Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 20th July 2017

Triumph originally launched its big adventure bike rival to BMW’s all-conquering R1200GS in 2012. And although the Hinckley firm readily admitted it was targeting the hugely popular German machine and its newcomer actually beat it in some respects (particularly power and comfort) the Brit also conspicuously failed to be considered the better machine overall.

triumph tiger 1200

All of that’s significantly changed, however, with Triumph’s hugely updated 2016 version.

Although the big triple’s looks – and indeed the engine itself – are largely identical, Triumph has updated virtually every other aspect of the machine, ranging from its suspension, brakes and wheels to its weather protection and comfort to even its electronics and options packages.

triumph tiger

First, and most confusingly, there is now not one Tiger 1200 Explorer but six (or, actually, eight if you include the new low seat options as well). Following the formula the British firm first introduced on its revamped 800 Tiger family in 2015, Triumph now has two families of 1200 Explorer – the XR, or more Road orientated versions distinguished most by their alloy cast wheels, and the XC, for ‘cross-country’ – it’s more off-road biased ones, which all have wire-spoked wheels.

triumph tiger

Then, within each of these families there are four different variations: the base bike, the higher spec ‘x’ version, a low seat take on the ‘x’ variant and a range-topping ‘T or A’ version with additional Touring or Adventure style goodies.

The result, therefore, of all that is four different Tiger Explorer XRs: the XR itself, XRX, XRX Low and XRT, ranging between just under £12K and just over £15,000. Plus, in addition, four different Tiger Explorer XCs: the base XC starting at just over £12K, the higher spec XCX, the low saddle XCX Low and the top-of-the-range Tiger Explorer XCA, which costs almost £16K. And if you haven’t yet got your head around all of that we wouldn’t be at all surprised. Go to Triumph’s own website for full details…

The basics, however, are simple – and it’s those we’ll focus on here.

Across all models the basic ingredients of tubular steel frame and 1215cc, shaft-drive, three-cylinder engine (as also shared with the 1200 Trophy tourer) are unchanged. For 2016, however, that motor was retuned slightly to boost not only power and torque slightly, but also claimed fuel consumption.

triumph tiger 1200

More significantly, these power units have also been further enhanced by the addition of all-new electronic rider aids. As a result, even the base XR and XC models now have two switchable riding modes (Road and Rain) with different power, ABS and traction control settings to suit. While the higher spec X and T versions have an additional Off-road setting and the A has a further two – Sport and a customizable one.

triumph tiger 1200

Chassis-wise there are significant changes too. Front brakes are now uprated Brembo monoblocs, suspension is by WP and multi-adjustable, there’s a new, more comfortable seat, a now electrically adjustable screen (a first in the adventure bike class) and wider wheels and tyres. The higher-spec models, meanwhile, get Triumph’s new semi-active suspension, self-cancelling indicators, cruise control and more, including heated seat, radiator guard, riding lights, hand guards etc depending on exact spec.

triumph tiger 1200 dash

All of which, certainly in terms of choice and personalization, is a good thing. Best of all, though, are the improvements to the base bike: that fabulously throaty engine is more addictive, flexible and fast than ever; the chassis seems to be both sharper and have more grip (although there’s still no getting away from the fact that the Explorer remains a big, hefty lump); comfort is improved and the added electronics and features elevate the Triumph onto a par, in terms of spec, with the latest from BMW, KTM and Ducati.

triumph motorbikes

In that respect, it’s ‘job done’ and anyone who goes for one of these latest Explorers certainly won’t be disappointed. But what Triumph haven’t done, either, is conspicuously leapt ahead in what is the most competitive class of all. The new Explorer is better, brisker, more comfortable, better handling and far better equipped – and for Triumph fans that’ll be enough. But the very fact it looks little changed, is still a tad fiddly and confusing, is slightly heavy and crude and lacks the sheer finesse and aplomb of some means nor will it be tempting many owners away from BMW, KTM and Ducati anytime soon either…

Specifications

ENGINE TYPE

Inline DOHC triple. Four valves per cylinder, liquid cooled

DISPLACEMENT

1215cc

BORE X STROKE

85×71.4mm

MAXIMUM POWER

137 hp (102 kW) @ 9300 rpm

MAXIMUM TORQUE

123Nm @ 6200rpm

FRONT SUSPENSION

48mm upside down WP fork

SEAT HEIGHT

837-857mm

DRY WEIGHT

246kg

FUEL TANK

20 litres