no problems 20k miles powder coating and any black paint very thin powder coating on rear diff coming off mirror arms rusting power top box ,connecting pins busted have been told will be sorted under warrenty !!! overal i do like the bike...
I bought this bike in September 2012 as a replacement for my Aprilia Pegaso Trail (review also on adventurebikerider.com) after realising that brilliant though the little Aprilia was at the actual touring of remote areas and in pretty gnarly terrain, it was excruciating to ride for the extended periods required to get to aforesaid remote areas from where I live in Kuala Lumpur- it was unpleasant enough that I simply didn't ride.
Learning from my experiences with the Pegaso and BMW R1100S Boxercup Replica, and having a clear idea of what my motorcycling would consist of for the next few years, it was clear that a large-ish DP was called for.
It had to be comfortable on long highway journeys, it had to be fun and engaging on twisting mountain roads, it had to be capable of handling the occasional dirt track and most important, it had to be completely reliable,
The eventual shortlist comprised the BMW R1200GS (the old, air-cooled one) and the Triumph Tiger Explorer and after test riding both, it was the Explorer that I went for.
Approaching the Explorer for the first time, one gets an impression of a serious amount of motorcycle, tightly packaged into a fuctional, purposeful yet handsome machine with a refreshing absence of geegaws, fairings and intakes hanging off it. I have to admit I did like the way it looked which is more than I can say for most of the other bikes in this class.
Walking around the parked Explorer reveals it to be a very conservatively- built bike. No fancy-dan LED lights here- the Explorer makes do with good old halogen bulbs all round and neither is there any trace of fashionable carbon-fibre to be found anywhere. The Explorer’s frame is steel(!) although that swingarm is cast aluminium (I think) alloy, as is the cargo rack/pillion grab rail at the back. The rest of the bike is covered with a bare minimum of painted ABS plastic.
Absent too is any form of multi-mode electronic suspension- the Explorer is sprung by preload-only adjustable 46mm Kayaba inverted forks up front with 19cm travel and a preload-and-damping adjustable Kayaba monoshock on a single-sided swingarm with 19.4cm travel at the back.
So- not keeping quite up with the Joneses in terms of latest tech and gadgets but this was not necessarily a minus for me. After having lived almost 15 years with various hydropneumatic Citroens, highly strung Alfa Romeos, turbocharged Mitsubishis and- the last straw- a Range Rover, I’m more than a little leery of gratuitous tech and quite happy to forego a fair amount of it in return for reliability- particularly since given what it costs in Malaysia (the equivalent of £21,300 which is close on double what a Brit would pay for his), I’ll still be living with the Explorer long after the warranty expires.
I kick it...... and nothing falls off. More kicks and some groping, twiddling, twisting and knocking various bits of it reveal the Explorer to be probably the most solidly built of all the big DPs and I’ve kicked, fondled and generally molested every single one of them to the consternation of more than one salesman during my search for my bike. This one is extremely well put-together and that counts a lot to me.
It’s too soon to tell of course, after only 14 months and 15,000 miles but in that time the Explorer hasn’t missed a beat and has required absolutely no attention other than the scheduled services at 1,000 and 10,000 miles as well as brake pad and tyre replacements and indeed the bike feels no different today than it did the day it left the showroom- no rattles, no shakes, nothing's loose and nothing has parted company with the bike so far.
So far so good, then, and I’m hoping for much more of the same in the years to come.
The Explorer comes with Metzeler Tourance EXP tyres in the GS-standard sizes of 110/80-19 front and 150/70-17 rear and wears the front one out before the rear. I got 10,000 miles out of my front tyre and could have gotten maybe 12,000 out of the rear. The point I’d like to make about these is that when they start to square off- especially at the rear- the Explorer’s EXTREMELY communicative character manifests this as a reluctance to lean when entering a corner or a tendency to run wide when exiting. For the owner this won’t be an issue as the change in handling characteristics as the tyres wear would have been gradual but it’s worth mentioning when handing over an Explorer with squared-off Metzelers to a buddy to try out. I haven’t tried the Explorer on anything else as I replaced my factory set of Tourance EXPs with another so I can’t comment if the same characteristic is present to the same degree with any of the other tyres you could fit on it.
