Having been significantly updated as recently as 2016, the Tiger 1200’s list of updates is about half that of the Tiger 800’s, ‘up to 100’ say Triumph. Again they don’t detail every last one (we’ll take their word) instead listing a very similar top-10.
Big news for 2018 is a 10kg weight saving. That’s good news, but Triumph’s 1200 has always been the woolly mammoth of adventure bikes, so even 10kg still leaves it short of the competition. Yeah, 248kg dry compares to 244kg wet for a BMW R 1200 GS – don’t stop with the Slimfast Plan just yet, Tiger…
Again many of the upgrades and refinements are electronic rider-aid biased, so we again see a TFT screen for the instruments, LED lights, backlit switchgear, Off-Road Pro (and programmable) rider mode. Add to that adaptive cornering lighting, shift assist for the gearbox and keyless ignition, along with existing aids like hill hold and cornering ABS.
The big fat Tiger has a sharper look this year, though. Maybe still not as sharp as the competition – forget ‘maybe’, it’s just not – but its another improvement at least. And when you’re sat in the super-satisfying heated seat with heated grips behind an electronically adjustable screen (on a cold day) maybe sharp looks don’t matter so much.
WHAT'S IT LIKE?
Big, smooth, quiet, assured, comfortable. On road the Tiger 1200 feels like a regular big-capacity tourer. In fact it almost matches dedicated the road tourers for comfort and equipment, so on this account there should be zero criticism. Yeah, there are sufficient whistles and bells to keep a tech-head fully occupied, while ample saddles will keep even the broadest of rumps comfortable.
The Tiger 1200 produces a good 15hp more than the BMW R 1200 GS and you can hear that extra go in the engine and exhaust noise when you hit WFO – the beast rips. But where the Tiger 800 is a fighter plane the Tiger 1200 is more bomber – impressive, but don’t get too carried away, eh chaps? Again it impresses, and comfort is a major ace card, so long distance work is a doddle.
It’s not a big fat Tiger. It’s THE big fat Tiger. Ever since I got to ride a 2014 Tiger 1200 deep into the Madagascan bush (back in 2016) I’ve known the Tiger has better dirt credentials than most care to credit it. That bike followed a KTM 1190 Adventure and BMW R1200 GS everywhere, was never left behind, and when we got to deep sand – you may not believe this – it killed them both. The Tiger loved the sand, revved hard and ridden with marginal self-preservation it was quite the weapon.
And the 2018 Tiger 1200 is someway advanced from that first generation model. It doesn’t feel as tall, nor as top heavy and the power feels strong everywhere. The ride position feels a lot better sorted, too, it’s very natural and so despite being the size it is you can still boss it. Just like all those countless self-gratifying Facebook and YouTube clips of guys skidding their GSs in ever more daring displays, you can play silly-buggers on the Tiger, too.
As with the earlier model the only place it feels to let you down is in slow first-gear slippery going, where the 141hp can come in just a little too abruptly prompting wheelspin. But even that we found we could sort. In the rider programmable mode we combined an off road pro setting with a rain setting on the engine map. This combined with the new low first gear brought decent traction. Job done!
Big mention again here for the WP suspension. On the Tiger 1200 it’s a semi-active set-up and it works so well, feeling plusher, easier on the rider than that of the 800. There’s no jarring and even when we did some cheeky hops off banks and bumps there’s no crashing through the stroke. This is quality kit and for sure helps the big Tiger be as assured and light on its feet as it is.
If anything the Tiger 1200 sells itself better off-road than on. It’s more impressive and its capabilities defy belief. And that makes it all the more satisfying. Of course we’re stopping short of saying it’s better than a 1200 GS or a KTM 1290 Super Adventure, but it’s so much closer than you think.
Can the Tiger 1200 beat a 1200 GS? Maybe, maybe not. The GS is still the benchmark, still has all that history. But the Triumph engineers are evidently tireless workers, they’re looking to their own premium measures and so there’s no question this is a great bike. We love the Tiger 800, but riding the Tiger 1200 off-road is a special thrill, so much so that on the (test) day we spent more time riding the 1200, exploring its limits (much further off than you’d think). And so while as a road bike it’s very good, it’s as dirt roads adventurer that this bike has us coming back for more, again and again. Yep, like we said, it’s not a big fat Tiger. It’s THE big fat Tiger. Skidoosh!