2013 Triumph Trophy SE | Through the Sierras Review

2013 Triumph Trophy SE Test

The folks at Hinckley have scored again by introducing the 2013 Triumph Trophy SE. And after 900 hot and wild miles in the Sierras and Sequoias, this steed has become one of my favorite sport-touring rigs.

The Trophy has the ability to haul just about anything you want, ride the freeways in style with full-featured cruise control, and so much more. But when riding conditions change, the sport tourer can tip into some of the most challenging and technical roadways anywhere and keep up with pure sport bikes. This alone makes the Trophy SE one of the most exciting packages to grace any road.

One look at the SE and you know Triumph must have built it to compete with BMW’s R1200RT. I’ve ridden a slew of RTs, owned one for many years and, readily admit, love the bike. That said, the SE is amazing. The two motorcycles really are brothers from different mothers.

I also favor the marketplace segment in which the SE and RT exist. The medium-weight sport-touring motorcycle can cruise faster than your driver’s license can handle, pack all you’ll need for days and nights, yet is still capable of a rip-snortin’ traverse of any fast, curvy road you can name.

Can we talk a minute about the segment? Sport touring is now a broad spectrum of types. How shall we define them without naming names and getting off track? Loosely, an sport-touring machine must carry plenty of gear (preferably locking), be able to go very fast on any road, and offer some amenities focused on riding long distances. When the need arises to pick up and quickly ride 1,000 miles or more, then I invariably reach for this type. Now the segment has expanded to 6-cylinder offerings as well as well as the hugely popular off-road-bike-as-sport-tourer.

I like them all, but the Trophy SE falls precisely into my sweet spot. Naturally, the 15 or more riders with whom I spent the last three days carving up California’s Sierra mountains would all have differing opinions as the SE and one RT were the only bikes in attendance that are of this classic platform. The rest of the guys chose pure sport bikes with a hilarious assortment of soft bags, jury-rigged stays to keep them off rear wheels, over-stuffed tank bags, tape, bungee cords and frayed webbing. One guy (possibly the smartest) even mailed his stuff to the hotel.

This illustrates that some riders are willing to forego amenities and comfort for a few hours on the freeway. This allows them to better enjoy the canyons on their favorite race replica with its commensurate speed and handling. Nice, but if you’re like me and would rather retain some creature comforts then read on and I’ll tell you more about this fabulous Triumph.

Our assorted group, from Northern and Southern California, assembled near Porterville, Calif., in order to have access to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park on Saturday. We then planned to take State Route 190 back into the Park again, and then southbound on Sunday, as most of us headed home to the Los Angeles area. Our ride there on Friday was a dazzling assortment of 75 miles of freeway then 250 miles of back roads, canyons, hill and dale. The scenery was sable-colored and dotted with oak trees. Temperatures ranged from 80 to 100 with bright sun and little traffic.

If you like fully loaded motorcycles, then you are in for a treat. This beauty has everything you pine for. Let’s start with the computer system – it simply rules them all. Included are an easy-to-read in bright sun Multi-function display, throttle-by-wire, traction control (on/off), full cruise control, sport/normal/comfort electronic suspension with sub-menus for preload and rebound, comprehensive trip computer with a user-programmable portion of the display, tire pressure display with warnings, service interval warning, frost warning, thermometer, clock, self-canceling signals, analog (and digital in Multi-function display) speedometer, analog tachometer, gear position indicator, electrically adjustable windscreen, FM radio with speakers, Sirius Radio ready, Bluetooth-to-helmet capability and USB connection.

Add to this optional heated grips and heated seats, two power ports and a glove box that locks when the key is turned off. So much that I hope I haven’t left anything out. Let’s just say that owners of this bike will need to do some reading to get the most out of the technology side even though much is intuitive. The great part is that you can jump on the bike, fire it up and take off like on any other, forgetting the electronics for a minute.

That’s easily done once you start the 1215cc, 12-valve, DOHC , liquid cooled, 3-cylinder engine. It pops to life instantly and growls and grinds like many of its kind. It provides copious torque right off Idle then jets through 6000 rpm, where it takes on the celebrated note that boils the blood of devoted triple fans. Then it heads straight to redline at 10000 with an impatient ferocity. Triumph claims 132 hp and 89 lb/ft of torque, and that is enough to propel this 662-lbs. luxury sport tourer at any pace you choose.

