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ADV Bikes2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa First Ride Review

2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa First Ride Review

Triumph's flagship ADV gets lighter, faster, smarter and more comfortable.

Published on 12.04.2017

The Brits are famous for their sophistication, charm and proclivity for adventure. Those same traits are also evident in the Triumph Tiger line of Adventure Bikes. And here we were, a room full of Moto Journalists, with British Triumph Execs proudly touting their new flagship Adventure Bike during the Tiger 1200 Press Introduction. Their passion for motorcycles was undeniable, but even more apparent, a sense of national pride in being a part of Triumph’s legendary heritage.

The Triumph Tiger history can be traced back to 1936 when Tiger 70s, 80s and 90s dominated International Six Days off-road competitions. The Tiger’s Adventure Motorcycling roots began in 1973 when famed explorer Ted Simon set off to travel the world on a Tiger 100 and sparked a movement. And Triumph’s first modern Adventure Bike — the 1993 Tiger 900 — helped define today’s segment with its innovative design.


While there are no shortage of retro-styled motorcycles in Triumph’s line up that celebrate the company’s rich history, the new Tiger 1200 is modern in every way. With a major revamp for 2018 that touched everything from styling, electronics, powertrain, chassis, ergonomics and more, the new model is on the cutting edge of technology for the Adventure Class.

Triumph Tiger 1200 XC and XR
The Triumph Tiger 1200 comes in two different ranges. The XR range is street focused with cast wheels, while the XC range is optimized for dirt work with wire-spoke wheels and off road protection.

Here’s What’s New

Changes to the 2017 Tiger Explorer 1200 line start with an official name change. The ‘Explorer’ moniker has been dropped and it is now simply the ‘Tiger 1200.’ The bike has also undergone a significant weight loss program, dropping up to 22 pounds compared to the previous year’s model, with much of the weight coming off the engine’s crank and flywheel to help the powerplant spin up faster for more immediate power delivery. They’ve also found ways to trim weight by utilizing a magnesium cam cover, a lighter silencer, smaller battery and several other lighter-weight components.

The engine is now even smoother thanks to refined engine mappings that provide better throttle response for the 139 horsepower 1,215cc triple engine. Peak horsepower remains roughly the same but the motor benefits from a faster revving, more-lively feel caused by reduced inertial forces. The Ride-By-Wire throttle system also adds a new rider mode for XC models (off-road wire-spoke wheel models). Now with ‘Off-Road Pro’ mode, advanced riders on knobby tires can push the bike to it’s full potential. Off-Road Pro effectively turns off Traction Control and ABS (both front and rear), while stiffening damping and adjusting preload for a more-aggressive stance.

Triumph Tiger 1200 Review Adventure Bike

Triumph Tiger 1200 Review Adventure Bike
Source: Triumph Motorcycles

Another performance enhancement (or convenience) available on the higher-spec XCa and XRt models is the new ‘Shift Assist’ system that lets you downshift or upshift without the need to pull in the clutch. Shift Assist automatically blips the throttle on downshifts and cuts the ignition momentarily on upshifts to facilitate fast, seamless gear changes during high-performance riding. Off-Road riders will also appreciate effortless clutchless shifts in technical terrain when trying to maintain a secure grip on the bars.

Comfort has also been enhanced significantly on the new Tiger 1200. Seating has been improved with a new foam compound, while a new handlebar bend reduces the riders stretch to the bars. An all-new 5″ Color TFT display provides an easy-to-use interface. High and Low Contrast settings provide optimal visibility in all light conditions and the display is highly configurable with multiple style themes to choose from. Cruise control refinements, a keyless ignition and new illuminated handlebar switches provide additional enhancements to rider comfort and convenience.

Triumph Tiger 1200 TFT Display Review Adventure Bike
The 5″ Color TFT Display offers multiple ‘themes’ that allow you to customize the layout of information linked to riding modes.
Triumph Tiger 1200 Review Adventure Bike
A bank of LED lights sequentially illuminate according to the bike’s lean angle to light up the rider’s path into the corner.

