BMW’s R1200GS has been the mainstay of the adventure touring crowd for quite a while – even discounting the fact that, like Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators, the closest the majority of GS owners get to dirt is when planting tomato seedlings in pots on the deck.
It’s been quite a while since the Brits had Jerry so square in the crosshairs, but after the launch of the Tiger 800 last year and now with the new $17,499 Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200, Triumph would appear to be zeroed in quite nicely.
And Mein Herr, this duel doesn’t require sabres at dawn, pistols at ten paces or even banjos on the porch. Just bring your R1200GS adventure touring motorcycle to the Field of Honour, and be prepared to get sorted out on the highways, byways and adventure touring areas all over the world.
For starters, the engine is an absolute gem – an all-new, 1215cc, three-cylinder monster pumping out a claimed 135 horsepower (25 more than the 1200GS) with 89 lbs-ft of torque. And most of the grunt is available right off the bottom.
You can idle right down to 30 km/h in sixth, give it some throttle and it just hauls away with nary a buck or a lurch. It’s got so much power down low that first is almost superfluous – it’s just as easy to start in second and shift directly to sixth.
The six speed box is a bit stiff and notchy but would likely smooth itself out after being completely broken in. My press unit had barely logged 500 km when I picked it up, so things were still tight.
The engine obviously doesn’t have a lot of flywheel, which is both a blessing and a curse. Triumph’s first ride-by-wire throttle system allows it to spool up incredibly quickly, but that same responsiveness equals a throttle that’s a bit twitchy, bordering on abrupt.
Usually, you can short-shift an engine to get around this, but the Explorer’s engine makes 74 ft-lbs at just 2,500 rpm, so it pulls like a freight train as soon as you give it any wick at all.
Forks are beefy 46 mm, male slider units with a generous 190 mm of travel and are adjustable for preload. Bringing up the hind end is a single-sided, cast aluminum swingarm that houses the shaft drive system. The remote reservoir Kayaba monoshock sports a remote preload adjuster, adjustment for rebound damping and 194 mm of travel.
Wheels are standard fare and the same size as found on the GS and Super Ten with a 110/80-19 inch unit up front and a 150/70-17 on the back. Unfortunately they are only available in 10-spoke cast alloy format, which could cause issues once off the relative smoothness of our paved roads*. Maybe Triumph are saving those for a future XC/Adventure format?
Metzler Tourance buns are standard, which seem to be a good compromise, although they are slanted more towards paved surfaces than dirt.
Twin 305 mm discs squeezed by four-pot calipers provide stopping power up front, while a single 282 mm twin-piston unit is out back. ABS is standard and unlike Yamaha’s Super Tenere, the rider has the option of switching it off once he’s into the dirt.
The Explorer also comes with cruise control and traction control as standard equipment. The traction control has two levels of intrusion, or you can switch it off completely.
The seat is among the best in motorcycle-dom – it’s wide, flat and nicely padded. The medium rise of the bars, combined with the peg placement make for a nice, upright riding position that’s just about what I’d specify if I were building a bike from scratch.
Some riders may have trouble with the seat height, but it’s adjustable from between 840 and 860 mm so have at it and see if it fits. If not, other seats are available as options (at an additional $190) to raise you up by 20 mm or lower it by another 30 mm.
The screen, likewise is manually adjustable and I found it provided a still, buffet-free cockpit on the high position . The handguards keep chill breezes away from sensitive pinkies although the GS gets real touring and has standard heated grips – so why not the Triumph?
There’s definitely enough juice to power them, as Triumph’s alternator pumps out 950W, way more than the GS’s 720W, and more than enough to operate Madame and Monsieur’s electric suits, boots, gloves, cell phone, GPS and auxiliary lighting with enough left over to power up a medium sized city.
The instrument pod has a digital speedo, analog tach, time, fuel gauge, handy gear position indicator, a menu for adjusting or switching off the ABS, traction control, optional tire pressure monitor and cruise control. You can scroll through a myriad of other functions including fuel consumption (instant and average), temperature, odometer, trip meter and a whole bunch of other stuff I couldn’t even begin to decipher during my time on the bike. All this is accessible via switches on the left pod rather than by tiny buttons that are useless with gloves on. Nice job.
On the road
The frame is steel – heavier than aluminum, but then if you break it in some remote hellhole, any hack with a welder can repair it and get you going in no time. Overall claimed wet weight is 2 kilos shy of Yamaha’s Super Ten at 259 kg, but a chunk more than the 1200GS’s claimed 229kg.
However, the wide bars give excellent leverage around town and the quick, neutral steering makes the Explorer feel 50 kilos lighter than its claimed weight. The only time I noticed the weight was when I was almost stopped, doing a U-turn on a dirt road. The Explorer carries more of its weight up high, as you’d expect with the inline three cylinder mill vs. the flat twin boxer.
Through the twisties, the Explorer goes as fast as prudent on public roads. You can lean it wa-a-a-y over with nary a quibble from the chassis and, should you need to get by a plodding line of minivans or RVs, just grab a mittful of throttle and you’re soon at Warp 3.
The supple suspension soaks up all the divots and potholes our crappy roads have to offer and all the while, the rider is sitting all upright and comfy. Plus, the three-cylinder growl sounds awesome.
Off road? I’ll have to leave that opinion to those whose dirt riding skills are superior to mine (which is likely just about everyone) but I think the Triumph’s extra weight over the GS and abrupt throttle response will work against it, although the traction control might make that a wash.
Any of these bikes are too heavy for serious off-roading, although some riders will no doubt take them into the backwoods.
During “normal” riding, fuel consumption averaged around 6L/100km, so the 20-liter tank should give a range of over 300 km.
The bottom line
So the hardware is top notch and there are enough nerdalicious details to keep the techno-geeks busy for hours, but is it enough to successfully invade the Siegfried Line?
The Explorer is well thought out. Even though it has shaft drive, it comes with a centerstand, the sidestand has a larger than normal footprint to avoid digging in and tipping over on soft ground, and the rear rack is real aluminum rather than cheesy plastic.
In the ever-growing adventure touring market, Triumph’s 1200 Explorer has the tools to be a serious contender. It’s extremely comfortable and a hoot to ride. It has a great engine, a willing, competent chassis and that three-cylinder howl is worth the price of admission.
And at $17,499, that price is $400 less than the 1200GS and a grand more than the Super Ten, so it’s definitely in the ball park.
Is this D-Day for the 1200GS? We’ll see, but the Triumph Explorer is definitely calling it out.*Statement does not apply to Quebec.
|Bike||Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200|
|MSRP||$17,499, plus applicable taxes and fees|
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, in-line three-cylinder|
|Power (crank)*||137PS/135bhp/101kW @ 9300rpm|
|Torque*||121Nm/89 ft.lbs @ 6400rpm|
|Tank Capacity||20 litres/5.3 US gals|
|Carburetion||Drive by wire, fuel injection|
|Tires, front||110/80 R 19|
|Tires, rear||150/70 R 17|
|Brakes, front||Twin 305mm floating discs, Nissin 4-piston calipers, Switchable ABS|
|Brakes, rear||Single 282mm disc, Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper, Switchable ABS|
|Seat height||837mm/32.9in – 857mm/33.7in|
|Wet weight*||198 kg (437 lb)|
|Colours||Graphite/Sapphire Blue/Phantom Black|
|Warranty||Two-year, unlimited mileage|
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