Getting onboard the Explorer throws up a couple of worrying first impressions. The wide handlebar is set low- to the point that I was feeling some discomfort in my wrists after maybe just 45 minutes on the bike. Touratech makes a riser kit (Touratech part no 420-5255) which raises the handlebar by some 2cm which those who have installed it say make all the difference.
I suppose so. In my case I just procrastinated long enough that I’ve gotten used to the stock riding position and it doesn’t bother me anymore.
The impression of solid build quality extends to the switches which are right where they should be and everything is within thumb’s reach with the exception of the cruise control “on/off” button which appears to demand you let go of the right handlebar grip to get to or reach over with your left hand to press. This one has taken a long time to get used to and the solution I’ve adopted is to just leave it on and actuate it by means of the more-conveniently-located “Set” rocker and killing it by either braking, de-clutching or rolling the throttle forward.
To explain: The fly-by-wire throttle means that once engaged, the cruise control actuates the throttle independently of the twist-grip on the handlebar which would return to its fully-closed position as soon as you let it go to- for example- rest your right hand/arm or adjust your jacket vents or fiddle about with your GPS... errrr.... which of course you would never EVER do on the move anyway.
Once back in its fully closed position, rolling it further forward- i.e. past fully closed (there’s a few degrees further that it will go)- cuts the cruise control.
Some experts claim that this is dangerous because when you cut the cruise control, the throttle is completely closed whereas you’re at speed and the sudden deceleration may destabilise the bike.
However, my experience has been that the deceleration when the cruise control is cut is not an issue because there isn’t an awful lot of engine braking on the Explorer anyway- certainly far less of it than on the Aprilia thumper and BMW boxer twin which preceded it. A sense of rapid deceleration starts becoming noticeable when cutting the cruise control from say 80 mph but never becomes uncomfortable- at least not worryingly so- until well over 100mph which is the fastest I’ve ever used it.
The throttle is also picked up on by many journos for how light it is and how quickly the bike responds to throttle input. The perceived danger here is that a bump on the road- especially on an unsealed surface- might see the rider being thrown off by a runaway Explorer, but again it’s a matter of getting used to and after a few hundred miles on it this too ceases to be an issue.
The other aspect of the Explorer at rest that struck me was its weight. At 259kg wet, the Explorer is firmly at the heavyweight end of the DP class and BOY do you feel it when trying to push the bike around. I haven’t dropped it (yet) and I’m not looking forward to it either.
Turn the ignition on and the dashboard lights up as the rev counter sweeps up to the redline and back. All other information (speed, current time, coolant temperature, fuel level, the gear you’re in as well as the trip computer display) are on the large, clear, easy-to-read LCD right next to it.
On the subject of the fuel gauge- both it and the trip computer estimates for remaining range are hopelessly pessimistic and it is only when the Explorer has been run at a constant 90+mph along a highway for an entire tankful that they could be accused of being anything approaching accurate. During more varied riding conditions, expect to find 3 to 5 litres of petrol remaining in the tank after the last bar on the fuel gauge has disappeared and the remaining range estimate goes to zero. In practise the Explorer is easily capable of at least 200 miles per tankful and I’ve taken this to be my cue for refuelling. Thankfully this translates into about 2 to 3 hours in the saddle meaning that the tank range makes for convenient rest intervals during rides.
The trip computer occupies the lower half of the LCD and contains two tripmeters which each measure distance done, elapsed time since last reset, average and current fuel consumption, average speed, estimated range on remaining fuel (see above) and odometer reading as well as other displays for ambient temperature, tyre pressure (if the optional tyre pressure monitors are fitted) and the “Setup” menu.
In this last, various functions can be selected. You can choose between Imperial and Metric units, turn the self-cancel on the indicators on or off, select either of two traction control modes or turn it off entirely, turn the ABS on or off and play with some other user-definable parameters. What I wish WERE there but aren’t are a way to adjust the brightness of the display backlight which borders on being a tad too bright on unlit roads on dark, moonless nights and a way to turn off the headlights (the manual-recommended method is to remove the bulbs!) which is more important than Triumph perhaps suspects. One can easily imagine (Cambodia or Laos at least- probably both) some corner of the earth where running with your headlights on during the day is at best very bad manners and at worse an actual offence and having to remove those bulbs and carry them without breaking or touching them by day and having to find them and install them each night will quickly become tedious.
