Triumph Tiger Explorer: The T-Rex of the Adventure Motorcycle World

1,215CC 135BHP 121NM

Millions of years ago, mighty creatures called Dinosaurs roamed (sorry owned) planet earth. They moved across mountains and oceans at ease. They were strong, fast and undefeatable. They were on top of the food chain.

In a way the Adventure Bikes of today are like these creatures. I’m talking about bikes like BMW’s GS/GSA, Ducati’s Multistrada, KTM’s Adventure series, Honda’s Africa Twin and last but not the least Triumph’s Tiger series. They are big, strong and versatile machines. They are symbols of wanderlust and meant to travel the earth and conquer all terrains. Equally good at munching highway miles and decimating forest and mountain trails.

Now there were many species of Dinosaurs like there are many series of Adventure Bikes today. One particular species was called the Taranasauraus Rex (or T-REX in short). They were big, strong and agile – much like Triumph’s latest avatar of the Tiger Explorer (or TEX). Now the TEX is Triumph’s biggest and baddest adventure bike. Though it has been in production for a few years now, it received a thorough update in 2016 and that’s the bike I will talk about in this story.

My first encounter with the TEX came in September 2015. I had just picked up a previous gen TEX in matt khakhi green and did a round trip to Leh on it. I rode nearly 3000 km in 6 days during my first week of ownership and covered all sorts of terrain. I was very impressed with it. The engine was the master piece, smooth, powerful and turbine like. It pulled effortlessly on highways and I could do 600-700 km in 8 riding hours easily. It was also very competent off-road, built like a tank.

But there were a few big gaps in the last gen TEX. It was heavy and carried a lot of it’s weight up top, and so was very edgy while taking sharp turns at slow speeds and could easily tip over. The engine while awesome, produced a lot of heat which made it quite uncomfortable to ride in slow traffic. And the suspension while good, used to bottom out easily. So while it was a good and capable machine it had serious limitations. I had my first gen TEX for about a year and put nearly 10k km on it before bidding it adieu. I did miss that smooth turbine like engine but could not deal with some of the issues described earlier.

Then about 2 months ago, I picked up the 2nd gen TEX (a 2017 model recently launched by Triumph). I picked up the bike at 8pm in South Delhi and rode to Gurgaon (100 km) through peak evening Delhi traffic on a weekday. The next morning I did my customary “interview ride” from Gurgaon to Jewar and back (a good 250 km loop). These first 2 dates were enough for me to know that this new TEX is nothing like the previous gen and improved in every way. I then did a trip to Spiti on the new bike (I’ve written about that in a separate blog) and boy did I have a blast. I’ve now put about 3k km on this new TEX and am totally in love with it!

So what has changed?

Well the short answer is everything and for the better. But let me break this down:

1. Agility

The first thing you feel when you ride the new TEX is just how nimble and agile it is. The difference is night and day when compared to the previous gen. You might think it has to do with the weight of the bike, but actually the new bike is a few kg heavier than the older bike. Triumph’s engineers have done some real magic with the set up and geometry of the bike to produce this outcome. I’m not a technical guy, so I can’t explain what they have done in technical terms but from a rider’s perspective it has made a massive difference. The bike does not feel top heavy at all (it’s still heavy) and is highly confidence inspiring while making sharp manoeuvres at slow speeds. Way to go Triumph!

2. Handling

The suspension on the next gen TEX has been thoroughly updated. It’s now a proper WP unit and is semi active (with it constantly adjusting damping in real time). And the new bike really shines here as well. It feels planted while ripping up the highways in road mode and it feels supple while tearing apart the tarmac in off-road mode. It never ever bottoms out. The front dive under hard braking is well controlled. The highlight of the new suspension is it’s damping. It’s just brilliant for our Indian roads. You can ride for hours without any body fatigue on this. The ride is really magic carpet like. And the best part is that you can choose from 3 suspension settings – comfort, normal and sport and 9 intermittent levels between them. You can really fine tune this to your liking all at the press of a button.

3. Electronics

There are a host of electronics on this new bike. The highlight is the 6 axis IMU (inertial measurement unit). This is technology straight from the superbike world. The IMU is an electronic brain with a bunch of sensors attached to it. It measures how the bike is moving along 6 axis and then decides what to do on a bunch of things like engine power, suspension damping and braking. It is both a safety nanny and a box of tricks. Again without going into details all you need to know is that this is among the most advanced technologies available out there and she has it! It is beautifully integrated into the 3 riding modes – rain, road and off-road. And you barely need to do anything but switch to the correct mode for the occasion.

