— Triumph Speed Triple Review
By Trevor Hedge
Triumph’s Speed Triple has always been a hairy chested brute of a bike, particularly the early models due to the way they steered and handled, rather than due to a surplus of power.
The original 885cc triple-cylinder engine was rather cantankerous in the way it went about delivering its meagre 98hp, circa 1994. Regardless, some considered that ‘character’, and the early Speed Triple in some ways invented the modern nakedbike genre.
With more than 65,000 sales since introduction the model is a large contributor to the success of the reborn Triumph marque.
Fast forward to today and that original 885cc engine has grown to 1050cc, delivering 35hp more than the original while having 10 less kilograms to shift. The Speed Triple took a big step forward in 2005, yet despite further tweaking in 2008 remained quite rough around the edges. The off-to-on throttle transition whilst exiting corners and a gruff persona still remained.
Hints of familiar triple-cylinder raucousness live on in the 2011 bike, however the chassis is now comparable to the best Italian or Japanese sporting nakeds and Triumph have finally found a way to map fuel-injection to modern standards. Hallelujah!
Thanks to the now flawless throttle response the Speed Triple engine has scaled new heights. There are only a few more ponies up top than its immediate predecessors but those ponies are everywhere in the rev range and on instant call no matter where the needle sits on the tachometer.
Drive is fluid and predictable, making it so much easier to dial the throttle on earlier, harder and thus get from A to B not only faster than before but with greater enjoyment.
The numbers don’t even begin to hint at the improvements the new bike brings to the riding experience.
The engine is just so much more satisfying in this latest incarnation, making it the first big triple I could actually live with, day in, day out. It doesn’t have the top end thrills of a four-cylinder bike, such as Kawasaki’s Z1000, but it certainly has more bottom end. Fortunately, it’s also much easier to stay somewhere near the speed limit on the Triumph.
The chassis has copped major attention, bringing the Speed Triple up to the level of its competitors. Recent Speed Triples have been kidney punchers of the highest order on anything less than perfect road surfaces. Stiff but without the damping to match, it often resulted in ‘hydraulic lock’ – it always just felt a little crude. Almost as though instead of putting quality valving in the suspension they simply slapped in a firmer set of springs to be more ‘hard core’, something that Ducati have often been guilty of in their lower spec’ models.
On standard settings, the 2011 bike is still a little too stiff and uncultured for my liking. The latest spec’ fully-adjustable Showa forks and shock absorber, offer enough scope to soften things up and at least make the bike manageable. The composure of the chassis is also aided by an all new frame and swingarm. The whole package is a significant step forward.
An extreme forward weight bias equips the Speed Triple with scalpel like steering precision. Combined with huge ground clearance the geometry lures you into crazy entry speeds and never runs wide. The outgoing model required the rider to be against the tank to get weight over the front hoop and concerted bar pressure to keep the bike pointing in the right direction on exit.
To my mind this helps make the Speed Triple a great bike for riders that are perhaps not all that experienced and/or assertive with their steering inputs. One of the most common crashes occurs when a rider realises they are heading into a corner too fast and thus panics, ceasing to look where they want to go, therefore standing the bike up and careering off into the bushes. The Speed Triple will give riders the confidence to commit to the corner and make it out the other side intact.
Combined with the much improved new sportsbike quality Brembo radial master-cylinder and four-piston calipers, available with optional ABS for the first time in 2011, the Speed Triple is a safer bike. That’s not to say the Speed Triple is an unrewarding mount for the experienced rider, these benefits are appreciated by riders of all skill levels and brings the Speed Triple up to contemporary levels of excellence.
It’s not perfect. The much vaunted improvements to the gearbox shift action didn’t really bear fruit on test, with shifts to fourth gear often missed. However, Triumph boxes are known to improve as the box wears in. A fair amount of vibration is felt through the bars and high fuel consumption on our test machine compromise the Speed Triple’s touring credentials. But then again, nakedbikes were never meant for touring anyway.
Specs – Triumph Speed Triple
Engine – 1050cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, in-line 3-cylinder
Bore x Stroke – 79 x 71.4mm
Transmission – Six speed, chain final drive
Seat Height – 825mm
Wet Weight – 214kg
Fuel Capacity – 17.5 Litres
Average Consumption on test – 7.5 litres per 100km
Range – 230km
Warranty – Two years
Price – Expect to pay around $17,140 plus applicable stamp duties and registration charges. ABS version commands a $1000 premium.
Verdict – ****
+ Grunt everywhere
– High fuel consumption on test bike
– Vibrations through bars
– Headlights and dash look cheap