I never planned on buying a "big bike", especially one that weighs over 500 pounds. In fact, I always kind of pooh-poohed the Escalades of the motorcycle world: too big, too tall, too "ADV" for me.
But it so happened that I found myself riding my SV down to Eugene, Oregon on a chilly February day, and whenever I’m in Eugene, I like to stop by Cycle Parts Eugene and say hi to my friend Rod. Among the bikes he had on the floor was a 2012 Triumph Tiger Explorer that had been lowered for a potential buyer. But the deal fell through, and the bike had sat, and sat, and sat.
I eyed the Tiger. Checked it out from every angle.
"Suuuch an Escalade. All it needs is some Touratech spinners and an R1200GS to pose for a photo shoot with," I thought.
And then Rod asked me those seven magic words that every rider loves to hear: “Want to take it for a ride?”
As a rule, I never say no to test rides as long as I feel confident I can safely handle the bike being offered. A 1215cc triple? 137 horsepower? In a bike that was low enough that I could reach the balls of my feet on both sides? Who cares if it weighs 500 pounds, heck yeah!
Besides, how could I say no to this adorable face?
You know how sometimes you just know a bike’s right for you? Like from the moment you first twist the throttle, or take that first tight corner, you suddenly feel that all’s right in the world and this is the bike to explore it with?
That’s what happened to me as I bombed this big beast of a bike around the foothills of Eugene.
Now, I’ve ridden a Tiger 800 and 1050, and a VStrom 1000, and an F650 and F800 GS, and an R1200GS, and none of those bikes really did it for me. They’re all wonderful, capable bikes, but they just didn’t sing (or roar) for me like this bike did. By the time I pulled back into the parking lot at the shop, I was mentally figuring out how I was going to fit three bikes into my garage because there was no way I was going to pass on this one.
I shook hands with Rod, signed some papers, and that’s how a Beast followed me home.
Now, the Tiger Explorer isn’t perfect. It’s not as easy to flick into turns as some of the other big adventure bikes. It’s physically big and heavy, and it carries that weight pretty high, especially with a full tank of gas. And I have to be very careful about where I park because I’m not strong enough to pull it backwards up an incline.
Compared to the R1200GS and the KTM Adventure, the Tiger Explorer is the least off-road worthy. It’s not a bike I’d want to take on the OBDR, though I wouldn’t recommend doing the true OBDR with anything larger than a 650 anyway. It’s going to take me a while to feel comfortable riding this big pig on gravel. But for long distance, pavement-oriented trips, Beast is damn near perfect.
Of course buying a new bike means buying some tasteful accessories.
And then I went for a ride or several.
Day trips to the Oregon coast. A quick overnight to camp in Eastern Oregon. Despite a ridiculously busy summer schedule, I’ve managed to steal enough time to put over 3000 miles on Beast.
I fucking love this bike. And now I get what all the fuss is about in the big adventure bike segment, because these bikes are comfortable. They devour miles and make you grin from ear to ear in the twisties and then later on, when you crack open a beer next to a campfire, you find yourself still grinning because you were able to ride all those twisty miles while carrying a full load of gear and ending the day feeling as fresh as when you started.
Sometimes it’s nice to be proven wrong. And all it took was an impulse purchase of a ridicuously beastly bike to get me excited about riding again.