Triumph speed Triple Rs
Although rain played spoilsport, we still managed to have a rewarding ride on this streetfighter from Hinckley that has received one of its most significant updates since 1994
Britain’s favourite big naked roadster gets an overhaul for 2018
Today’s speed Triple Rs test wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’d headed for donington park this morning dreaming of carving around the famous Grand prix circuit astride Triumph’s latest super-naked star, accelerating out of turns with my kneeslider clipping the kerbs and the rear tyre painting black lines on the track.
Instead, I’m splashing down a rural road nearby in the english Midlands in the pouring rain, feeling distinctly damp due to the naked Triumph’s lack of weather protection (and the fact that I, ahem, forgot to replace the waterproof lining that I’d removed from my jacket). The road’s surface is slippery with water plus occasional patches of gravel or farmer’s muck, whose smell hangs in the air…
and despite all that, I’m having a brilliant ride. on the straights the speed is punching forward at an exhilarating pace, helped by flawless fuel-injection and with its high-level carbon cans howling a tuneful threecylinder soundtrack. In the bends the Triple Rs’ balance and agility are making it delightfully easy to ride. Its Brembos and cornering aBs are taking the risk out of braking and its classy Öhlins suspension and hightech traction control are helping its pirellis maximize the limited grip.
I certainly wouldn’t have chosen such typically British weather for today’s road and track test, but the rain is arguably highlighting the Triple’s key features more vividly than a hot, dry day could ever have done. Hinckley’s iconic three-cylinder streetfighter has been updated numerous times since snarling on to the scene in 1994. But this update, which introduces an IMU-controlled electronics to the upmarket Rs version, is among the most significant yet — and the more tricky the conditions, the more obvious its benefits are.
Visually, the speed Triple is little changed from the model that was introduced two years ago, featuring a fly-screen above the twin headlights and a stubby rear end with twin highlevel silencers. But this higher-spec Rs version has titanium-and-carbon arrow cans that save a few kilos, plus
The Triumph is huge fun and its ABS and traction control make light of the famously slipperywhen-wet circuit
carbon front mudguard, and radiator cowls. Both the RS and standard S incorporate more than 100 new components in the 1,050-cc, 12-valve engine, including lighter cylinder liners, crankshaft gear, starter motor, and alternator.
Many top-end parts are also new, including the cylinder-head, which has reshaped ports and new cams, and redesigned pistons that increase compression ratio to almost 13:1. The air-box and exhaust system are new, helping to allow the engine to rev 1,000 rpm higher and boosting maximum output by 10 PS to 150 PS at 10,500 rpm. Peak torque is also increased (by five Nm, to 117 Nm), and developed 700 rpm earlier, at 7,150 rpm.
The electronics upgrade sees both RS and S models get cruise control and illuminated switchgear, plus a large and colourful TFT display similar to that of last year’s Street Triple R. As before, the ride-by-wire system allows multiple riding modes: four for the Speed Triple S and an extra Track setting for the RS. The upmarket model also features keyless ignition and an Inertial Measurement Unit, which allows more sophisticated traction control plus cornering ABS.
Chassis layout is basically unchanged, including the tubular aluminium frame and the suspension which, in the Rs model’s case, combines Öhlins’ 43-mm NIX30 forks with TTX36 rear shock (the s has showa springs front and rear). Most braking hardware also remains unchanged and is shared by both models, with Brembo’s radial Monobloc calipers up front and a twinpot Nissin at the rear. The Rs’ front brake lever is adjustable for span and lever ratio, both models get new fivespoke wheels wearing pirelli’s diablo supercorsa sp rubber.
The riding position is unchanged, with a gentle lean forward towards the slightly raised one-piece handlebar and fairly generous legroom thanks to footrests that are only moderately high and rear-set. With the remote key in your pocket (irritatingly, it has to be brought out to open the fuel cap), a long press of the starter button brings to life the TFT display, which offers several choices of view and a pleasantly intuitive method of toggling between the riding modes.
We’ve barely left donington’s paddock on the road ride before the first spits on my visor confirm that the threatened rain is on the way, but already the speed Triple’s addictive blend of easy power, involving character and sweet handling are reminding me just why it has long been so popular. at 189 kg dry the speed is not outstandingly light and you have to wonder if Triumph will one day revamp it with a lower and more compact exhaust system, as they did five years ago with the street Triple.
But, maybe, there’s no need when it handles as well as this. on the twisting minor roads west of donington the Triumph flicks into turns with a nudge of those wide bars and rides bumps nonchalantly thanks to its wellcontrolled Öhlins units. It also fires out again with the benefit of a gloriously direct and accurate throttle response, with either Road or the slightly more direct sport selected — and with the experience heightened by an intoxicating burble, hardening to a full-blown howl, from the air-box and those high-level arrows.
The Triple is seriously quick, too; those additional 10 horses giving it some useful extra straight-line beans and raising its top speed well above 240 km/h. It’s certainly fast enough to be fun on a cold april day as we head northwards on the a515 main road, charging forward at every opportunity with the help of its mile-wide power band and the slick gearbox and quickshifter, which has a deliciously smooth action and won’t miss a change all day. shame the shifter’s not standard fitment even on the Rs; it’s certainly a worthwhile addition.
Before long, those first drops have turned into proper rain, the road is increasingly damp and I’m already glad of the Triple’s traction control, which automatically adjusts to suit the selected engine mode. Less clever is the fact that although the Triple Rs has an IMU, it isn’t clever enough to allow wheelies with the traction control enabled, as you can on bikes that have a separate wheelie control setting.
Not that I’m contemplating stunts by the time we reach the peak district National park. some of england’s best biking roads are round here but it’s seriously wet now. With so much grit, muck and water on the road, it’s good to know that the powerful and
controllable Brembo front stopper is backed up by a cornering ABS system which, in theory, would let me grab a handful while swerving round a murderous tractor.
There’s plenty to keep the Triple’s rider happy in more everyday situations, too. The Rs comes with a so-called comfort seat that didn’t cause any aches. Fuel capacity is an unchanged 15.5 litres; good for a realistic 220 km at a typical six litres/100 km or slightly better. The bar-end mirrors stay clear, the new back-lit switchgear and TFT screen add to the air of quality, and the lengthy accessory list includes heated grips that sadly weren’t fitted to the test bike.
By the time we’re back at donington, we’ve covered about 170 km, most of them in the rain, and despite being wet and cold I’m hugely impressed by a speed Triple Rs that is a distinctly better road bike than its predecessors. It’s quicker and more responsive, looks and feels more sophisticated, and gains a valuable safety edge with its new electronics. That’s confirmed by a thrash round donington, where the Triumph is huge fun and its ABS and traction control make light of the famously slippery-when-wet circuit.
The only real downside is that the Triple Rs’ extra features and refinement inevitably add to its price. available in black or white paintwork, it’s roughly 15 per cent more expensive than the s model and costs only slightly less than some classy rivals, including aprilia’s Tuono V4 1100 RR, KTM’s 1290 super duke R, and yamaha’s MT-10 sp. But that’s fine, because this speed Triple is a genuine super-naked, too, and it’s well up for a streetfight with all of them.
It’s quicker and more responsive, looks and feels more sophisticated, and gains a valuable safety edge
Back-lit switchgear looks awesome and works well
The now familiar Triumph colour dash
Latest iteration of Triumph’s 1,050cc triple makes 150 PS
Slanting LED signature adds character to the familiar bugeyed face
Öhlins for this top-spec RS variantTitanium and carbon Arrow exhaust sounds hair-raisingSolid stopping power, courtesy Brembo