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2012 Adventure Touring Comparison Conclusion

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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.

A liquid-cooled Inline Triple propels the Triumph to a significant horsepower advantage.
The BMW edges out the Triumph in torque  but the power delivery is filled with valleys and peaks.
Horsepower and torque curves show the
different character of each engine type.
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.

2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer
Steeves picked the Triumph...
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.

2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer
... and so did JC.
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.

2012 BMW R1200GS Photo Gallery
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2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer Photos
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spyglass   May 18, 2013 10:10 AM
I bleeve I'd prefer a Super Tenere to either of these. Rode one the other day and was blown away. Add a skid plate & the big windscreen & it's head of the class....imho, of course.
mikehannan   October 24, 2012 06:08 AM
Hi Guys, My problem with your test is that you have run the bikes clean-skin. These bikes are supposed to be adventure tourers. That means in their normal working life they will have luggage and, often, a pillion. From my experience there is a hell of a difference in any bikes performance once you load it up. I have an 1150 GA Advenure which my wife and I rode around the world. It vibrates like a bastard at freeway speed with the luggage on and nothing will cure it. And, once you get them loaded, dirt roads cease to be fun. To give you one simple example, I have Vstrom 1000 that we keep in London and use to ride in the Alps each summer (cheaper than renting or shipping). When clean, it flys through the hairpins in second or third gear and seldoms needs a gear change. With full luggage and the wife on, it beccomes a constant shuffle between second and first with all of the attendant difficulty. If you want to see what these bikes look like at the office, there are plenty of photos on our website. Hope this is useful. Mike Hannan (www.elephant-travel.org)
phbdds   October 18, 2012 11:42 AM
I bought the tiger july 2012 and have put several thousand miles on it in the last few months, including riding the back roads discovery route in Washington. I absolutly love this bike on the street. Great engine, handling, brakes, electrontics, cruise controls. On the dirt it's just OK. Way to heavy. What I discovered was that many of the adventure accesories are not very durable. The skid plate is bolted on to the sump cover in one area. How stupid is that. Needless to say after several hits to the plate the corner of that cover where the bolt screws in broke. Also a hard hit to the center stand crushed the bracket welded on to the exhaust pipe, and broke the weld of the stand to the frame, which then let the center stand clunk on the bottom of the shaft drive housing. Also don't tip over with the triumph painiers they can not take any abuse. My riding buddies with the BMW 1200GS and KTM 990 had no durability issue. I will keep the triumph mostly on the road from now on and maybe go to something more dirtworthy, lighter, and cheaper that I'm not afraid to crash, for my next dirt adventure ride which will be the UTBDR next year.
neo1piv014   September 21, 2012 10:29 AM
Dixit: The Triumph will do offroad better than any street bike, but it has limits just the same as the 1200GS. If you want to do something gnarly, get a bike built for it. There's a good reason why they don't use these to race motocross, but it doesn't mean they don't have a purpose.
Dixit   September 19, 2012 07:09 PM
I have read about 6 articles compairing the 2 bikes and this is the only one to my knowledge that gives the first place to the Triumph. Basically, you prefer the Tiger because of it's cruise control and a few other amenities.
The problem with the Triumph is its weight. Just sitting on the bike you can feel the huge difference with the BMW. The Triumph cannot be taken anywhere more off road than a Speed Triple. So, I guess that we have a very different view of the adventure bike category.
I still enjoy reading all your articles. Thank you