2014 TRIUMPH EXPLORER XC – FIRST RIDE


2014 TRIUMPH EXPLORER XC – FIRST RIDE


It’s all about the whiskey and the wool here in the Scottish Highlands…and of course, the wide-open spaces that nurture the requisite barley and sheep. Those same rolling hills and lush glens are also brilliant for adventuring. Just ask James Bond. And Triumph Motorcycle’s product manager, Simon Warburton, who’s invited us to the top floor of the United Kingdom to sample the new 1200 Tiger Explorer XC.
In almost every sense this is the same Explorer we already know and love. It’s incredibly easy to ride, very agile, with the 1215cc Triple happily—and quickly—bringing you to digits double the average legal U.S. highway limits (hey, we’re in James Bond territory…with only sheep as witnesses). Meanwhile, if you’re not in a rush to overtake a bustling lorry, the same mill will plug off a stop in second gear, and with equal heart, dawdle about the countryside in its leggy third cog. We love this engine. Shifting is slick, though a hard pull off the line will make you work for engagement from second to third. For a bolt off the line, the Explorer prefers a short shift, or if you’re going to enjoy the miles, a lazy shift through the low gears. At a stop, neutral is always eager for engagement.
There is the same well-behaved shaft drive, KYB preload-adjustable 46mm fork and single rear shock with adjustable damping and preload. In spirited street riding, the XC dips and ducks along the narrow, knotted Scottish back roads as if threaded to the tarmac. Traction control set to the (default) 01 position is perfect, rain or no. There is an 02 setting, as well as disengagement, “If you prefer to crash,” says Warburton. The Explorer comes with standard cruise control, which is a perk, if a bit of hassle to engage if you don’t have a right thumb as long as Gene Simmons’ tongue. A fix is in the works, we’ve been assured.
What is assuredly different about the XC (cross country) version of the 1200 Explorer are the adventure-ready, aluminum rims with steel spokes and tubeless tires designed to keep you rolling even when you take a big hit. And because you’re the type of rider who’ll potentially take your Tiger on big-hit trails, Murphy’s Law will be dialed up a notch, making good sense of the XC’s black engine bars, handguards and skidplate. The last essential of the new kit are the badass-looking aluminum-shrouded foglights that will get you back to camp after that X-tra big day.
For the off-road portion of Triumph’s introduction, we’re led through the gates of the decidedly Scottish Alvie estate. Thirteen thousand acres make up this privately owned Highlands getaway, punctuated by a castle-style abode considered for the final scene of Bond’s recent escapades in Skyfall. After a lunch of wild venison and whiskey-laced parfait (just for flavor!) we are guided to the Alvie’s most wild, rocky wilderness by a groundskeeper in thick tartan. There, we’re let loose for a spell to bounce about the steeps and gullies.
Again, this is the same Explorer we’ve ridden before. A saint on the street, but a wee handful on the rough, the XC feels its size off-road, especially when surfaces are slick and/or mushy (think Scotland). The same steering geometry and compliant suspension that make the bike work so well on pavement get in its way once you take it off. Still, there is no testing of the supplied crash guards, even though we are running the stock Metzeler Tourance tires (gloriously obedient on the street, but not so grippy in the dirt).
After a couple of hours bumping around the misty, wooded grounds of the Alvie, we’re herded back onto the sinewy street surfaces that make the Triumph Explorer, XC or not, a real hero—a true James Bond of bikes. And with huge smiles we continue to connect the green dots, and the pubs, that make the Highlands Scottish.
The statement Triumph is making with this new reiteration of the Explorer is a promising one: “There are a significant number of people who spend a larger percentage of their time on unsurfaced roads, especially in the United States, where there are more unsurfaced roads to ride on. These riders are not pretending to ride around the world—it’s not a dressing-up contest. They simply want to be able to travel along unsurfaced roads to access areas of natural beauty. The changes we made to create the XC were designed to meet the requirements of these riders.”
The 1200 Explorer XC will certainly satisfy the expectations of many types of riders, especially those who want to expand their horizons and look the part doing so. As with other adventure bikes in its class, the $17,199 MSRP (even before panniers) will also require expanding your wallet.
But if you have a heart dialed for excitement (like local heroes Sir William Wallace [Braveheart], Harry Potter and James Bond) you’re bound to end up riding somewhere as profoundly adventurous as the Scottish Highlands. And when you do so, having a motorcycle that’s adventure-ready means everything.
The Explorer is just that: primed for whatever comes (even if it’s only a dozen Highland sheep and a hairy coo or two).