Tri­umph’s Speed Triple

Motorcycle Sport & Leisure - - Contents - WORDS: Bruce Wil­son IM­AGES: Tri­umph/King­dom Dig­i­tal

Sharper. Meaner. Bet­ter look­ing for 2018.

Don’t think for one sec­ond that you know this mo­tor­cy­cle. The Speed Triple is now, bril­liantly, back to its bom­bas­tic best.

For a rel­a­tively small man­u­fac­turer like Tri­umph, 24 years is a long time. The very fact that it has had one model around from the start (yes, we’re talk­ing mod­ern era here) says much about the brand’s faith in its big naked. So here’s the 2018 Speed Triple. The RS model. While ev­ery­one was look­ing the other way at the likes of the Bob­ber and Street Twin, one cor­ner of Tri­umph took to turn­ing the big brute in­side out to raise it up a notch or three. We were as caught out by this model as any­one else. Who knew the Speed Triple was due this up­grade. Was it that much in need of it?

Hind­sight is a won­der­ful thing. And, if you’ll al­low us some jour­nal­is­tic li­cence here, with the ben­e­fit of hav­ing just rid­den this bike it’s clear to us that yes, the Speed Triple was/is in need of an RS up­lift.

This project has taken three years to go from blos­som­ing idea to mo­tor­cy­cle un­der­neath us and what’s clear is that Tri­umph hasn’t just chased fig­ures to make some head­line-grab­bing state­ment about the mus­cu­lar mo­tor­cy­cle. What’s hap­pened here is a very clear sense of evo­lu­tion – and let’s be hon­est, where the RS has come from wasn’t ex­actly slack­ing to start with.

So, the things that had to stay as foun­da­tions for the Speed Triple: it had to be com­fort­able, char­ac­ter­ful and us­able. In the glory days of the Speed, the gen­eral im­pres­sion was that it re­ally could do a lot of things and do them very well. This is not a sin­gle-minded hooli­gan. This, just like the best Speed Triples we’ve rid­den over the years, is a very real gen­tle­man thug.

WHAT’S NEW?

Lots. While the swingarm and frame re­main iden­ti­cal to what they were on the pre­vi­ous model (be­cause Tri­umph claims they didn’t need bettering), there’s a long list of all the many bits of good­ness that have found a new home on the RS. Chief among these are 105 changes to the en­gine’s com­po­nents. New pis­tons, new valves, in­creased com­pres­sion and a dif­fer­ent cylin­der head have all clubbed to­gether, with many other parts, to see the three-cylin­der mo­tor peak at a claimed 148bhp (up 7%). But the bike’s not just gained ponies. Torque’s up too (4%), and the over­all weight of the mo­tor is down by a good chunk, aided by its re­designed sump that means it now holds a litre less oil than be­fore .

While we’re on the weight theme, the model’s made a 3kg sav­ing over its pre­de­ces­sor. It makes a dif­fer­ence, es­pe­cially when you come to learn where the weight’s been saved from. The new five-spoke wheels have chipped away in the un­sprung de­part­ment, and back­ing up the rear, those lovely look­ing, feath­er­weight Ar­row cans have done a wor­thy job of tak­ing un­wanted weight from their high-up, rear­ward po­si­tion – help­ing to cen­tralise the bike’s mass.

If you re­ally want to get per­nick­ety and count ev­ery last gram, there’s no over­look­ing the RS’s car­bon pan­els that bring more than just a bit of bling to the party. In to­tal, Tri­umph reck­ons it’s shaved off just over 5kg com­pared to the pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the bike, but they had to re­lin­quish a cou­ple of kilos for the added tech that’s come the Speed’s way.

Fol­low­ing in the Street Triple’s im­pres­sive tech­no­log­i­cal foot­steps, the RS comes fit­ted with a full colour 5in TFT dash and all the switchgear trim­mings you ex­pect to find on a bike that fea­tures sev­eral dif­fer­ent rid­ing modes with ac­com­pa­ny­ing trac­tion set­tings, plus cor­ner­ing

ABS (that can also be switched off en­tirely should you wish), cruise con­trol and heated grips.

