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Test ride: You can’t have an adventure without the Explorer

That was the lofty slogan Triumph used, when they introduced the Tiger Explorer 1200. In this throwback to 2012 I went to Andalucía to see, whether they can back their claims up.

The test ride took place in beautiful Andalucía.

On the ride I rest my eyes on the beautiful mountain scenery, but for just ever so slightly long time. I realize the hairpin curve ahead is approaching at an alarming speed, so I pull on the brakes to compress the front and turn in at quite a bit more speed than desired. The bike follows the line precisely and although I didn’t manage to downshift, it doesn’t matter. The Tiger Explorer growls and charges willingly towards the next curve as I open the throttle.

BMW R 1200 GS has dominated the big adventure bike class basically since forever. The competition haven’t been able to match the Bimmer, and even this year’s new Japs rather stay on tarmac. But Triumph claim the Tiger Explorer is something different. It’s aimed directly at the almighty GS. But is it up for the job?
At least on paper it doesn’t look half bad. Tiger Explorer is propelled by a 1215 cc triple, which pumps out an impressive number of ponies, 135 @ 9000 rpm to be exact. The peak torque is 1221 Newtonmeters at 6400 revs, but more interestingly there’s more than 100 Nm available from 2500 rpm all the way to the limiter. 
From the crank to the rear tyre the Newtons are transported via a six-speed gearbox and a prop shaft. Special care has been taken to make the prop shaft as "chain like" as possible. The rear geometry has been designed in such a manner that the tail doesn't rise or sink according to throttle (as is customary for bikes using a prop shaft) and dampers at the front bevel gear and the shaft itself reduce the shocks to the drivetrain.
The throttle butterflies are opened with a twin-processor Ride-by-Wire. This also enables riding modes, a two-stage, switchable Traction Control and Cruise Control.
Triumph are well-known for nice handling and they’ve prioritized handling also when developing the Explorer. The key is mass centralisation, and the bike’s actually built in a quite compact manner around the engine. The stylish frame is a steel pipe construction and the suspension is made by Kayaba. Front fork is a 46 mm USD with adjustable preload and the movements of the single-sided swing arm are controlled by a monoshock with preload and rebound adjustments. Wheel travels are hefty 190 mm in the front and 194 mm in the rear.
For speed reduction there’s Nissin brakes, front naturally with twin discs. Safety is improved by ABS-system, which is switchable for gravel fun.
The cockpit is clear and doesn’t leave much to be desired. On board computer informs te rider of ambient temperature, current range, current and average fuel consumption and average speed. The controls for the on board computer are handily on the left side handlebar.
The Explorer is built to cover great distances, so comfort is of the essence. Ergonomics are brilliant and there’s no need for constant breaks. Individual adjustments include saddle height, windshield and handle bar. If this is not enough, Triumph have optional higher and lower saddles, with or without gel, along with a variety of windshields.
Those who really ride a lot should be impressed with the class-leading 16000 km service intervals. That gives enough marginal for planning even the longest trips.

Despite its size, Tiger Explorer is a great bike for light off-roading.

When we finally are off, is the first impression that of lightness. My fear of a high center of gravity was unnecessary and the bike really feels lighter than it is. The handling is extremely balanced and the Explorer eats curves one after another with ease. The road surface varies quite a bit, but the bike doesn’t mind rough bits at all. The brakes are strong enough and the ABS works well apart from the extremely slight feel at the lever when in operation, but that’s preferential. Some riders might get scared of a strongly pulsating lever.
The engine character is extremely nice. The power isn’t explosive, but there is a lot of it throughout the rev range. Even in the tightest of hairpins it hardly matters, what gear you’re on. Twist the throttle and shit happens. The feel provided by RbW is positive apart from slight tendency of twitchiness at slight openings.
Even in higher speeds the Explorer it steady like a train. The only slight issue are vibrations that start in the handlebar at 4000-5000 revs and move to foot pegs from 5000 rpm upwards. They aren’t disturbing on active riding, so maybe the bike’s suggesting the rider to find twistier roads.
The Explorer is well suited for light off-roading on a hard surface. When the TC is switched off, the bike behaves in a consistent way but you can sling gravel just as far as you wish. If you don’t want to give up on the electronic safety net, the TC level 2 is a correct choice, as it allows the rider to enjoy moderate power slides. Although the TC operates in a pleasurable manner and doesn’t cut power too strongly, level 1 is too restricting for gravel.

Tiger Explorer is well suited for twisty roads with varying surface.

Explorer is an impressive motorcycle. In a whole it’s a strong contender, which doesn’t have obvious weaknesses. It’s versatile, fun, it’s got personality and the engine is a peach. What more can you as for?

(Image credits: Triumph Motorcycles)