Triumph Trophy 900 -

Nick Hayman
by Nick Hayman

With little more than some dusty old laurel wreaths for credibility here in the USA, this revived and revamped English company is on the move, with places to go and bikes to build. Triumph have some serious plans for our future. For 1996 they have widened their market appeal by creating a real tourer out of the Trophy 900. The DOHC, three cylinder Trophy has metamorphosed completely into this new touring model.

Triumph redesigned the fairing and side panels for better wind protection and hi-speed stability, and sleekly integrated the hard saddlebags, fitted as standard equipment. A glance at the front fender will reveal the details added after weeks in the wind tunnel.

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Claiming more efficient engine heat dispersal, Triumph plumbed some eye-grabbing vents thru the fairing behind the radiator, and added two intakes on each flank of the front fairing, which duct cool air through to the rider's legs.

With an eye on the all important comfort department, Triumph's design crew kicked down a two-level seat to cradle the riders buttocks separately from the passengers, and added grab handles for the co-pilot. They also stretched the handlebars backwards and cast up some new footrests and mounts in order to help maintain a straight back 'n shoulders riding position.

Realising that some riders are crazy enough to ride after dark, or perhaps with the idea of forever laying down the ghost of Lucas past, Triumph designed in some awesome lights. These twin 60/55 watt Halogens light up the road at night like a modern 4-wheeler. And they made sure everyone noticed by making the lenses an organic oval shape, slanting back like eyes, with a chrome accent for added emphasis. Comparisons with sixties-era British sports cars are obvious, and intended.

Color? Deep blue all over. The gentlefolk at Triumph's paint shop have blended up a deep metallic shade that I would call Royal but they call Pacific, and the result is appropriately understated for such a well-bred bloodline.

"An effortless, highway-distance, loaded-up, supra-legal, rain-soaked, homeward-bound dash showed the 900cc machine to be endowed with adequate horsepower."

If blue's not your cup of Earl Grey, this tourer is also offered in Merlot Red, and of course the classic, British Racing Green. Nice to notice that, finally after all these years of funky neon, more and more manufacturers are returning to monochromatic paint schemes. Sitting on the bike, the broader upper fairing and windscreen are immediately obvious over the '95 model, but in no way is there the barn door feeling of older, less aerodynamic fairing designs. The inner panels of the fairing blend smoothly into the gas tank and instrument cluster, which is now carried in the fairing and not mounted on the handlebars. Retro, chrome-bezeled clocks sit on the fairing, making it look like the dash of an old bug eye Austin Sprite. Below and on either side, there are little locking storage compartments sized for a map and a sandwich, the righthand one also containing the remote headlight height adjuster.

Hours spent in the saddle on a quiet highway affords plenty of time to study the minutiae under your nose. One of the first things a new Triumph owner will want to do, is remove the acres of warning stickers plastered everywhere. Another occassionally annoying niggle is the fluttering of the fuel gauge needle, although it is slightly more accurate than the usual fairing mounted joke. The needle touches the red zone next to the E, some 200 miles since the last fill up. Worry warts can relax with the knowledge that the reserve gas capacity is a reassuring 1.3 U.S. gallons. The clock, too is a reassuring feature on a touring platform.

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Those familiar with Triumph's line of modular motorcycles will feel at home immediately. The 900 feels bigger, thanks to the frame and running gear that it shares with the bigger four cylinder 1200 Trophy, and while this roominess is welcomed by taller riders, those below the critical 5' 6" mark will still find it difficult to put their feet on the ground, despite the new stepped seat.

Arguably though the 900 is a better cruiser than its bigger brothers. Although it shares the same running gear, weight, although substantial, is still 33 lb less. An effortless, highway-distance, loaded-up, supra-legal, rain-soaked, homeward-bound dash showed the 900cc machine to be endowed with adequate horsepower. And the three cylinder has somehow inherited the long-legged character from the Triumph Tridents of yore, the bikes that made the Triumph name famous on the banking of Daytona 25 years ago. Power is available from 5,000 rpm up, and well before the 9,500 rpm redline, the engine is beginning that famous three cylinder wail.

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Seductive indeed to aficionados and neophytes alike is the unusual sound and rhythm of the lopsided, 120 degree triple. It howls, rips and shreds your earballs rather like a red Italian race-bred V12 car. Vibration levels from the inherently well balanced 120 degree crankshaft are minimal, and the sit up and beg riding position places the rider in a zone of clear air behind the substantial screen, so high daily mileages are easily possible with the Triumph. Anyone used to the razor-sharp handling of a Japanese sportbike will find the Trophy offers more of a Cadillac ride in comparison: it's big, softly damped, kind of bouncy, and the controls seem to be designed for big hands with lots of movement.

Everything works well enough: the brakes demand a lot of lever movement, but are effective in hauling the big machine down from speed. Handling and ground clearance again are almost up to sportbike standards, though still on the fuzzy side.

But the Trophy isn't designed to hack through canyons: it's a bike you can use to accumulate hundreds of miles in a day, with a smile on your face. The built-in saddlebags bags soon become essential in everyday use, not to mention touring duty, although their rather bulbous styling prohibits lane splitting through jammed freeway traffic. The solution is to take off out of town, away from crowded freeways, and to enjoy the Trophy where it works best, out on the open road.


Manufacturer: TriumphModel: 1996 Trophy 900Price: $Engine: dohc, 12-valve, inline-tripleBore x stroke: 76.0x 65.0mmDisplacement: 885ccCarburetion: (3) 36mm flat-slide CVTransmission: 6-speedWheelbase: 58.7 in.Seat height: 33.4 in.Fuel capacity: n/aClaimed dry weight: 485 lbs.
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