2017 Triumph Street Cup Review – Cafe racer inspired Bonneville
Motorcycle Test by Peter Elliott – Photos: Geoff Osborne & Triumph
I will admit that I am a strange person occasionally, but every time I got on this bike, or saw it parked glowing like a yellow sun, I had one song run through my brain on high rotate. Dire Strait’s Romeo and Juliet album had some great songs on it, but it was the title track’s lyrics that really stuck in my head.
“A lovestruck Romeo sings a ‘Street Cup’ serenade,
Laying everybody low with a love song that he made,
Finds a convenient streetlight, steps out of the shade,
Says something like, you and me babe, how ‘bout it?
My apologies to Mark Knopfler. “Street suss” is correct, but Street Cup just twanged into my head every time. Even the swinging Dobro, guitar-picking start clanged along in my silly nut; live riding music every time I swung a leg over this sporty cracker.
Coming out of the basic Bonneville pattern, this latest street twin in full cafe racer style pleases on a number of levels. Yes, with its fly screen front, 900cc engine, and its cowled seat, there are nods to the previous model Thruxton, but this is a stand-alone bike which will tug at your romantic heartstrings (yeah, there was reason for that song).
And it will satisfy all but the hardest-hearted racers for get up and zip. Firstly, it looks the part, and secondly it rides like a cracker. The clubman-style bars are not clip-ons but harnessed on a yoke above the triple clamps – Ace bars according to Triumph – and I wasn’t sure if that was just a nod to the Ace Café of London days, or not.
The riding position is forward but not too aggressively so. On longer rides at legal speeds the slightly more upright position, as compared to say the Thruxton R, means that arm fatigue is minimal.
At a tick over the legal max, pressure on the arms didn’t exist, they were weightless, nice. I found that the fly-screen actually worked too, pushing most of the turbulence above the helmet and resulting in less neck fatigue on motorway runs. The brushed stainless mufflers into the short black megaphones are gorgeous, providing an excellent exhaust note and look great.
I often prefer spoked wheels as a look, but the anodized mags work a treat on the Street Cup; these are stiff and strong, and take mere seconds to get gleaming. I like the yellow rim stripes on the wheels too; the colour scheme is cohesive and pleasing.
Two colour schemes are offered on the Street Cup, Race Yellow and Silver Ice or Jet Black and Silver ice.The headlight continues the silver highlights – echoing of numbers painted on the seat cowls of the ’50s track day racers.
The tank is lustrously painted and has hand-painted pin striping, and that yellow is reminiscent of the egg-yolk-bright Ferrari Dinos of the ’70s. The bullet seat is black and the Alcantara fabric is both grippy and comfortable.
But even though the café racer stylings are very attractive, and beautifully wrought, it wasn’t only the look that sold me. The ride on the Street Cup is sensational.
With the Thruxton-style pegs tucked up a trifle higher, the riding position is gathered up promoting an instant lean forward into the bike. Yes, the turning circle when parking is pretty wide, but leaned over this bike corners like a demon.
The 100 x 18in front, and 150 x 17in rear Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp rubbers (reportedly made for this bike) are terrific, and only a serious wristful in some tight twisties produced a small amount of rear slippage. To be fair, that was crossing back inside a white line and not unexpected.
The bike was predictable even when drifting slightly, and the peg heights mean you can get real lean angles going, without scraping – and you’ll want to, because the bike just keeps inviting you forward.
Stopping power is good with twin caliper Nissins on a 310mm front disc, and 255mm disc at the rear. ABS is standard. Round town the eight-valve, SOHC, liquid-cooled engine is superb.
Although configured with the same 270-degree firing order as the 1200, the 900 delivers smooth power but revs generally quicker, producing 54hp at 5900rpm. I found myself attracted to the sound and bite of this engine, and it would be fair to say that I spent more time on it than was absolutely necessary just to give an honest opinion.
I’d find excuses to go and visit friends who lived ‘up the motorway’ or ‘just out of town’. I did notice a microsecond hesitation with the ‘ride-by-wire’ throttle, that I have not discerned before, but got it used to it pretty quickly as it made no difference to the quality of the riding experience.
The torque-assist clutch keeps things light and easy in quick up and downs in traffic, and two-finger use became the norm. It’s good to see the twin clocks of the Bonnie range too; I do like a good old-fashioned analogue rev-counter.I cannot fault the finish and quality of the Street Cup, it’s as good as it gets and is confidence-inspiring for longevity.
‘Looks’ are something that the Triumph crew at Hinckley seems to be getting right, these days. The street appeal is obvious to all, and the performance matches the style. But they haven’t gone completely retro with the Cup; yes it has café stylings, but the delivery is modern, efficient and of great quality.
Gone are the fake carbs of recent Bonnies, although brushed aluminium covers still hide the EFI injectors. A helmet, gloves and sunnies, and decent leather jacket, and boom! You’re equipped for looking and feeling cool on a hot, modern classic.
But if you want to get your girl (or boy) on the back you’ll have to take the cowl off first, by lifting the seat and removing two allen screws in the seat base. There are, of course, footpegs for the pillion and the 900 engine is powerful enough to easily cope.
There was one niggle that I had, and I admit that it is personal and probably unfair, but I missed with the six-speed box. Driving the T120 as my daily commute I am used to the extraordinary relaxation as one slips the gearbox into top, and I found myself searching for that elusive sixth cog on several occasions.
The ‘Cup’ hums gently at 100km/h on the motorway at 3300rpm, with fuel use figures around 2.7l/100km. Averaging 4.2l/100km over my time on the bike, I thought fuel economy was exceptional, and that’s not the reason I wanted the sixth gear. It felt to me that the extra gear would just improve the possible touring/cruising element, giving a broader use option.
The bike’s sport/racer feel is powerfully addictive, and flicking it from side-to-side you could be forgiven for thinking track-bike. It fulfils a lot of functions without going to extremes, and it’s here that I think it fits a city market – surrounded by countryside – perfectly.
It’ll commute, park outside any bike venue or café with aplomb, and it’ll whisk you over the hills to the beach or bach too. Would I buy this to ride the length of the country? No. But a quick 100km and back? That’s more like it.
Stepping outside with the keys in my hand, looking at the hot yellow paintwork and gleaming stainless, I heard the refrain, repeating, “You and me babe – how ’bout it?” Yeah it was love. A Whole Lotta Love.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.