Triumph Speed Triple RS Review

Motorcycle Test by Trevor Hedge – Images by iKap

If you have been watching recent developments in the Triumph range with a keen eye, you might have noticed that Hinckley are making a determined effort to position the brand as a more premium offering in the motorcycle marketplace.

Triumph Speed Triple RS White
Triumph Speed Triple RS

Sure, there are still the entry level offerings like the Street Twin, which at $13,700 (+ORC) is a handsome and competent machine in its own right. But elsewhere in the range they have been taking things more towards the top end of town, the latest Tiger 1200 XCa now retails for $29,300 +ORC, while the new Speed Triple 1050 RS is priced at $22,700 +ORC.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Black
Triumph Speed Triple RS

To help justify that raising of the stakes recent offerings have an amazing amount of standard kit and exhibit a polish never seen before. The 1200 Tiger in particular is now a technological tour de force that has upped the ante for the brand as a whole, while the recently revamped 765 Street Triple RS pushed that particular model line into previously uncharted territory. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Screen
Triumph Speed Triple RS

Now the new Speed Triple receives almost the whole swag of technology that recently debuted on their top of the range 1200 Tiger XCa. 

The brilliant new 5” full-colour TFT screen is well designed and perfectly functional. The colours work well and the layout can be switched through various totally different looks to suit your preference. The viewing angle is also easily changed without tools, simply push the screen up or down to change the angle, ensuring that it caters to riders of all heights.

Different lighting conditions see the screen respond by changing colours to suit the ambient light, the response back and forth as you enter or egress tunnels is quite quick. We were already well acquainted with the new screen during a recent 2300 mile sojourn around the UK on the new Tiger Explorer 1200 XCa

Triumph Tiger XCa Dash
The new Triumph Tigers come with full colour instrumentation that responds to ambient light and is one of the best displays on the market. The new Speed Triple RS is equipped with the same instrumentation but it is pictured here on the Tiger

The riding modes can also be linked via a set-up menu to different dash layouts. Thus if selecting a sports riding mode you can have the system set-up so that a large round-face digital tachometer fills almost the entire screen. For track day junkies or timing your run up the Reefton Spur or Putty Road there is an integrated lap timer functionality.

Furthermore, one of the modes can be set-up exactly how you want the bike to be configured in regards to throttle response, along with your favoured ABS and traction control levels of sensitivity. Thus I had this mode set-up with the sports engine map but with traction control and ABS off, turning it into wheelie mode basically.

Full tripmeter functionality is also on offer along with ambient temperature and gear position. All up the new machine sports seven different computers, up from four in the previous model. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Beaudesert
Triumph Speed Triple RS

While Triumph’s TFT display betters competitors in some areas, its lack of bluetooth functionality to enable turn-by-turn navigation instructions prompts to be displayed is the missing link. We believe that Triumph are readying to roll out these navigation functions, hopefully they will prove retrofittable for early adopters of their new range of machines that sport this latest instrumentation package.

Triumph Tiger XCa Dash
The TFT screen is the same as seen here on the latest Tiger, which includes the further two off-road settings that are not present on the Speed Triple RS

The Continental ABS and traction control systems are both high end and responsive to lean angle. Interventions are quick and smooth enough to become subtle. In first gear with the traction control off this latest Speed Triple rears up on one wheel alarmingly quickly. With the system engaged it prevents the front from lofting too far, but unlike the systems of old it does not kill all forward drive to do so. Excellent.

All the menu options are controlled from the left-hand switchblock in a fairly intuitive fashion. The backlighting of all the switchgear is also a nice touch that adds further amenity.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Cruise
Triumph Speed Triple RS

Cruise control is also standard as are daytime running lights and keyless ignition. The key is required to open the fuel cap but at all other times it can stay in your pocket. If the bike is not being used for a period of time the key can be deactivated to save its battery life, then simply woken up again by pressing the button on the fob. The steering lock is also electronic via a switch above the starter button.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Key
Triumph Speed Triple RS

One of the only things not to make it across from the new Tiger 1200 electronics package is the WP derived TSAS semi-active suspension. In its place we get Ohlins kit, fully-adjustable 43mm NIX30 upside-down forks and a TTX36 shock are pretty high-end suspenders.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Shock
Triumph Speed Triple RS

