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Offline Metaljockey

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Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« on: May 16, 2012, 04:38:40 pm »
As some of you may know I attended the launch of the new 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 last week in Magaliesburg. I would also like to thank Arnold Olivier of Triumph SA for giving the Wilddogs an opportunity to have a first hand look at this new DS flagship for Triumph.

Before we get going on the Explorer, let me first tell you about my '96 Tiger 900. It was a heavily flawed bike. The front suspension had so much dive on the brakes that you had to wear a knee slider on your chin guard. It was top heavy. Once it went past the balance point, you got the hell out of the way or risk breaking bones.

But man, that three cylinder motor was epic. It had a whine like a jet engine and it had the power characteristics of a runaway train storming to the horizon at full tilt. Each successive gear felt stronger than the previous one. It was terrible on dirt because once the back wheel started spinning up you may as well stop and start over, it was addicted to power slides that continued through all the gears.

Years after selling the Tiger, I would still lay in bed some nights thinking about that motor and smile happily. No other bike that I have owned had that effect on me. Since then I have always had a soft spot for the Triumph triple.

This is why I was looking forward to the Explorer launch so much. That Triumph triple bumped from 885cc to 1215cc, with 135bhp on tap, installed in a new Tiger had my name written all over it. Roll on the launch.

Let's gooi some standard specs that might be of interest.

The good specs
- Shaft
- Tubeless
- Switch-able ABS
- Traction control
 -Cruise control

The bad specs
- 259kg wet weight
- Alloy wheels (debatable)
- Heated grips not standard

In the flesh, the bike has some obvious similarities to the BMW 1200 GS but it clearly is a Triumph, and it shows it's family lines in common with the Tiger 800 XC. It is a good looking bike and it has a presence that is hard to ignore, big tank, wide bars etc.


Once we got going I was eager to get a feel for the bike and I must say I was a bit underwhelmed. Both the motor and the suspension felt to be less than it could have been.

Looking at the published torque and power curves, I was expecting a monster. However, the motor did not feel like a 1200. Under 5000 revs it was docile and even a bit boring. From 5000 to 7000 rpm it was much more like what I expected. If you keep it in that range it is a pleasure to ride. From 7000 to the 10 000rpm red line it was a bit rough, but there really is no point in going there, between 5 and 7k there is more than enough thrust to keep a smile on your dial.

At higher speeds the Triumph impresses. Accelerating from 160 km/h gives an unexpected shove up the back side and it rushes past 180 km/h like my GS never did. Very lekker.

The engine must have been tuned to make it more dirt friendly and if that was the plan, it worked brilliantly. It has fantastic snatch free fuelling right from idle. This really impressed me. Even in third gear I could let it slow down to less than 2000rpm and when you wind on the throttle it pulls cleanly and evenly. Good fuelling makes for easy riding generally but more so in the tight stuff and in traffic.

To help put the power down there are three traction control settings, none, one and two. Level 1 is the default and on dirt it does not do well. It cuts the motor quite dramatically and always as soon as you blip the throttle to get the front wheel over a rut or pothole. Level 2 works very well on dirt.

Which brings me to something that I do not like on this bike. Ignition-off takes all the electronic aids back to default settings. This includes traction control and ABS. Most bikes in this class does the same thing. But if you thought it is a pain in the ass to stop and switch off the BMW in order to get the ABS disabled, you haven't seen the Tiger yet. It has to be in neutral, it has to be stationary too, then there is an array of menu's to go through on more than one button to get the ABS disabled and the traction control to level 2 or off, whichever is your preference. By the time you have worked through these your mate on his GS will be out front generating a dust cloud for your personal enjoyment.

Often one would stop to speak a word or two to your riding companions, and I had hoped that using the kill switch and leaving the ignition on would avoid the need for the all the programming pallava. Confusingly though, the ABS keeps it's setting, but the traction control defaults back to setting no 1 if the kill switch is activated.

I understand the need to protect stupid consumers, or more likely, the need to protect the manufacturers from stupid consumers by making these safety aids the default. But what can be so wrong with having ABS on a toggle switch which can be switched on the fly, if it is fitted with a warning light as backup?

