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2018 Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 XCa – First Ride Review

2018 Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 XCa – First Ride Review

We’ve been looking forward to this one. We’ve let the big players post their reviews, so now its our turn. The new flagship Adventure bike from Triumph with all new… well, all new everything nearly. But how did it ride?

Triumph have pulled out all the stops when it comes to the new Tiger range, they’ve jam-packed it to the brim with new electronic systems, improved rideability, reduced the weight, extra bhp and more. So let’s get down to brass tacks on how we really feel about this new bike. Spoiler… there is a few grumbles and moans!

The Look
This is a good looking bike, no seriously, a very good looking bike. Visually, standing back, the new Explorer doesn’t look too dissimilar from the 2017 version, but it’s when you get closer to the bike that you notice the real differences that Triumph have made to the bike. The new bike is sporting a fantastic new TFT screen, the same one they have used on the Street Triple RS. It boasts a simple and easy to use menu system, with clear information and everything you want in front of you while on the road. It will auto-detect when daylight is drawing in and change to a ‘night-mode’ to give a better view at night, too.

The Tiger is also sporting new kit up-front with a new light set including L.E.D daytime running lights. This is by far the biggest visual difference on the bike and it really does suit it. The daytime running L.E.D’s add a new level of character to the bike and give it a bit of a ‘mean’ look to contend with the likes of the Ducati Multistrada. The lights are easy to control with a simple switch control and paddle for full beam.


Road Test
The first thing you notice about the Triumph Explorer when you sit on it is the comfort of the seat, they have got this spot on and you know that it will fair your posterior well over a long day’s touring which is a blessing when you compare to some of the other adventure bikes. The bike is also tall with an 855mm seat height (adjustable down to 835mm) which worked well for me at 6 ft 5. Turning the machine on was simple enough with its ‘keyless’ ignition albeit an idea I’m not too fond of on a bike, nonetheless a press of the power button a couple of times to turn the ignition on, prime the fuel pump and a final press to start the bike were all it takes. I did, however, feel a little overwhelmed with the huge array of changeable rider options presented to you when you cycle through the menu on the TFT screen. But if you do take care of which suspension mode you would like, which rider mode and how high you want the electronically adjustable screen to be before you set off then you can relax and enjoy the ride. Heated seats also come as standard on the top XCa although I didn’t get a chance to test this as it was a warm day out but it is easily controlled.

The new Explorer XCa comes as standard out of the crate with an Arrow slip-on exhaust which enhances the smooth triple engine burble that many of us are fond of on a Triumph bike, although the pesky UK laws on decibel levels means the baffle in the Arrow exhaust is none removable and for me it was lacking just that little bit more volume from the exhaust. Perhaps if you have it in the budget you might like to buy a different slip-on with removable baffles.

Now there is some controversy around the weight of the new Explorer, although it’s a chunky 248kg when dry, Triumph has managed to make the bike feel overall very balanced and riding the bike was a breeze, comfortable and easy to throw in to corners – a real credit goes to the engineering & design team on this. The 4-piston Brembo brake system on the bike also helps to bring the bike to a halt pretty quick. The front brake is as you expect, powerful and does exactly what you want it to do with the front end dipping a bit but not over-excessive and the back brake works nicely too.

Now, I feel I am going to move on to my first grumble about the new Tiger Explorer with this next item… The quick-shifter… this was a huge disappointment for me, but let me explain why. For me, if you are going to include an electronic system such as a quick shifter it needs to be as refined as possible and this didn’t seem the case for me. Now I know that on a new bike (this model only had 400 miles registered) that the gearbox is going to be tight but every gear change unless you managed to be lucky enough to hit a sweet spot was very clunky and this was at low and higher revs & speeds. Unfortunately, the quick-shifter and or gearbox gave a few neutral’s when not needed and I don’t believe this was due to short gear changes.

I’m not sure if my disliking to this is part and parcel to it feeling like the quick-shifter takes away a lot of the fun and feel of riding a bike and for me this is vital. But that said, the quick-shifter fitted to the BMW GS1200 Adventure was far more refined and worked a lot better.  Function over practicality perhaps, which brings me on to my next grumble.

Self-cancelling indicators… these are fitted to the XCa as standard and while I can see the benefit, if you haven’t set things up correctly and or haven’t been advised that there is also a 3 blink lane switch option then you end up bashing the button many times wondering why either the indicator has not engaged, cancelled or why it has cancelled too early. For me, keep it simple, although in my 30’s I’m a little old school, I was taught to make sure my indicators were cancelled every single time you use them and on the Explorer you end up bashing the cancel button a few times but can risk engaging the lane switch blink and confusing drivers which I definitely did. I think unless you are prepared to form a new habit on this bike and get used to the indicator system, then turn it off, yes, you can turn this off too…

OK, that’s enough moaning for now. Let’s move on to some of the good stuff.

Performance – this is where the Explorer comes out to play. I had a good number of opportunities to open up the throttle on the Explorer and it didn’t disappoint. The 1215cc 3-Cylinder engine has lost a few pounds and gained a few horsepower and it’s noticeable. The 139bhp (at 9,350rpm) engine gives plenty of low-end torque and top end speed (it’s definitely no slouch) and the ride-by-wire throttle ensures smooth delivery of the power for the rider. It’s got a smooth powerband between 5-7,000rpm which gives a nice surge of power when you need it. The Explorer was very light and nimble through the corners and you soon get used to how far you can lean the bike over which is very surprising for a bike of this size. The bike outperforms its BMW counterpart on performance but lacks on the distance it can cover with just a 20-litre fuel tank in comparison to the much larger tanks on the other adventure bikes on the market. Triumph have said that a larger tank just wasn’t possible with the additional weight it would add. The only mentionable grumble about the performance on the bike was the amount of vibration through the bike when moving up the gears, this was quite noticeable but not completely off-putting.

As standard, the Explorer comes fitted with a set of Metzeler Tourance Next tyres – 19” front and 17” on the rear. I’ve not experienced Metzeler tyres before but I must say they felt great with plenty of grip in the corners and an all-round good feel in the dry.

Off-road Capability
Now, unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to take the Explorer off-road, but we’ll look to add to this review as soon as possible.

The Triumph Explorer XCa is the top level bike in this range and starts from £16,950.00 which is what I would class as ‘middle of the road’ in comparison to the other adventure bikes on the market. However, you can reduce that cost by around £2k by purchasing the XCx model if you are not fussed with some of the electrical gizmos such as quick-shifter, fog lights and a few other bits. Bear in mind that you will need to consider the cost of luggage if you’re looking to take this bike on tour which will bump the XCa up to around £18,200 dependant on which luggage you choose. Overall I feel that although the price is not for the feint hearted that this bike is great value for money even at the top end.

The Explorer 1200 XCa really is a fantastic bike if you ignore some of my niggles and moans in this write-up – I feel that with more refinement on the plethora of electrical gadgets on the bike that it really could be a top contender in the adventure bike category, but not quite yet. I’m looking forward to what Triumph do next with the Explorer.

Tech Specs
Full Technical Spec can be viewed on the Triumph Website HERE

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