TRIUMPH STREET TWIN
Two near-identical twins top Triumph’s 2019 retro range. Alan Cathcart gets to grips with them both and reports back…
Two near-identical twins top Triumph’s 2019 retro range. Alan Cathcart gets to grips with them both and reports back…
Three years ago Triumph reinvented its entire Bonneville range of twin-cylinder retro-inspired models, by presenting five new motorcycles powered by all-new liquid-cooled parallel-twin engines, the 900cc Street Twin, and four 1200cc big twins. These were joined a year later by a revamped version of its existing Street Scrambler, as the second model in its 900cc entry-level line-up.
Now Triumph has commemorated the 60th anniversary of its first-ever Bonneville road bike’s debut at the 1958 Earls Court Show, in belated recognition of Johnny Allen’s September 1956 feat of setting a new World Land Speed Record for motorcycles at 214.40mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats, by introducing upgraded versions of both the Street Twin and Street Scrambler, which are essentially the entrylevel models to its entire range. 17,500 examples of the Street Twin alone have been built and sold in the past three years, making it the British firm’s best-selling single model, and a hit with both novice and experienced riders alike.
The chance to spend a 140-mile day riding both new Triumphs along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean from the resort of Cascais west of Lisbon, before diving inland to the hills and valleys of the Portuguese countryside further north, revealed the noticeable step forward which the new bikes represent over what was already a pretty good dynamic package. But even before that, the subtle updates to the styling, especially on the Street Twin, deserve attention.
Triumph likes to use the word ‘premium’ a lot in its sales pitch for these bikes, but that’s actually fairly justified. Though a mass-produced product made in its trio of factories in Thailand, the 2019 Street Twin seemingly has an extra level of refinement in its looks that’s worthy of a more bespoke model, especially when viewed in the test bike’s classy looking Matt Ironstone colour. The new design of 10-spoke cast aluminium wheels look like they came from the costlier end of the aftermarket, and the new dualseat is equally classy, with contrasting vinyls that look like leather, and prominent stitching. That seat has also been reshaped, and its height raised 10mm to 760mm via thicker foam padding aimed at increasing comfort and long-distance rideability. But because the frame rails are pulled in and waisted just behind the 12-litre fuel tank, it still feels low and thus accessible for shorter riders and/ or newbies, many of them female, who will welcome being able to place both feet flat on the floor at stoplights.
Yet at 5’10” tall I didn’t feel at all cramped, because there’s lots of room to move around the Street Twin. Sitting on it is a nice place to be, with an easy reach forward to the short, flat, one-piece steel handlebar mounted on 60mm risers, with adjustable brake and clutch levers. The riding position is relatively close-coupled without being cramped, and the slightly pulled-back handlebar delivers a very relaxed riding stance. The footrests’ location encourages you to ride with your toes parked on the pegs, and knees tucked in tight to the flanks of the tank. You feel very much a part of the Street Twin, and it’s an untiring ride thanks to the complete lack of vibration at any revs from the revamped parallel-twin motor with 270º crank and dual counterbalancers, right up to the 7500rpm redline, 500 revs higher than before. The retro-looking round mirrors give a good view, and don’t vibrate either.
Thumb the clever combined killswitch and starter button to send the liquidcooled engine into life, and as it settles to a 1000rpm idle speed you can relish again the glorious lilting note of the stock Street Twin exhaust. Just as three years ago when it was launched, it seems improbable that Stuart Wood, Triumph’s head of engineering and his men could get such a good-sounding exhaust through Euro 4 compliance. But they did. Next, savour the extremely light and ultracontrollable lever action of the cable-operated oil-bath slip/assist clutch, which makes riding in traffic or city streets completely untiring, with no undue wear and tear on your left hand owing to an unreasonably stiff clutch action. Nice.
What’s nicer still is the really noticeable extra punch from the revamped 900cc 2019 Street Twin motor, not only in terms of extra power, but the broader spread of torque which accompanies this. The main disappointment with the 2016 version of this bike was that, in obtaining Euro 4 compliance, Wood & Co. had effectively detuned the motor, with power output down versus the outgoing 865cc Euro 3 T100 Bonnie which produced 67bhp at 7250rpm, against peak power of 54bhp from the new 900 motor at 5900rpm – so the 900cc Street Twin motor had just three-quarters of the horsepower of the outgoing model. The fact that they’d delivered 18% more torque than the T100, peaking as low as 3230rpm when 59ft-lb was available, went some way towards compensating for that. But still… Well, that was then and this is now, and Triumph has restored the status quo by extracting 64bhp at
7500rpm from the 2019
model – but in doing so has also maintained the peak torque figure, while spreading it out right across the power band. This itself is broadened, too, with an extra 500 revs at the top end thanks to lighter engine internals and revised cam timing, says Wood, with the soft initial rev-limiter on the ride-by-wire throttle now activated at 7500rpm. However, in real world riding you’re unlikely ever to rev it that high, and will instead surf the HT motor’s flat torque curve between 3000 and 5500rpm all day long. You can hold third or fourth gear for long stretches of winding country roads, then hit top gear on the five-speed gearbox (with its evenly spaced ratios) when you get to a straight section. The Street Twin will pull wide open in top gear from as low as 2000rpm with zero transmission snatch, making this the next best thing to an automatic for novice riders, and even some more experienced ones. At the other end of the scale, cruising at 80mph with the tacho readout showing 4200rpm makes this a very relaxed real world ride. 70-80 mph top gear cruising is where it’s most at home.
