Back in the day when Ted Simon, circumnavigated the globe, he did it on a Triumph Tiger 100, he called Jupiter, explaining why his travel memoirs were published under the banner Jupiter’s Travels. Now naturally, when Triumph first launched the Tiger in 1937, it was far from the peg-beaked adventure tourer that it is today, but it still a helluva lot more adventure focused than the corresponding Bonneville at the time. With Triumph’s integrity on the line, they needed an adventure tourer that could boldly carry the Tiger’s iconic name on the tank and stamp its authority in the ADV segment. Cue the 2017 Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200, and with this bike, Triumph have pushed their limits further than they ever have before by adding a whole list of electronics meshed deep into the very core of the machine. A bold move for Triumph, some might even call it risky as the sheer level of electronics has Triumph leading the way at the very cutting edge for any motorcycle brand. So what really do all these electronics do?
These electronics are far from a bunch of gimmicky electronic features that do very little and these electronics literally define the Explorer, without alienating the experience. This is the first Explorer 1200 to come to India, but it does have a list of updates to the hard-bits as well. The brakes, the frame, engine and ergonomics of the 1200 have been updated from its predecessor. You do tend to get the sense that the bike has been designed around the electronic framework, although that means that for once electronics and mechanical engineering get together to make without subtracting the fun or the machine’s innate capabilities. True, the Explorer does get WP Suspension on the front, which has been sourced from KTM. And they do look suspiciously like the forks on KTM's 1290 Adventure. However, Triumphs engineers have fettled with that too, changing the rebound rates to keep up with the solenoid actuated rear pumps. Add to that an IMU (Inertial measuring system) co-developed by Triumph and Continental, and the result is nothing like what you would get on a KTM, who’s enduro roots don’t get polished off. The IMU system manages the cornering ABS, the traction control and the electronic suspension actively to give you maximum control and traction irrelevant to the surface conditions. Final garnishing to the mix is Triumph’s ride-by-wire throttle which allows for very different throttle responses for each driving mode and surface.
Now for the Indian market, Triumph has only brought the Explorer XCx, the XC being the more off-road inclined spoked-wheel version, x being the mid-variant under the XCa top version. Now the XCx gets the entire electronic package and heated grips and electrically adjustable but misses out on the Arrow Performance exhaust and heated seats that the internationally available XCa gets.
Now as I said earlier, the Triumph Tiger Explorer electronically controlled rear suspension is on the mantle for things that set the Tiger apart from the rest of the competition. It the most has 18 stiffness and rebound settings, that can be divided into 9 for road and 9 for off-road, ranging from Comfort on the softer side with slightly reduced rebound rates to Sport which has much more pronounced rebound and stiffer springs in general. The best thing is that this can be tuned to specifically suit your riding style. I prefer the setting two of the hardcore sports setup for off-road riding because my throttle happy riding style is more conducive to some flex. But with it set just right even with the traction control turned off, I found myself more at home on the full-size Tiger than I did even on the 800 I rode a few months ago. There’s an auto-mode on the suspension too but it does take awhile to figure out the surface change and can get a little strange if you're out trail riding on mixed surfaces.
Now this gets a little more complicated when you consider that there are engine modes that require setting up too, these control total engine output, throttle response, traction control and ABS. Which means that between the 18 Suspension set-ups and five engine settings (Sport, Road, Rain, Off-road, and Rider) you might have to go through a few hundred variations to find the one that hits the spot just right.
In sports mode, the Tiger gives you all 137 hp on tap with sharp throttle responses, while the ABS and Traction control takes a little bit of a back seat. Road mode gives you a bit of a moderation. Rain mode softens things up again and cuts engine output down to 100 hp with the ABS and traction control working overtime to give you maximum grip. Off-road mode gets a little interesting with allowance for the rear wheel to lock while allowing more aggressive ABS on loose surfaces. Rider mode is a wild card that is customisable to suit your needs and it allows you to set the ABS, traction, engine and suspension to whatever best suits your riding style. The thing I like here is that while there are various riding modes that are preset, you can really get into tweaking and tuning the settings to best suit you, and that makes Triumphs modes seem more transparent and less gimmicky.
Now the Triumph Tiger 1200 isn’t your average bike for the average rider, it demands an experienced rider with an intricate understanding of machines. It does have a large silhouette that even dwarfs the Tiger 800s, but this is something that we have seen on full-size ADVs like the Multistrada or the BMW 1200 GS. Once you’re on it, because of the ease with which it allows you to ride, it feels smaller, making the overall ergonomics perfectly agreeable to most riders above the 5 foot 7 mark. Triumph can take a bow on this one, and the inclusion of proper trap off-road pegs is nothing short of a boon.
The engine response has all the trademarks of a big triple, with more or less flat-torque curves, and this means that you can more or less move at any speed and the engine will respond more or less as much. The big Tiger misses out on the initial whack of the Ducati Multistrada, and in some ways, it makes it better.
Now the Tiger 1200 XCX is for all-intents and purposes the most complete ADV-Tourer that you can buy, keep in mind, electronic wizardry and all it still has price at par with bigger competition. Ergonomics are bang on and the engine is peach. What I like most is that while Triumph have turned a lot of focus onto electronics in the big Tiger, something that is outside the brands usual purview, the core mechanicals of the bike and the ideology behind it still focus on the rider, and electronics just bring out the best in your ride or riding style, and that’s something you just can’t put a price on.