Styling has been improved with distinctive LED lighting all around. Enclosed in the headlight housing is a set of Daytime Running Lights and Adaptive Cornering Lights. As the motorcycle leans over into the turn, a bank of cornering lights sequentially illuminate to shine additional light on the patch of road you are turning into. New LED Auxiliary Lights included on the XCa and XRt models are also 150% brighter than the previous version. LED turn indicators will also be made available on US models.

Tiger 1200 Core Technology

The old Tiger Explorer was already an advanced machine and many of the technologies were carried over from the previous year’s model. These include Triumph Semi Active Suspension (TSAS) that automatically adjusts damping and preload on-the-fly based on the current rider mode and input from the terrain. Integrated brakes apply a proportional amount of rear braking force when the front brake lever is squeezed. Both ABS and Traction control are lean angle sensitive to ensure the proper amount of brake and power modulation is applied depending on the tire’s contact patch.

Triumph Tiger 1200 Review Adventure Bike

Triumph Tiger 1200 Adventure Motorcycle Review First Ride
IMU sensor measures the motorcycle’s status (pitch, yaw, roll, vertical, lateral and longitudinal acceleration) to calculate lean angle and ensure greater stability.

When coming to a halt carrying heavy loads or a passenger on a steep incline, Hill Hold Control (HHC) keeps the bike from rolling backwards, automatically applying the rear brake until the rider begins moving forward. A Ride-By-Wire throttle system enables up to six different ride modes (Rain, Road, Off Road, Sport, Off Road Pro and Rider). Each ride mode has its own pre-selected setting for ABS, TC, throttle maps and suspension settings. Each individual ride mode can be customized further with an option to reset everything back to factory settings.

Heated front and rear seats along with an electronically-adjustable windscreen (tall touring screen standard on the XCa and XRt models) provide long-range comfort, while a USB socket and two 12V powerlet sockets (rider and passenger) provide convenient charging power for heated gear and other electronic equipment.

First Impressions

Triumph 2018 Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Bike

There was no quibbling about the location Triumph picked for the Tiger 1200 launch — the Andalusian Coast of Southern Spain. Few places in Western Europe still enjoy dry weather in late November but more importantly, the countryside has a wealth of uncongested mountain roads and rugged off-road trails that cut through a desert landscape dotted with quaint villages and medieval castles.

I was eager to try out the XCa — the model that comes standard with wire-spoke wheels, off-road protection and all the gadgets. Sitting on the bike for the first time, it both looks and feels smaller than its spec sheet might suggest. I immediately liked the way the tank felt; it’s narrow between the knees and offers plenty of room for longer-legged riders. The length of the fuel tank front-to-back is also fairly short, which allows for a more forward seated position. Additionally, the new handlebars are comfortably placed, putting you naturally upright without stretching you over the tank.

Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Bike
Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Bike
Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Bike

Fit and finish of the bike are top notch with well thought out handlebar switches and premium touches like the billet pegs, WP suspension, a large touring windscreen and Brembo brakes. The new TFT screen is eye catching with it’s color display while offering intuitive navigation of a wide range of options. Switching through different ride modes also changes the theme and layout of the tachometer and speedometer, giving you a stronger visual queue of the ride mode currently selected. The bike is also nicely appointed for off-road use with durable hand guards, a set of beefy engine guards and adequate skid plate protection.

Asphalt Performance

Triumph Tiger 1200 Twisty Roads Adventure Bike

We began the day with a highway cruise along the Mediterranean coast, which provided the perfect opportunity to test the bike’s touring capabilities. The electronically-adjustable windscreen, conveniently controlled with a thumb joystick, offered excellent wind protection and the updated saddle remained comfortable throughout the journey. The heated grips and seat were appreciated in the cooler temperatures and the cruise control worked flawlessly. Only a small tingle in the bars could be felt at highway speeds, and the ergos felt just right for long-haul miles.