Those headlights are- incidentally- magnificent. A pair of plain- almost retro by today’s standards- halogen bulbs do an excellent job of lighting up the road at night to the extent that supplementary illumination or advanced and costly illumination tech is unnecessary. If you don’t live in a fog-prone area then forget the optional foglights. Mine have turned out to be the least used accessory on the bike and probably more weight and drag than they’re worth.
Navigating the trip computer and setup menu is achieved by a single scroll up/down rocker switch and select/enter button on the left of the handlebar which is very intuitive and easy to operate even with gloved hands.
Once the tachometer needle has finished its startup sweep, de-clutching and hitting the “start” button fires up the engine which turns out to be a very clattery affair- like a diesel trying to be polite- which I didn’t find appealing at all.
Selecting first gear gives you the first glimpse of the bike’s character- a slick and almost genteel engagement is the first piece of good news the first-time Explorer rider gets. I was very pleasantly surprised after the Pegaso and R1100S and the Explorer turned out to give the smoothest gear action of all the bikes I’ve owned.
Let the clutch in and the bike moves off with that same genteel smoothness and a few revelations hit you all at once.
First, the weight disappears. Once on the move, the Explorer appears to shed enough kilogrammes that any worries that one may have had about its weight while manhandling it are forgotten and with that, it was surprising to discover how easy it is to ride at very low speeds. That slick clutch and gear action is complemented by probably the smoothest shaft drive in the business which for all intents and purposes feels like a chain drive and it’s ONLY when you’re in too high a gear at walking pace- say under 10mph in 3rd gear or higher- that some shaft lash begins to be felt.
All in all and by any standard the Explorer is very well behaved at parking-bay or traffic-filtering speeds, or herd-of-cows-following-behind speeds come to that, a tremendous achievement for something its size and weight and hints at some seriously excellent good old-fashioned engineering underpinning its many strengths.
As the speedometer goes into double figures, the earlier cacophony of clattering valves, cams and timing chain resolves itself into a fine mechanical whine which I must admit I can’t get enough of and that screaming banshee wail the Explorer delivers as the revs climb is sweet music to the ears of any petrolhead. I hearsay it gets bassier and better- and the bike gets 3.5 kilogrammes lighter- with the substitution of the upgrade Arrow muffler in place of the stock item.
It’s on my to-buy list but for now I’m still very happy.
Riding along, the immediate standout feature of the Explorer is the engine- creamy smooth with hardly any vibration once the revs climb over 2500rpm, that magical 3-pot spools out the torque with textbook-perfect linearity from just a shade under 3000rpm all the way to the 10000rpm redline- no peaks, no flatspots no dropoff in output as the revs rise, just prodigious amounts of jet-engine-esque, totally linear acceleration until the rev limiter spoils the fun.
137 PS and 121 Nm doesn’t make for an impressive spec sheet nowadays as plenty of bikes out there return higher figures but I've found that for touring purposes, it's HOW that output is delivered that counts, not how much of it you can find somewhere along the engine's rev range, and it is in this respect that the Explorer has no equal. The very first time I prepared to overtake an 18-wheeler on the only 200 yards of straight to be found on a wet, twisting mountain road, I pretty quickly found what mattered to me and what didn’t.
Braking duties are handled by a pair of 305mm discs with 4 pot Nissin calipers up front and a single 282mm one with a 2 pot caliper at the rear. Switchable ABS helps those brakes get you out of trouble when (if) you hit the unexpected and two things about them occur to me as being worth reporting.
The first- and on the positive side- is that they work very, very well. Those brakes do an excellent job of reeling in 259kg worth of Explorer from whatever speed you’re doing and when the ABS kicks in, it does so so smoothly that on two butt-clenched occasions so far I’ve had the ABS pulsing away mid-corner with the bike leaned over at no small angle without ending up on my ear. I’ve never had ABS on a bike before so I don’t know if this is a standard feature of modern motorcycle ABS but I came away from those two incidents without having low-sided the Explorer, well impressed, in one piece and making the usual vows to never, ever, EVER etc. etc. etc.