Five speeds in the gearbox is quite sufficient for something this torquey, by the way. I never caught myself looking for another ratio, though it’s better to use the clutch at all times since, as on the previous Street Twin, it’s quite hard to consistently shift upwards smoothly without doing so. That’s no real hardship since the clutch action is so light and precise, which also makes it very easy to make smart getaways from traffic lights or stop signs, while the comprehensive remapping of the fuelling that Triumph has undertaken has removed the slightly jerky pick-up from a closed throttle in second gear that I complained about three years ago. Despite the extra zip out of corners obtained via the increased compression ratio, the 2019 Street Twin is ideally mapped, with a smooth throttle response at all times that’ll make it ideal for newbies. The legendary direct connection between your right hand and the rear tyre is all present and correct on the new Street Twin. Job done.
Having a choice of two different riding modes – Road and Rain – on the 2019 bike is a welcome added safety feature that came in useful during the morning of my ride, before the sun dried roads left damp after 24 hours of solid rain. Each mode delivers full power, but with different throttle and fuel maps, and features varying degrees of ABS and TC intervention – I could feel both those rider aids cutting in nice and early in Rain mode on the super-slippery damp Portuguese tarmac. You can easily switch between modes on the move by thumbing the Mode button on the left control pod, and there is indeed quite a noticeable difference between the two. However, you have to really peer at the small marking in the speedo’s digital panel to decipher which mode you’re in – and, yes, I had my glasses on! Make it bigger please,
Triumph. As against that, the warning lights surrounding the speedo are now at last really bright, and easily visible in sunlight.
The Street Twin’s handling is capable and confidence inspiring, thanks to its relatively tight steering geometry, and short 1415mm wheelbase. The low cee of gee helps it ride bumps well on the angle, and it’s really agile in flicking from side to side in a succession of turns, aided by the good leverage from that relatively wide handlebar. But best of all in terms of handling is that it now stops really well – not by adding a second 310mm front disc, but instead retiring the previous twin-piston Nissin front caliper in favour of a four-pot Brembo with considerably added bite, albeit not at the expense of a grabby or snatchy response. Instead, the Italian brake now does the job of stopping a bike weighing 198kg dry from relatively high speed with some margin to spare, whereas the previous set-up was definitely marginal when called upon to stop in panic mode. Retaining the single disc not only reduces cost and speeds up the steering thanks to a reduced gyroscopic effect, it also enhances suspension response, because of the reduction in unsprung weight. It’s a win-win all round thanks to Brembo. And clicking back through the gears when stopping hard showed there’s still quite a bit of engine braking left dialled in to the slip assist clutch’s settings. Very reassuring. The biggest dynamic
improvement in handling terms of the 2016 Street Twin over the old Bonneville T100 was in many ways in the suspension, where Triumph’s chassis development guru David Lopez had done a superb job in teaming with Kayaba’s technicians to produce a twin-shock motorcycle with non-adjustable suspension damping front and rear which had a level of compliance worthy of a more expensive variable-rate monoshock bike. That’s maintained on the 2019 Street Twin, and is even better thanks to the new higherspecification 41mm cartridge fork fitted, with the same rear end set-up. While still non-adjustable, the fork is more compliant, as confirmed by looking for manhole covers on the streets of Cascais to test the damping. I was even more impressed than before by the way the uprated Triumph ate up the bumps.
It’s impossible to ride the latest version of the Triumph Street Twin without coming away impressed at how easy it is to ride, yet how satisfying it is to be aboard it. Its enhanced styling, distinctive sound, and dynamic riding experience augmented by the addition of electronic riding aids including ABS and switchable traction control, plus the choice of modes now offered via the ride-by-wire throttle, makes it a nice update of the modern reinterpretation of Triumph’s most iconic model, now with the missing power restored and ladles of extra torque all through the rev band.
The revised 2019 900cc Street Twin retails at £8100 in the UK including a two-year unlimited mileage warranty, and now comes in a choice of three colour schemes, albeit just a single Jet Black shade – the previous Matt Black and Phantom Black options have been deleted. It also comes in the Matt Ironstone of the test bike and Korosi Red, both of which cost £150 extra. It’ll be on dealers’ floors in the UK in late January, when it’ll be dead-heating with two potential rivals in the shape of the Indian-made 650cc Royal Enfield Continental GT and Interceptor parallel-twins at prices starting at £5499 on the road, including a three-year unlimited mileage warranty. It’ll be interesting to see whether the near-50% premium for the bigger-engined, higher performance Thaibuilt Triumph will deter customers from buying this much improved version of what was already a very good introductory model
to the Triumph range.
Triumph have managed – finally – to produce an engine which lives up to their twin’s vast reputation It’s hard to avoid feeling surprise that Triumph consider a 900cc twin to be ‘entry-level’, but they do No one will be confused by the array of clock and dials on offer. Probably…
If there’s one single bike which is unmistakeably Triumph, this is surely it
The bike bristles with clever detailing. The exhausts are catalysed and quite complex, but the overall line is that familiar Triumph sweep The slip/assist clutch is light and a delight to operate
Clever touch: An angled tyre valve makes connection easy
The light is bright … and badged, too
Right: Retardation is much improved by the adoption of a Brembo braking system. Of course it has ABS too
Above: There are also apparently ‘custom kits’ for the new machines. Here’s one now!
Great quality synthetics provide both a decent level of comfort and an almost convincing suede impression
Great roads for a great motorcycle. This would be Portugal, not the UK in December…