Once at the base of the mountain, we were greeted by a beautiful set of s-turns that took us all the way up to the snow line. Asphalt was smooth and clean of debris with everything from long sweeping turns to tight hairpins. Being a Monday, there were few other vehicles on the road and the pace picked up quickly as we followed lead rider, and Isle of Man racer, Garrett Johnson up the hill.

Triumph Tiger 1200 Review Adventure Bike touring

With the Tiger in Sport Mode, the suspension damping stiffens up and sag is adjusted front and rear to provide optimal stability for aggressive riding. The TSAS is always calculating and adjusting the suspension based on the current load and road conditions as well. Sport mode also gives a more aggressive throttle response and reduces traction control intervention to allow a small amount of rear tire spin. With the Metzeler Tourance NEXT tires heated up, it was hard to upset the chassis in Sport Mode. Only with traction control ‘Off’ could I initiate a rear-wheel slide, yet the tractable power of the Tiger always felt under control.

The Tiger gets excellent grip under acceleration partially because its triple engine has a softer hit down low than the torquey big-bore twins common in the class. Another reason is a perfectly-tuned fuel map that allows it to smoothly accelerate under load. Although, there is no shortage of low-end torque on tap. You can put it in 4th gear at 15 mph, crack the throttle wide open, and it will pull away smoothly without a bog. The motor loves to rev too. So you can leave it in 3rd gear most of the time and it rarely requires a shift.

Getting the bike leaned over in a turn is easier than you might expect for a 547-pound dry weight adventure bike, and the Tiger allows you to make lean angle adjustments mid-turn without a fuss. On a few occasions, I got into a turn hotter than I anticipated but the forgiving Tiger 1200 gave me that extra lean angle I needed to tighten my turn with room to spare. Shift assist was entertaining to play with on the mountain road, providing fast clutchless up and down shifts. And if you accidentally downshift too high in the revs, Torque Assist ensures the rear wheel doesn’t start skipping across the pavement. The Brembo brakes also didn’t disappoint, requiring just one finger and a gentle pull to bring the bike to a halt.

Off-Road Performance

Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Bike

Our Day Two consisted of all dirt and the Tiger 1200 XCa got fitted with a set of optional Pirelli Scorpion Dual Sport knobby tires to better handle the soft sandy trails of Southern Spain. We were led by Dakar Rally Racer Nick Plumb and Charley Boorman of ‘Long Way Round’ fame who also raced the Dakar Rally in 2006. Getting familiar with the bike was easy on the Southern California-like terrain and while I was concerned about the new bars being too far back for stand up riding, they felt surprisingly good. Bar height also felt about right even with my 34″ inseam, although I would have liked to roll them forward a tad. A shorter tank with a forward seated position also gave the bike a balanced feel sitting down in turns.

The Scorpion Rally tires offered excellent grip in the soft terrain and the bike maintained good traction accelerating out of turns even with Traction Control off. With the Tiger’s tractable power, you have to grab a handful of throttle to get the tail kicked out. The power delivery is so controllable that both off-road modes maintain full power in the dirt (only rain mode has a small power reduction).

Triumph 2018 Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Motorcycle
A narrow tank allows riders to get in a more natural stand up riding position and makes it easier to grip the tank with your knees.

After previously testing the 2015 Tiger Explorer 1200 (before the move to WP Suspension), I was left unimpressed with its off-road capability. The new Tiger feels nimble for a big-bore Adventure Bike and its tight turning radius lets you turn around on a dime. The suspension is also much more lively and agile on the trail. Soon I was feeling comfortable leaning it deep into turns while getting both tires sliding. And whenever the bike got a bit unsettled, the forgiving chassis made it easy to quickly regain composure.