SMOOTH OP­ER­A­TOR

With a combo of road and track rid­ing dur­ing the launch of the big bruiser we man­aged a chunk of mo­tor­way at the start, where I pushed ev­ery but­ton I could find to help pass the monotony… in­clud­ing the all-im­por­tant hand-warmer. Not at all silly on the Speed Triple.

Now I’m not nor­mally the kind of guy who’d get all giddy about such a fea­ture, but the simplicity of the ef­fec­tive three-tier func­tion, which in­tro­duced a colour rep­re­sen­ta­tive icon onto the TFT dash, got me ap­pre­ci­at­ing all the thought that must have gone into the whole switchgear setup.

It looks tidy, and ev­ery but­ton feels easy to ac­cess and sim­ple to op­er­ate – in­clud­ing the cruise con­trol.

Even­tu­ally the mo­tor­way got traded for a twisty back lane that de­manded a switch of rider mode. The RS comes with four rid­ing modes (Rain, Road, Sport, Track), plus a cus­tomis­able ‘DIY’ op­tion, that al­lows you to en­ter into a spe­cial menu and close off such fea­tures as trac­tion con­trol, ABS and other af­fec­ta­tions of a sim­i­lar sort.

The stock modes al­ter power, trac­tion and ABS lev­els ac­cord­ing to your se­lec­tion, which I tuned to ‘Sport’ for our first real as­sault of the day. It didn’t dis­ap­point. The mo­tor felt zesty, be­ing quick to pick up revs and no less ea­ger to gain pace. It still felt very much a Tri­umph, with a linear and deter­mined power de­liv­ery. Of course, the new blip­per and shifter combo, which come as stan­dard on the premium grade RS, made life even easier.

The tech was fault­less, and com­ple­mented the gen­eral over­all premium feel of the Speed.

GET­TING A HAN­DLE

So far so good, and things only got bet­ter when the road got more snake-like, al­low­ing the true bril­liance of the RS came to the fore. There might not be any­thing new about the bike’s frame or ge­om­e­try, but this Speed Triple gen­uinely feels more nim­ble than the non-RS ver­sion – largely ow­ing to its fancy new Öh­lins sus­pen­sion.

Out on the road the bike’s man­ners were per­fect. The road hold­ing was al­most un­real. The RS was scyth­ing through ev­ery di­rec­tion change that came its way with a level of com­pe­tence that most sports­bikes sim­ply wouldn’t be able to match.

The high bars helped, mak­ing hoik­ing the bike around a dod­dle.

The sportily po­si­tioned pegs only added to the im­pres­sive mix of cor­ner­ing ge­nius that had won me over hook, line and sinker.

I hon­estly think I’d strug­gle to say that’d be the case if I had been on any of this bike’s main ri­vals, ham­mer­ing home the virtues of Tri­umph’s pack­age. This isn’t just a one trick pony – the Speed Triple hugely de­liv­ers on all fronts.

IS THIS THE BEST OF BRI­TISH?

Right from the off this bike has won me over. It’s com­fort­able. We’d clocked some se­ri­ous miles dur­ing the launch and I was still fresh for more. And then there’s the great char­ac­ter and di­ver­sity of the bike, which seemed to adapt to what­ever kind of rid­ing I felt like un­der­tak­ing at any given time.

Its gen­eral lack of wind-pro­tec­tion would prob­a­bly prove a bit of a pain on long mo­tor­way treks but in all hon­esty the wind buf­fet­ing didn’t seem all that bad be­low 70mph. But once you’ve rid­den one of this gen­er­a­tion’s Speed Triples and have ex­pe­ri­enced the bril­liance of its han­dling, you’ll know why it’s won me and oth­ers over so much.

And then there’s that mo­tor, which drew me in as much for its per­for­mance as it did by its sound­track. The tech’s pretty hard to fault also, and I love how cus­tomis­able the pack­age is – even if you do have to re­s­e­lect your rider mode ev­ery time you switch the bike off. Yeah, it’s not per­fect, but back home on typ­i­cal Bri­tish B-roads, I reckon you could have your work cut out try­ing to hunt one of these down. Tri­umph’s done a top job here. It’s as if the Speed Triple’s fi­nally come of age, with all the glitz, tech­nol­ogy and per­for­mance that we’ve been crav­ing for over its last few it­er­a­tions.

It re­ally is the best of Bri­tish.

ABOVE: Ev­ery part of the RS looks and feels premium.

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