2012-04-28 10:16:26+0000
  • Make:
  • Triumph
  • Model:
  • Tiger 1200 Explorer
  • Year:
  • 2012
  • Owned:
  • Yes

Apparently, I have the first one into Canada and these are my first impressions.

I've always had a soft spot for the R1200GS. I've rented several and borrowed a friends on a number of occasions and did many happy miles on it. It's a complex blend of comfort, performance and quality that inspires great confidence and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the BMW should be blushing about now as the Tiger 1200 really is a GS alike.

Firstly, the look. The BMW is well made, but not exactly the prettiest bike in the showroom. The Explorer looks like Triumph took most of the GS styling cues and updated the lines to make it look sleeker and sexier. This is also the most meticulously built Triumph ever. Everything about it looks designed rather than a parts bin special. The switchgear, which was never a Triumph strong point, has been massively improved. Even the master cylinder, one of Triumphs former nastier details finally looks like it belongs on the bike. It's little details, but each one of them adds up to the impression this bike is special. And compared to the GS? Well, let's just say it reinforces the notion that the German machine really is a piece of agricultural machinery from Bavaria…

Next, the engine. The GS mill is very capable indeed. On paper, the Triumph is up in power (about 135bhp compared with 110 or so) but I'm still running it in so it's hard to say what that really means. The first thing you notice is how damn smooth the Triumph is. Sure, the water cooled 1215cc triple was always going to sound smoother than the air cooled BMW, but while the GS sounds faintly like its coming apart, the Tiger just purrs.

Features? Self cancelling indicators, cruise control, power outlets, comprehensive trip computer, adjustable windshield, abs all seem to come as standard. Unlike the old Tiger, it even has a centre stand.

But all of this is for nought except for the riding - And I have to say, the Tiger 1200 rides like a boss. That engine? Smooth is not the word - You know that little smile you give when your significant other is wearing silk underwear as opposed to cotton? That's the smile you'll give every time you twist the Tiger's fly-by-wire throttle. The power is just there. No vibes, no fuss, just pure pulling power. Following the run-in procedure is however pure torture. Below 160km, I'm supposed to keep it below 3500rpm. At that point, it's like trying to get excited by a well-turned ankle. Sure, it's nice and a few years ago we'd all be going nuts about that. But I passed that mark last night and am now "allowed" to get to 5000rpm. At that point, it's like side- boob - it's never going to get boring and there's the promise of more. So much more.

The gearbox is also one of the best I have ever ridden. Smooth and positive. Granted, it's early days to be praising it, but if it stays like that, I will not be unhappy. Steering is very positive and light and the brakes are pretty damn good, too. I did take some time to find a less used road and push them to the point the ABS kicked in. It's significantly better than the old model but does't really get in the way. Even better, it can now be easily deactivated from the dash and the controls for which are now FINALLY mounted on the bars.

Triumph have even gone so far as to use a shaft final drive, a first for them. They have clearly done their homework though because unlike the GS, there is no practical trace of torque steering. I've ridden a few "shafties" and this is hands down the best ever.

Comfort is pretty good, too. The seat could be better, but that could be me being out the saddle for a while. The two part seat has two height settings for the rider and both seem fine to me. Plenty of room in both positions and still an easy reach to the floor.

Accessories are pretty good, too. I have the launch package, so it has the bash plate, fog lights, bark busters, engine bars /etc. Add that to the GS and your budget is completely shot. It's impossible to tell just how good they all are but they look serious business. If that's not enough for you, there's a huge catalog, from the powered top box right through to traction control and heated seats.

Is it better than the GS? On first impressions, I have to say yes. For starters, it looks like it's worth more, despite costing less. It oozes quality against a bike that really has been living on reputation for the past five years and it will be interesting to see how BMW respond. Early impressions are that the Tiger is both faster and rides more smoothly than it's German rival, but I'll know both for sure after another couple of weeks.

Concerns? I have to say not really at this point. OK. Maybe a coupe. The first is around it's off-road pretension. It's a heavy bike, heavier than the old tiger (at least pushing it into my garage it felt that way). Off-road, that is going to count against it and the GS is lighter. Disclosure time: Anything more than fire trails on a GS is beyond me but this Tiger will go off road at some point and I will know for sure, but let's just say it's not the primary use-case for this bike, despite what it's looks might suggest. To be fair, few R1200GS actually go off road either.

The only other is the fly by wire throttle, which is very sensitive. The old Tiger had a flat spot, which is notably absent on the new one but I can get used to it. The throttle also turns off the cruise control. Maybe i need more practice or a steadier hand, but every time I activated cruise control yesterday, the next pot-hole turned it off again and there's a lot of pot holes in Toronto. Still, I can honestly say I won't really use cruise control all that much. If I wanted that, I'd be in my car.

Overall, I have to say I am incredibly happy with the bike so far - even now I'm looking out of the window at it. I can't wait for the luggage to arrive and to do some serious miles on it.

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  • Jordan
  • 2012-04-30T08:48:14-04:00

I absolutely LOVE it, looks amazing... Triumph has done a great job with 1200 and 800 Tigers, having either (or both) in my garage would make me very happy.


Finnerty Rd & Duffys Lane. Nothing that special, but the best I've found in that area. I also found a patch of land with trails that no seems to mind me riding up by Albion. Got to get you to Pennsylvania for the real twisty stuff, paved and dirt.

  • nick303
  • 2012-04-28T14:26:57-04:00

p.s. looks like the Alien queen. p.p.s. @champers nice twisty gravel you say?

  • nick303
  • 2012-04-28T14:23:07-04:00

It certainly looks way more the part than the old Tiger and sounds like it rides it too. Look forward to hearing more once you've put some more miles on her. Congrats on the new ride!


i could conceivably get away for an after 6er up in Caledon on a weeknight -- Tues, maybe. I've made friends with some nice twisty gravel there. Just found it last weekend.


Hailing here. Congratulations. You're sounding in love. Up for a ride? Weather looks like it could be civilized by next weekend.

  • alex
  • 2012-04-28T06:18:51-04:00

@champers, @marina, @nick303 - All hail my new bike!