This bike is certainly big and at 263 kilos, there’s no getting away from the weight, but the 1200cc triple engine is gloriously lusty and as an everyday machine you may use for A and B road riding, urban commuting or a quick motorway blast, it’s great. It even returned an average of 49.94 mpg during the 3,000 miles Overland was able to test it, with a best of 53.5mpg. That by the way, is calculated by adding up all the fuel receipts, not trusting the onboard computer.
When you live with a machine, it’s the daily performance of every aspect, not just the engine that matters, so I’ll stay on the practical for a moment.
This 1200 Explorer may weigh a lot, but thankfully the standard issue centre stand is an absolute breeze to use. The side-stand must be too, because it doesn’t get a mention in any of my notes and therefore couldn’t have caused me a moment’s notice. Unlike the throttle, whose sensitivity wasn’t welcome at all, especially in urban areas. I’ll leave the fuelling discussion until later, but the snatchiness that the uber-sensitive throttle generated, was annoying. I never really got used to it, and bumpy roads or urban potholes caused lurching that I’d hate to have to deal with every day if I was riding through a developing country with poor infrastructure.
However, the cruise control on the right-hand switchgear, when I worked it out, would be a real blessing for any crossing of Australia or the Atacama. I found it really useful on motorway slogs in this country, and for taking photos on the move generally, as I documented the charitable ‘Thankful Villages Run’. But bizarrely, even though the cruise control switch was on the right-hand switchgear, I could only operate it by reaching over with my left, as it was too far from my thumb. For the record, I wear XL gloves and have proportionate thumbs…
But the computer operated from the left-hand switch cluster, which I’ve seen other reviewers call ‘supremely intuitive’ was, I’m afraid, almost beyond me. It had so many functions I never really grasped them all, nor found any reason to, other than as something to do when the cruise control was on. If only it was as clear as the system KTM use on the 1190… Multiple trip metres are useful certainly, especially if you don’t want to believe the fuel ‘countdown to empty’ function. I got it to fall to zero a few times when I had company, but the engine just kept on going. External temperature might be handy if you want to use the info in your travel blog, but average speeds, and duration of journey? But it was the set-up menu that was a real a hassle, trying to programme the switchable ABS and traction control settings.
The only reason I wanted to alter these from what the factory had set up for me, was that if I ‘pressed on’ even a little, either making the front end go light or the rear start to spin up out of a corner, the power would be crudely cut, upsetting the handling and infuriating me, and that’s never a good frame of mind in which to ride. I’m quite a fan of the latest generation ABS, especially on tarmac, my only reservation being that if I’m miles (perhaps countries) away from the nearest Triumph computer that can fix it, will it leave me stranded, devoid of brakes entirely as Ewan McG discovered with his BMW? And what about the cost of component repair, or is that just replacement?
The brakes themselves were lovely, slowing all that weight with ease (I was fully loaded for every mile I rode). 305mm twin discs at the front are grabbed by 4piston calipers and a single 282mm disc is at the rear. Feedback was good, but the ABS was sensitive, noticeably cutting in many times when I was in a bit of a hurry. Different settings for ABS and TCS you say? I just couldn’t, and the Triumph mechanic who was travelling on the charity run too, couldn’t work out how to change them either… Maybe it’s an age thing!
The chassis is plush. I know that this isn’t designed as a sportsbike and bearing in mind I was using all 3 factory boxes, I wouldn’t expect uber-taught, but I’m convinced there was something wrong with the machine I used. From 30-50mph the ‘bars flapped, from 80mph the whole machine weaved rather unnervingly and there was a most peculiar noise emanating from the front end throughout my time on the bike, as though something within one of the Kayaba USD fork legs had failed and was rattling about. Strangely though, this 263kgs leviathan was solid and stable through the bends once you’d decided to commit it and the ease with which the pegs, levers and panniers could be dragged on the floor was just hilarious. All that weight seems so low and well balanced you’ll trickle along with feet up confidence when the need arises.
Stable is the best way to describe this bike in severe and unpredictable crosswinds. I experienced many of these so perhaps this is the perfect Patagonia buster! I realise you’ll think I am contradicting myself here having mentioned the weaving and headshake but that couldn’t mask the inherent qualities and is why I’m convinced this particular bike had a problem.