Another nifty feature is the electronically controlled windscreen. Its a first on an adventure bike and really works well. It’s very easy to operate and you can change it on the fly without stopping.

Finally they have used a much more modern instrument console (from the Triumph Trophy here) and it’s very simple and intuitive to use. It looks great also, if you see it very carefully there is a bit of T-REX in how it looks.

4. Engine

Well this was the standout feature of the previous gen TEX and I’m happy to report that it still is as awesome as ever. It has gone through some changes and feels even smoother than before and still has that turbine like pulling quality. This is simply the best power plant on any adventure bike out there if you ask me.

5. Heat management

Triumph took this area seriously and through a combination of new air ducts in the front fairing and I think a bigger radiator with differently positioned fans has reduced the heating issue to maybe 30% of what it used to be. It’s still there but it’s nothing to worry about now.

6. Rider comfort

Overall the new gen TEX has great riding economics. You sit upright in a very comfortable position. The adjustable windscreen with a series of sidekick winglets do an awesome job of removing any buffeting. She has cruise control where you can electronically set the speed. Has linked brakes that work awesome. The XCX variant available in India comes with heated grips. It also comes with the comfort seat which is much better than the previous gen. Overall she has among the best rider ergos and amenities there. Triumph could have aced it by adding a quick shifter with a throttle blipper to complete what is an awesome rider package.

In Summary

The new TEX is awesome. If you are into touring and are looking at buying an adventure bike you HAVE TO give it a serious consideration. I’m planning to do a cross country trip soon and my choice of weapon is down to it or my 2016 BMW LC GSA. Yes, take it from someone who owns both, the new TEX is a worthy alternative to the mighty GSA. And that is very very serious praise.

Triumph is going to update the TEX for model year 2018. Rumour has it that the new model year bike will have full LED headlights, a new full colour digital dash and some engine/ exhaust upgrades. Its definitely worth waiting for these to come. But the core of the bike will remain what this gen 2 has and it’s really really sweet!

(The information and views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of xBhp)

tags
Tiger Explorer
Triumph
Triumph Tiger
Triumph Tiger Explorer

BMW G 310 GS First Impression: Big Adventure in a Small Package!

313CC 33.5BHP 28NM

It is a matter of great pride that a premium motorcycle marque like BMW is producing their small capacity bikes in India. It is a matter of greater perplexity as to why it isn’t being sold here!

Earlier we had ridden the BMW G 310R in Australia this time it was the turn of its adventure sibling, the G 310GS.

The small adventure offering from the Bavarian manufacturer makes far more sense than its roadster counterpart. The 310R would have to take on the might of the Austrians in the form of the already entrenched Dukes. Not an easy battle that! The 310GS, on the other hand, will have first-mover advantage, with KTM’s adventure 390 still nowhere close to realisation. The only direct competition it will have is with the Royal Enfield Himalayan which was plagued with issues when first launched.

Why this bike makes perfect sense for India?

Currently, the 200+ cc is one of the fastest-growing segments in the Indian motorcycle industry. Riders are desperate to upgrade to something that will be a whole lot more fun, without burning a hole in their pocket. Therein lies the success of the KTMs. In India there being a dearth of racetracks and proper stunting a sport in its infancy, most riders take to touring to indulge their biker cravings. And it really doesn’t matter what the motorcycle is, sport, naked, cruiser, cafe racer; all these bikes are used to traverse the length and breadth of the country.

So why not a dedicated tourer like the 310GS. The Mahindra Mojo, Bajaj Dominar, Royal Enfield Himalayan and even relatively new entrant UM Motorcycles are targeting riders who want to travel.

BMW makes motorcycles for almost every genre, but it is the adventure GS series which the company is most identified with. The mighty 1200 GS is the benchmark which every other manufacturer aspires for. Therefore it makes sense that the German manufacturer would use the small roadster they launched in 2015 to build a 310GS. This bike makes so much sense that you wonder why didn’t they do it earlier!

A motorcycle which is powerful enough for most highways in India, can do all the off-roading that most tourers are skilled for and is nimble and light enough for your daily commute.

Sibling metamorphosis

The 310GS is based on the 310R, sharing the same unique engine, with the single cylinder engine rotated. The exhaust is facing the rear, the intake at the front, this has allowed a relatively more compact build. The wheelbase could be kept shorter for better handling, while the swingarm is longer for straight line stability. The exhaust is also substantially shorter with the cat-con being held in the end can. The 313cc single produces 34PS at 9500 rpm and 28Nm at 7500 rpm, a rev happy mill it is!

