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