2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa Review

John Burns
by John Burns

A sweeter great big pussycat than ever

Speaking of adventuring, on my way home from flogging this new Tiger all over the mountainside, I was inspired enough to explore a new route: Instead of taking the 210 to the 57 like I usually do, I hopped on 5 South, to the 10 West, to the 710 South! (I had to go to Long Beach to do a bike swap with Ryan.) Was it scary? A little. There are some parts of LA where you really don’t want to have to stop, but the Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa had me feeling all omnipotent. Bring it on!

2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa

Editor Score: 89.0%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.25/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.25/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 8.75/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score89/100

EICMA: 2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XC and
Tiger 1200 XR Get Big Updates

Some of that pavement is not the best, but the bike’s WP semi-active suspenders barely noticed, and 1215cc of torquelicious Triple is just the thing for hacking one’s way through the urban jungle, both when the traffic is dense and when it opens up. The big Tiger was a very solid beast before, now it’s a highly refined, more civilized solid beast.

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Matter of fact, Triumph says all the new Tigers are better for their chosen missions, the XCs are all better off-road, and the XRs are better for all roads – lighter, with improved ergonomics, higher technology and better power if not more of it… There are six distinct Tiger 1200s: four XR models with 17-inch street rubber at both ends, and two XC models with 19-inch front and 17-in rear tires on (tubeless) wire-spoke wheels for better performance on non-paved surfaces. Our test unit, fittingly, is the top-of-the-line XCa.

Triumph says this one’s lost 22 pounds, and it actually feels like it’s lost more: Now I can pick it up off the sidestand easily even when it’s parked on a left-leaning slope, without assist. It feels like the seat’s a skosh lower, or maybe the bicycling has made my left leg stronger?

Triumph says it took 1.1 lbs out of the crankshaft, 5.5-lbs from the flywheel, saved 5 lbs more by using a new titanium Arrow exhaust, and a new battery shaves 6 more lbs. A magnesium cam cover lops off a pound; the crash guards on our bike are a few lbs lighter… She’s still hefty, probably around 600 lbs fuelled up (the last Tiger 1200 we rode, a 2016 model, tipped our scales at 625 with 5.3 gallons – 32 or so lbs – of fuel.) Like we said then, though, she’s well-balanced and agile for her size.

For 2017, Triumph doesn’t claim any more power, but it does claim better power, and with that we cannot disagree. In 2016, the claim of 141 PS translated to 116 rear-wheel Dynojet hp at 8500 rpm, and a torque peak of 75 pound feet at 7700 rpm, which still feels about right. (Sorry, we haven’t been able to get the new bike to the dyno and scales quite yet. We’ll update ASAP.) We loved the big Tiger’s spot-on smooth delivery the last time, and it’s even better now with the lightened reciprocating parts and more refined fuel maps. Nobody really does fuelling better than Triumph, and on the street it’s hard to argue against a 1215cc Triple. The Tiger might not make the most power in the class, but it makes plenty enough to propel you way faster than you’ll ever need to go, with almost zero vibration until up around 90 mph, where you will feel a little tingle in the grips. It starts cranking out a big, fat plateau of torque not far past idle, and from there, big power just builds in a linear way all the way to redline. Off road, it’ll pull cleanly from right down at walking speed without complaining. And whatever you’re doing, it always sounds fantastic in finest vintage-Jaguar fashion. It’s just a great, solid powerplant that always returns at least 40 mpg, too.

Don’t forget the new slip/assist clutch – not that you need it much once you’re rolling, thanks to the XCa’s upstairs and downstairs quickshifter, which like many of them works better up than down, but is better than most either way. Shifts at larger throttle openings are smoothest, but the Tiger’s system works pretty well at small ones around town, too – another one of those things you never knew you needed.

Along with more refined fueling comes another ride mode on the XCa: Off Road Pro. Toggle it into the computer and you get: ABS and TC OFF, and suspension set to Off Road, Sport! As for me, I’ll stick to Off Road, which only disables rear-wheel ABS and sets suspension and Traction Control to Off Road medium settings.

