To say the European manufacturers are competing for the adventure-touring market is like saying Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez hold differing views of lap seven at Sepang.
The Euros are firing the big guns in a market niche that's very important close to home. Yesterday, we saw Ducati enter the territory usually dominated by BMW and KTM, with its Multstrada 1200 Enduro. Today, Triumph raised the stakes by announcing six versions of its Explorer. Which Explorer is right for you, Mr. or Ms. Adventurer, depends on your percentage of pavement vs. off-pavement riding and the level of trim you want (or are willing and able to pay for).
Six Explorer models sounds more complicated than it really is. To start with, Triumph builds both an XR and XC version of the Explorer, with the former more optimized for street riding and the latter more capable off pavement, starting with cast wheels on the XR and spoked wheels on the XC.
The different versions share the 1,215 cc triple that sets the Triumph apart from its twin-cylinder adventure-touring competition. Shaft drive puts the power to the rear wheel. From there, the models differ based on the level of electronic aids and other features, but even the base XR and XC are well equipped, with switchable ABS and traction control.
The higher spec models are the XCx, XCa, XRx and XRt. All four have an inertial measurement unit and sensors to monitor lean angle, so the ABS and traction control work whether the rider is vertical or in the middle of a curve. They also have Triumph's semi-active suspension that allows electronic adjustments to the settings. Other features include four pre-set rider modes and one that can be programmed by the rider to suit conditions. The rider modes alter the ABS, traction control and suspension settings. Like the new Multistrada Enduro, the Explorers also have the "hill hold" feature to keep the bike from rolling backwards when you're trying to take off from a stop on a steep slope. On the comfort side, there's now an electrically adjustable windscreen on the Explorer.
While the Honda Africa Twin is an interesting new entry, the European manufacturers continue to dominate the top end of the adventure-touring market, with big-bucks, high-tech machines capable of going almost anywhere, as long as the rider is equally capable. And as the electronic riding aids continue to expand and become more sophisticated, a few less capable riders may be able to survive the adventure, as well.