In recent times, the Adventure tourer trend has started to gather a lot of steam. With riders finally starting to grasp the practicality and versatility of this genre of motorcycles for a variety of landscapes and terrain, we get our hands on the behemoth that is the Tiger 1200 Explorer XC (cross-country). Now, this is a motorcycle that has been around since 2014; we miss out on the updated 2016 version, and the 2017 version isn't here yet. So it may seem a bit under-equipped in terms of features and electronics. But how well does it do what it's supposed to do best?
The intimidation game
Let's face it, the Tiger Explorer is certainly not the prettiest motorcycle out there. Its menacing front facade with those large, dual headlights exudes a sense of purpose that an adventure motorcycle should. The upswept, rugged jawline really adds to the whole predatory appeal of the Explorer. It gets a tall, manually adjustable windscreen that is a bit difficult to operate. There are two knobs on either side of the fairing that need to be loosened before you can adjust the height; so adjusting the screen on the go will be a task close to impossible. It also gets these shrouded foglamps that sit below the fairing as a standard fitment, and really help with night riding, especially off-road.
Sitting just behind the windscreen is an LCD instrument cluster that uses handlebar-mounted thumb switches with the up/down scroll facility. It features two trip meters displaying distance covered, journey time, average speed, average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption and range to empty. Although, navigating through this menu is a bit of a complicated affair and can only be done at a standstill.
The aggressive radiator shrouds then flow into an angular well-chiselled 20-litre tank. The seat on the Explorer is nice and comfortable and should do well in placating its rider when covering massive distances. It is two-stage adjustable from 837mm to 857mm via an easy-to-use system that involves sliding the front seat off and slotting it into one of the two available grooves. Although still on the taller side, for a large adventure motorcycle, this is a rather inviting seat height, and moving the motorcycle during parking drills shouldn't be too much of an issue. The pillion seat is a well-cushioned wide one, which should also be rather comfortable, should you choose to take a pillion along.
The upswept silencer on the Explorer is absolutely humungous, which could have been the broadsword of a giant in another universe. It gets a simple, sort of a rectangular shape, devoid of any drama. While viewing the profile of the Explorer, the silencer is swept at an angle that is parallel to the bottom of the sub-frame that lends a sort of flow into the minimalistic tail end. This houses nice, thick grab-rails and culminates in just a vertical, twin-strip LED tail light.
Beneath the surface
As mentioned earlier, this 2014 version of the Explorer is a bit dated in terms of features and equipment when compared to the likes of other prime adventure tourers like the Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro and the BMW R1200 GS Adventure. If you're not a big fan of electronic nannies, this could definitely work in your favour. You do get a three-stage traction control (off, 1 and 2) and switchable ABS, but that's about it. It misses out on more advanced electronics like power modes, a TFT screen and electronically-adjustable suspension.
The Explorer comes equipped with KYB 46mm inverted forks with manually adjustable spring pre-load at the front, and a KYB monoshock with manually adjustable pre-load and rebound dampening. It also gets ultra-durable spoked wheels, where the steel spokes sit on a rail on the aluminium rim, instead of on the rim itself; this allows for the bike to get tubeless tyres. It rides on a 19-inch wheel at the front and a 17-inch one at the rear.
The heart and soul of this Tiger, however, is its motor. The fuel-injected 1213cc engine has double overhead cams, with an inline triple-cylinder layout and ride-by-wire throttle. The 137hp of peak power and 121Nm of torque is directed to the rear wheel via a shaft-drive that is not only durable, but really curbs the amount of transmission loss that is synonymous with conventional chain drives. This results in an extremely sharp throttle response that's great for the road. But couple this up with the absence of power modes and it can complicate things a bit when riding in the dirt.
It gets dual 305mm discs at the front and a 282mm one at the rear. The brakes feel strong and the ABS kicks in cleanly and doesn't give you the sort of jerks that are associated with ABS systems.
Into the wild
The Tiger 1200 Explorer XC is a vehemently large motorcycle. But once you get astride this beast, it's really not as intimidating as it appears. At the lower 837mm setting, the seat isn't really that tall. I'm about 5 feet 10 inches and my feet were sitting flat on the ground, which is a definite bonus when moving such a large motorcycle around with the engine off. Once you get a move on, the seat feels extremely comfortable and well cushioned. There's a well-shaped taper to the front of the seat that allows you to grip the tank with your knees quite comfortably. The wide handlebars do feel like a bit of a stretch thanks to the long tank. But once you get accustomed to this, you could go on riding for hours at triple-digit speeds. The tall, adjustable front windscreen shields you well from the wind blast that accompanies high speed.
The motor feels just brilliant when cruising along the highway, with the deep howl from the inline triple providing you with a pretty affable soundtrack. The torque is spread well amongst the rev range and pulling away from speeds as low as 25kph in third gear means you don't have to work through the six-speed gearbox too much. If you decide to push the motorcycle, you'll notice that it has a very strong and linear mid-range that tapers off into a not so punchy top end; all in all, this is a very tractable motor.
Despite the Explorer being an absolutely brilliant companion for the highway, its off-road credentials are a bit more subdued. First, the handlebar tends to feel a bit low when in the standing position. Second, the throttle feels way too sharp for off-roading, although the traction control does iron this out considerably. Finally, this motorcycle weighs a whopping 259kg, and this weight certainly makes itself quite unsubtly apparent when out on the dirt. So, even though the Explorer is capable of some amount of trail riding, the motorcycle and you would be the happiest out on wide open stretches of highway; it is definitely a road-biased machine. Set the suspension up on the stiffer side and the Explorer will conquer twisties effortlessly; dipping in with poise, it feels decently sporty when you hit the bends.
Care to take the beast home?
Once all is said and done, the Tiger 1200 Explorer XC is a genuinely likeable, rider-friendly motorcycle. It will get you across massive distances in utmost comfort, as would be expected from an apex adventure tourer. But that's just about how far it goes. It falls woefully short in terms of equipment when compared to the more recently updated competition, which isn't really a deal-breaker per se; it just isn't as capable as its counterparts are. This may work for some riders but it may fall short for the more seasoned ones. And for an asking price of Rs 18.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), we would certainly have hoped for more. The good news is that the updated 2017 Explorer will be making its way to India sometime in the near future. So, for those of you that the extra features and electronics do matter, a bit of patience will be necessary.