MCN Fleet: Beating the chills on the Tiger Explorer

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This is the first time I’ve used a long-termer as daily transport through the winter. I’ve had them through the dark months before but being mainly sportsbikes and super nakeds, I only used them on dry days. I could never bring myself to spoil them on cruddy roads and used the car instead.

Who needs a car, anyway?

But my Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer is an adventure bike. It’s designed to be used, not wrapped in cotton wool and actually looks better with a bit of mud on its boots. So, I took my car off the road in September and never looked back. I don’t even miss four wheels for the practical carrying stuff because the Triumph’s accessory top box and panniers are big enough to stash the spoils of a large bank robbery.

Silicon saviours

I’ve banged on before about just how comfortable and easy it is to ride and it continues to impress when temperatures plummet. Electronics come into their own when it’s wet and slippery, but it’s more than just having ABS and traction control on call to bail you out. The riding modes are particularly effective, especially Rain mode. It softens power to prevent greasy road slides happening in the first place and takes the firmness out of the suspension to find grip.  

Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer

Don’t stop me now

Having a 30-litre tank throws up an unexpected benefit, too. I can do long journeys without having to stop for fuel, so the hermetic seal I create with my riding gear stays undisturbed. Nothing worse than having to kit-up again at cold, dank petrol station in the middle of nowhere. Weather protection from the screen, hand guards and wide bodywork are almost car-like and the cornering LED headlights turn night into a brighter version of a drab January day.

Tread carefully

I’m not keen on are the tyres’ reluctance to work in very cold conditions, though. I’m running Bridgestone’s latest AT41 dual purpose rubber that are more heavily treaded and have a firmer ride than the standard Metzeler Tourance Nexts. They’re fine in the warm and dry, especially with the suspension softened off, but it’s hard to get the front tyre to bite on wet tarmac when the air temperature drops below 4 degrees.

Down and dirty

Keeping it clean is a challenge, just because of all its nooks and crannies. Getting to the engine block beneath the exhaust headers, the rear shock and behind the screen is particularly tricky. But having a centre stand makes things easier and everything comes back to life after a good scrub, except for brake discs that have succumbed to the salt. And of course, with the treated roads never properly drying, it’s dirty again in seconds, although having a shaft drive and no chain to clean is a godsend. I’ll give it a proper ‘take it to bits’ clean before it goes back.

Update Two: Neevesy explores the Tiger’s off-road cousin

Date: 10 December 2022

When it came to choosing which Triumph Tiger 1200 to run as an MCN long termer I went for the GT Explorer version. It’s the more road-focused model with a big tank and 19in front wheel. It’s also fitted with Metzeler Tourance Next dual-purpose tyres that aren’t too heavily treaded, so perfect for the road.

I’ve always wondered what the Rally Explorer version was like, though. Have I been missing out? More importantly, is it worth the extra £1000 over mine? To find out I went to Triumph to borrow one for a few days.

Being more off-road biased, the suspension travel is 20mm longer (up to 220mm) and has spoked instead of cast wheels. The front wheel is a 21-incher with blockier Metzeler Karoo Street tyres, which I prefer the look of. It also has an extra ‘Off Road Pro’ riding mode that disables the rider aids, so you can skid about in the dirt. Other than that, it’s the same as my GT, from the riding position to its electronic bells and whistles.

2022 Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally on the road

It’s properly tall and I love that. It’s the first bike where I can dangle my lanky old legs off the pegs to stretch and my feet don’t touch the ground. I’ve always wanted to do that. It makes the GT look like a low-rider by comparison. The Rally’s extra height lets it lean over properly when the side stand goes down, too. Mine sits way too upright.

If I used the Tiger off-road I’d choose the Rally, but the 21in front wheel and 90 section tyre is a compromise for the road. Both Tigers steer largely the same, but you can’t stuff the Rally into a corner like you can the GT, simply because a skinny knobbly doesn’t have the grip of a fatter, more road-focussed tyre. The Rally’s rubber is excellent for what it is, but in low grip conditions you feel the front ‘walk’ as you lean.