So, as far as the motor goes, it works well on dirt, even though the electronic settings is overly finicky to get set up. On tar, it feels underpowered until you get to 5000 rpm, then it is a joy. Of course it is one or the other, if you want  a wild cat on the road, it will be useless off-road. If you want it suited to off-road, you are going to lose some zing on-road. However, the Tiger is EFI and not only that, the throttle is also electronically operated. It would have been the easiest thing ever to just have two engine mapping settings for the two applications. The 690 has it, the Multistrada has it, the Super Tenere has it, the Tiger could have been so much the better bike for it.

I like the way that the oil filter is protected.

The oil is also cooled internally by a water cooler. Nifty.

The drive train is a joy. No transmission snatch whatsoever. Also the control arm is on top of the drive shaft, out of harms way. I still remember a ride ending because an 1150 GS had slipped into a rut and snapped the control arm lug off the hub. So we learn.

Service intervals of 16000km is another big benefit. You score one service cost for every two services done as opposed to the opposition that services every 10 000km. Not to mention time spent at the dealer while you could be riding.

Fuel economy is quite acceptable. The bike on the launch with the most kilos on averaged 6.2 l/100km over the 1st 2000km. And that is with guys test riding it and so on.

Lastly, just for interest sake, the gearbox is a cassette type, pull out push in. No having to dismantle the whole bike or motor.


In the short time that we had to ride the Tiger on dirt it was difficult to get a comprehensive feel for the suspension. I heard some other guys say different, but I found the suspension very hard. I have to qualify that by saying that we rode with hard tyres and that we did not fiddle with any settings. Gary Franks is of the opinion that alloy rims makes for a harsher ride. The idea is that spoked rims have a lot more give. It sounds like a viable theory to me. It is very beautiful rims though.

The front appears to be adjustable for compression and the rear for both compression and rebound, so it may be possible to tune in something softer.

The rear had the tendency to bounce and lose traction on rough surfaces, but that is a common drive shaft trait and to be expected.

Not only did the suspension feel harsh, but it also ignored weight shifting of the rider. Trying to compress and unload the suspension with body weight seemed to have no effect. Whether this is a factor of the bike's substantial weight or of the suspension being too hard, I don't know. I weigh 86kg.

What the bike does well is track straight. One would expect it to with that weight. Speaking of weight, you do feel it. It is noticeably heavier than a 1200 GS. It is fine on-road and it responds very nicely to peg-loading, but you don't want to manhandle this bike too much if it can be avoided.

The big traily class was defined by the GS and from the R80 to the R100 to the 1100 to the 1150 to the 1150 Adventure, the trend was to go heavier and heavier with no end in sight. Then KTM (bless their soul) unleashed the 950 Adventure, a full 30kg lighter than the BM, prompting BMW to do the same and the result was the all conquering 1200. I thought the trend was finally going the other way with lighter and more powerful machines (HP, SE). However, it totally confounds me that every new model launched by other manufacturers recently (Yamaha, Honda, Triumph) ostensibly to compete with the GS, is going the other way with quarter ton bikes.

Lastly, it might be a good idea to invest in a steering damper for this bike if you are going to farkle.

Oh, and the death dive under braking of the old Tiger is gone. This one is well behaved on the brakes.


The bikes in this class are really touring bikes with the ability to do gravel without batting an eye. The Explorer is no exception and I think it will make an excellent distance muncher. Like Yamaha the seat configuration is copied from the BM. It is very effective, adjustable and comfortable.

Where the Explorer bettered the BM is that the seats can both be heated as an option. Here is where the button would go for the passenger, which would allow your pillion to control her own ass temperature.

I think it is brilliant. Heated grips does more than just keep your hands warm. It acts like a heating radiator for the rest of your body. Heating this kind of surface area should be even more effective when you are cutting across the Free State one morning in minus 10 degrees celsius.

Also look at the inserts on the bottom of the seat, that is to avoid the seat cover tearing from being put down on the ground like the GS's tend to do.