While the terrain we rode wasn’t technical, there were several opportunities to get both wheels off the ground and push the suspension in a few rocky washes. With the bike in Off-Road Pro mode the suspension is stiffened, giving the bike extra stability to hold a clean line through choppy terrain and to resist bottoming. The Tiger likes to be ridden fast and goes where you point it, but if you slow down you will notice more the heft of the bike. The soft throttle hit and the weight also make it a challenge to lift the front wheel over obstacles. Clearly it’s no KTM 1090R or Africa Twin, but it can hold its own off-road with any of the other 19″ front wheel Adventure Bikes in the category.

The Bottom Line

Triumph 2018 Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Motorcycle

Triumph has been refining the Tiger 1200 platform since it was first introduced in 2011. This year’s updated version marks a major improvement that should not be disregarded. The significant weight loss offers improved agility on both the street and dirt, giving the Tiger 1200 a performance edge the previous model lacked. At the same time, the bike comes fully-loaded with all the luxury accouterments and a cozy seat to make it a comfortable long-distance touring mount. Although with only a 5.3 gallon fuel capacity, its range is somewhat limited. Even so, the smallish fuel tank helps give the bike a more nimble feel that pays big dividends for performance riding.

What sets the Tiger 1200 apart is its triple engine that offers smooth, tractable power and an ear-pleasing howl from its Titanium Arrow exhaust. It doesn’t have the low-end punch of a big-bore twin, but it is easier to control the power and a forgiving chassis allows riders to push their limits safely. While versatility is the Tiger’s greatest strength, its performance envelope will still keep advanced riders entertained on both the street and dirt.

Triumph 2018 Tiger 1200 XCa Offroad Adventure Motorcycle

All the new equipment and performance updates do come at a cost. MSRP for the 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa increases from $20,700 to $21,750. Considering all the upgrades, it seems like a reasonable increase and still puts the Tiger competitively priced with other offerings in the Luxury Adventure Touring Segment. Look for the new Tiger 1200 to start arriving on US showroom floors around mid-February 2018.

2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa Specs

Engine Type: Liquid-cooled 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
Displacement: 1215cc
Bore & Stroke: 85 x 71.4mm
Max. Power Output: 139 HP @ 9,350rpm
Max. Torque: 90 ft-lbs @ 7,600rpm
Compression: 11.0:1
Fuel System: Ride by Wire, fuel injection
Exhaust: Stainless steel 3 into 1 header system, stainless steel silencer
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate hydraulically operated, torque assist
Gearbox: 6 speed
Final Drive: Shaft drive
Frame Type: Tubular steel trellis
Suspension (front): WP 48mm upside down forks, rebouand and compression manual damping adjustment
Suspension Travel (front): 7.48 in.
Suspension (rear): Cast aluminium swing arm with shaft drive, WP mono-shock, rebound damping and hydraulic preload adjustment
Suspension Travel (rear): 7.59 in.
Brakes Front: Twin 305mm floating discs radially mounted monoblock Brembo 4-piston calipers, Switchable ABS
Brakes Rear: Single 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper, Switchable ABS
Tires Front: 120/70-19
Tires Rear: 170/60-17
Wheels Front: Wire spoke 19 x 3.0 in.
Wheels Rear: Wire spoke 17 x 4.5 in.
Seat Height (STD/Low): 32.9/33.7 in.
Height (without mirrors): 57.8 in.
Rake: 23.2º
Trail: 3.93 in.
Length: 87.2 in.
Wheelbase: 87.8 in.
Dry Weight: 547 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 US Gallons
Fuel consumption: 40.6 mpg
Color Options: Crystal White, Marine
MSRP Pricing USD: $21,750


• Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2
• Jacket: Rukka Rough Road
• Pants: Rukka Rough Road
• Gloves: Racer Guide Glove
• Boots: REV’IT! Discovery Outdry
• Bluetooth Headset: Sena 10c

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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December 4, 2017 2:27 pm

“Ride by Throttle”? I think that means Wire by Wire, yes?

December 4, 2017 2:37 pm
Reply to  Bob

Ugh, sorry. “Ride by Wire”.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 4, 2017 3:46 pm
Reply to  Bob

Correct. Ride-By-Wire Throttle. Thanks for the catch.