TSAS, Triumph Semi-Active Suspension, courtesy of WP is every bit as worthy as it was when fitted to the 2016 Tiger. WP as we know, is owned by the same people who own KTM, and if this isn’t the same stuff they put on the Super Duke GT and 1290 Adventure S, it’s damn close. Working with an IMU, the suspension adjusts itself in real time to whatever you’re up to at the controls, and launched the old Tiger from also-ran to legitimate contender. There are two suspension modes, Auto and Off road. On pavement, in conjunction with excellent new seat foam and 7.5 inches of travel front and rear, the Tiger serves up a magic carpet ride 99% of the time in Auto. Off road, I did not go there – but Ryan Adams did and says, “Any suspension setting in the normal to sport range kept the bike from rocking back and forth at all.” The bike worked great on bumpy fire roads, too.

They even managed to keep the horn in the right spot. That’s the joystick right next to it. Brilliant.

The Triumph’s a bit unique in that once you’ve chosen your mode, the joystick allows you to select how stiff you want your damping along an entire continuum from Comfort to Sport. TSAS is standard equipment on all but the base XR, and it even automatically sets rear preload for your weight and who or whatever you’ve got strapped on behind you. For people who are used to buying motorcycles and never getting around to playing with their suspension adjusters, TSAS will be a revelation.

The standard seat adjusts up and down into two heights 20mm apart, and if it’s not adjustable enough, there’s a distinct Low Ride Height XRx that takes it down to 31.1 inches

The seat is still the first line of suspension, and the Tigers all get new “3D net technology,” with more foam, an air channel in the middle, and a different shape that’s said to deform better to the rider’s rear end. Mine felt fine after a couple of long days on the XCa, helped in part by the handlebar having been moved 20mm rearward – a happy change for my 5’8” bod.

Now, you can sit back there and position the electric-adjust windshield wherever it’s quietest; for me, that meant looking through it, which is not optimal but is fine during daylight hours at least. If the Tiger’s still-air pocket isn’t perfect, it’s way better than all of the “baggers” currently in vogue when it comes to traveling (though Ryan was concerned it might bisect his Adam’s apple when standing up through big bumps off road). Between the big windshield, the handguards and the heated grips and seat, the Tiger really is an all-weather fighter.

Whilst luxuriating in the comfy cockpit, you won’t be able to not notice the new 5-inch TFT instrument panel, which can be manipulated into various displays or left to automatically adjust itself to night or day. While on that subject, there are quite a few buttons on both grips, but they’re backlit and therefore still useable after dark.

Along the bottom are icons for different ride modes, right now we’re in sport; the jaggedy ones are Off Road and Off Road Pro. Pick the one you want with the joystick with your left thumb and off you go.

You wanted advanced electronics? The Tiger delivers. The IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit), in addition to adjusting the TSAS suspension, also talks to the lean-sensitive anti-lock brakes, traction control and engine mapping. Road mode is soft and docile when you toggle towards comfort: Things become decidedly sportier, and engine response snarlier, when you select the curvy road icon and toggle towards Sport. I usually run screaming when I hear the word “intuitive” describing a computerized thing, but this system actually is.

An integrated braking system using Continental componentry gives a bit of back brake when you squeeze the front, turns off the rear in ABS Off Road mode and both ends in Off Road Pro… Now, there’s hill hold control as well. Of course it’s lean sensitive as well. The Metzler Tourance tires are fine on the road, and surprisingly good off road too, says Ryan Adams. You don’t need no steenkin’ tubes.

Indeed, those 305mm discs up front are bitten by Brembo M4.32 calipers, now fitted with new pads to give more bite, power and feel. When you grab a big handful, of course, the IMU also informs the front fork what you’re up to, and you can pretty much stop on the proverbial dime with very little drama. Electronics good, Mongo.

And that theme is pretty much carried out throughout this highly sophisticated Tiger, which is in fact a big, sweet pussycat. The basic building blocks were already there; the Tiger’s new electronics just make everything work that much better and more comfortably. Chilly? Your three-position heated grip button is right there at your left thumb, and the heated seat control is here somewhere… The passenger’s control is right under her left thigh – and that back seat’s almost as comfy as the front, which is really comfy, especially when the heater heats the foam up a smidge. Ahhhh…

Gnar footpegs, less-gnarly handguards, crashbars and an engine bashplate are part of the XCa package.