Out of the crate – so to speak – the Explorer is fitted with Metzeler’s Tourance EXP a tyre with an attractive faux off-road appearance but which is really one of the best new generation road tyres which just look cool. They suit the big Triumph wet or dry and are wonderfully predictable; they grip at any angle and give loads of feedback, yet they are a very conservative size 110/80×19 and 150/70×17; good for when you do hit a non-black surface and perhaps cheaper to replace. Or more importantly, perhaps easier to find if you have ‘gone global’. Presuming my bike was still on the original EXP when I picked it up with odometer reading 2,000 miles, it wasn’t at all happy when I left it back 3,000 miles later. Maybe the weight and easy power comes at the price of rear tyres.
This is unashamedly a tarmac monster. It’s large and would be unwieldy for me to take across deserts, but the superbly comfortable seat, combined with the seamless torque from the 1215cc triple, that deliciously raucous induction roar and distinctive bark from the standard 3 into 1 exhaust makes this a really addictive tool to ride. All day.
Ergonomics & electrics
So the seat is sumptuous and works in conjunction with the very roomy footpeg position. The ‘bars are adjustable for reach and the screen adjustment is simple and robust. This is good because you may be changing it a lot to find a position that isn’t too noisy. Seat height is adjustable manually from 837-857mm and in both positions I found leg comfort excellent and the transition from sitting to standing, a breeze.
The clocks are clear and simple with an analogue rev counter and big, visible digital speed readout. Blasting from Yorkshire to Bristol through the night revealed a very competent headlight and pleasing clock backlight. Interestingly, the fuel gauge takes an absolute age to change after you’ve filled an empty tank (a few miles’ riding) and while I’m on electrics, there is also an inordinate delay between pressing the starter button and anything happening. Maybe this is a feature of Cambus system which also enables the fly-by-wire sensitive throttle and the cruise control to operate.
I hate sounding like a Philistine but I can’t help but be sceptical of overly complicated wiring when ‘on the road’ as no roadside mechanic will be able to bodge it.
Claiming 135 horse power the Explorer doesn’t match its European competition from KTM, Aprilia or Ducati, but my word it’s a power delivery that’s a joy to behold. With almost 90 ft/lbs of torque available, and 80% of that from as little as 2,500rpm, this is one of the most satisfying to use engines on the market. It even feels grunty from just off idle. The drive reaches the multi-spoked cast alloy wheels via six very well-spaced gears and a maintenance-free shaft drive which doesn’t intrude at all. There’s no squatting or rising and no slop in the transmission at all. OK it contributes to the overall weight but by now you’ve decided whether you’re even interested in a bike this big so it doesn’t matter. The gearchange wasn’t overly light (though the clutch was), but every change was definite and I never missed one whether I used the clutch or not (I was doing a lot of photography…). It couldn’t have been more leisurely to ride.
As for serious overlanding – weight aside – Triumph have really thought of some things: The engine has no external lines to damage off road or during a minor tumble. There’re only the main coolant pipes, even the oil cooler is housed internally and is an integrated water/oil heat exchanger.
Forget what category it has been pigeon-holed into, if you love grunt and the ability to ride in any gear you like, pillion or not, you’ll love this machine and the accompanying raucous induction roar. You could just ride all day on the throttle and almost ignore the brakes.
Don’t do it. This is a tourer, but don’t commit to the factory ‘floating’ luggage. It’s very big so sticks out a long way, (catching in the wind and dragging on the road) but a huge amount of the internal space is taken up with the locking mechanism which isn’t exactly robust or user friendly. They utilise a side-opening clam system which marks it down immediately as everything falls out inconveniently unless you buy the fitted inner bags, and the retraining strap on the lid always catches annoyingly when you try to close it. There is not one instance I recall when it didn’t get in the way. As I was accessing camera equipment regularly, I had to use the top box, which is a monster and probably contributed to the weave. The boxes themselves are light – made of plastic – but they seem to be multi-skinned. In the rain, every time I opened the top box, it dumped the water that had accumulated within its skins, all over the side boxes. In the morning and evening when I was loading or unloading the bike one of those side panniers was invariably open at the time… The huge and high exhaust silencer, which conforms to the latest EU noise limits, impacts greatly on available luggage space and means that the right hand pannier is greatly compromised.
The very good news is that the metal fuel tank is good for a magnetic tank bag and a comfortable 200 mile range.
This gorgeous engine is smoother than most competing twins. The 20 litre tank and 200 mile range is good. Comfort is superb, the blue metallic paint on the bike I used, accentuates the angular lines of bodywork which I still can’t decide if I like or not. Service intervals are stated as 16,000kms but you’ll probably want to change oil more often than that, especially in very hot climates. In all, if it’s a big machine you’re after, this is one you really should consider, but source your own luggage.
RRP £12,599 in 2015 with spoked wheels