THE SAND MASTER!
Oddly enough the Explorer rose to the head of the pack in the conditions where you’d least expect it – in deep sand. Here, with the traction control off, and having popped a couple of brave pills, you could rev the proverbial nuts off the triple and it would fly along, the motor and sheer weight beating the sand into submission. It was a touch do or die – not what you might call a sustainable modus – but fact was the Explorer could handle it, the front didn’t tuck or dive, and for as long as you could keep the throttle pinned it would stamp its authority. Given also the howl from the exhaust it made for quite a visual and aural display, vastly flattering the rider, impressing the locals!
The Explorer also proved itself tough. Dropped into deep muddy waters – like knee deep when stood on the pegs – it would motor solidly through and all the mud, silt and water it simply shrugged off, with no resultant electrical issues. And once you got the hang of the highish centre of gravity you could ride it trials style around obstacles too. It took a serious amount of alluvial carnage to stop it. And when dropped, twice I think, it survived without damage – no doubt thanks in some part to the Touratech bars and panniers.
By the end of the ride I’d totally bonded with the Explorer, loved it like a brother you could say. It’s not perfect (who or what is?) but the fact it’s something so different, so individual, adds to its appeal. And when it matches a GS punch for punch on the trails you have to give it credit. I was struggling to make anything like a list of ‘hates’ or shortcomings by the end of the ride. I’m not a fan of cast wheels on adventure bikes, but Triumph have addressed this with the latest model with wire spokes (on the XC models) just like everyone else. I didn't appreciate the fiddly electronics controls, but these too have been comprehensively rethought and redesigned on the latest – and so now the bike remembers your settings.
Yep, against all my pre-conceptions, the Triumph won me over. I loved it and never once felt short-changed, didn’t find myself wishing I was riding one of the other bikes here. It stood shoulder to shoulder with the best and was never found wanting. And of course, the more it proved itself, the more I warmed to its looks. The Continental offerings might look more dashing, be more integrated, or come with serious pedigree, but the Triumph’s brutish attitude, ands sheer willingness, has its attractions. From being a bike I wasn’t ready to take seriously, I’ve got to give the Explorer 1200 a solid endorsement, it in fact feels and responds like a proper dirt bike, albeit a super-heavy one. And for that reason, it is an authentic adventure bike.