Friday, 1 March 2013

Triumph Tiger Explorer; Tigger Gets Serious

Triumph Have the Germans in their Sights

The English, by nature of the weather and a drink called tea, do tend to sit around a lot and talk. This is commonly known as a Good Thing. Look what came out of it; the invention of the jet engine; the Jaguar XK; the Raleigh Chopper bicycle. And the Triumph Triple engine.

While the one from the 1960’s may have given the modern incarnation of Triumph an historical peg on which to hang its designs, it was released prematurely and, as a result, not as good as it could have been, despite making the most delicious noise and doing rather well in production racing and at the Isle Of Man. Then the Honda-four came along, kicked the British motorcycle industry up the backside and showed it the door.
The newly reborn Triumph concern in the 1990’s drew heavily on its historical links and re-introduced the triple and it has rightly become one of the great motorcycle engines, powering everything from full sports bikes to tourers and multi-purpose adventure bikes.

And now Triumph have upped the ante on BMW and released the 1215cc, 3-cylinder, shaft drive Tiger Explorer and first impressions are that they have got their sums exactly right and that BMW should be very afraid.

The engine, whilst aping its forebears, is completely new and is a stonker of a motor. It produces way more power than the rivals (think GS, Super Tenere, etc) and it just has so much character in comparison with those same rivals. With the Arrow pipe fitted, it absolutely howls and you can’t help knocking it down a gear or two and opening the throttle at any opportunity just to hear it sing! It is an inspired piece of design, combining the qualities of both an in-line four and a twin.

Now, these bikes are classed as Adventure, dual-purpose bikes but the reality is that 99% of them will spend 100% of their time going no further off-road than up the kerb in Sandton. To that end they are completely focussed on on-road performance and handling. This bike is no different, although journalists who were on the official launch reported how good it was on sand or gravel roads.

But as a road bike it excels; all the usual benefits of tall adventure styling but dynamics of a sports bike with excellent chassis components making for beautifully fluid handling. I had the chance to take it round Red Star raceway and it just felt so stable and smooth, inspiring confidence. But it can be trickled around town in the gentlest of manners without a hint of protest from engine or transmission; it fulfils both sides of a rider’s personality – hooligan and need-for-transport.

The styling does seem a little schizophrenic, as if lots of different designers all worked on one little bit without knowing what the other was doing and then they made them all fit together somehow. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but actually there is coherence in the madness that means there is something new to notice every time you look at it for any length of time and. It is certainly a striking look and one that seems to emphasize its capabilities.

If it’s electronic gadgets you like, then the Triumph has them all; switchable ABS and Traction Control, Tyre pressure monitor, heated seats and grips, spotlights, frost warning, range to empty, cruise control. OK, so many of these are optional extras but the trend in this market sector seems to point towards owners loading up their bikes with all the bells and whistles.

Overall, it gives the impression of bringing a bit of fun – a bit like a hyperactive kid – to a party thrown by staid and serious rivals, such as the BMW. There may be a bit of sniffy looking down the noses but, secretly, there’s a lot of envy at the devil-may-care attitude. Not to say that the BMW is a bad bike all of a sudden, but now at least here is a dangerous rival to Teutonic efficiency.

Maybe not the Triumph's natural habitat but no worse
around the track for all that
British against the Germans? Now, where have I heard that before…?

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