Date reviewed: May 2022 | Tested by: Leah Tokelove | Price: from £310| www.triumphmotorcycles.co.uk
At 5ft 3ins, having never ridden a large capacity adventure bike, I might not be Triumph’s target customer for their new Tiger 1200. But one of their reasons for running the Triumph Adventure Experience (TAE), at the foot of the Brecon Beacons is to show how pretty-much anyone can enjoy them. So, when the opportunity arose to ride the all-new Triumph Tiger 1200 both on and off-road, under the watchful eye of the highly experienced and super chipper TAE team, I shuffled to the front of the BikeSocial queue.
There are five new cubs in the Tiger 1200 family, and I got to tame the Tiger 1200 Rally Pro for the day. This version has a 20-litre fuel tank (stick ‘Explorer’ on the end of the title and you get a 30l tank and a few more rugged-looking parts), with a 21” front and 18” rear tubeless spoked wheels, equipping the bike for an all-terrain adventure, as opposed to the more road focused Tiger GT models.
Weather forecasting in Wales is less about ‘whether’ it’ll rain, more like ‘how much?’ but none of the group were deterred. After an overview and walk around the new Tiger 1200 Rally Pro from the comfort of basecamp by Chief Instructor Matt Reed (former British and World Enduro, British Rally & Cross-country champion), it was time to suit up and head outside to look into the eye of the Tiger, which when you’re 160cm tall is an easy thing to do on such lanky bikes…
Did you spot Mr C. Boorman?
All motorcyclists can find their fit at the TAE with plenty of offerings including a one-day bike specific experience on either a Triumph Scrambler (900 or 1200) or Tiger (900 or 1200) - at either level one or two (beginner then intermediate). Or you could opt for a two-day course. Again, there are opportunities for everyone, with level one and two but the two-day course adds a level three option, aimed at advanced riders. TAE also offers one-to-one training, two-day gravel tours and, for those that don’t want to get wet in Wales, trips to Portugal.
Despite what my stature may imply, (5ft 3ins and 60kg on a less sausage roll filled day), I am an experienced off-road rider. I race a Yamaha WRF 250, so when the time came for us to be split into groups and Matt asked who else would be capable of riding in the advanced gang, with Charley Boorman, Jake Young (a proper enduro racer) and Rowan Sorrell (downhill mountain biker), my gal pals that were also there that day quickly threw me under the bus to finish that handsome line-up. After watching me attempt to mount the Tiger, it was decided I’d be better off with a lowered seat.
In between TAE headquarters and the off-road arena is a twenty-minute road ride that provides a great opportunity to get familiar with the bike if, like me, you’ve never ridden a large capacity adventure motorcycle. Even during that initial road ride, the bike impressed. Matt demonstrated the different riding modes and how to change them, how to turn on luxuries like heated grips and seat (which was a gift from above in the weather we were dealing with), and I quickly became more comfortable because the height and weight (the new Tiger 1200 is more than 25kg lighter than previous generations) seems to disappear once you get going, even at junctions for the vertically challenged.
The day really gets going at the arena when you flick into ‘Off Road Pro’ mode, which turns off ABS and traction control and delivers an off-road throttle map, exclusive to the Rally Pro and Rally Explorer models. We quickly got stuck into an array of drills covering technical turning, hill descents, ascents and recovery, braking with skid turns and whip turns for the more daring among the group. Pre-loading and lightening the front end, tackling obstacles too, before getting to put all your new skills to the test with some trail riding across the compound.
With three different levels on offer there’s something for every rider – from off-road newbie who’s never got a bike dirty in their life to experienced, seasoned green-laner. It gives an opportunity to put a large capacity adventure bike to the test, under the watchful eye of experienced instructors who know how to get the best out of you and the bike.
Also, probably the most important part - a well-prepared adventure bike in the 2022 Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally Pro is provided as part of the deal. Weighing in at 17kg lighter than the closest shaft drive competition, with a slimmer waist for a more comfortable ride - the Rally Pro makes it easier to take an adventure bike on an actual adventure. Matched with thoughtful tuition it’s impossible to leave feeling less confident than when you arrived. Unless you leave in an Ambulance.
TAE days would be especially beneficial to those on the fence about buying an adventure bike to learn about and understand their capabilities. The instructors know what these bikes can do in this environment and how the customer can push themselves.
So, you’ve made it to the arena, you flick your mode from ‘road’ to ‘off-road pro’ and before you know it, you’re getting the big bike moving underneath you. After splitting into two smaller groups based on ability, my group began with simple slalom drills and riding over small mounds of hard packed dirt for good measure. Even though I ride off-road a lot, it seemed alien at first putting this huge bike through these kind of paces. But the Tiger’s new chassis, advanced Showa semi-active suspension and Brembo Stylema brakes were soon letting me get the back wheel out (on purpose) under the watchful eye of Matt, to turn this enormous motorcycle effectively with the use of a skid turn.
