Review: 2023 Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer

Review: 2023 Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer
Photos by: Jay McNally

Triumph’s stable of Tiger 1200s includes five models—GT, GT Pro, GT Explorer, Rally Pro, and Rally Explorer. The three models with the GT tag are more pavement focused, rolling on 19-inch front and 18-inch rear cast aluminum wheels wearing Metzeler Tourance tires. The two Rally models are more off-road-worthy by way of their spoked, tubeless, 21-inch front, 18-inch rear wheel combo outfitted with Metzeler Karoo tires, and 0.8 inches of extra front and rear suspension travel.

Of the three GT Tigers, the Explorer is the premier model, commanding a base MSRP of $23,100 compared to $21,400 for the GT Pro and $19,100 for the GT. My test bike, in Sapphire Black ($200) with the optional 11-gallon top box and 9.7-gallon panniers (and mounting brackets), upped the price tag by $2,037, bringing the total as-tested price to $25,337. That’s not an inexpensive luggage ensemble but this configuration is the choicest option from Triumph’s accessory catalog. All three boxes share a key to lock the openings, as well as to detach the boxes from the mounting brackets. It’s a nicely engineered setup that allows the bags to be easily attached or removed, and swift ingress to the boxes via a single-hinged flip-up lid.

Special to the GT Explorer is its 7.9-gallon fuel tank (5.3 on the GT and GT Pro) and a blind spot radar system. Most of the time, I only filled the fuel tank to two-thirds capacity to avoid riding around with 15 pounds of unnecessary weight. The extra 2.6 gallons of fuel would certainly be useful when exploring long distances, though. As for the blind spot radar system—meh.

Review: 2023 Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer
Adjusting the windscreen is a single-handed affair. The screen has enough adjustability to suit practically any riding situation.

Tech For Tech’s Sake

I’m a professed technology junkie but I’m failing to find the benefit of the blind spot radar on this Triumph—or any bike for that matter, largely because motorcycles don’t have blind spots. The technology works, but for me, who generally rides faster than the flow of traffic, I’m constantly being reminded of the vehicle I just passed. And don’t get me started on lane-splitting where the blind spot indicator lights remain solid as I filter between stopped traffic. Thankfully, the system can be switched off but I’d rather not have to pay for something I don’t use in the first place. Hello GT Pro.

All the other electronic goodies included in the base MSRP keep the Tiger technologically competitive. You’ll get cruise control, semi-active Showa suspension, an up/down quickshifter, hill hold, adaptive cornering lights, heated grips, heated rider and passenger seats, ABS, traction control, a seven-inch TFT display, and a tire pressure monitoring system. While each of these is a blessing to the daily commuter and weekend rider, it’s the motorcyclist eyeballing the horizon who stands to benefit the most. About the only thing missing is adaptive cruise control. I wonder if it’s possible to remove the radar from the rear of the bike, affix it to the front, and download the adaptive cruise algorithm.

T-Plane & Weight Loss

Triumph says the new 1200 Tiger is 55 pounds lighter than the outgoing model. While I’ve never thrown a leg over the last-generation Tiger 1200 XR, I do know the 2012 Tiger Explorer on which it was based was a top-heavy beast. Taking the GT Explorer out for a romp through my local twisty proving grounds endeared me to the fact that the newest iteration is, in fact, a lighter and more efficiently handling motorcycle.

With a Honda CB500X nipping at my heels through the tight stuff at the end of the day, I could definitely feel the strain of having spent the day pitching the Tiger’s weight from side to side. It’s lighter, but an afternoon of wrestling more than 540 pounds from apex to apex takes its toll. Were I on the old model Tiger, though, I would have had to let the smaller, lighter, and less powerful Honda pass. The transitioning prowess of the new model doesn’t only come from the reduction in weight—the semi-active Showa suspension did its job reacting to my best antics of riding the big Tiger as if it were a sportbike.

Review: 2023 Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer
Need to slow down? The GT Explorer uses the same Brembo M4.30 Stylema monoblock calipers as seen on Ducati's Panigale V4 S.

