Triumph Explorer XCa – the ride

Triumph invited CMG to Faro, Portugal, to ride the newly refreshed 2016 Tiger Explorer. Of the five Explorer variants that will be available in Canada, Triumph has chosen the top-of-the-line XCa for the press test. (We don’t get the base XC – but check out the explainer if you’re not sure what gets what)

During the morning’s pre-ride briefing we’re told that there will be an off-road portion during our 300 km test ride. Many adventure bike riders probably don’t venture much off-road, but according to Triumph, 80% of Explorer owners say they do take their bikes off the pavement, and for this reason the company really ramped up the Explorer’s off-road capability.

To get started we’re given the rundown on how to navigate the ride mode menus by Triumph’s Explorer newest spokesbloke, Charley Boorman.  Scrolling through menus makes many riders shudder in fear and frustration, but the folks at Triumph have really nailed the rider interface. It’s a very intuitive system, and considering the multitude of ride modes and suspension possibilities, it is one of the easiest systems to use I’ve seen to date, and I got accustomed to it with in the first half-hour of riding.

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Despite being in one of the warmer locales in Europe, the temperature readout shows a chilling 5C. Thankfully the XCa comes with a heated seat and heated grips, so the electrically adjustable windscreen at its highest position and the heat on high, we head off into the mountains.

Only 15 minutes into the ride our lead rider, David Lopez, pulls over to wait for the sweep riders of our group. With no sign of them he heads back to see what has happened only to return a short while later to say that Boorman collided with a car he was overtaking, resulting in a broken leg, but otherwise he’s ok. Once Boorman is well taken care of, Lopez resumes the ride; when he  isn’t leading journos during Triumph press launches he’s busy developing chassis for the British bike maker, but obviously enjoys riding the product too. 

The inline triple is a great engine with a broad, flat powerband and splendid sound. Clutch effort has been reduced 30 percent and is comfortably light. The engine purrs along at 4,000 rpm with 115 km/h showing on the speedo, and is smooth enough to put just a mild blur in the mirrors. Wind protection with the screen up is very good, keeping my torso and helmet free of buffeting and the chilly wind-blast.

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During the launch of the previous generation Explorer, the biggest issue I had with it was the limited adjustability of its conventional suspension. The new model gets semi-active suspension, which Triumph calls TSAS. It’s a huge improvement, and just what the Explorer needed. Its nine settings offer a wide range of adjustment, from near-pillowy plush to track-day firm. After trying several settings, I settle down on the second-softest for the open road, and the third-from-firmest setting for the twisties, all adjustable with just two button pushes on the fly.

After lunch we head to the dirt. Off-road mode turns the TC and ABS down, allowing some wheelspin, while allowing the brake pedal to lock the rear wheel if it is applied first, much like the Super Ténéré. It also softens the suspension and smoothes power delivery, and it is here that I notice the biggest improvement within the revamp.

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The former Explorer had a harsh suspension setup that wasn’t well suited for off-road, as it would bounce and chatter when hitting a series of bumps. The new bike simply swallows rocks, ruts and bumps very effectively, enabling excellent control, especially at the rather enthusiastic speeds Lopez maintains on the dirt.

Of course, the Explorer is no trail bike, and its 258-kg weight produces a lot of inertia, so bolting quickly to avoid an obstacle is out of the question. You’re better off anticipating your trajectory and using the throttle to power through anything unexpected.

At the end of the ride, I return the dirt-spattered Explorer to its rightful owners, and walk away impressed. Triumph has improved the bike, primarily by pumping it full of technology, but that is de rigueur these days—and it works. Sure, some might think this is a bad thing, but the folks at Triumph have really done their homework, and I truly think that the end result is a bike that is now on the level of the class-leading GS. And that is no easy feat.

Specifications

Tiger Explorer XRTiger Explorer XRXTiger Explorer XRTTiger Explorer XCXTiger Explorer XCA
POWER139PS @ 9,300rpm139PS @ 9,300rpm139PS @ 9,300rpm139PS @ 9,300rpm139PS @ 9,300rpm
TORQUE123Nm @ 6,200rpm123Nm @ 6,200rpm123Nm @ 6,200rpm123Nm @ 6,200rpm123Nm @ 6,200rpm
ENGINE TYPELiquid-cooled, in-line, 3 cylinderLiquid-cooled, in-line, 3 cylinderLiquid-cooled, in-line, 3 cylinderLiquid-cooled, in-line, 3 cylinderLiquid-cooled, in-line, 3 cylinder
ENGINE SIZE1215cc1215cc1215cc1215cc1215cc
SEAT HEIGHT837/857mm837/857mm

