2013 Triumph Tiger Explorer XC | First Ride

Pumping Up the Explorer’s Off-Road Capabilities. Subtly.

By Marc Cook, Photography by Alessio Barbanti

As I said in our test of the 2012 Explorer, the bike simply inhales the miles, thanks to a very smooth engine, reasonable fuel economy, and an all-day saddle adjustable for height. It’s so good that the 5.3-gallon tank actually seems a tad small—the fuel computer kept saying absolute range was 200-plus miles, but the low-fuel light had been on for awhile when we stopped for fuel at 185 miles. Indicated average mileage was 48 mpg.

At idle, the big triple exhibits the usual Triumph whine, but it revs quickly, pulls acceptably well from 2000 rpm (and quite strongly just 1000 rpm further up the scale), and during hard acceleration makes the sound of a heavy-duty blender munching on frozen blueberries. Add in predictable clutch takeup, an impressively light and agile gearbox, and a torque wave as deep as Loch Ness while you’re at it. Triumph knows how to make triples, and did a splendid job with this one. It has just the right combination of ready-now grunt and a willingness to rev, with the grunt-making revs optional instead of mandatory for good progress.

In theory, the chassis shouldn’t act any differently than a base Explorer’s, as the only changes are the wheels. Maybe the spoke jobs are heavier than cast hoops, but the Triumph felt less compliant than I remember from riding the base model in the U.S. There are no damping adjustments besides rear rebound, and the way the bike settled under me suggested that the spring rates and preload settings were at least close to right. It’s never harsh, but the Explorer feels more like a tall sportbike than a heavy enduro machine from the way it uses the suspension travel. Another possible explanation could be the all-up weight of the bike. I rode it solo, no bags, and just a light backpack. Warburton admitted that the suspension setup was a compromise to accommodate two-up touring, and I rode our U.S. testbike with the optional hard cases installed and often filled.

In all other areas important to distance riders, the Explorer performs well. It’s smooth, has excellent wind protection, accelerates briskly in pretty much any gear, has a handy cruise control, and provides a comfortable perch—few better places from which to watch the sheep on the hillsides.

Triumph has priced the XC in the heart of the class. At $17,199, the upgrade costs just $1500 more than a base Explorer, and the accessories (save for the wheels) account for about half the difference. That makes the spoke-wheel upgrade fairly inexpensive. Heated grips are still an option, as is the lockable, hard-sided luggage. There remains noticeable daylight between the Triumph and the new BMW GS and Ducati’s evergreen Multistrada, though the XC pulls a slight gap on Yamaha’s ADV offering.

It says something that after a couple of days touring a chilly, wet (but cheerful) Scotland and adding 400 miles to the odometers, none of us in the press group was ready to stop. A few more days among the lochs and haggis shops with the Explorer’s key in my pocket would have been just fine, thanks.

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After Marc's review, I think I'm ready to add the 3rd Triumph to my garage.  My dealer is converting a leftover Explorer (in Saphire Blue) to an XC for me.  It will join my '07 Caspian Blue Tiger 1050 and '11 Speed Triple SE.  I think it was Ari that said you could have a garage full of different Triumphs and have all the bases covered....I'm working on it!
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