The second point of note with these brakes is how quickly they wear out. By 10,000 miles the front pads needed replacing and by 14,000 miles the rears were gone too. It could be a reflection of the lack of engine braking the triple provides or even just be the way I ride the bike but I was surprised that they wore out so soon. Thankfully, they didn’t cost too much (about £110 for the fronts and £50-ish for the rears) and they’re kind on the discs which show almost no wear so I guess overall I’m not too unhappy.
Out on the open road the Explorer really begins to impress and all the reservations about its poor spec-sheet are forgotten. The bike’s weight becomes an asset, contributing to its plush ride along highways and “A” roads, power is plentiful and exquisitely refined, making high speed cruising as well as sudden squirts of the throttle to pass slower vehicles or to slingshot from one corner to the next a breeze and the cruise control is the icing on the cake, allowing you to rest either or both hands as you go along and is a real boon when adjusting jacket and trouser vents on the fly as the weather changes.
These qualities, together with the wonderfully anchored, communicative and responsive chassis make the Explorer a DP easily capable of 500-or-more miles a day, day after day without fatiguing its rider in any way. Having gotten used to the odd handlebar height and having augmented the stock seat with a Butt Buffer (http://www.buttbuffer.com), I did just that during a recent trip and at no point did I ever feel like i just wanted to get off it and I never suffered any aches or discomfort at all.
Over 2,700 miles in 9 days through some of the foulest weather I’ve ever been in, the Explorer competently dealt with a wide range of conditions from high-speed cruising on highways to sweeping “A” roads to narrow, twisty “B” roads and even tight, flicky “C” and “D” roads- and at one point even a road under close on 2 feet of pretty fast flowing flood water with nary a twiddle of its preload or damping adjustments.
It is only when faced with a loose surface- basically an unsealed gravel, clay or laterite road that the Explorer serves up a disappointing performance- at least initially. Many journos have picked up on this and find the Explorer nervous and unstable on the loose stuff and they’re right- it DOES feel that way and it’s all too easy to write it off as being a bike which should never leave the tarmac.
It’s not until after the 20th or 30th mile of continual dirt track riding that it hits you that for all the slipping and sliding you feel though the handlebars and seat, the Explorer isn’t going to gratuitously throw you off and that what feels like nervousness had merely been the super-communicative Explorer shouting out the passage of every little bump, and stone and patch of sand, gravel, mud or moss under its wheels to you.
Once the rider comes to terms with that and adopts the “loose” riding style the Explorer rewards, it is more than capable of being ridden down any number of dirt trails with ease. It’s only when the trail is poorly maintained and badly rutted that the Explorer’s true and unavoidable limitation- lack of ground clearance- becomes a handicap and which may actually prevent it from going where say a KTM 1190 Adventure and certainly the Pegaso Trail would still be able to go. I think this is a reflection of the emphasis Triumph has placed on road manners at the expense of “off”roadability and given that many owners- myself included- will never venture into the boondocks of Mongolia or the Sudan on an Explorer in stock form, this is a tradeoff that the vast majority of them will gladly accept.
I guess it’s pretty clear I’m rather happy with mine and can’t recommend a test ride enough to anyone contemplating a big DP. Once the almost-exclusive domain of the GS, new entries into the segment from the likes of Yamaha, Moto Guzzi, Aprilia, Honda, KTM and- yes- Triumph, each with their individual takes on what a big DP should be means that a wide variety of machines with their respective strengths and tradeoffs are now available to match our equally wide variety of tastes and needs.
With the Explorer, what this means is one of the sweetest engines on God’s green earth married to one of the least compromised road touring chassis to be found on a proper DP which still manages to retain a useful- but by no means class leading- degree of off-tarmac ability and sound engineering and design fundamentals which obviate the need for a suite of gee-whiz electronics all of which suggest many miles and years of solid, uninterrupted long-distance touring fun.
I’m not sure if the sound of that floats your boat, but it sure does mine!
Review Information Motorcycles
The engine. The handling. The comfort. The engine. Did I mention the engine?