The GT Explorer has four ride modes (Rain, Road, Sport, Off-Road) with preset configurations for throttle response, ABS, traction control, and suspension damping. You can tweak the settings of the preset modes, but there’s also a fifth mode, Rider, that you can customize to your preferences. I tended to prefer the stiffest of the suspension’s nine levels to keep the front from diving excessively. Preload is adjusted automatically based on the load the system detects. Thank you, Showa. Throttle response in the Sport setting is too lightswitchy, and while the Road setting smooths out the throttle’s on/off abruptness, I still noticed some driveline lash when riding at low revs in second gear at around-town speeds.

The new three-cylinder engine with its 1-3-2 firing order is a smaller displacement engine than that of the outgoing Tiger (1160cc vs 1215cc), but surprisingly a more potent one. Cranking out a claimed nine more horsepower and six more lb-ft of torque on a bike with a 55-pound weight advantage is easily felt when the twistgrip is fully rotated. An ear-pleasing resonance complements the revs, and there’s power to be found throughout the rev range.

The downside to Triumph’s T-plane crank configuration appears to be an increased amount of vibration. By 6,000 rpm—3,000 rpm before reaching its claimed peak horsepower—the engine feels like it’s working harder than it should. The parallel-twin powering my riding buddy’s Honda was a much smoother operator on a bike costing a third of the price.

Seats & Displays

Comfort is a key asset of the GT Explorer. The seat is wide where it needs to be and narrow enough at the seat/tank juncture to stand comfortably. Combined with the ample amount of legroom, you can move around and change positions during long stints in the saddle. Triumph did sacrifice some cornering clearance with footpegs scraping earlier than what the bike’s ground clearance seems to indicate.

The seat’s low setting of 33.5 inches wasn’t a concern until I parked the GT Explorer on a downslope and then struggled to lift the bike off its side stand. Following the small embarrassment, I remained mindful of where and how I was parking the Tiger. Riders taller than me (5 feet, 11 inches) will be happy knowing the GT Explorer’s seat can easily be raised to 34.3 inches. Speaking of raises, the adjustable windscreen can be repositioned easily with just one hand while in motion. The change in airflow was significant enough that I often adjusted the windscreen’s position depending on temperature, cross-wind, or the helmet I was wearing.

Review: 2023 Triumph Tiger 1200 GT Explorer
Showa's semi-active electronic suspension automatically adjusts preload to compensate for the payload, whether you're carrying heavy luggage or a pillion rider.

The seven-inch, full-color TFT display is pleasingly stylized, animated, and easily navigated. I was able to access the various menus and change settings via the left handlebar-mounted joystick without having to consult the owner’s manual. There’s a notably strange lag with the display, so much so that I could start the bike and have it idling before the TFT screen illuminated.

Of course Triumph has its own phone app—most, if not all, motorcycle manufacturers do at this point. The Triumph app will record your trips and provide basic information about your bike. Navigation is an option, but I don’t suggest using it until Triumph gets it fixed. If I hadn’t known where I was going, I never would have arrived at my destination using the app’s navigation. Why motorcycle manufacturers insist on having a proprietary navigation app is beyond me. Please, just use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

That’s A Wrap

The crucial takeaway about the 2023 Triumph 1200 GT Explorer is that it’s an improved Tiger. More power and less weight is never a losing combination. Its electronic attributes keep it relative in the ultra-competitive adventure bike segment, though. I can’t justify paying for the blind spot radar, and considering the GT Pro has just about everything the GT Explorer has minus the rear radar, I’d opt to save the couple thousand greenbacks and go with the GT Pro. But that’s just me.

Technical Specs

more power at lower weight, all-day and
+ multi-day comfort, adjustable semi-active
electronic suspension

– pricey blind spot radar on a motorcycle,
lots of vibration, the navigation app

Distributor: Triumph Motorcycles America
MSRP: $23,100 standard; $25,337 as tested
Engine: Liquid-cooled, inline, 3-cylinder
Displacement: 1160cc
Power: 148hp @9,000 rpm; 96lb-ft @7,000 rpm (claimed)
Transmission: 6-speed, up/down quickshifter, shaft final drive
Rake/Trail: 24.1°/4.7in
Weight (wet): 562lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 33.5/34.3in
Fuel Capacity: 7.9gal
Colors: Snowdonia White, Sapphire Black, Lucerne Blue