By Marissa Baecker
From the air, there were barely any clouds, the water was calm and I could practically plan my route from the window seat of the plane. The boys from Savage Cycles in Victoria were kind enough to pick me up at the airport and bring me to my waiting wheels. In all my years as a British Columbia resident, I can’t say I have ever flown to Victoria. I have been there many times but never by air and this time I would be leaving with a brand new 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200.
One of three new models introduced in 2012, entry level pricing announced in May ranked the Tiger Explorer in the adventure bike market with an MSRP of $17,500. Competitive but add the extras and you will be looking at the same range as the rest of the market. The bike began hitting Western show room floors around July and I was looking forward to the opportunity to ride it.
The Explorer that stood before me was Graphite Grey (also available in Phantom Black and Sapphire Blue) and had a few optional extras to cover distance and terrain. The Explorer side pannier system had been installed and was extremely easy to utilize. One key locking system both opened the cargo as well as released the panniers from the harness to remove them like a suitcase. Together, they are installed on a floating mounting assembly shifting balance easily when all 62 litres of carrying capacity are packed. The left hand side holds a full-face helmet while the right hand side is set around the muffler. For those extreme adventures, a 35 litre top box can added, also capable of storing a full-face helmet, but with a 10 kg weight limit. Engine bars were another option as was the alloy belly pan or skid plate, heated rider and passenger seat, and dual temperature heated grips.
One of the first items that I consider when trying a new bike is ‘Can I lift it back up if I go down?’ If I don’t think I can, I avoid the bike. I have been taught properly how to lift a bike and the technique works quite well but if the bike is too much for your body, technique isn’t going to help. The Explorer weighs in at 259 kg/570 lbs with all fluids in. Considering the power, that is manageable.
Getting on the bike the first time, the bike felt good, my feet were firmly placed on the ground but once on the pegs I needed a little extra room. The rider seat was easily removed from the 837mm/32.9” seat height and adjusted to 857 mm/33.7” seat height to accommodate my size in a matter of minutes. Reaching my arms forward around the 20 litre/5.3 gln tank was a bit of stretch to the handlebar grips. My body had to lean forward which on one hand was nice to take the pressure off your backside but on the other, my wimpy wrists would take the brunt of the extra weight and give me a bit of discomfort down the road. The ‘learning pains’ riders work through with any new model – part of getting to know your ride.
The on-board computer was a bit challenging to figure out but then again there hasn’t been one on any bike that I have ridden that hasn’t been a bit of brain teaser – at least at first. Electronic cruise control, traction control, switchable ABS, click this, hold that, scroll here – I did eventually figure it out.
Turning North onto the Island Highway, the 89 ft lbs of torque at 6400 rpm launched me to highway speed in no time. Triumph introduced a new liquid cooled, in-line three cylinder, 1215cc engine with the Explorer featuring ride-by-wire (or as I called it roll-by-wire as the throttle required little effort), fuel injection technology. I like the handling of the bike that the in-line engine offers. For me it is easier to maneuver than the competitor boxer engine. However, the boxer style seems to be built for some serious off-roading and the in-line makes the bike feel more like a street bike.
If you haven’t ridden a motorcycle onto BC Ferries, it’s the only way to go. Front of the line loading, front of the ferry parking, then on the other side, first off the ferry. By the time the cars began filing off the boat, all the riders were long gone.
It wasn’t until the Crow’s Nest highway #3 that I got into the ‘zone’ on the bike. All those twists and curves and this bike performed like a sport bike. It hugged the curves, accelerated at the slightest roll of the throttle and delivered power when necessary. At Manning Park, I decided to climb the hills to the look out at 15,000 feet. The road is hair-pinned back and forth but paved to 8,000 feet at which point it becomes gravel. The view is nothing short of spectacular, and the critters are accustomed to people. As I held out my hand of peanuts, a Whiskey Jack landed on my palm and promptly flew off as the resident chipmunk came running down my arm and shoved the remainder of nuts into its cheeks.
The off-road portion was short and with 110/80 R19 on the front and 150/70 R17 on the rear, street tires, it was slow. Front suspension offers Kayaba 46mm upside down adjustable forks to smooth out the bumps and Kayaba monoshock, hydraulically adjustable (with the on-board computer) 194 mm in the rear. Twin floating front disc brakes and single 282 mm disc in the rear but don’t forget about the switchable ABS. It is much easier climbing off-road standing up on the bike and I had no balance issues on the Explorer.
The windshield was standard and doesn’t really provide a whole lot of protection from the semi-trucks or the elements but if you get a chill at the higher elevations, plug in your jacket, turn on the seat and click on those handgrips to keep that chill off.
If you ride into Naramata from Penticton, the road to Chute Lake Resort takes you off the pavement and onto the gravel. I struggled with the climb, especially in the soft deep sand corners that are built for 4×4 trucks or adventure bikes with off-road tires, neither of which I had. When I got to the top, I passed the campfires, the fly fishers, the tents and the peace and began to make my way down the KVR toward Kelowna.
I spooked a bunny here and there, a doe and two fawn and even a frog hopping along at dusk but nothing could have prepared me for the cow moose that stepped out of the woods in front of me some 100 yards ahead. As she chewed, she sized me up contemplating her next move just as I stopped the bike and contemplated mine. Her legs alone were the height of me on the bike and I kept my hand on the throttle and tried to plan an exit route in case she decided to come at me. My last resort was my all mighty, but fierce, meep meep of my horn which garnered a look like, “That’s all you got?” I decided to approach and meep meep myself closer to which she retreated. Phew! As dusk settled in, the city lights of Kelowna came on and the view was spectacular.
My descent into Kelowna was a bit tricky in the dark but the headlight and high beam on the Triumph provided enough light. I quite enjoyed this bike, especially the highway ride but in all honesty, the Tiger 800XC would suffice. For those of you who need that extra power, go for a ride on the Explorer.