It goes without saying that the 600cc super sport class is one of the most hotly contested in the motorcycle world. For over a decade now, a war has waged for the blisteringly quick featherweights from Japan to grow more powerful, while at the same time shedding weight. Somehow, they are also supposed to remain civilized, comfortable and affordable while attaining these lofty goals. Amazingly, year after year, they keep managing this, and the net results are some of the sharpest focus road bikes on the market today.
With the “big four” having a complete strangle hold on this class, it was a brave move by Triumph Motorcycles when they became the first European manufacturer to produce a 600cc four-cylinder super sport machine, the TT600, just three short years ago. It was and is a nice bike. It did everything it is supposed to and more, but when it entered the market with some fuel injection problems, the press killed it.
While it was a stunning handler, it was a little heavy and slightly down on horsepower, and to be quiet honest, it was no Prom Queen in the looks department. Fuel injection re-maps fixed the running problems, but the TT was branded and the stigma remained. I had one on long term test recently and, when you get away from all the hype about fractions of a second in the quarter, lap times and top speeds, it is a great everyday machine; more than capable enough for the majority of riders. But, we are constantly fed on a diet of better, faster, and lighter, so Triumph went back to the drawing board, and in early April this year, along with the world’s press, I got to sample the fruits of their labours: the Daytona 600.
Triumph’s new sport bike had already been making the rounds at various shows, and I saw one in the flesh for the first time at Bike Week in Florida earlier this year. I was immediately drawn to the familiar look it shares with its big brother bearing the same name, the 955i Daytona. It is a very clean and functional machine and its purpose is clearly stated. While the TT looked more sport tourer than hard edge sport bike, new Daytona looks all sport. From the sharp angular fairing, to the removable solo tailpiece and colour matched rear hugger, there is no mistaking the Daytona’s intended purpose. And, while manufacturers sometimes adorn their particular models with wild graphics and designs, the new Daytona comes subtly understated in Racing Yellow or Aluminium Silver.
So is it a warmed over TT, or is it a new bike? Well, the answer to this question came from Triumph’s Ross Clifford as he gave myself and the other assembled journalists a tech briefing on a golden, sun filled Spanish morning at the Cartagena racetrack.
The new Daytona 600 uses the TT600 for a base and is really an evolution of the former model. The satin-aluminium twin spar frame appears identical, which it is in looks, but not in construction. Where the TT’s frame was a four-cell construction, the new Daytona is now a three-cell affair that is not only stronger, but also 700 grams lighter. The rear sub-frame is also new and is now made out of lighter 2mm box section aluminium. It has a certain amount of flex engineered in to keep unwanted forces generated by the rider from being transmitted into the main frame, and is upswept for the more sporty looking tail section.
Also looking very similar, but receiving numerous internal changes, is the 43mm Kayaba cartridge fork. In an attempt to take as much unsprung weight out of the suspension for quicker steering and more precise handling, Triumph engineers made the internals from aluminium, which saved around a kilogram. The forks now use single-rate springs and remain fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping. Out back, the remote -reservoir rear shock has undergone some surgery in the shape of a complete re-valve. It retains its full adjustability also.
Moving down the fork legs, the Daytona uses lightweight, three-spoke aluminium wheels, and from what I can gather they are the same as used on the TT. The front discs are also lighter, having been reduced 2mm in size to 308mm, saving 170 grams. The calipers are the same Nissin four-pistons found on the TT and, as some of the best brakes in the class, Triumph obviously saw no need to change a sure thing here. Out back a single 220 mm rear disc gets a standard fare single-piston caliper. The Daytona receives a number of other weight saving measures, with a lighter wiring loom, gear lever and foot pegs being listed among them. The factory literature also lists the Daytona’s dry weight at 165 kilograms, which puts in right in the ballpark with its Japanese counterparts.
Squeezed in between the new frame rails, the Daytona power plant has also received some serious attention, and is up a couple of horsepower over the TT to 110. A two horsepower gain is not the whole story here though, as the new motor works better than the TT from idle to redline. Sure it uses the same cases, but the crankshaft is lighter, the pistons have been redesigned and the head has received some careful attention. The valves remain the same size, but have been “doing time,” on the flow bench. This produces good gains, 2% for the inlet and 11% for the exhaust, and to compliment these, the ports and combustion chamber are now CNC-machined. The overall result is greater efficiency as well as more power.
The quartet of Keihin 38mm throttle bodies have been developed specially for the Daytona with close assistance from Keihin, featuring twin butterflies in each throttle body. The throttle controls the first and an Electronic module controls the second, which opens around 10,000rpm. The fuel injector has been relocated and fires fuel straight at the back of the first butterfly on full throttle. This makes for greater throttle response at all times and helps give the Daytona a smooth, seamless power delivery. To further aid this, throttle travel has been reduced by means of a “cammed throttle actuator.” This allows more control at lower speeds, as the carburettor opening is not so sensitive to throttle movement. Conversely, at higher rpms, less throttle is required when you need hard acceleration.
Dealing with the burned fuel is a new 4-2-1 exhaust. It is claimed to be lighter, and the headers have been tuned to match the updates on the intake side. These are now made of 1.2mm steel tube, and are linked in the aim of improved mid-range. The muffler does a really good job of keeping things quiet, but those after a little more aural pleasure can purchase the Triumph race pipe. The bikes we rode on the track were fitted with these and sounded oh, so sweet as the engine made repeated trips to 14,000 rpm. The bikes we tested on the road were stock.
The end of the tech session can only be likened to the school bell ringing as nine journalists packed away note pads and pens, while scrambling for their leathers; it was time to ride! We were split into two groups with the first doing track time and the second heading out to sample the twisting tarmac that runs down to and along the Mediterranean Ocean just a few miles away. I have to admit to a little cheating at this point. I had already spent a couple of days with the bike before the launch, so when I hit the track for my first “official” session I had things pretty dialed in. This give me an opportunity to run with the “big” magazine guys for a while as they learned the track and let me tell you, these guys are fast.
Not that I needed much time to get comfortable on the Daytona. It is so user friendly, that after a couple of laps it was feeling like and old friend. As the laps clicked off, I started pushing harder and harder and was totally in the groove. The transmission is slick and precise, the clutch action light and the fully adjustable front brake lever did its job without concern. The bike is stable at extreme lean angles and even diving hard into the first, big right hand turn at the end of the straight, knee, foot and hero blobs grinding away on the asphalt the bike did not budge from it’s line.
The front end stayed planted, and only under some maniac late braking from 135mph at the end of the straight did I get some chatter from the front end. As I rode harder, and started to find my limits, the Daytona just carried on unfazed.
Japanese journalist Toshihiro Wakayama passed me during one of my sessions and the experience is hard to put into words. As I was experiencing the aforementioned chatter from my not so judicious use of the brakes, he blew by me into turn one. I locked onto his back wheel and twisted the throttle to give chase. With everything scraping, I hung with him through the turn only to watch him flick left and disappear toward the chicane as I hauled the Daytona left getting back on the gas as hard as I dared. By the time I made it back onto the front straight he was already at the end. I could have felt really bad about my lack of riding skill at this point; until someone kindly pointed out that he has finished on the podium at a Suzuka 8-hour race, and still races regularly at that level. It certainly made me feel a lot more comfortable.