It is no longer news to anyone that follows motorcycling that the big enduro/adventure bikes are all the rage. Britain has a great heritage of exploration (Dr. Livingstone, I presume?), and with its new Tiger Explorer, which follows on the recent success of the Tiger 800, Triumph joins the battle against the big bore class leading BMW R 1200 GS. In a category that now includes new models from the likes of Honda and Kawasaki, after just a single ride it is clear that Triumph has built a bike with all the necessary ingredients to be successful.
You can look at our tech brief for the Tiger Explorer to get all the details, but the highlights include the new 1215 cc triple that puts out a claimed 135 hp and 89 foot-pounds of torque through shaft drive to the rear wheel. Carrying 5.3 gallons of fuel, and featuring a 950 W alternator, the new Tiger Explorer promises to be a touring rider’s handy tool. The ergonomics are comfortable and upright, and the seat height is adjustable over a relatively broad range.
The claimed wet weight of 539 pounds seems pretty decent for a bike in this displacement category, but the BMW is a full 65 pounds lighter thanks to extensive efforts to trim weight by the German manufacturer.
Naturally, Triumph is dead serious about being successful in this niche, and the bike will be made available with ready access to dozens of accessories, including large saddlebags and top box (together, offering nearly 100 liters of storage space), as well as heated grips, heated seats and a taller windscreen, among others.
Although the Tiger Explorer is a big bike, the seat height adjustment and narrow chassis allow relatively short riders to find a comforting reach to the ground with their feet. Something missing from many competitors in this category.
The Tiger Explorer is not without its electronic gadgets. Standard ABS and traction control are accompanied by cruise control, all of which are easily manipulated from the handlebars. Traction control offers three positions, including the most intrusive (allowing essentially zero wheel spin), slightly less intrusive and an “off” position.
After adjusting the seat height, as well as the windscreen position, we hit the starter button for the first time and that new triple with class leading power burbles to life. The new ride-by-wire throttle provides instant response from the big motor. The familiar, pleasing sound and smooth vibes immediately recall your last ride on a Hinckley triple (in my case, the Tiger 800). We begin to roll through the land of Granada, surrounded by olive groves and tranquility. Everything is smooth, highlighted by that throttle response that so precisely transmits to the rear wheel.
Traveling through an urban environment, the big Tiger is surprisingly nimble feeling and easily fits between lanes with the high handlebars clearing the mirrors of the adjacent cars. The ergonomics are immediately appreciated, with my hands in a comfortable position and the adjustable seat providing just the right amount of support.
Escaping to the faster highways, it becomes apparent to me that cruise control could be very useful on longer trips. Many motorcyclists scoff at cruise control, largely because they are unfamiliar with it. Trust me, this feature, which is so seamlessly integrated on the new Tiger Explorer, could be a godsend on boring drones across the super slab.
Like many of Hinckley’s recent triples, the motor runs like silk with no intrusive vibration whatsoever. Together with the couch-like ergonomics, I can tell this is going to be a relaxing ride with very little physical effort. Comfortable cruising on the highway can get boring, however, so I steer the Tiger Explorer to the twisty back roads.
It is on the flowing twisty back roads of Grenada where the magic happens. This big machine changes directions so easily that the weight beneath me virtually disappears. In fact, I decide that the fluid handling of the big Tiger Explorer is a great complement to that hugely powerful, smooth power plant motivating the mass. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast and haven’t experienced a Hinckley triple, you simply must do so.
That instantaneous throttle response is very controllable … nothing unexpected happens as you open and close the grip. Together with all the leverage provided by that wide handlebar, this big bike creates a big grin under my helmet.
Traction control and long travel suspension only add to the pleasure. No need to worry about opening the throttle aggressively despite dicey traction here and there, and the extra suspension travel soaks up the bumps and undulations without diving excessively on the brakes.
The only fly in the ointment is, in a way, a complement to the Tiger Explorer. The bike generates so much confidence that you find yourself entering corners as aggressively as you might on a much lighter sport bike, revealing the extra mass beneath you. Having survived the overly aggressive corner entry, however, the bike quickly soothes you with that tremendous sound emanating from the engine, particularly above 6,000 rpm.
Finally, we take the machine off-road to assess its true adventure potential. Granted, machines in this category are not motocross bikes, and they certainly do not handle like such lightweight, nimble off-roaders. Respecting its size and weight, and being careful not to drop it (you don’t want to try to pick this bike up), it acquits itself surprisingly well. Both ABS and traction control can be turned off, which you would typically want to do on dirt or gravel.
Triumph is on a roll. It is carefully selecting the right categories to pursue, and producing quality machines priced as good value. The Tiger Explorer is no different. In the highly competitive mega-enduro class, this machine offers the most power and the only three-cylinder configuration. Together with a well sorted chassis and the available accessories expected in this class of motorcycle, Triumph appears to have produced another hit. We hope to get a test unit for further evaluation, but at this point we can already recommend the new Tiger Explorer. U.S. MSRP is $15,699. Visit Triumph’s website for additional details and specifications.