There is also a 3 litre odds and ends space under the rear seat.

The handle bars are adjustable fore and aft, by switching the mounts around, and of course the normal front and back sweep. I felt that a handle bar raiser would make it just that bit more comfortable for me when standing, but the height is not bad by a long shot.

What I do appreciate is the way the bike was slimmed down to give a comfortable standing position. Look at that.

Plenty of room to straighten your legs. I have always been annoyed by bikes that force you to stand bow-legged because it is so wide between the pegs.

Another bonus is plenty of places to tie luggage to, and a proper rear rack that looks plenty strong.

This bike is well thought through. It will handle load easily, as it has the biggest rated load capacity in the class.

The launch bikes had the extended screen and I doubt that that is even necessary, as it was almost too high. I suspect that the standard screen will be sufficient.

The tank has some protectors on the side and it looks humongous. If a bike is this heavy and is fitted with this size body work, one would expect a large tank capacity, something like 27 or 30 litres. Unfortunately this is not the case. It can only house 20 litres.

The clocks has a wide variety of info to play with on the long road. I liked the temperature gauge as well as the fact that the consumption can be shown in l/100km or km/l.

In addition there is a gear indicator, clock, average speed and range to empty.

On the launch models we had the optional aluminium belly protectors. Although the protectors are fine I suspect that this small lug used to attach them will not live to see the second knock.


 The Explorer has an array of really nice extras that comes as standard.

Switch-able ABS and the two Traction Control settings I have already dealt with above.

Cruise Control  is something that I rate quite highly for the guys that do distance.

These following stop-gap aids are used by riders for a reason.

The reason is that it is necessary to give your throttle hand a break from time to time. On open road I can not do more than 50km before the throttle spring load causes a back spasm down the length of my spine on the right. Leaving me the rest of the day riding in pain.

None of the above are proper cruise control though, they are throttle locks. This means that they only keep the throttle stable at a fixed opening, causing the bike to still lose momentum on an uphill and speed up on a downhill. The rider must still keep an eye on the speedo and make constant adjustments.

The Explorer has proper Cruise Control like so.

For touring, this is fantastic. It cancels by either hitting the brakes, pushing a button or closing the throttle (it has an overrun spring load). I want one.

The adjustable screen is effective and nicely supported by a frame. The whole frame moves with the screen and it is so easy to release the two knobs and adjust that you could probably do it on the fly with a little practise.

The Ride by Wire throttle has no cables running down to the EFI. It will take a little getting used to, because it has a very light action. Especially off-road it tends to blip a little when you hit something that transmits to the handlebars.

The Explorer sports the highest output generator in it's class. The drawback of a high draw down of power is some loss of power from the motor. Not in this case however, it only generates on demand. So if you do not have a lot of electrics going the motor does not lose power due to driving the generator.

Two gadgets that I find glaringly missing, but that are available as extras, are heated grips and hand protectors. These should really have come standard. The toolbox is rudimentary.

Optional gadgets
The Explorer has 37 different extras specifically developed for it, so you can bling your bike until it is exactly the way you want it. It covers from luggage to protection to an Arrow exhaust to Billet foot pegs to bigger screen to fog lights and even an alarm system. These are high quality items, I specifically liked the Adventure Tail Pack.

I will point out one or two of the optionals that caught my fancy.

There is a dynamic luggage system that allows your top-box and your panniers some movement. This makes the bike more stable and also reduces the stresses on the subframe and hard luggage. Here's a pic to show how the top box mounting moves.

The seat heating I already referred to above, very nifty. There is also an array of lowered and gel padded seats available.

There is also an electronic tyre pressure monitor that can be fitted. Easy to access.

It is a safety feature that will save many a tyre with a slow puncture from overheating and de-laminating on the fly. It also saves you from getting your hands dirty in checking tyre pressures every morning. The dash computer is ready to have it activated and shows the pressure in bar or Psi, whatever your preference.

We had them on the launch models but there was a malfunction or two.

