Before we start talking about the updates to the Triumph Tiger 1200, which by the way is now no longer called a Tiger Explorer, we had better demystify the somewhat bamboozling Tiger 1200 model range…
To start with there are two Tiger 1200 variants – the XR and the XC – with the XR the road-biased model that comes shod with cast aluminium wheels while the XC is distinguished as the off-road version thanks to its spoked wheels, aluminium sump guard, engine bars and radiator protector.
Within each variant there are individual models whose price increases alongside their spec, so on the XR you get the base XR model, the XRX and finally the all-singing XRT. Except that’s not quite the end of it as the XRX is also available in a low seat height version, which drops the seat from the standard 835-855mm to 790-810mm and is called the XRX Low. The XC range is slightly easier to understand as it consists of the XCX and the XCA and doesn’t contain a base model. Ok, got that?
Right, now onto the updates for 2018!
For the third generation of large capacity Tiger, Triumph have focused on shedding weight and adding electronic assists to give the bike a higher feeling of quality. All versions have an updated triple motor that while it retains the 1215cc capacity of before, features a 3kg lighter flywheel and internal upgrades to give it a more spirited and free revving feel. The shaft drive remains unaltered, and so are the 10,000-mile major service intervals, but a torque assist clutch has been added and a lot of work put into the fuel injection system and the bike’s power delivery. Speaking of power, this is up a few bhp at 139bhp with torque static at 90ftlbs. And although the Tiger’s chassis is largely unaltered, Triumph have gone to town when it comes to electronic assists…
While the base XR model has conventional WP suspension and non-angle sensitive ABS and traction control, it does have cruise control, three riding modes and an electronically adjustable screen as standard, which isn’t bad for £12,200. However up the asking price to £14,150 and the XRX adds semi-active suspension (TSAS), cornering ABS and TC, a full-colour TFT dash, keyless ignition, LED and DRL lights and an extra riding mode to the party. Still not enough for you? Push the boat out and the top of the range XRT is £16,150 but builds on the XRX’s base with an up and down quickshifter, adaptive cornering lights, hill hold control, heated grips and seats and another riding mode that is fully programmable. What did Triumph give us to test? What do you think? XRT all the way – if you are going to adventure, why not do it in style and comfort!
The first thing that strikes you about the new Tiger 1200 is the throttle connection, which is simply sublime. There isn’t the slightest hint of a jerk when going from a closed throttle to an open one and it allows you to fully enjoy that wonderful updated triple motor. As well as adding a bit more spirit into it through the lighter flywheel, Triumph has retained its general feel of refinement and you can merrily short-shift through the gears (without using the clutch thanks to the quickshifter) and rely on the beautiful midrange to pull you along. It’s a very relaxed engine and suits the bike perfectly while still retaining a degree of spirit and character through the exhaust note (a flash Arrow can on the top of the range models) and triple’s drive while not introducing any unpleasant vibrations. What’s more, it is all backed up by an excellent chassis and electronics package.
When you pull the Tiger off its sidestand you certainly notice the fact that at 243kg dry the Tiger is around 20kg heavier than its rivals, but once on the go this weight is masked by excellent suspension, a typically-Triumph balanced road poise and some useful electronics. The TSAS seamlessly delivers a cushioned ride that is easily tweaked to a firmer setting via a few clicks of the new five-way joystick controller that is mounted on the left hand bar and the cornering TC and ABS are never intrusive, in fact I didn’t manage to activate either while on the road. The electronically adjustable screen is tall enough (it’s a higher touring version on the XRT) to shelter riders under six-foot and the new bars, which are positioned 20mm closer to the rider, and extra support in the seat’s padding noticeably improve comfort levels when compared to the old bike. Add to this the extra creature comforts the XRT has, such as a heated seat for both rider and pillion, heated grips and adaptive cornering lights that do seem to improve visibility at night and it all equals a very impressive adventure bike. But is it a GS-beater?
Realistically, the Tiger is never going to outsell the BMW R1200GS as the GS has become the de facto adventure machine and is hugely popular with owners, who nearly always upgrade to the next model rather than try something different. However the alterations Triumph have made to the Tiger 1200 now puts it on a much more level playing field with the GS as it rides just as well and boasts an even better electronics package. The £16,150 price tag is a bit of a shock to the system, but with tempting PCP plans I can see Triumph selling more Tiger 1200s that ever before in 2018. And deservedly so, as it’s a great bike.
Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA
The XCA is effectively an XRT with spoked wheels, an extra off-road pro riding mode, crash protection, a sump guard and billet footpegs, so on the road it doesn’t ride any differently to the XRT. However this is the bike designed to tackle the rough stuff and, armed with Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres, that’s just what we did.
When you select off-road mode the ABS is switched off to the rear and the electronics allow you enough slip to get the back end out before the computer brings it all back into line. If you are inexperienced on the dirt, this makes spinning it up on gravel nice and easy and is a good learning tool. Once you are confident, off-road pro disables both TC and ABS, but this could be a recipe for disaster with 139bhp on tap! Can the big Tiger really be taken off-road?
The XCA tips the scales at 248kg dry, which is a lot of bulk to wrestle around in an unpredictable environment. Also, the XC has the same suspension as the XR, which means it sits quite low to the ground and will bash its sump guard on rocks. Yes it can handle gravel tracks and light off-roading, but it’s not quite as rugged as the GS Adventure with its longer travel suspension. And it won’t go as far either.
Triumph have decided not to give the XC a larger fuel tank like its rivals, which is a bit of a shame as while 20-litres is quite a lot, 30-litres is even more and that’s what big adventure bikes now have and is a selling point for many riders – even if they don’t want to adventure further than their commuting run. An opportunity missed by Triumph? I think so. That said, the XC looks a bit more rugged than the XR thanks to its spoke wheels, so it may well sell on looks rather than being a true hard-core adventurer.
Specs: Triumph Tiger 1200
Price: XR £12,200, XRX £14,150, XRT £16,150, XCX £14,950, XCA £16,950
Engine: 1215cc, liquid-cooled, 12v DOHC triple
Power: 139bhp @ 9350rpm
Torque: 90ft-lb @ 7600rpm
Weight: XRT 243kg (XCA 248kg)
Claimed economy: 55mpg
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