You no longer need an ignition key, but don’t lose that fob – and you can lock the fork by turning the bar to the left and hitting a button. All the XCa’s bulbs are bright and maintenance-free LEDs, including its daytime running lights – and after dark there are now adaptive cornering lights. Also fog lights…

You can adjust the angle of that 5-inch TFT display to suit you, then select the one of six displays which agrees with you. There’s a USB port under the seat for your phone, along with a 12v outlet one each for rider and passenger… as for Infotainment, you’ll have to provide your own by wandering off yon dirt road – also, I was not able to locate the setting to heat the water for 4 o’clock tea. All the rest of it’s here, and it all works together very well if you’re looking for a supremely comfortable, highly capable ADV bike.

More off road notes from Ryan A:

  • The big brake pedal was easy to find and useful in the dirt, as were the big footpegs which provided ample grip
  • Feels pretty top-heavy when pushing the thing around, but once it’s rolling, you can tractor through nearly any obstacle. Letting the engine lug down in offroad mode isn’t a problem, even at low rpm throttle inputs are still smooth
  • Windshield is too high for faster bumpy offroad work. It’s like the thing is ready to end up in your Adam’s apple at any moment.
  • The shape of the tank is perfect for bracing yourself against while standing. Really. It’s wonderful. You can grab ahold of it with your legs nicely, and it is nice to brace against so you don’t get your head chopped off by the tall windshield when hitting unexpected bumps.
  • Bashplate looks like it wouldn’t be able to take much abuse without crumpling. Probably worthless if you ever actually needed it.
  • Steering lock is wide open which helps with tight maneuvers offroad. Wide handlebar and risers also feel to be in a pretty good position while standing.

2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa

+ Highs

  • She’s lost 22 or so pounds
  • Delicious 1215cc Triple torque and sounds
  • I didn’t feel the heat we complained about in 2016

– Sighs

  • Bring friends if you take a 600-lb bike on a real adventure ride
  • So practical and competent and sensible…
  • I kind of wanted bags too, for $21,750

2018 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa

Engine Type1215cc liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
Bore and Stroke85.0 x 71.4 mm
Fuel SystemRide by Wire, fuel injection
Compression Ratio11.0:1
ClutchWet, multi-plate hydraulically operated, torque assist
Final DriveShaft drive
Horsepower131 hp at 7600 rpm (claimed)
Torque90.0 lb-ft. at 7600 rpm (claimed)
FrameTubular steel trellis frame
Front SuspensionWP 48 mm upside down forks, electronically adjustable damping, 7.5 inches travel
Rear SuspensionWP monoshock, electronically adjustable semi active damping with automatic preload adjustment, 7.6 inches wheel travel
Front BrakeTwin 305 mm floating discs, radially mounted monobloc Brembo 4-piston calipers, switchable ABS
Rear BrakeSingle 282 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper, switchable ABS
Front Tire120/70 R19
Rear Tire170/60 R17
Rake/Trail23.2º/3.9 inches
Wheelbase59.8 inches
Seat Height32.9-33.7 inches
Dry Weight547 pounds (claimed)
Fuel Capacity5.3 gallons
Fuel mileage41 mpg (observed)
Available ColorsMarine, Crystal White
John Burns
John Burns

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5 of 44 comments
  • DickRuble DickRuble on May 17, 2018

    "I kind of wanted bags too, for $21,750" -- for that price they could include more than just bags: a leather suit, gloves, boots and much more. I'd get the Caponord Rally for way less money.

  • RyYYZ RyYYZ on May 17, 2018

    Seems pretty sweet. Still too big and heavy for my tastes for anything much more than a dirt/gravel road. What I'd be more interested in is the Triumph Trophy, which is largely the same stuff in a sport-touring package. Unfortunately they don't bring it here (but I think it's still sold in Europe).