En­gine over­haul el­e­vates Tri­umph’s new Speed Triple RS to full-on su­per-naked spec

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Contents - JOHN McAVOY

How the Brit naked has upped it game, plus PB’s world first test against its clos­est ri­val, Yamaha’s MT-10SP.

IF EVER THERE was a bike that needed the stan­dard issue up­grade of more power and less weight, it was the Tri­umph Speed Triple. It has never had an im­age prob­lem, but in re­cent years, thanks specif­i­cally to the ar­rival of the KTM Su­per Duke 1290, Aprilia Tuono V4, BMW S1000R Sport and Yamaha MT-10, the Speed Triple has been los­ing the spec sheet war. Not that it was any slouch, but things have moved on so much in the per­for­mance de­part­ment that a whole new class had to be cre­ated. But ‘Su­per-naked’ was never a term used to de­scribe the Speed Triple, and getting straight to the point, it still isn’t. In par­tic­u­lar, KTM and Aprilia are in an­other post­code. How­ever, the Yamaha and BMW are an­other story...

Tri­umph have fo­cused almost ex­clu­sively on the en­gine of the new Speed Triple for all the gains. The mo­tor has 105 new com­po­nents that result in a much needed 15bhp power boost, and 4kg weight sav­ing. Tri­umph claim the new bike is 2kg lighter without any flu­ids, but it is lighter still with them, thanks to need­ing sub­stan­tially less oil and other flu­ids. It’s an in­di­ca­tion of how they have gone through the de­tail to save weight and boost power. A feat made more im­pres­sive when you re­call that it was only two years ago that they gave the 1050cc triple en­gine a sim­i­lar over­haul. In 2016, the task was as much about the in­tro­duc­tion of ride-by-wire systems, rider aids and pass­ing Euro 4 emis­sions tests. With the 2016 mo­tor set as the post-Euro 4 plat­form, the work done to the 2018 bike is an up­grade to please petrol­heads rather than meet en­vi­ron­men­tal de­mands.

The head­line changes to the en­gine are new Nikasil-plated alu­minium cylin­der lin­ers, pis­tons, valve springs, cams, cylin­der head, a lighter bal­ance shaft, smaller starter mo­tor, new air­box, and new sump. The clutch and gear­box are also new. In con­trast, the frame and swingarm are un­changed from the 2016 model, but the 2018 Speed Triple’s mass has been cen­tralised fur­ther, largely due to the new light­weight Ar­row cans,

exclusive to the RS-spec bike, which alone are 2kg lighter than the old ones. The easy op­tion would have been to fit an un­der­slung ex­haust, but the twin un­der­seat cans are a big enough part of the Speed Triple’s iden­tity that they stayed put. The RS also gets new five-spoke cast al­loy wheels. Brembo monoblock brake calipers, 43mm NIX Öh­lins forks and an Öh­lins TTX36 shock are the same as the dis­con­tin­ued R-model.

The 2018 Speed Triple also gets an IMU for the first time, en­abling cor­ner­ing ABS, and a 5in full-colour TFT dis­play which fur­ther ti­dies up the whole bike. There is also cruise con­trol and heated grips. A quick­shifter and auto-blip­per add £300 to the £13,250 OTR price.

The end result is a bike that is un­mis­tak­ably a Speed Triple, but taken to the next level. The en­gine spins up a good bit faster than the pre­vi­ous model, and has a sense of pur­pose to it, just like the rid­ing po­si­tion. The foot­pegs and seat are high, and the han­dle­bars are low and nar­row. It all points to a fun­da­men­tal shift, with the Speed Triple mov­ing away from be­ing rel­a­tively easy-go­ing to­wards an al­to­gether more ag­gres­sive, pur­pose­ful at­ti­tude.

There are few things in life as plea­sur­able as a Sun­day morn­ing blast, but when it’s a Sun­day morn­ing in south­ern Spain, in the hills out­side Alme­ria, you can almost guar­an­tee warm, de­serted tar­mac. Latch­ing on to the back of one of Tri­umph’s test rid­ers through the seem­ingly never-end­ing sec­ond gear left/right/ left flip-flops and hair­pins takes a deep breath and a lot of faith in his knowl­edge of the road.