The spotlights have a nice strong support bar, yet are mounted in the protective aluminium cover, not straight onto the bar. This should keep them safe as the protective cover will take the knock and not the spots.


Engine – very good on gravel, uninspiring on road.

Suspension – jury still out on that, I did not like it.

Ergonomics – excellent seated position, excellent standing position, good wind protection and excellent luggage ability.

Gadgets – ABS, traction control, cruise control all standard and a whole range optional, good quality stuff.

It is a good looking bike, it is a triple and it will be a very good dirt tourer.  We are fortunate that the big trailie class is getting so many top notch members lately.

« Last Edit: October 22, 2012, 12:36:29 pm by KiLRoy »


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Re: Exploring the new Explorer
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2012, 05:11:03 pm »
Think I will go and delete my kak post on the ride i had on Saterday! Thanks for a great write up  :thumleft:


Offline J-dog

Re: Exploring the new Explorer
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2012, 05:22:48 pm »
thanks MJ  :thumleft:

Offline Brakenjan

Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2012, 06:21:24 pm »
Great stuff MJ!! Way better than any Bark SA write up! Thank you.  :thumleft:


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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2012, 06:35:18 pm »
What a interesting read.
Thanks MJ. :thumleft:

Offline BabyBeemer

Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2012, 06:41:12 pm »
Thanks for this. I saw the blue one in the flesh so to speak and  :drif:
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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2012, 06:49:21 pm »
The more I see this bike the more I like the look of this bike, they have thought of everything.. very nice write up  :thumleft:
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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2012, 06:52:27 pm »
MJ, I rode a blue Explorer at from Traditional Truimph which was missing a handguard.....know anything about that?  ;D :peepwall:


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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2012, 06:54:24 pm »
WOW ISN'T AL REPORTS SUPPOSE TO BE LIKE THIS !! Metaljocky thanks for the nice report  :thumleft:


Offline Buffel B

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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2012, 06:57:03 pm »
Thanks for the nice report.
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Offline drewdza

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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2012, 06:58:58 pm »
Excellent review  :thumleft: - much better than anything I expect to see in an SA publication. Thanks.

Offline Veldbrand

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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2012, 07:04:36 pm »
Thanks MJ, relevant info and great write up.

I'm just so glad I have an old bike and am not in the market for a liter class bike and can't afford anymore new bikes now either since it must be a nightmare for anybody having to choose from the huge available menu.

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Offline Buff

Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2012, 07:08:13 pm »
What a great report, thanks and well done  :thumleft:
Gotta admit, I like this bike a lot  :thumleft:
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Offline oo7

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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2012, 07:09:57 pm »
Very interesting review MJ, thanks.

I just can't believe that tank can only take  20 liters. Anyhow, if a genie is about to give you the option to get one bike for free, with whatever farkles you would like, which one would you choose between this Triumph, the GSA or the STen?


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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2012, 07:28:46 pm »
Naais write-up, MJ. Pity journalism pays as shit as it does, otherwise you should have given the profession a go.

Would also like to know what your pick will be if you have to choose between the big BMW, the Honda, the Yammie and the Triumph - even the Versys 1000 - or if you think the KTM990 is enough of a tourer to get the nod.
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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2012, 08:25:31 pm »
Wow nice. Well written.

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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2012, 08:29:36 pm »
a beaut of a bike but would probably be let down by the service centres here in the eastern cape.
thanks for the honest report. :thumleft:
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Offline Sabre

Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2012, 09:09:05 pm »
Excellent review  :thumleft: - much better than anything I expect to see in an SA publication. Thanks.

I have read quite a few reviews/road tests of this bike, and MJ's is by far the best. In fact, I regard this as the first true reflection of the bike
If a similiar invite comes to the WDs again, there shouldn't be a debate as to who should be sent  :deal:
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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2012, 09:17:23 pm »
great report  :thumleft:

it is a sexy bike   :ricky:

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Re: Exploring the new Explorer- Official launch report
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2012, 09:20:02 pm »
Thanks MJ, well balanced, honest report. Great stuff :thumleft:
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