Triumph and Tribulations – Exploring the UK, Day 12

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June 28th, 2017 – London, England to London, England: ~25 miles

Missed Day 11? June 27th, 2017 – Birmingham, England to London, England: ~130 miles

Just like that, we’re at the last day. Vy and I spend some time in London to see the usual sights, and of course we bring Baby Jack along for our tourism spree:

Baby Jack checks out Big Ben and a double decker.

As our trip comes to an end and we make our way back to return the Triumph, we randomly ride by the headquarters of The Bike Shed. I take it as a sign that we have to pop in for a moment.

Street parking is just about non-existent, so the Bike Shed cleverly offers indoor parking in the back.

I’m sure on popular days it turns into an impromptu bike show.

One of the many reasons I like the Bike Shed is that it does not take itself too seriously.

We get lunch in the restaurant and I enjoy a bottle of the theme-appropriate Old Engine Oil black ale.

The label on the bottle describes this tasty drink as “Rich – Bittersweet – Viscous”

The Bike Shed also has a classifieds section on their site and some of the bikes are on display at headquarters.

That custom Royal Enfield on the left was available for about $11,300.

My favorite of the group is Wrenchmonkee #69, a 2003 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883.

It’s no longer available online so it may have sold, but during my visit the asking price was ~$19,300.

Triumph expects us back at a certain hour so we leave The Bike Shed the same way we entered…through tables of diners.

Your personality will determine if you should stop at The Bike Shed or the Ace Cafe. Try to make time for both!

We make our way back to the drop off point and it’s time to unpack 138 liters worth of storage. At the beginning of this story I mentioned that there was no higher purpose to this trip – we just wanted to explore new countries. After 12 days, it’s clear to me that we need to come back and for much longer.

Plus, Baby Jack needs to go back and see his family again!

The bike goes back to Triumph as we discuss the highlights of our trip.

I was really looking forward to trying the Explorer, as I’m a big fan of ADV bikes for on-road touring. In fact, if I could only have one motorcycle, it would be something like this. There’s a lot to like about the Explorer – the 3-cylinder motor sounds great and makes ample power, the ergonomics are all-day comfortable, it looks lovely in Cranberry Red, the factory luggage is capacious and can take a beating, and the brakes and fully adjustable WP suspension are excellent. It’s brimming with useful technology like Cornering ABS, Traction Control, Semi Active Suspension, and even a Hill Hold feature. It doesn’t just work well, it’s also easy to use, and that’s just as important. I was just at the launch of the Honda Gold Wing and I hate how Honda has implemented their “Hill Start Assist” system. Triumph did it years ago and did it much better. From a 2-up standpoint, Vy had no complaints, and that’s crucial to how happy a rider is as well!

It felt great to tour the UK on the hometown hero. Triumph’s flagship is a competent motorcycle but I didn’t connect with it emotionally as much as I did with the BMW R1200GS, Honda Africa Twin, or KTM 1290 Super Adventure. Part of it is due to my personal preference to twin cylinder motors, but my main issue with the Explorer is how it carries its weight. All of these ADV bikes are heavy, but I felt it most on the Triumph. I actually had a similar issue with the Explorer’s little brother, the Tiger 800. They both just feel a little top-heavy compared to the competition. It’s not a deal-breaker, mind you. It’s just that all these bikes are so damn good that little flaws can stand out.

Last month Triumph announced an all-new Tiger 1200 (they’re ditching the Explorer name). It weighs 22 pounds less, has better power delivery, is full of technology like a gorgeous TFT dash, and still returns 50 miles per gallon. It’s impressive on paper, and according to the first round of reviews it seems that the majority of the weight loss comes from high up on the bike, which is great. It should be noted, however, VisorDown noted in their First Ride review that it wasn’t particularly tough during a brief off-road excursion. I don’t care too much about that as I wouldn’t considering taking one of these off-road. If the new bike addresses my main complaint about the current generation, then I’m very excited to give it a shot!

If you’ve ever wanted to ride out in the UK, do it! Just go a little bit earlier in the year compared to us so that you can catch the Isle of Man TT as well – this year it runs from May 26th to June 8th. Even if you can’t make it, the motorcycling culture out here is outstanding. Lane splitting is the norm, so car drivers (and most bus drivers) expect you and make room for you. Lots of riders use bikes as daily transportation instead of just weekend toys, so motorcycles are more commonplace and accepted. You don’t get people who see you in gear and immediately feel obligated to tell you about their uncle’s cousin’s stepson who got hurt in a motorcycle accident 7 years ago. Instead, you get tales about wonderful trips, recommendations on roads to take, and introductions to other motorcyclists. Sure, the weather isn’t ideal (we got lucky), but the community is great. Now if they could just do something about those speed cameras…

The End. Thanks for reading!

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