Hard braking is usually the result of accelerating like a fool between corners—and so the Explorer is guilty as charged. The 1215cc triple is one of the finest engines available today—something we declare fully aware of hyperbole echoing off the walls. Smooth, characteristically growly, and really well mannered; these descriptions just start to do the Explorer’s three-cylinder mill justice. While power peaks at a fairly modest 114.3 horsepower at 9100 rpm on our SuperFlow dyno, the torque curve dominates the conversation. Except for a slight dip at 2900 rpm, the four-valve-per-cylinder triple puts down more than 70 lb.-ft. of torque all the way from 2400 to 8600 rpm. And it feels just as good on the road—an endless supply of thrust and strong acceleration in any gear, even the tallish sixth. It’s not peel-your-skin-back power, but it always seems to be just more than you need.
Clicked up into the top cog, the Explorer’s mill settles down into a distant whine, a mere trace of high-frequency vibration sneaking past the counterbalancer and seeking a way out through the bar ends. Plant the Explorer on 80 mph, click on the generally good cruise control, and enjoy being transported through the world. That high seating position gives you a wonderful view, and the open ergonomics keep all those creaky joints in the pain-free zone. (We would like a narrower bar, if only for the inevitable miles in traffic.) Click the multifunction display over to the “miles remaining” screen and count down toward the far horizon. We averaged 41 mpg overall with a consistent 44 mpg on the highway, giving 180-plus miles before reserve.
Thanks to very good weather protection—for this category of bike, anyway—the Explorer is a treat for all day. It doesn’t look like your lower body has much coverage, but the tank bulges help keep the wind from your legs, at least at the knee and above. The combination of headlight/fairing/windscreen does a good job of directing the atmosphere around your torso. With the stock screen, a 5-foot-9 rider resides in relatively smooth air; the screen is adjustable for rake, so taller pilots should be fine as well. The ergonomic picture would be just about perfect with a slightly firmer saddle—as is, the soft seat foam packs down at the end of the day, though the shape invites several seating positions to help alleviate monkey butt.
Triumph has a catalog full of accessories for the Explorer, most of which we’ve seen—and they seem to be good quality—but we tested three on our blue bomber: the $799.99 saddlebags, the $219.99 aluminum belly pan, and the $229.99 heated grips. Warm hands are worth any amount of money, so that’s a must-have. With 62 liters of capacity, the removable hard bags carry a decent amount but, like other Triumph systems, wiggle-waggle conspicuously; the slop clanks the passenger’s right-hand footpeg bracket over bumpy roads. And the pipe eats most of the right-side bag. Give the aftermarket time to spool up some really neat boxes. We’d also opt for the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), a steal at $169.99.
At $15,699, the Explorer splits the cheaper Yamaha Super Tenere and the slightly more expensive, outgoing BMW R1200GS (no prices yet for the new model), while undercutting the base Multistrada by $1300. It’s true that the Explorer lacks the visceral performance of the Ducati, and that it’s probably less adept off road than the BMW or the Yamaha. But with its superlative three-cylinder engine, high comfort factor, and smooth suspension, the Explorer has found a home on the open road. It may not look like a long-distance runner, but it surely is.