December 4, 2017 2:29 pm

Did the tingle in the bars at highway speeds, translate to tingle in the wrists / hands? A particular “Roundel” model cycle took a hit over that issue, and I don’t think they have solved it yet.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 4, 2017 3:52 pm
Reply to  Bob

Hi Bob. No tingle in the wrists. The bike had just a small amount of vibration in the bars. I would need several hours of highway riding to be sure there were no ill effects though. But I did get the impression it was a pretty smooth highway bike and would be good for eating up the miles.

December 4, 2017 2:35 pm

I find it curious that Triumph would disable the ABS both front and rear, for off-road. Especially an IMU based system. The rider pays thousands for the equipment, and Triumph pays (likely) thousands of hours of Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) costs to develop it, only to have it disabled off-road. It’s too bad in the long run, I think. You don’t mention if the system remembers the user’s settings when the cycle is switched off? I sure hope it does.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 4, 2017 4:01 pm
Reply to  Bob

The Off-Road Pro mode is setup for those that want no intervention. You can ride in the regular off-road mode and it will just disable ABS on the rear wheel. You can also customize each mode, so you could configure Off-Road Pro to use the Off-Road ABS setting. There is also a ‘Rider Mode’ that lets you setup your own custom settings for TC, ABS, Mapping and Suspension. All your custom settings are saved but the bike does revert back to street mode if you turn it off. If you stall the bike purposely, it will not reset settings. I agree with you though that off-road abs systems are so good today that it doesn’t make sense to turn them off.

December 5, 2017 1:20 pm
Reply to  Rob Dabney

OK, Thanks! Got it: Off-Road .vs Off-Road Pro. OK, good… Hmmm, this one forgets the settings when “off”, too? Seems too many new cycles are like that, too many lawyers messin’ with the details.

December 4, 2017 6:31 pm

From my understanding of ‘Shift Assist’, I would be very surprised if the clutch was engaged electronically as stated. The ‘quick-shifter’ – as I call them – installed on my track bikes work in conjunction with the ride-by-wire to unload the transmission and match revs to change gears. The clutch can only be engaged manually. I could very well be behind the times though…

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 4, 2017 7:33 pm
Reply to  Mike

Hey Mike. Yes, that is correct. It’s an up/down quickshifter. Sorry for not clearly describing how it works. The clutch is never engaged by the system. It utilizes ride-by-wire to auto-blip the throttle to match up RPMs on downshift. On upshift it cuts the ignition momentarily to unload the transmission, allowing the gear to engage smoothly. What you get is the ability to perform full throttle clutchless upshifts that are much faster than you could with a clutch. And silky-smooth downshifts leaning into a turn. Or if you just want to avoid lurching riding two up, it’s a smoother and easier way to shift without the clutch.

December 5, 2017 1:36 pm

I’m hoping there is a 2018 Tiger 800 XCa Test Ride somewhere in the near future, yes?

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 5, 2017 2:34 pm
Reply to  Bob

Yes. Coming up in March. Stay tuned!

December 12, 2017 4:53 pm
Reply to  Rob Dabney

Oh Good!

December 6, 2017 10:57 am

How tall are you? I’m 6’9″ leaving the BMW my main adventure obtion for now. Us tall guys seem to have difficulty finding a well fitted bike.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
December 7, 2017 9:01 am
Reply to  Jim

Hey Jim. I’m 6’2″ with 34″ inseam. The R1200GS does seem well suited for taller riders, but you have to get used to not putting your legs out offroad or the cylinder heads will bruise your shins up real quick. Make a trip to your local Tiger dealer and try it on for size!

john t fusselman
john t fusselman
February 11, 2018 8:49 pm

am an old guy 71, yet love the smooth triple
why does a twin have more low end grunt than this triple?
Is it because triple torque is made at higher rpm than twin torque?
as torque/2 is greater than torque/3 at lower rpm?

also are ladders available to mount up?
fhx, fuss


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