Be­neath me, the Speed Triple is gur­gling and popping on a shut throttle, revs ris­ing and fall­ing as the bike changes di­rec­tion over and over again, as if I’m rid­ing a 40mph five-mile slalom. I’m ac­tu­ally feel­ing dizzy and threat­en­ing to re­gur­gi­tate fol­low­ing a night spent at a Span­ish gypsy wed­ding (long story). It feels like a fair­ground ride, and while the lat­eral G-forces aren’t huge, they are enough to make the volatile con­tents of my stom­ach slosh from side to side with enough fre­quency to soon be­come a prob­lem.

The road opens up a bit, and as well as feel­ing re­lief, I also feel a real sense of ad­mi­ra­tion for the Speed Triple. It has han­dled prob­a­bly 30 or 40

non-stop di­rec­tion changes with ab­so­lute com­po­sure. No wal­low­ing, no vague­ness, no ef­fort. The Speed Triple RS has matched Street Triple-like agility with litre bike sta­bil­ity and sure­foot­ed­ness. The com­po­sure of the sus­pen­sion, the naked bike rid­ing po­si­tion but with high seat and foot­pegs, the ex­cel­lent throttle con­nec­tion and low-rpm pull from the en­gine to as­sist with each di­rec­tion change, all come to­gether in one har­mo­nious, glo­ri­ous pack­age.

Af­ter a coffee break, and more headache tablets, the road opens right up, and it’s now re­ally fast sweep­ing cor­ners on the way back down the moun­tain, swap­ping be­tween fourth and fifth gear us­ing the per­fect quick­shifter and auto-blip­per. The new en­gine revs harder and faster, and for 1000rpm longer than the pre­vi­ous one. Where the Speed Triple used to run out of steam and revs be­fore hit­ting a pre­ma­ture lim­iter, now it hangs on, and the ex­tra revs make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to the flex­i­bil­ity of the mo­tor as well as its per­for­mance. Knee down right at the top of fourth gear through a righthander, and the Armco feels like it’s just inches away from my ear. This is se­ri­ous, full-on, high-speed, X-rated thrash­ing, and I’m getting as big an adrenalin rush as I would on any sports­bike. And all the time, the chas­sis is cop­ing, the en­gine de­liv­er­ing ev­ery­thing I need it to – and apart from hav­ing vir­tu­ally zero wind pro­tec­tion, on this road the bike is tan­ta­lis­ingly close to naked per­fec­tion.

We stop for fuel, and I check to con­firm what I sus­pect, that the tyres are as hot as any rub­ber I’ve felt af­ter a ses­sion on track, and I can’t help but think that while the new Speed Triple may not have the ex­tra 20-odd bhp of the KTM Su­per Duke and BMW S1000R, the whole pack­age now makes it a gen­uine con­tender in the su­per-naked class.

It’s pack­ing very so­phis­ti­cated rider aids, it has the toys, it has the looks and it has the im­age, it has qual­ity com­po­nents ev­ery­where, and a qual­ity of finish that makes a lot of other bikes look com­par­i­tively cheap and dis­pos­able. There’s no ques­tion­ing the dif­fer­ence that the ex­tra 15bhp and 1000rpm make. Com­bined with the slight re­duc­tion and repo­si­tion­ing of the weight, they’ve suc­cess­fully brought Tri­umph’s Speed Triple bang up to date.

SUS­PEN­SION Öh­lins TTX rear shock and black an­odised NiX forks are pure class (black is also a pleas­ant chance from the usual shouty gold front end). As well as look­ing dis­cretely trick, the Öh­lins kit on the RS gives the Speed Triple a premium feel....

Öh­lins TTX36 rear shock boosts com­po­sure

Ti­ta­nium Ar­row cans save a size­able 2kg

Quick­shifter/blip­per is £300 up­grade that puts RS on a par with su­per-naked ri­vals Cast al­loys are shared with the new, lower-spec Speed Triple S New five-inch TFT dis­play al­lows ac­cess to es­sen­tial met­rics for new rider aids Agility and sta­bil­ity are...

EX­HAUSTS Ar­row cans are claimed to be 2kg lighter than the pre­vi­ous mod­els’. Tri­umph needed to cen­tralise the mass of the new bike, and the end cans were an ob­vi­ous tar­get for the chop. How­ever, the iden­tity of the Speed Triple is sa­cred, so the...

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