Today was just the
best day to take Triumphs new Tiger Explorer out and put her through her paces.
On firing her up. the engine settles into a lovely mechanical whirr and it just sounds so much nicer than the likes of the ubiquitous inline four. There's just something so right about how Triumph can make their triples sound. Throwing my leg over to bring it off the sidestand was pretty easy and straddling the big Explorer, the first thing I noticed is how well balanced it seems. Now this is one heavy bike, heavier than the BMW 1200GS, but it hides its weight well. I snicked her into first gear, very quietly I may add, and off I went. The throttle being 'ride by wire' is very sensitive and if you are a bit ham fisted, you could end up po-going and lurching about back and forth. It doesn't take long to get the feel of how responsive the throttle is tho' and soon enough, I didn't have to think about not having a cable to pull. The gearbox also has to be praised. It has to be one of the best gearboxes I've ever had the pleasure of using, so smooth. It also helped to have a brilliant shaft drive set-up. It is super smooth also and I felt no backlash at all or any clunking like I have on the 12GS BM. It also looks much more robust than the BM offering and I'll bet that Triumph won't have the warranty claims that many GS owners will be familiar with.
Out onto the open road and I quickly settled in for a couple of hours saddle time. The engine pulls beautifully strong it seems anywhere in the rev range. It didn't matter if I was tootling in sixth gear at 20 mph or winding her on using the revs, this big girl just pulls and pulls. There's no lack of power (a claimed 135 bhp and 89lbs. ft torque), nor did I detect any flat spots throughout the range. Neither did I seem to suffer from any intrusive vibration and I was most impressed with how the engine performs. I took it off road down a gravelly track and into a field for a hoon around. The tyres are more suited to tarmac and you do notice the weight when you're sliding around on grass and I'm also very glad I didn't come a cropper as I wouldn't fancy having to lift her back onto its wheels.
Sense took over and I got back onto the road. Accelerating hard had the traction control cutting the power (another advantage of the ride by wire is it enables Triumph to add traction control and cruise control). It can be switched off, but I didn't want to waste any time trying to learn all the different settings you can programme into the bike as my time was limited. The instruments are very comprehensive with a good clear digital display for everything bar the rev counter.
The suspension front and back is by KYB with the front only having preload and the rear having (remote) preload and rebound. Personally, I'm not one who really mucks about with suspension settings and tend to just get on with the factory settings. Initially, I found the handling to be a tad on the heavy side and it didn't feel like it had the general ease of handling like the venerable GS has. Maybe this is down to the extra weight it's carrying over the BMW, but it's no way unpleasant and the longer I spent in the saddle, the better it got. And speaking of saddles, Triumph have possibly given all the new Explorer owners a seat that doesn't destroy your butt within 50 miles. This could be the bike that the likes of Sargent, Corbin etc. don't need to invest in developing a decent riders perch. Plus Triumph also do a comfort saddle as well amongst the many other accessories available for the Explorer. As for the brakes, well, they are excellent with loads of power (and ABS), but they do highlight the amount of dive in the front forks when used hard.
To sum up, the Triumph Explorer is aimed fair and square at the R1200GS and in virtually all respects, they have hit the mark and the ubiquitous BMW now has a serious rival. There's lots to like about this big Triumph and it comes across as a very high quality item. The only minor thing that I didn't like was the handlebars which felt too wide, too low and slightly too far forward. But I'm sure that those could easily be changed and that's about all I feel I would need to do to this bike to make it as perfect a bike as I would ever need. Yes, it could be lighter, but once moving, that weight disappears. It'll be interesting to compare it to the Honda CrossTourer when it becomes available, but I feel that this bike has been thoughtfully designed and is not entering the Adventure class just to steal a couple of sales from BMW. It won't outsell the beemer tho' as that bike is just too well established and its image too well imprinted on peoples minds (thanks Ewan and Charlie). But by heck, Triumph have down a marvellous job in bringing their latest masterpiece to the market and deserve to do well.