On standard settings the average size guys found the suspension a bit stiff for the road. I found it taut, but manageable over a 200km day. I quite like the feeling of quality damping smoothing out the sharp edges, and the feel this transmits to the rider.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Muffler
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The seat is pretty damn good, which is another key ingredient that makes that taut suspension more amenable. However, if doing bigger days in the saddle over shithouse roads I think that stiff suspension might become tiresome, and require softening up a little for comfort.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Scene
Triumph Speed Triple RS

It took me some time to adapt to the very upright and forward feel of the cockpit, as it always does with this style of bike, but after an hour or so my body had limbered up and I was feeling happy enough. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Brembo
Triumph Speed Triple RS

At the track, even on standard settings, the Speed Triple RS proved quite a weapon. I satisfied myself with a roll around Morgan Park Raceway but left the really serious black line laying to the track stars present like Garry McCoy.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Tyres
Triumph Speed Triple RS

And lay plenty of black lines they did! I had a brief crack but then just amused myself with five gear monos down the main straight for the most part.

The new Speed Triple RS is surprisingly capable on the track, it steers quickly and holds a line well, while the revised high-comp engine punches real hard no matter the rpm. Those monobloc Brembos are also very much up to the job and there is plenty of ground clearance on offer.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Trev
Triumph Speed Triple RS

On standard settings, it is perhaps the most track ready naked bike on the market. Euro cousins like the Aprilia V4 Tuono, BMW S 1000 R and KTM 1290 Superduke R have more top end power, but they would be hard pressed to get that down well enough to pull away from the new Triumph. 

The engine had also impressed on the road, and is so much smoother and less gravelly than I remember. That slightly staccato throb higher in the rpm range that characterised its predecessors is not present. To my ears the new bike sounds much more refined and that can also be felt at the fingertips, with less vibration making its way through the bike and to the rider. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Rim
Triumph Speed Triple RS

New stainless steel headers enter a small catalytic convertor that is well hidden beneath the engine, before exiting into a single up-pipe, that then splits into two pipes that lead to the high-rise mufflers. The link pipe from the cat only seems to be quite modest in diameter before it splits into two, I imagine this might have been somewhat of a performance compromise. It must have been a styling and heritage linked decision to adorn the Speed Triple with the dual-muffler layout. The hiding of the cat and the uglier parts of the exhaust system is done very well.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Muffler
Triumph Speed Triple RS

I actually quite like the twin pipe look and the standard Arrow cans with carbon-fibre end caps look good, bloody good in fact. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Muffler
Triumph Speed Triple RS

I do remember the previous model smacking its rev limiter quite early, almost immediately after hitting its power peak. That was a bit of a bugbear for me on the earlier Speed Triple thus I really appreciated the extra 1000rpm of the new machine.

Lightened internals means it spins up much quicker and a major boost in compression ratio from 12.25:1 to a quite heady 12.92:1 also plays its part in the bike punching much harder in the mid-range than before.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Engine
Triumph Speed Triple RS

Along with the new high-comp pistons the cams now have both more lift and duration with stronger valve springs to match. The end result of all the changes is 7 per cent more power and 4 per cent more torque. The improvements really start to show themselves from 5000rpm on your way to a peak twist figure of 117Nm at 7150rpm before a 148 horsepower crescendo at 10,500rpm.

Rain mode restricts power back to 100hp with a much slowed throttle response while other modes all deliver the full whack of neddies, with only the ramp rate of the throttle response varying. The default road map was the nicest overall I found. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Black
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The gearbox has come in for major attention with almost every component improved and changed to work in concert with the excellent up-down quickshifter. Unfortunately the quick-shift system is not standard fitment on RS machines, and we never got to ride a bike without it. We can say that with it the shifts were virtually flawless at any speeds, any gear, and whether up or down. It is a $553.65 option and money well spent. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Shift
Triumph Speed Triple RS – Quickshift costs $553.65

Both the brake and clutch levers are adjustable for reach and the Brembo radial master cylinder also offers a variable ratio. Some riders reported issues with the lever needing a little pumping up to pressure from cold, but it is not something that bothered me in the slightest.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Brakes
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The brakes were faultless for me in every scenario. The clutch is of the torque-assist variety with slipper functionality and proved light at the lever despite not being hydraulic.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Clutch
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The 15.5 litre fuel cell is fairly modest but will return a range in excess of 200km in most riding scenarios, perhaps as much as 250km or more while touring or commuting.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Trev
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The original 1994 Speed Triple had a single round headlight before the bug-eye look of two round lights adorned the 1997 machine, with those twin lights then becoming elliptical in shape further down the model line. These latest peepers seem smaller than before but include daytime running light functionality. We did not get the opportunity to prove their strength for night riding.

