Best Adventure Motorcycle 2012: Triumph Tiger Explorer

December 27, 2012
By Motorcycle USA Staff
Smooth dirt is where the Tiger loves to play Flat Track.
The Triumph Tiger Explorer earns Motorcycle USA’s vote as Best Adventure Motorcycle of 2012.

When Triumph announced the debut of the new Tiger Explorer ahead of the 2011 EICMA show, it was clear that the crew from Hinckley had some big names in its sights. But directly challenging the immensely popular BMW R1200GS (not to mention Yamaha Super Tenere, Ducati Multistrada, KTM 990 Adventure and Suzuki V-Strom 1000) takes some gusto and plenty of planning. After surveying the adventure market and drawing on in-house strengths gleaned from the Tiger 800 XC, Triumph came up with a bike that blends plenty of raw power with luxurious amenities and high overall performance capability. The Tiger Explorer came together so well that we name it our Best Adventure Bike of 2012.

Starting with its tried-and-true 12-valve DOHC Inline Triple platform, Triumph made gains in displacement over the 800 XC (and existing 1050 Triple) by increasing the cylinder bore and stroke to 85mm x 71.4mm. Unique as a Triple in the Twin-powered ADV class, the Explorer’s engine design puts out 40cc more than the popular R1200GS and provides almost 15 more horsepower. Torque output is more linear than the Beemer as well, allowing for better pull over the rev range. When coupled with the smooth shifting six-speed transmission and almost unnoticeable shaft drive, power delivery was fantastic for on- and off-road riding alike. The ever pleasant tone of the Triple, especially when it comes close to the red line, was yet another feature that set the Explorer apart.

The rider feels directly connected to the rear tire.

“The Triple might just be the best engine configuration for luxury Adventure Touring,” says former Off-Road Editor, JC Hilderbrand. “It pours on the steam when called for and offers a smoothness that these beasts require in the dirt. The engine is fantastic by itself, but the added management system makes it even more impressive.”

During the 2012 Adventure Touring Comparison, the only real complaint with the Explorer had to do with its suspension and ground clearance. The relatively soft front-end had our testers bottoming out in some of the rougher terrain, but the Kayaba forks held up well on-road and in lighter off-road sections.

Triumph decked the 2012 Explorer with a premium collection of electronic goodies, from ABS and traction control to cruise control, dual trip computers, speedometer, air temperature, frost warning system, fuel gauge and ride-by-wire throttle. It has an aggressive stance and clean lines, offers a comfortable ride over long distances and easily carries a pillion or luggage. For the adventure rider all the elements for any type of great ride are neatly packaged in the Explorer, which is priced competitively for the field (base price starts at $15,699). The model was so successful that an XC version will be available starting April 2013.

“The amount of refinement you get for the money is unmatched,” continues Hilderbrand. “The Explorer still costs a boatload, but compared to the rest of the big ADV segment, it has the power, comfort, styling, versatility and technology that make for a top-level package.”

Ultimately what set the Triumph Tiger Explorer apart was that as soon as it was released on the world, it actually lived up to claims that it would rival the standards in the big-bore adventure market. It is a bike that comes fully stocked right off the showroom floor, and if personalization is your thing, then the booming aftermarket accessory options for the Explorer will certainly help to sate your desire.