The front tyre creates a slightly instability in a straight line, too. There’s a slight shimmy from the bars between 30-45mph and if you go no-handed (not recommended, obviously) they start to slap. My GT now does a similar thing after changing the standard rubber with more heavily treaded Bridgestone AT41s. It’s never a problem all the time you keep your hands on the bars, though.  

Michael Neeves rides a Triumph Tiger 1200 Rally on the road

Both Tigers have the same rear shock spring rate, but the GT’s fork are firmer, although it feels the other way (maybe due to the bigger front wheel). Brakes are the same, too, but the Rally’s lever span is too far out, even on its minimum setting.

I prefer the more rugged look of the Rally and its side stand, but the plusher, easier to manage and more stable GT is still Tiger 1200 one for me.

Update One: Touring Europe is now a breeze on the Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer

Date: 01 November 2022

Beautiful views with the Triumph Tiger 1200

These past few months spent with my Tiger termer have been a game changer for me. I’ve always appreciated adventure bikes and understand why they’re so popular, but to live with one, especially one as talented as the new Triumph, has opened my eyes.

It’ll Be Hard To Go Back

Its brilliance hit home on a recent two-week, 3504-mile riding holiday to Europe with my girlfriend. I’ve never ridden so far in such comfort (conventional tourers included) and without a hint of aching wrists, neck, back, knees or bum, even after 10-hour days in the saddle. It’s just as relaxing on the back. I can’t imagine ever touring on a sportsbike or super naked again.

Touring Treats

Travelling through France, Italy, Croatia, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland the Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer returned 50mpg, which isn’t bad two-up, fully laden with huge panniers sticking out in breeze. It does 300 miles between fill-ups with fuel to spare. I’ve never appreciated how useful a big 30-litre tank like this can be, not because I want to do huge miles in one hit, but it’s just nice not having to fill up every time you stop on a long journey.

There are other things that old Captain Sportsbike here never appreciated, starting with the shaft drive. You’d never know there wasn’t a chain and I don’t miss having to adjust one or clean up after it. I never thought an adventure bike could cover ground so quickly, either. Not only does the Tiger 1200, steer and corner beautifully, it floats over bumps that would turn a race rep or fast naked in knots, especially two-up. And as for it having a 19in front wheel and not a 17in, well, I can’t find fault with the way it handles, especially on its standard, sticky dual-purpose Metzler Tourance Next rubber.

Then there’s the joy of having two handy power sockets, a centre stand, blind spot indicators that warn you of manic Alfas appearing from under your armpits on the autostrada and its big 7in dash with sat nav that guides us (more or less) on the straight and narrow. I love the T-plane engine’s character, too mixing the rumbly overtones of a big twin with bumble bee overrev of a triple.

Late Summer Fun

Not only has the Triumph been a joy to live, but it turns out September the best time to tour Europe, too. It’s still hot, but not stifling and because the kids are back at school and the summer holiday season is about to wind up, things are cheaper and less busy.

Cafe culture

Stand and Deliver

But the Tiger isn’t without its faults. A too-long side stand means it threatens to fall over unless you park on the flat, or with the road sloping away to the left (my Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR had the same problem). The windblast from the screen is noisy, too, as are all adventure bikes and something I really notice riding so many different bikes. A BMW R1250RT’s screen is almost silent by comparison. The heated grips could be hotter and while the sat nav works pretty well, it only tells you where you are and not where you need to go, which is sometimes confusing.

I still don’t find the Tiger particularly good looking, but as a tool to cover big miles in comfort one, or two-up, it’s absolutely superb – so much so, there’s another Euro trip coming along soon.

Boxing Clever

I’ve also been enjoying the novelty of having lots of packing space on tour, thanks to Triumph’s lockable hard luggage. It’s nice not having to worry about carrying heavy rucksacks or intrusive tank bags, but you’ll have to fork out nearly £1500 more for the privilege. Leaving the 52-litre top box (£330 with £149 rack and £85 back rest) almost empty is perfect for storing riding kit when exploring off the bike. Unclipping the 79-litre (combined) panniers and carrying them as suitcases for hotel stays makes life easy, too. They’ll set you back £615, plus a £305 stainless steel mounting kit.  


Having been left scratching his head by the 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR, MCN’s chief road tester Michael Neeves is now getting to grips with the new Tiger 1200 GT Explorer.