Before we headed out on our first trail ride Matt expressed the importance of counter steering on the Tiger 1200. Like most experienced riders I think I know counter steering, but until my trip to the TAE I’m not sure I’ve done it effectively. To be able to move a big bike about on tight trails at low speed, you need to counter steer decisively. If not, you’ll find yourself permanently wedged somewhere inappropriate. After numerous attempts (and much encouragement) at counter steering around his tight little box area, something just clicked. And that something has now taken my own enduro riding to a whole new level. Being forced to do it to ride the Tiger enabled me to transfer the skills learnt to my own bike, to now make my WRF like riding a CRF110. Obviously, cracking counter steering didn’t come without its mild dramas, I stalled the bike at low speed resulting in me dropping it. Thankfully the Tiger 1200 crashes well with nothing broken and between Matt and I, we picked up all 249kg of the Rally Pro.
With my newfound steering skills, Matt led us into the depths of the forest, and all was going very well on the wide, loose dirt tracks - even the relentless rain was becoming tolerable. As confidence grew, we were led up tight single tracks, through the trees, over logs and up steep, slippery hills. The Tiger 1200 took every obstacle in its stride.
Now I would like to say some of it was the rider, but the Tiger made me so at ease I almost felt like a passenger. In all honesty, if I hadn’t been part of a group with all the unspoken peer pressure, I would have stopped at a lot of the obstacles and second guessed mine and the Tiger’s abilities. The new T-plane triple engine has oodles of power and torque but that doesn’t make it unrideable at low speed. The uneven firing order gives the Tiger low-down tractability and responsiveness. This little trail ride just before our mid-morning break had us tackling different parts of the forest, with constant feedback and advice from Matt and our other instructor, Gareth, on how we could make things a little easier for ourselves.
Following our warm-up break, we went to a different part of the arena and honed our skills over a slightly different circuit setup that included slow speed manoeuvres; riding up and over mounds and dropping in and clambering out of some quite narrow gullies. I especially enjoyed getting to ride the Tiger through the gullies because as already discussed, I got to put the bike through its paces while it got to show me what it could really do.
After lunch we were gifted a whole new day; the rain cleared up, the sun came out and I removed a very soggy layer of waterproof clothing. We got straight back to it and rode through the forest to make the most of the natural landscape, where Matt formed another circuit that focused on riding up and down tight, steep hills consecutively. The trick here was ensuring that counter balancing was used to manoeuvre once up or down a hill (space was tight on purpose) and the focus was on setting yourself up well at the bottom of the hill, to effortlessly drive up from the bottom where the ground is much better. This allows you to get good momentum to carry yourself up, as opposed to accelerating as you ride up the hill, where the surface can be a bit sketchier, hindering the bike’s ability to drive up smoothly. The semi-active suspension really comes to light when testing the Rally Pro’s off-road capability, it’s clear that plenty of thought has gone into how the Tiger 1200 can get the most from all-terrain riding.
Because mastering skid turns wasn’t enough, our group got taken back to the original arena to try a whip turn/skid power slide. This was like the skid turn but took it up a level - not only turning the bike with a skid but powering out of that skid and quickly being able to do another, the other way. That was a bit beyond me but the confident guys in my group were having a whale of a time. Throughout this tuition we had feedback on how to balance on the motorcycle, how to control it and the correct body position. If you’ve never done any off-roading it would be totally alien - as soon as you hit the dirt, you’re up and out of your seat. Thankfully, the Tiger’s seat is slim at the front where it meets the tank which enables even shorties to comfortably grip the motorcycle and actually get some feeling from it when stood up, naturally enhancing confidence at low speeds.
For the last part of the day the two groups came back together for a longer trail riding loop. Riding through gullies, up and down hills, over mounds, logs and through tight technical tracks- even some splash sections thrown in thanks to the weather. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted but smiling and surprised by the 1200’s capabilities. The Tiger 1200 further showcased its all-terrain capabilities, by feeling like an armchair on the trip back to base camp.
The last trick up the Tiger’s sleeve came at my dismount back at base camp. The only problems I’d had all day were getting on and off the thing, thanks to my short inner leg length. I somehow managed to take the bike with me as I tried to get off, and the domino effect took out Rowan and Gareth. My clutch lever got wedged under Rowan’s sump guard and we were briefly in a right pickle. I’d nearly made it the whole day without any major disasters.
There is a lot that can be taken from the Experience and applied to road riding. Even as someone that’s done a lot of off-road riding there is just something about muscling a 249kg bike around off-road that adds a layer of confidence.
Slow speed manoeuvres and counter balancing have significantly improved. Having to do it out of necessity on a big bike makes it so much easier when you come to do it on your own bike. I now feel confident knowing that should I need to do a U-turn properly or get through traffic I’m geared with the right knowledge to do so.
Also, for me, a big take away from the day was riding a big machine. It was my first experience of a large capacity adventure bike and it certainly set the bar high. Once on it and moving I thought the Tiger was responsive, easy to handle and clever - with so many different rider aids and technology to explore. Realistically, it wouldn’t be a bike for me. I like the idea of having a large capacity adventure bike for touring and a bit of off-road on fire tracks but for me it’s just not practical. If you are vertically challenged and a confident rider then yes, they’re a lot of fun but I’m not sure it would be a sensible decision as your only motorcycle.