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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)