In 2012 I took a long time to decide which bike I would buy to replace my Tiger 1050. I wanted an Adventure bike but before
spending my hard earned cash I needed to be sure I had made the right choice so I took some test rides.
Tiger 1200 Explorer - Other bikes considered before I decided on the Tiger Explorer
Triumph Tiger 800 and Tiger 800 XC with ABS.
I have ridden both versions, they are slim and light, have a lovely triple engine
and are great to ride. My favourite is the White version of the Tiger XC. Both
800s feel light, neutral and the Tiger 800 is quick enough. In Top gear the
standard 800 holds exactly the same speeds per 1,000 rpm as my Tiger 1050
in 5th, my guess is this translates to the same as the 1200 Explorer in 4th. I
was impressed by the way the ABS worked but I found the screen low and
Overall the new 800 Tiger's are easy to ride and more manageable for the
shorter rider. The Tiger 800 is also keenly priced. However there is such a
difference in feel and power delivery between the Tiger 800 and the Explorer
1200 engines, As I intend to ride long continental tours the Tiger Explorer is
the better option for me.
Other Adventure Options worth considering
an old style Caponord being ridden in the UK? I test rode the Nuda, it is a real light, fun bike but not suited to touring.
- The new GS 1200 semi watercooled version has been launched. It does seem expensive for a twin but it has good pedigree.
- The new KTM1190 is interesting and it will weigh less than the other bikes but I would need to see what the fuel consumption will be.
- The Yamaha 1200 Super Tenere, at 268kgs this bike is a bit heavy for a 112bhp parallel twin, at launch in the UK it was very expensive. I also have major reservations about how
well the Yamaha finish will last.
- The Aprillia Dorsoduro and the Husqvarna 900 Nuda look attractive but neither has a decent faring and being Italian built will they be reliable? When did you last see the old
It is great to have such a wide range of Adventure bikes to chose from...
- The Benelli Trek is a triple, they look good but again potentially too unreliable.
- The Moto Guzzi Stelvio ditto and heavy.
- The Ducati Multi Strada is expensive to buy and potentially very expensive to own. Not a good prospect for long term, high mileage ownership.
- The BMW GS800 is definitely a good bike but most magazines agree that the Tiger 800 is a better bike.
BMW GS1200 - In 2012 I was surprised how good the new bike was
compared with the GS1150 I rode back in 2003. The gear change is now slick
and my test bike had electronically adjustable suspension fitted with comfort,
standard and sport settings. Personally I don't think it makes enough of a
difference to justify the extra £800. With luggage and offers it cost £13,200
which I felt was too expensive for a soon to be replaced aircooled twin. The
engine has good character and pulls well but it has vibes everywhere. I found
that I tended ride a speed to suit the bike not me. I liked the handling which
was neutral but as I increased speed the front does not give sufficient
feedback. I ride with several GS owners and they all seem to have had
warranty issues. Overall a good bike but now outdated and overpriced for the
specification. The BMW also lacks a quality feel because it has many plastic
components, what looks like aluminium probably isn't.
(The new watercooled GS1200 is out, I have not ridden one)
The KTM990 Adventure - was discounted by £1,500 to £9,999 and available
in my favourite colour white (with orange crashbars as standard). The fuelling
has been vastly improved since my last test in 2007. The engine had bags of
character, I loved the earthy feel and handling was really good with the 21"
front wheel giving huge amounts of feedback. I love riding off road and this is
by far the best dual purpose Adventure bike. For me the downsides are a very
uncomfortable seat, I can't imagine riding it to Dover let alone Dubrovnik, the
screen is basically a crude wind brake and creates turbulence. But the main
gripe is fuel consumption, I ride with KTM riders who use up to 50% more fuel
than my Tiger 1050 or 1200. They have to stop every 130 miles while I'm
content to go way past 180 miles on the same amount of petrol. A great bike
and the one I would own if I lived in another country and had the opportunity to
ride off road all the time. However even I spend 99.9% of my time on Tarmac.
KTM's also seem to attract lots of punctures whenever we have a long trip.
In the Italian Alps I discovered this little gem. The Malaguiti
Globetrotter (Right). Much lighter and more nimble than my
Tiger 1050 with low seat height, great handling, large seat,
simple instrumentation, I could go on........
The only down side is that after fitting my panniers both
wheels are raised off the ground. I guess no bike is
I also test rode a Triumph Thunderbird because I was
curious to try it. What a brilliant bike, the 1600 cc twin is a joy
to ride. I was not really expecting to like it at all, one day I will
own one. With a screen fitted I could see me touring Europe
and I think my wife would actually come on the back as the
pillion seat is low and the low revving, torquey engine makes
it feel so relaxed. I found the Thunderbird more manageable
than a Rocket III
I rode a Harley on my 50th birthday and it did not really
impress me so I went off the idea of ever owning a cruiser but
the Thunderbird is a much better bike. It does 50 mph at
2,000 revs and pulls like a train. The sound of rolling thunder
from a huge vertical twin is intoxicating.
I then went back to Peterborough Triumph for a quick blast on the Tiger 1200
Explorer which is unquestionably the better bike. In the UK Explorers are now
significantly outselling the GS1200 which all the UK motorcycle press said
could never happen. If you ride the Explorer back to back with the other bikes
it compares favourably. The Explorer comes with cruise control, traction
control, shaft drive and ABS as standard. The 1200 engine is a gem, smooth,
refined, with bags of effortless power. The ride seems taut and well
controlled while the GS has more of a magic carpet ride. In terms of comfort
and economy the Explorer beats the KTM hands down. I was thinking of
upgrading to a new Tiger 1050 with ABS but the Explorer changed my mind.
The Explorer looks big in a showroom next to other bikes but
when I parked my Explorer (right) next to GS1200 Adventures,
GS1150 (Yellow) and Varadero (2nd Left) the Tiger Explorer looks
smaller, lighter and more manageable. Only a UK Biking
journalist would find the Tiger bigger and more top heavy than a
fuelled up GS1200 Adventure. Are they paid to say this? Probably.
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