town or canyon carving give me one of these over a track purposed sport-bike any day. The Street Triple only re-enforced my good feelings, as this was my favorite bike of the day.
The first thing I noticed is how impossibly light and small this motorcycle feels. Coming off my already relatively light Tiger 1050SE that usually has full luggage on it, this felt like I was jumping on a kid’s toy. The gauges were excellent and included a gear indicator, as well as fuel level, tachometer, speed, and warnings for oil, abs, and fuel. The look is completely modern and it works well with excellent readability on the road.
There were two small negatives for me with this bike. The first negative for me with the bike were the mirrors. The adjustment was lateral only, and it was not possible to adjust the pitch up or down. I could see this being an issue for taller/shorter riders, however at 5’9” I made out just fine. Once on the road the mirrors didn’t vibrate at all. Depending on one’s height, riders may want to look at aftermarket mirrors if they’re bringing this bike into their own garage. The second negative was the first gear which I found a little tall. Just about every rider on our demo circuit including myself stalled this bike initially. I adjusted for it pretty quickly, but I would have preferred a slightly shorter first gear.
Now for the positives. First, and foremost is the motor. This is the first 675cc triple power plant I’ve ridden and I was blown away at what a fantastic motor it was. This bike is dangerous in that it begs to be wound up from any RPM. The sound, the torque, the smoothness, it is just plain addictive. This motor gives me the same rush that my own 1050cc Tiger does. It just does it in a much smaller, lighter more naked package. While extremely versatile, I would not consider this a “beginner bike”. The low weight and high horsepower of this Street Triple would make this a good bike for an advancing intermediate rider, but would be too much bike for a brand new rider.
The braking, and handling of the Street Triple were superb. I can only imagine what the R-spec does, as this bike is very easy to ride though the corners, even in the pouring rain. The ABS works flawlessly and is not intrusive whatsoever.
For riders looking for a simple, light, high performance motorcycle this one checks all the boxes. The lack of wind protection could limit your ability to tour but that isn’t what riders buy naked bikes for. The Street Triple is a viscerally pleasurable bike to experience. When my wife is ready for her next bike, this would be my first recommendation. It is light, nimble, fast and looks great.
2013 Triumph Tiger Explorer
Ironically, I took the bike with the best wind protection once the rain eased up. This was the last bike I demo’d and was one I was extremely curious to ride. It’s main competition is BMW’s GS 1200, which I have also ridden.
First impression is this is one big motorcycle. Lifting it off the stand, especially coming off the ultra light Street Triple, this bike feels very heavy. Everything I’ve read says that the bike will feel light once its rolling. Time to see if the big motorcycle mags are being truthful or helping dealers sell bikes.
The gauges were the best of all the bikes I tested that day. Easy to read, and every possible bit of information you could need was there without needing to lift your hands off the grips. One really nice touch was that the trip computer info was all accessible by pushing a button with you left thumb labelled (i). On my own Tiger the buttons aren’t on the handle bars, but on the dash. This is definitely an improvement.
The ergonomics of this motorcycle are very comfortable. I found it more relaxed than my own 1050 Tiger, and the Explorer has to have the nicest seat of any Triumph I’ve ridden.
Finally we were off in the group ride. At first I was put off a little thinking that this was a slower bike than the others despite its high 1200cc displacement. The fact was this bike was faster, it was just with the added weight, wind protection, and torque, you were almost blind to the speed that was building underneath you. The suspension never got much of a workout as we stayed on pavement, but I can say this bike absorbed bumps on the road with absolute finesse delivering one of the smoothest rides I’ve experienced, and definitely on par with with the big BMW.
My first few turns were a nervous affair for me compared to the other bikes based mostly on the additional weight, and the still wet roads. However, as I rode on, confidence built very quickly. The magazine scribes had got it right, the weight really does disappear once you get rolling. We took a quick trip down the Trans Canada Highway I was very impressed with the high speed manners. Exiting the highway and riding through town the big Explorer was easy to live with. Each corner brought me leaning the bike over more and more. I can only imagine how confident I would feel if I had the bike for over a week.
Now the big Explorer is being sold as an “Adventure” bike. I’ll be honest and say that I wouldn’t consider taking this motorcycle in the dirt. It is just too heavy and expensive for me to want to take up a remote mountain logging road. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on one and ride it on the highway to Calgary or Los Angeles. It’s powerful, comfortable, and very well made with tons of luggage space. I like to think of it like a Porsche SUV, rather than a Jeep. That is not a bad thing either as most adventure bikes rarely get pushed to their potential by their owners.
Summary, three very different Triumphs, three excellent motorcycles.
I think the happiest moment for me was the realization that I was still happiest with my own 2011 Tiger 1050SE, and wouldn’t be ready to trade in on something new. That said if I were to buy a second motorcycle, or replace my wife’s motorcycle which would I buy?
For my wife, or as a second ride for myself I would likely buy the Street Triple. It is pure two wheeled hooligan goodness. I can’t get over what a fun ride it was. In the end my immature nature gets the best of me. If I were to pick based on looks, the Thruxton would win hands down. Fortunately, the Thruxton’s performance matches its good looks so riders in the market for a stylish modern classic should really make an effort to ride one.
Finally the Explorer… If I had off road ambitions I would probably look at the Tiger 800XC closer as the 1200cc Explorer was too heavy for me personally. However, for a touring bike with off road ergonomics the Explorer was very nice. Lots of power, and all day comfortable. What’s not to like?