Ride Review: Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200

When I review a bike, I start with a “clean sheet”, so to speak. I try to put all pre-conceived ideas and opinions out of my head and tell it like I experienced it. So, here’s my experience with the Explorer 1200 from Triumph SA.

After picking up the bike I had to contend with a Friday morning, end of the month, traffic scenario. However, the refined nature of the Tiger was immediately evident – smooth and powerful, decent gearbox and for a shaft driven bike, remarkably free from driveline slack. No jacking up or down when opening or closing the throttle, just instant forward thrust.

Like so many big adventure bikes the weight is much less evident when you get rolling. As you get accustomed to the feel of the bike it inspires confidence. Riding back to my home in Pretoria I was relishing the idea of a full week of exploring on the Explorer!

The Explorer, also affectionately known as the “TEX” amongst owners around the world is a handsome beast. Resplendent in cranberry red, the test bike was fitted with Triumph’s optional touring screen which was easily adjusted for height by loosening two knurled knobs on either side and manually adjusting the wind shield. The screen is brilliant.


The Triumph seat is height adjustable from 810mm to 880mm. Even real “length jobs” will get comfortable on this bike. I settled for the lowest setting and despite my 6’3” frame was really comfy. You “sit in” the Tiger and with this seat and screen both in the low position it was totally turbulence free. Only the most persistent bug made it on to my visor – a testimony to good aerodynamics. Order your Tiger with the touring screen – OK!

I used the Tiger for all my commuting and for a full week we prowled the urban sprawl. Whilst small and light bikes are ideally suited to this role, the big Tiger performed admirably. The TEX really comes into its own though on the open road. I convinced two buddies with Adventure bikes, to ride along and we blitzed down to Barberton in Mpumalanga and back – a quick 700km round trip. This allowed me to accurately assess vital attributes for adventure bikes like comfort, fuel consumption and range, heat control (it was expected to get up to 38’C in the Lowveld!!), handling and suspension compliance. It would also allow us to compare real world relative performance within the big adventure bike class.


The engine in the Explorer is superb! Jump on the main jet and the engine responds with a visceral, guttural growl and simply rockets forward on a wave of “torquey” thrust – at any rpm! Roll-ons from 120km/h delivered astonishing results. Overtaking is safe and effortless. The fly-by-wire throttle is totally glitch free.

Comfort is excellent. The seat is firm but comfortable. Your legs slip easily into the recess in the tank that tapers down and you feel “in” and secure at any speed. This makes the Explorer a real cruise missile! Speaking of cruise, the Triumph is also equipped with cruise control – choose a speed, set and relax! The torque and power of the fantastic triple simply glues the digital speedo to the selected speed, irrespective of the gradient of the road. For those of you who, like me, enjoy long days in the saddle, say goodbye to stiff and aching throttle hands.

The Tiger manages the ducting of its engine heat well. On a really hot day you will be aware of engine heat in the seat and on your thighs when riding around town but as soon as you hit the highway, all is literally cool!


The TEX boasts impressive fuel consumption. Cruising at 135 km/h will return around 20 km/l, which equates to an easy 350 to 400 k’s on the 20 litre tank.

Riding mountain passes on the Explorer is a blast. Firm suspension sporting adequate adjustment allied with ground clearance and a stable chassis allows spirited apex strafing. The magnificent motor and lash free drivetrain allow you to roll-on and off the power without fuss or bother, allowing you to focus totally on the road.

No adventure bike is properly assessed unless you have given it a “squirt in the dirt”. So we tackled some rutted sand washed roads that mountain bikers refer to as “district roads”, the kind of roads that big adventure bikes are designed around. Generally us South African men have more testosterone than brains and therefore try to do things on adventure bikes that should be done on “plastics”. Sensible riding on dirt and jeep track is easily accomplished on the Tiger. If you are into the “last man standing” kind of stuff – it might not be the bike for you. The Triumph will never “dance in the dirt” like the more rugged orientated alternatives from other brands. By the same token, such bikes are no match for the Triumph in the long distance comfort stakes. Choose a bike with your brain – not your ego.

The latest Explorer’s are equipped with spoked wheels, laced to a central ridge on the rim, allowing fitment of tubeless tyres (a 150/70-17 rear and a 110/80-19 front). A 950W alternator puts out more power than Eskom on a good day. An easily accessible power socket is provided near the clocks. ABS and traction control are standard but, if required, both can be disabled by accessing the setup menu via an information button and toggle switch on the left handlebar switchgear. The computer gives you two trip-meters, fuel consumption (current and average), Odometer and the clocks have an analog rev counter and digital speedo clock and gear indicator. Self-cancelling indicators regularly save your bacon. When you have got hopelessly lost trying to navigate thru the computer functions, a “home page” button on the dash, takes you back to GO. The very existence of this button should convince Triumph that they have some way to go to make computer adjustments intuitive.


Special mention must be made about the lights on the Triumph. During a night ride I was blown away by the incredible ability the Explorer has for illuminating its surroundings, for sure the best I have experienced.

During my travels, I came across another Explorer rider, asking him what had decided him on the Triumph. His explanation was really interesting. For him it was a calculated decision. After a recent windfall, money was no object and he was ready to purchase his long awaited dual purpose dream bike. He knew what he wanted, or so he thought but his wife was not sold on pillion comfort, wanting to keep his “Significant Other” engaged in the purchase process, they decided to test the Explorer as another option (a shaft drive was a priority). The power, all-round comfort and silky smooth nature of the Triumph, as well as the 16000km service intervals and lower initial purchase price which included factory panniers clinched the deal. Ride a Triumph and you will buy a Triumph, was his final explanation.

I really enjoyed my time with the big Tiger! In a moment of brain fade, whilst chatting to my wife on the pillion at a robot, I left the bike in 3rd gear. The lights went green and I pulled away with a tad of throttle and normal clutch action. The incredible motor idled off the line without snatch, lurch or complaint. Mind blowing!! Subsequent study of the engine power curve showed 90 nm of torque at only 2500 rpm, with a perfect curve to a maximum of 121nm at 6300 rpm. This goes along way to explaining the awesome roll on performance and general “big block Chevy V8” like power delivery.

With the Rand in free fall, the current pricing cannot hold for long. If you are in the market for a big adventure bike, the Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 offers better bangs for your weakening buck than any other. Ride one, you will be impressed – I certainly was!!

For more information on the Explorer 1200 visit: www.triumphmotorcycles.co.za


My name is Dave Cilliers. I consider cars as four wheeled shopping baskets and only worth using as a last resort! For years bikes have been my primary transport. Racing, touring, commuting or just kicking up dust on African tracks, I have owned over 270 motorcycles and ridden millions of kilometres. I am happiest when sharing my passion for motorcycles with like minded people whilst traversing Africa in search of adventure.