We called it from the first time we experienced the Triumph that it was going to be a major player in the big-bore adventure touring market. That certainly proved true after comparing it to the R1200GS. Our test riders were enamored with the styling and performance afforded by the British motorcycle. Considering it was in stock trim versus the significantly upgraded Special Edition BMW, the fact that it comes out on top is even more impressive. Durability is something that remains to be seen as regular consumers abuse these bikes for years to come, and there’s certainly going to be plenty of riders out there who are willing to put this baby through the ringer. Our ride was a condensed version of life with the Explorer, but we weren’t easy on it by any means, and nothing rattled loose, fell off or gave any indication of succumbing to hard use. It’s big and bad, and it’s here for the long run.
In two-bike comparisons of any kind we don’t typically run a full scorecard, instead focusing on the differences in how each machine performs its duties. At the moment, the adventure touring segment is so hot that we wanted to see how the numbers broke down. Giving the BMW second place isn’t really fair because it certainly isn’t the first loser. It surprised us that the GS won all the impromptu roll-on tests, using its punchy bottom end and quick-revving midrange to keep the Triumph in its rearview mirror. That great torque is also a bit of a drawback in the dirt. Take one look at the dyno chart and it’s clear that the BMW surges and wanes while the Triumph pulls linearly. That can be felt in low-traction situations. In the past we’ve credited the BMW’s ABS system as an effective but clunky aide. This year it’s no different, but the actuation is less intrusive than the Triumph’s braking system. It’s small details such as these that allowed our test riders to be lured away by the Tiger, but there’s no lack of love for the Beemer. Hopefully next year will bring us some additional improvements that give it a needed refresh.
This is one of the most closely contested ADV tests we’ve ever experienced. Some of the categories are so close it’s nearly impossible to tell a difference. Our riders agonized over the subjective rankings more than the Explorer’s dominant tally would suggest. The same holds true on our stopwatches and calculators. The objective categories of fuel economy, acceleration, braking and range were all split by mere decimals. Both are tremendous adventure touring motorcycles, but the Triumph has dethroned BMW for 2012. We hear rumors of big changes from some of the other ADV brands for 2013, including the Germans. It might have only just squeaked by, but Triumph is going to shoulder the target next year.
For My Money:
Our riders put their mouth where their money is and consider the reality of making monthly payments for these behemoths.
Brian Steeves – Age 32 – 5’9” – 165 lbs – 14 years riding – Triumph Tiger Explorer
My only complaint with the Triumph was the softness and bottoming resistance of its suspension. The Explorer in the dirt was nimble and most importantly gave the best feel and predictability for the front tire. The motor allowed for early applications of gas which took responsibility off of the front tire sooner than the GS which required a bit more attention through the corner. Another key feature was the cruise control. This allows for a more relaxing ride on the long highway hauls in between our adventures. Sneaky sheriffs in speed traps were avoided with the Tiger leading the way with its digitally selected MPH setting.
JC Hilderbrand – Age 29 – 5’11” – 190 lbs – 16 years riding – Triumph Tiger Explorer
I’ve selected the BMW as my personal choice before, but this time around I had to switch it up. It was a tough decision. Both bikes are extremely good, they’re very dissimilar and yet similar at the same time. Ultimately I like the Tiger for the way it treats its rider. The information display is completely natural to my eye, the cruise control is phenomenal for the old right-elbow tendonitis, seated ergonomics are great for my 5’11” height and it looks amazing. This is a bike I’d like to have in my garage and I wouldn’t have to accessorize the hell out of it once it got there.