Triumph had only one target for its new Tiger Explorer, explains product manager Simon Warburton: the BMW R1200GS. The big GS Boxer, the most successful motorcycle in the last two-and-a-half decades, sells so well it represents a very substantial chunk of BMW’s production and has been the machine that both created and continues to define the adventure-touring category.
It’s hard to remember that the first R80 G/S was considered an odd duck, neither a dirtbike nor a particularly outstanding streetbike—and with a plank for a saddle. The GS has come a long way, and, these days, many competitors have been aimed in the GS’s general direction but none so precisely as to even begin to dislodge the big BMW from the top of the adventure-touring heap. Triumph intends not to make that mistake: It has attempted to build an adventure-tourer that matches the GS very closely, hopefully duplicating its off-road capabilities while offering superior on-road skills.
The project that would lead to the Tiger Explorer began five years ago, with much more detailed market research, says Warburton, than has been typical of other Triumph projects. That research dictated several key aspects of the big Tiger. First, the bike had to have shaft drive; anything else was simply not an option for the majority of buyers who were considering the GS. Generally, along with comfort and convenience for two, the machine had to offer exemplary durability and reliability. Engine performance was a potential area to outshine BMW but, for Triumph, that meant a new, larger engine, purpose-built for this application. Its prior Tiger engine had already been through a long growth history and was tapped out at 1050cc.
The new engine would stick to Triumph roots—three cylinders with a balance shaft, twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder—and offer more. It kept the 71.4mm stroke of the last Tiger 1050 but with a bigger, 85mm bore allowed by a greater bore spacing, resulting in 1215cc while keeping a relatively high, 10,000-rpm redline. The intent was not to slightly exceed BMW Boxer performance but to go well beyond it. Relatively short-duration camshafts allow excellent bottom-end performance, while the high-rpm capability and displacement provide 137 claimed horsepower compared to the 110 of the latest GS. The engine was designed around a wet sump, part of Triumph’s desire to keep external oil lines to a minimum; it even uses an internally integrated water/oil heat exchanger so that an external oil cooler and the resulting plumbing would be unnecessary.
With an ever-increasing demand for electrical accessories, Triumph engineers gave the new engine a 950-watt, externally excited alternator (like that of your car, with variable-output capabilities instead of a typical motorcycle alternator with permanent magnets and a fixed output) mounted behind the cylinders and driven by a small cog off the clutch drive gear. A six-speed gearbox matches the ratio count of the Boxer, while the shaft drive was designed for exceptional reliability. It uses a floating gearcase to give near-neutral anti-squat behavior under acceleration (similar to BMW’s Paralever design but with more neutral tuning) and has both a metalastic, rubber-bonded shaft and a springloaded shock cushion. (The right-angle gear pair that takes power from the gearbox to the shaft drive is part of a bolton unit, allowing Triumph to someday convert this engine to chain drive if required for a different application, though Warburton says there are no immediate plans for this.)
Keihin supplies the ride-bywire intake system and 46mm throttle bodies; the throttle on the handlebar is cable-free, relying instead on two Hall-effect sensors to monitor and relay rider intent electronically to the ECU, which then dictates what the actual throttle butterflies do. Such ride-by-wire makes emissions tuning much easier for a manufacturer, as it prevents unnecessarily rapid throttle openings. It also allows Triumph to very readily make a precise cruise-control system standard on the Tiger; about the only cost for that addition was for a couple of buttons and some development and testing time. Similarly, adding traction control was mostly a matter of software, and every Tiger will come with a three-stage (Levels 1, 2 and “Off ”) TC system.
The chassis follows recent Triumph practice with the Tiger 800. A multi-tube steel frame, using the engine as a stressed member, was chosen for durability and repairability. (The thought is you’re more likely to find a welder capable of sticking steel back together than aluminum if you find such need on an extended tour of Mongolia, for instance.) The wheelbase stretches out just over 60 inches, leaving plenty of room for a rider and passenger while reducing the wheelie potential of an inherently tall motorcycle. Suspension travel is competitive with a standard GS, with 7.5 in. of travel from the 46mm Kayaba fork and 7.6 in. at the rear wheel, provided by a Kayaba shock and a rising-rate linkage. The single-sided swingarm allows the cast rear wheel to be readily removed, while tire sizes are GS standard: 110/80-19 front, 150/70-17 rear. Steering geometry isn’t unusual for the class, with 23.9 degrees of rake and 4.2 in. of trail. A centerstand is standard, as is Nissin-supplied ABS; you cannot buy a Tiger without anti-lock brakes, a trend that will accelerate as the European Union negotiates with motorcycle manufacturers to make anti-lock standard on all motorcycles.