Differences in the bike are aplenty both on paper and in the real world. The front fork is 41mm wide but now gets 180mm of travel as compared to the 140mm on the roadster. The rear monoshock also gets 180mm of travel, which is 49mm more. Built to absorb the bumps and undulations of dirt! The suspension is soft and sags with the weight of the rider and the forks are not adjustable, probably on account of keeping the cost in check.

Wheelbase is now 1420mm, almost 50mm more than the R. The biggest difference though is probably the 19 inch front wheel, which makes a world of difference in the way the bike responds. The rear wheel is still 17 inches and is alloy. A question that some might have is how can alloy wheels be fitted on a bike intended for dirt? BMW hasn’t built an outright dirt machine. The alloys are fine for the intended usage and should also be a blessing from punctures. Tyres are Metzeler Tourance which should provide good grip in most conditions. The tyre sidewall height is more than the roadster for improved protection off the beaten path!

Size does matter!

The bike is physically much bigger than the roadster which is clear when you see it in flesh or even on paper! 70mm longer in length, 60mm wider, 150mm taller and 50mm higher saddle height. The latter can deter a lot of shorter riders, but two things must be mentioned. Even at 5’5” I could get one foot down or tiptoe on both on the stock saddle. Secondly, BMW provides seat options to lower it by 15mm, bringing it almost as low as the NS200.

At 169.5 kg kerb, the 310GS is pretty light, even though it is 11 kilos heavier than the roadster. The less weight really helps the rider’s confidence when out on dirt. The biggest downer is probably the tiny 11 litre fuel tank, which should give you a usable range of around 250 kms.

So how does it feel to ride?

First of all, as soon as you turn the ignition on, you’d realize that the exhaust note is one of the least encouraging things about this bike. There are noticeable vibes in the footpeg as the revs climb, especially the left one. It feels quick off the mark, but not as quick as the Duke 390 (for reference). Revs to be built up before a smile will be plastered on your face. It felt great riding on the city roads, negotiating traffic with ease. The handling was spot on and left nothing more to be desired.

Though unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to take it out of city limits and try our hands on dirt roads.  The front suspension tends to dive a little too much when braking hard. That could be attributed to the softer suspension setup for dirt. That didn’t unsettle the bike, just something avoidable with an adjustable fork. 

It felt great overall in terms of ergonomics, ride quality, and handling. Though admittedly, we’d love to spend more time on the saddle, including off the tarmac, to give you a more informed opinion about this bike.

Conclusion

Unlike the 310R the baby GS is immediately recognisable as a BMW. If you peel off the badges, it still resembles the iconic 1200 GS. Build quality is commendable and reportedly most of the parts are sourced in India itself. You aren’t buying a cheap Beemer, you are getting a smaller more affordable one!

BMW better get this bike to India fast, because we are waiting…

A visual comparison between the BMW R1200GS and the BMW G 310GS. A good idea of the size and quality finish on the small ‘un!


The BMW G 310GS in detail!

BMW G 310GS Review: Technical Specifications and Comparison with the competition


tags
BMW
BMW G 310
BMW G 310 GS
BMW GS
G 310 GS

DSK Benelli 302R Review: Fairing Bashing!

300CC 38BHP 27NM

DSK Benelli 302R Review: Fairing Bashing!

When two motorcycles enter a corner together, both trying to get the perfect line, they end up touching and once in a while taking each other out. Motorcycle racing at such times does become a contact sport. Here, the DSK Benelli 302R is figuratively fairing bashing with the competition in India, as it tries to dive up the inside of the corner to take the lead. Will it come out tops or scuttle the competition?

Visual Appeal

The 302 is a bike seemingly tailor made for the Indian market, it looks bigger than a quarter litre, sounds better than most and oozes chutzpah. From a distance the bike looks bigger than it actually is. Multiple people asked me if it was a 600cc motorcycle as I roamed the streets of Delhi, and that was with the engine shut off! Once in motion, onlookers were convinced that it is indeed a 600 and I am misinformed. Oh well, that’s a confusion that no owner would mind!

We rode one in the silver and green paint which does a good job of reminding one of the magnificent Tornado 1130. The silver top half with the green tail and grey black bottom fairing are pleasing to the eye. On closer inspection the sculpted tank and exhaust really grab your attention; along with the twin discs up front (not something you usually see on a bike this size) the Benelli emblem embossed just below the tank and the shiny engine casing makes for a sweet looking package. Overall fit and finish along with the paintwork is satisfactory. The bike looks good, but does it do the business?

