‘It’s not my first or only bike but is cer­tainly the one I love most’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature -

Few mo­tor­cy­cles can lay claim to not just be­ing the cat­a­lyst for a new class but for also be­ing the saviour of their par­ent com­pany. Du­cati’s orig­i­nal Mon­ster is per­haps one; BMW’S R80G/S ar­guably another. But the most ob­vi­ous can­di­date of all, surely, is Tri­umph’s Speed Triple.

When John Bloor shocked the world by re­launch­ing the Bri­tish mar­que in 1991 the last thing on his mind was pro­duc­ing a runty nut­ter bike. In­stead, his first Hinck­ley ma­chines, mod­u­lar triples and fours in road­ster ( Tri­dent), sport­ster (Day­tona) and tourer ( Tro­phy) vari­ants, were the epit­ome of sober good sense.

In truth, they had to be. In the wake of the old Tri­umph's dis­mal lat­ter-day rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity Bloor knew his ma­chines had to be ro­bust and cred­i­ble be­fore any­thing else. They were. Sadly they were also a lit­tle con­ser­va­tive and drab as well.

The Speed Triple changed all that. Un­veiled late 1993, it was the first Hinck­ley prod­uct to have the char­ac­ter and style to match its per­for­mance. Al­though es­sen­tially ‘only’ an un­faired Day­tona a few clever changes com­bined to make the whole a mas­ter­stroke.

The Day­tona’s rolling chas­sis may not have been cut­ting edge as a pure sports­bike, but in naked form it was a de­cent café racer. The use of the best, 900cc, three cylin­der ver­sion of Hinck­ley’s en­gine, gave it guts and a glo­ri­ous sound­track where the Day­tona fours had been bland and breath­less. Sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved fin­ishes, most no­tably deeply glossy paint thanks to a new paintshop com­ing on line, gave Tri­umph’s new­comer true class. While the name – Speed Triple – was a nod to Tri­umph’s orig­i­nal Speed Twin of 1938 and gave the new­bie a style and image its pre­de­ces­sors lacked.

No won­der, then, that the Speedie (as it quickly be­came known) proved such a suc­cess, enough to be­come a best­seller and pro­pel new firm on a wholly dif­fer­ent path.

One of those im­me­di­ately im­pressed was MCN reader Marek Kazmier­ski. “The 1995 Speed Triple was my first big bike,” he told MCN. “I rode it to Spain and back and wrote a trav­el­ogue.”

The big­gest suc­cess, how­ever, was yet to come. Em­bold­ened by the suc­cess of the orig­i­nal, Tri­umph gave its sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Speedie, the T509 in 1997, dis­tinc­tive, twin bug-eye head­lamps and a sin­glesided swingarm to cre­ate the first fac­tory street­fighter. This, too, proved a huge suc­cess and mor­phed into the 955. While fur­ther re­vi­sions gave us the even stumpier and even more ag­gres­sive 1050 in 2005.

It’s a recipe that proved hugely pop­u­lar with the pub­lic and cel­e­brated per­son­al­i­ties alike. In the process of be­com­ing Tri­umph’s best-seller, the Speedie’s been rid­den by Tom Cruise (in Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble II), Nick San­ders on one of his glo­be­trot­ting ex­trav­a­gan­zas while Michael Fass­ben­der rode his own to Ger­many in 2009 for the film­ing of In­glo­ri­ous Bas­terds.

Nor does the story end there. Rein­vented suc­cess­fully once more in 2011, this time gain­ing a higher spec R vari­ant, the Speedie showed it could re­main on top 17 years af­ter the launch of the orig­i­nal. While its lat­est in­car­na­tion, into 140bhp R and S forms in 2016, re­minded us again that Hinck­ley Tri­umph, far from the cau­tious, con­ser­va­tive con­cern of 1991, now have the abil­ity to take on and beat the world’s best.

Reader Jo­han Roos is one of many who agrees. “The Speed Triple is not my first or only bike,” he told MCN. “But it’s cer­tainly the one I love the most. Af­ter a Street Triple 675 and Tiger 1050, I stuck with the Speed

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