(805 – 785 mm low seat version)

837/857mm837/857mm

(805 – 785 mm low seat version)

837/857mm
FRONT SUSPENSION48mm, WP USD fork, adjustable rebound and compression damping48mm, WP USD fork, electrically adjustable in rebound and compression damping48mm, WP USD fork, electrically adjustable in rebound and compression damping48mm, WP USD fork, electrically adjustable in rebound and compression damping48mm, WP USD fork, electrically adjustable in rebound and compression damping
REAR SUSPENSIONWP monoshock, adjustable in pre-load and rebound damping. Cast aluminium single sided swingarmSemi-active WP monoshock with automatic preload adjustment. Cast aluminium single sided swingarmSemi-active WP monoshock with automatic preload adjustment. Cast aluminium single sided swingarmSemi-active WP monoshock with automatic preload adjustment. Cast aluminium single sided swingarmSemi-active WP monoshock with automatic preload adjustment. Cast aluminium single sided swingarm
FRONT BRAKESDual 305mm discs, Brembo Monobloc 4-piston radial calipersDual 305mm discs, Brembo Monobloc 4-piston radial calipersDual 305mm discs, Brembo Monobloc 4-piston radial calipersDual 305mm discs, Brembo Monobloc 4-piston radial calipersDual 305mm discs, Brembo Monobloc 4-piston radial calipers
REAR BRAKESSingle 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliperSingle 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliperSingle 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliperSingle 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliperSingle 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper
TANK CAPACITY20L20L20L20L20L
DRY WEIGHT244kg246kg (244kg Low seat version)254kg253kg (251kg Low seat version)258kg
COLOURSCrystal White, Phantom BlackCrystal White, Lucerne BlueCrystal White, Lucerne Blue, Cranberry RedCrystal White, Lucerne BlueCrystal White, Lucerne Blue, Matt Khaki Green
STANDARD EQUIPMENTABS and Traction Control

‘Road’ and ‘Rain’ Riding Modes

Electrically adjustable screen

Centre stand*

Immobiliser

12V power socket

USB power socket

On-board computer

Cast wheels

Additional to the XR:

Cornering optimised ABS and Traction Control

‘Off-road’ Riding Mode

Cruise Control

Inertial Measurement Unit

Triumph Semi Active Suspension

Sellf-cancelling LED Indicators*

Hand guards

Additional 12v power socket

Heated grips

Advanced on-board computer

Additional to XRX:

‘Sport’ and ‘Rider’ adjustable Riding Modes

Hill Hold control

Electrically adjustable Touring screen

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Pannier rails for aluminium panniers

Heated rider and passenger seat

Engine protection bars

Cornering optimised ABS and Traction Control

‘Off-road’ Riding Modes

Cruise Control

Inertial Measurement Unit

Triumph Semi Active Suspension

Sellf-cancelling LED Indicators*

Hand guards

Additional 12v power socket

Heated grips

Advanced on-board computer

Aluminium sump guard

Stainless radiator guard

Engine protection bars

Additional to XCX:

‘Sport’ and ‘Rider’ adjustable Riding Modes

Hill Hold control

Electrically adjustable Touring screen

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Pannier rails for aluminium panniers

Heated rider and passenger seat

Engline protection bars

·  CNC machined footrests

LED auxiliary fog lights

13 thoughts on “Triumph Explorer XCa – the ride”

  1. Bollocks! I’ve ridden the 1200GS, 800GS, “Super”Tenere, KTM 640Adv, KTM990, Guzzi Stelvio NTX, Tiger 955i, Tiger800XC and a 2014 Tiger Explorer XC. The only ones I haven’t ridden are the new Caponord from Aprilia, and Honda’s new Africa-Twin – or a bunch of the good smaller ADV bikes that they don’t sell in North America…

    Now I’m NOT a professional moto-journalist who gets paid to praise everything I ride. Here’s one man’s opinion of the current offerings

    The best ADV bike that I’ve ever ridden in terms of off-road performance (confidence, ease) was the KTM LC4 640Adv – heads and tails better than anything else that could carry 2 people and a hundred lbs of gear and still go highway speeds. But take it on a long trip? Well, I’ve been there, done that. Several times, to the tune of tens of thousands of km in 4 provinces and about 6 US states. I finally decided it just wasn’t worth it. Terrible carburetion, as well – huge stalling problems. KTM really missed the boat for 9 yrs now by not putting their smooth , less-vibratory, non-stalling EFI LC4 690-enduro/duke engine in an ADV chassis with a strong subframe, big tank and some wind protection. I sold my 640Adv after I found a mint 2004 Tiger955i which was also dead simple, brilliant in the dirt (although nowhere near the level of the 640A), and is also painted bright bloody orange (but with stripes) and is far better, faster and more comfortable on blacktop.

