We’ve seen Triumph’s Tiger Rally Pro 900 in recent headlines, scoring impressive finishes in both the Bassella Enduro Race in Spain and the Baja Aragon Rally with enduro champion Ivan Cervantes at the helm. Now is the time for Triumph’s all-new flagship Tiger 1200 Rally Pro to enjoy its moment of glory, having over the summer become the world’s first high-capacity adventure bike to conquer grueling HARDI Australia. 24 Hour Trial, a monster in a sea of lightweight. enduro bikes.
This event is not a local fun ride, but rather a highly respected and extremely difficult endurance race – a machine and rider test that has been going on in South Australia since 1924. It’s not a kind of thing team, but more of a rugged rider enduring four- or six-hour laps over tough terrain in freezing temperatures (remember the Australian winter is our summer). Each lap consists of 12 competitive timed sections and 13 transit stages. Four 15-minute breaks are included to refuel bikes and cyclists.
Triumph brought in two-time Isle of Man TT champion Cameron Donald to race one of two Tiger 1200 Rally Pros, the other was steered by Cameron’s best friend Donald Owen, an enduro rider from Expert class that also races on the road and in motocross. In a high-quality video produced by Triumph, you get a front row seat to watch these pals – just two weeks before the trial – get to grips with heavy-duty adventure bikes, initially skeptical of the 1200’s potential to perform in a such a brutal event, where the “normal” input is 250-450cc.
Cameron laughs that it was all kind of a joke at first, but when he swings a leg above the majestic 1200 for the first time, he says things looked serious, fast. The pair made adjustments to the handlebar and shifter positions of their bikes, saying that while it looked like minor things, it made a huge difference. Their first test was also on the stock tires, which would be upgraded to aggressive, road-legal knobbies before the trial.
Additionally, the bikes were fitted with Triumph accessory upper crash bars and a 0.8-inch LED light bar to aid visibility at night, while center stands and passenger racks were removed. Otherwise, the Rally Pro models were completely stock.
Both riders quickly got to grips with the big bike, a new machine from the ground up for 2023 with a series of upgrades aimed at off-road adventure. There’s a 21″/18″ spoked wheelset and purpose-built off-road suspension with 8.66 inches (220mm) of travel front and rear, along with a new double-sided swingarm and 55-pound weight reduction over the 1200 XC the Rally Pro replaced. Its new 1160cc triple T-Plain also develops an aggressive 147.9 horsepower and 96 lb-ft of torque. And being the comfortable, gear-laden travel machine that it is, the guys of course packed up their kit and rode their 1200 Rally Pros 8 hours from home to the start of the 24 hour endurance event hours.
After arriving to much fanfare, they were somewhat dismayed to learn from a competitor who had completed the race 24 times that this year’s course was by far the most technically challenging ever. “A lot of people told us we were crazy, not expecting us to finish a single lap let alone four laps to finish the race,” Cameron said.
The longtime friends, whose immediate intention was simply to complete the grueling endurance event, staged a friendly competition to see which of the two could have the fastest accumulated stage times. It turned out that a Donald Owen, worn out by freezing weather, would smash his front wheel into a deep, square hole in the 16th hour and be unable to continue with his bike, instead focusing on supporting Cameron to get to the finish line.
By all accounts, the course was both grueling and very technical—not the ideal terrain for a 550-pound, 1200cc adventure bike. “There were traps everywhere, including four-foot-high ledges and two-foot-deep dust, often hiding rocks and roots,” Cameron says of the gnarliest sections, which he would navigate 4 times in the 24 hour period, although he says the bike is 21” front wheel and the weight, which translated into momentum, actually gave it a “point and pull” feel “.
“You had to be careful in the tight, technical terrain but, once open, the Tiger 1200 was unstoppable.” He also said the transit sections were impressive thanks to the bike’s spaciousness, plush seat, heated grips, cruise control and shaft drive, which negated stops for chain lubrication.
In the competitive stages, Cameron says riding in Off-Road Pro mode ensured that the power delivery from the Tiger 1200 Rally Pro “felt nice, linear and easy to use – just what you want when you’re in really tight technical terrain. who would test a 250!”
Of the 138 competitors who took part in this year’s Hardi Australia 24 Hour Trial, Cameron was one of 91 hardcore riders who finished the event, settling in 60th out of 75 two-wheeled entrants.
Although Cameron was gutted his friend Donald didn’t make it to the finish line, he made another deep connection during his time on the 1200 Rally Pro. “I formed a special relationship with this bike,” he says. “We fought, we argued, we laughed, we cried, but I brought her home safely, just like she brought me. Together we crossed the finish line. I can’t believe we made it! I feel like I won a race!
Cameron’s advice for those who ride big-bore adventure bikes like Triumph’s Tiger 1200 Rally Pro? And really, these wise words apply to just about everything in life: “As long as you’re moving forward, it’s fine.”
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