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