Triumph’s Speed Triple
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.
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.
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.