Even more important is the character of the engine during the ride. The SE was eager at any pace. With an uncountable number of hairpin turns in our wake I found that whether my focus was to be aggressive in first and second gears and crank through the turns. Bump up to second and third and ease up a bit, and the motor was more than able to keep up with any demand. Even on the extremely tight hairpins that gain 20 feet of elevation, second gear was low enough and the motor was happy and willing.

On the freeway the engine has that soothing, droning thrum you get on an RT at 80 mph, and is very comfortable cruising – but that is the only similarity between the two mills. There is usually more than ample power at any speed and almost any gear. It just goes and while it’s not as smooth as a 4 or 6, it is lively and does not overly intrude at fast cruising speeds. All said, the engine has a lot of character and feels stronger than the horsepower claimed, especially when it’s on the boil and one realizes how fast they’ve been propelled in such a short distance.

While on the subject of comfort, the SE is a perfect fit for my six-foot, 34-inch inseam stature. The low seat is stock but we traded that for the available standard height number and I was riding in the high position. I needed every inch to make it flat on both feet when reaching for the ground. Triumph’s website says seat height is 30.3-31.1. The seat is rather large and quite comfortable. My one passenger for 25 miles (to retrieve a crashed bike) remarked how nice this perch was for him also.

The suspension is from WP, and the ride is supple and firm at all suspension settings, even on “Comfort.” Electronics allow front rebound damping and rear preload adjustments. Our ride ran the gamut of every kind of surface including choppy asphalt and sandy corners. This, combined with some not-always-perfect riding skills, accentuated the bike’s ability to keep the ride smooth and under control.

I experienced no wallowing or understeer, yet found the SE willing to lean all the way to the scarred peg feelers. I can also report that the shaft drive was flawless with no shaft-jacking experienced nor any other issues other than that I had more free time while the other riders lubed their chains.

Transmission action was positive and smooth, as was the hydraulic clutch engagement which, when downshifting, often had me suspecting the bike had a slipper clutch, which it doesn’t. Nevertheless, it felt that way and added to the smooth nature of the beast. Gear ratios are nicely spaced and I rarely found myself wanting for more than I was offered.

The brakes are 4-piston Nissins up front with 2-piston Nissins in the rear. They are linked in kind of a odd way with the front lever actuating three of the four front pistons and the rear pedal actuating one front piston and the rear piston. In reality I used the front lever 90 percent of the time and was satisfied. Some rear trail braking was done but the fronts really handle most of the braking duties. Initial bite is good as is the feel. Here the BMW may have a small advantage.

Ergonomics were perfect for my size with generous pullback bars, nice upright seating position, and easy access to controls. The electrically operated windshield was great and did not cause any buffeting or forward lean that can often occur. The range of adjustment was wide, and while I am not sure of the actual amount of travel, I can say that it tucks down nicely in the low position for canyon riding and elevates to where I must look through it for higher speeds. The cockpit is well thought out and easy to live with.

During the ride I averaged around 37 mpg, but I’m sure I could do a lot better had I opted for a more sensible pace. With 6.9 gallons on board the trip computer offers a 320 mile range after filling up. This was the machine that the sport bike riders wanted behind them when their fuel lights glowed brightly and the location of the next gas station was uncertain. They knew I had a siphon and hose.

The SE incorporates what Triumph calls its Dynamic Luggage System, which allows the rear bags to tilt slightly as the bike leans and, according the manufacturer, this isolates small movements of the luggage from the chassis. In reality, I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary during the most spirited parts of the ride, even loaded as pack mule for all the sport bike riders who used my bike for their stuff. This included a full case of water in the right pannier (it fit). Regardless, there were no adverse effects from the weight.

But speaking of weight, the two panniers weigh a total of 31 lbs. empty. They are rated to carry 20 lbs. each, adding up to 70 or more pounds fully loaded. When I checked into the hotel I staggered up the stairs to my room, helmet still on my head, dripping sweat and realizing I should have made two trips.

This luggage is second to none when rated for build quality and ease of use, and they can stash a single full-face helmet on either side. But they are heavy, and not included in the 662-lbs. claimed wet weight of the bike. Fitting them to the bike is a snap and so is access during the ride. I did not receive the top case for this review, so I can’t comment on its usability.

My final observation is that Triumph really hit the mark it was aiming for with the Trophy SE. I found it above average in every way and excellent in most. Fellow riders who sampled its charms were like minded. If you are interested in a new, classic sport touring machine that will keep you smiling and satisfied, then you should consider this offering.