    KTM 990, same verdict. Great over-powered dual-sport, but that’s _not_ the same as an ADV… and the 250 km to fill-up is a downer. Better on pavement than the 640A, but not much fuel range and not great comfort. And questionable reliability, to be frank

    Beemer1200GS? Good bike, good at everything, but not really amazing at anything, although they are a bit easier to pick up out of the dirt as one can lever the bike up over the protruding boxer cylinder head. Very expensive, though. And even more so, very very Very expensive parts… And unfortunately, one will find almost as much brand-centric attitude as one finds with those ridiculous Harley-twits. Although at least such attitude is slightly more understandable (although no less grating) coming from the owners of what is, after all, a fine and well-performing machine. But I didn’t _love_ it…

    Beemer 800. Rode it. Felt a bit cheap and underpowered. Just didn’t grab me. One gets the impression that the marketing types wanted a low-cost Chinese-built (the engine that is) gateway drug to the Kool-Aid of true GS’dom. How do the kids put it? meh…

    Guzzi Stelvio NTX? My wife and I rented one and rode thousands of km in Italy & France on pavement and gravel and dirt and through mountains and coastal storms. It’s way too heavy. Terrible ergonomics for me at 6′-0”. Uninspiring performance. Terrible suspension. Not horrible, but I felt disappointed, because I do love my Guzzi sport-tourer and I had hoped to love the stelvio.

    Yam “Super”-Tenere. Huge yawn. Very heavy, felt underpowered, suspension bottomed out. Just, frankly, not up to snuff. After riding it, I was honestly not sure why anyone would buy one, if they’d had a chance to ride the alternatives. In this (for the first time) I seem to agree with the dozens of reviewers who have said more or less the same.

    Tiger800XC – very similar to my 2004 Tiger 955i, except they mucked up the ergos and for me at least, it wasn’t as comfortable. Better for shorter guys perhaps? Same weight, less comfortable seat, less power, smaller fuel range and no tiger stripes on the tank. Mr Bloor, you were so close in 2004 and it took you 10 years to get back to – almost – where you d been in 2003-4. I _almost_ loved the 800XC, but I ddn’t prefer it over my old 955i tiger enough to justify the cost. So I upgraded the suspension on my old bike!

    Which leads me to the Tiger Expl 1200XC. I felt also vwery close to loving it, but just not quite… I lived – offroad – with a 2014, although just for a day, but lots of dirt kms No pavement, but I could tell it would shine at that. It has an amazing engine – like my 955i, but with about 30% more power. (Did I need that Mr Bloor?). The ergonomics were good – could have added bar risers etc. Overall, it was remarkably close to my Tiger 955i. Except the suspension was at once both too harsh at the rear and too soft at the front – with a tendency for bottoming out, I blew a fork seal, at maybe 50 km/h – and thus just had the one day with it!

    So really, in my opinion, all Triumph needed to fix the suspension. So, Costa, have they done that? Is this as good an ADV bike as they had built (perhaps by accident) in 2004? And most importantly – when will they bring back the stripes?

    1. “The former Explorer had a harsh suspension setup that wasn’t well suited for off-road, as it would bounce and chatter when hitting a series of bumps. The new bike simply swallows rocks, ruts and bumps very effectively, enabling excellent control, especially at the rather enthusiastic speeds Lopez maintains on the dirt.” I’d say they fixed it.

  2. This looks like a fantastic bike and great upgrade. I would consider this bike. I cant imagine picking it up in an off camber incline. I have a hard enough time picking my DRZ up.

    1. You need to update your calendar Tim. It’s 2016 not 1916. I have owned 2 of the new era Triumphs and they were both 100% reliable. I thrashed the shit out of both of them, Trophy 900 & Thruxton. 40,000 k’s on the Trophy and over 30 on the Thruxton.

  3. Needs to try and be a Super Tenere beater. I’ve owned GS’s and was shock on a ST test ride to find how wrong off the reports I read were. The GS is on top because the demographic that rides adventure bikes “for the most part” are BMW “guys”. The ST is by far the best adventure bike, and maybe even overall all time motorcycle. Having owned any and everything, no doubt in my mind Super Tenere is top dog… despite Internet articles.

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