Rider’s POV

Throw a leg onto the motorcycle; settle into the saddle and two things are apparent. One, you nestle into the bike; you are sitting in the bike and not on the bike. Two, this is perfect for riders who aren’t tall; the majority will be able to flat foot the bike with ease. The bike’s ergonomics are skewered in favour of comfort rather than outright sportiness.

Turn the key and thumb the starter and the 302 settles into a lovely thrum, as the engine idles steadily without any hiccups on a cold start. Pull in the tad heavier weighed clutch, slot the bike into first and let loose the in-line twin as you immediately feel the Benelli genes. The company has got the aural pitch spot on with the 302 as it has with all its other motorcycles sold here. As you wind up the throttle it sounds like a million bucks and pulls cleanly through the gears.

The 38 odd bhp of power and 27 Nm of torque does not launch you fiercely through the air, but it does have sufficient grunt as long as you are throttle happy. A gentle right wrist or a pillion on board and the fun is substantially diminished. The 190 kg weight is what plays spoilsport here and in the handling department as well.

 Handling

Once in motion, you will enjoy the stability of the bike at higher speeds in a straight line. Corners are no problem as the bike tips into a turn with a firm nudge on the handlebars. The steel trellis frame does its job well of getting you through the turn without any fuss. The Metzelers play a pivotal role in keeping the 302 glued as if on rails. The one place it is lacking in is the slow speed manoeuvrability in traffic. It isn’t easy to throw around and change direction as you filter through traffic. It doesn’t feel intuitive. An effort needs to be made and once again the culprit here seems to be the weight and longer wheelbase.

Braking

Braking on the 302 is good, not exceptional. The twin 260mm floating discs upfront and 240mm single at the rear will get the bike stopped in a hurry without any drama, but it isn’t razor sharp as you would want from a sports bike. This is a good thing for newer riders who tend to be wary of disc brakes which bite hard! ABS is switchable, so you can have fun without the interference of nosy electronics! The safety net is always there if you so need it. The ABS was setup nicely as it wasn’t intrusive when braking hard and thus chances are you won’t ever bother switching it off. Even though there is a nice big button standing out on the handlebar tempting you to push it!

Suspension

Suspension on the motorcycle is perfect for our urban roads. It doesn’t keep the rider in suspense when going over broken and patchy asphalt. The 41mm USD forks and 45mm mono-shock keep the rider grounded at all times. Bumps and undulations are absorbed with aplomb and you cannot help but be appreciative of your happy bum, aided in no small measure by the firm yet comfortable saddle. The suspension is setup for comfort and might feel a bit soft on a track, but to be honest, there are not a lot of buyers who are going to ride it on a racetrack.

Gearbox

The gearbox on the bike is very smooth and you can shift quickly and smoothly through the gears even when you are revving it up to glory. Downshifts are precise as well and at no point did we hit any false neutrals. The gearbox is one of the nicest bits on this motorcycle. Even in 5th gear one can chug along in the 30s without the engine knocking, but you do need to downshift to accelerate.

Working the clutch will tire out the rider in heavy traffic but feels nice when moving swiftly. There is engine buzz at higher revs but not so much to take away from the pleasure of the ride.

Cockpit

The console is simple and clear. No frills, but gets the job done. The analogue tachometer is coupled with a digital display indicating the speed, clock, odo, gear indicator, temperature and the other tell-tale lights. Switchgear on the 302 is satisfactory and smooth, falling to hand naturally. The front brake lever is adjustable, so those with short stubby fingers will have no problem with reach. The RVMs are okay, showing a decent amount of action behind you. Another happy note is that the bike doesn’t heat up in traffic. Though to be honest we didn’t quite encounter peak hour traffic, but the little first gear traffic we did face was a breeze.

Conclusion

So who should go for the 302R? Someone who wants to enjoy the joy of a quarter litre in-line twin packaged in a nice big fairing! Someone who isn’t looking for outright performance, but a bike which will look the part and still be comfortable enough to be used on a daily basis. The only downside being the excessive weight.

Right now with the BS IV Yamaha R3 not yet launched and Kawasaki finding its feet after the break away from Bajaj, the opportunity is ripe for DSK Benelli to seize the moment in this niche market. That depends a lot on how the company handles after sales support, one of the biggest challenges across manufacturers here. The 302R faces stiff competition from the Ninja 300 and R3 as both models have diehard fans as customers, but the Benelli is plenty different from the other two so as to attract its own set of riders.

Photos: Thulashi Dharan J & Mohit Gena

Read owners reviews on the xBhp Forums: Benelli 302 Ownership Thread

DSK Benelli 302R Review: Tech Specs and Comparo

tags
302R
Benelli
Benelli 302R