All the test machines had the optional small wind deflector which actually seemed to work, despite its diminutive proportions. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Lights
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The new Speed Triple RS is very much a high-spec machine but heated grips are still an optional extra, as is tyre pressure monitoring.

A USB port is provided under the standard rear seat cowl, with space for your phone to sit in a caddy under the seat and be charged while you ride.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Seat
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The 825 mm seat height makes the bike very manageable in car parks and the like but the high rear end of the bike did make swinging my leg over it a purposeful exercise. At 189kg (dry) the Speed Triple RS feels very light in every situation.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Carbon
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The tasteful carbon-fibre accoutrements on the radiator cowls and the fine weave on the front fender both add a touch of class and quality that helps to lift the overall look of the machine. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS Black
Triumph Speed Triple RS

From side on the Speed Triple RS cuts quite a stunning profile and as you move closer and look at the fine detail it only impresses more. Silver bolts stand out against the black crankcases, this really works well to give a somewhat chiselled look.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Black White
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The Speed Triple RS is available in either black or white. I preferred the white at first glance and while the black version did grow on me, I still prefer the white version in the flesh. 

Triumph Speed Triple RS
Triumph Speed Triple RS

The 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS is in dealers now and retails for $22,700 +ORC. Overseas markets also receive a slightly lower spec’ S model, but Triumph Australia has elected to not bring the lesser machine to our shores so for us it’s RS or nothing! 

This bike is pretty damn hard core, much more so than I expected. Sure, it doesn’t have a screaming 170hp top end, but I am not sure many nakedbike buyers are after that, I know I certainly wouldn’t be. What it does have is a very smooth and massively fat mid-range of power that now builds much stronger and longer than its predecessor, married to a very smooth throttle that helps make that punch manageable. You know plenty of grunt is being shovelled to that fat 190/55 Supercorsa though, make no mistake.

Triumph Speed Triple RS White
Triumph Speed Triple RS

That improved power delivery mates with an extremely capable chassis adorned with high-end suspension and braking components, while the latest tech innovations really push the Speed Triple RS into the top echelon of nakedbike performance.

I’ve had plenty of friends that loved their Speed Triples, but this latest incarnation is the first one to do it for me. Good job Triumph.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Carbon
Triumph Speed Triple RS
2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS Specifications
  • Engine – 1050cc, 12-valve, triple-cylinder, DOHC
  • Bore x Stroke – 79 x 71.4 mm
  • Compression Ratio – 12.91:1
  • Claimed Power – 148 hp @ 10,500rpm
  • Claimed Torque – 117 Nm @ 7150rpm
  • Induction – Multipoint sequential EFI
  • Exhaust – Stainless 3-1-2
  • Clutch – Slip-assist clutch
  • Gearbox – Six speed with optional two-qay quick-shift
  • Frame – Aluminium twin-spar with alloy single side swingarm
  • Tyres – 120/70 and 190/55 ZR17
  • Front suspension – Ohlins 43 mm NIX30 USD forks, fully adjustable, 120mm travel
  • Rear Suspension – Ohlins TTX36 twin-tube shock, fully adjustable, 130mm travel
  • Brakes – Monobloc Brembo four-piston and 320mm rotors (F), 255mm Nissin (R)
  • L x W x H – 2075 x 775 x 1070 mm (bar width and height without mirrors)
  • Seat height – 825 mm
  • Wheelbase – 1445 mm
  • Rake / Trail – 22.9 degrees / 91.3 mm
  • Dry Weight – 189kg
  • RRP – $22,700 +ORC

Now with much of the Triumph range ushered into a higher echelon of the market, it will be interesting to see which direction Triumph take next with the T120 and the whole Bonneville range, not to mention the sexy Thruxton R… I look forward to further developments in those areas.

Triumph Speed Triple RS Trev
Triumph Speed Triple RS


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David Pearce
David Pearce

Hi Trev, good reporting! So much better than the usual expansion of the manaufacturer press release!
Is there any news of a similar update to the Tiger Sport eg, TFT, engine upgrades etc?

Trevor Hedge

Thanks David. I do believe there is something happening on the Tiger Sport front, as to what exactly I am yet to be completely across but will feature it here on when we know more facts.