After celebrating a highly successful initial phase with their first generation spine-frame models, Triumph embarked on their next era with the unveiling of the new Daytona T595 and Speed Triple T509 at the Cologne show in October 1996.
These much more modern designs marked a milestone for Triumph, and unlike the previous Daytona, the T595 could compete on equal terms with other new generation sports bikes.
Whereas the long, heavy, truck-like, but admittedly powerful, spine frame Daytona emphasised durability, it was effectively a dinosaur from another age. Replacing the earlier Daytona 900, the considerably more lithe and modern the T595 ushered Triumph into a new domain.
The Speed Triple T509 was released at the same time as the Daytona T595, sharing the Daytona’s chassis, but with a smaller capacity, lower horsepower engine. Patterned after stripped down streetfighters that were all the rage in Britain at the time, the radical styling raised a few eyebrows.
With its Buell-like mini-fairing, funky, ocular discordant bug-eyed headlamps, and unceremoniously tacked on radiator-mounted turn signals the T509 screamed weird. Visually bizarre, it was certainly an acquired taste. For 1999 the Speed Triple received the Daytona’s 955cc engine, tuned for more mid-range power.
The frame finish was new, as were the decals, and T509 now dropped from the model name. After continuing basically unchanged for two years the Speed Triple was significantly updated for 2002.
The Speed Triple was now powered by the more powerful third-generation 955 three-cylinder engine. The bore and stroke was 79 x 65 mm, the compression ratio increased from 11.2:1 to 12:1, and with 1 mm larger inlet valves and 1 mm smaller exhausts valves set at a narrower included angle, the power was increased to 10 horsepower, to 120 horsepower at 9100 rpm.
A larger, reshaped airbox fed the new closed-loop fuel injection system, which featured smaller, lighter injectors. As with the new Daytona 955i engine, the alternator and starter motor drive were now located on the left-hand end of the crankshaft and the new engine was 2.5 kg lighter than its predecessor.
The new tubular aluminium chassis was lighter, with quicker steering and a revised rear subframe. The wheelbase was reduced by 11 mm to 1429 mm, steering steepened with rake and trail figures of 23.5 degrees and 84 mm, and the rear raised to increase ground clearance and accentuate an aggressive stance.
Suspension included a Showa 45 mm front fork and a single shock absorber controlled the single-sided swingarm. The overall weight was reduced 7 kg to 189 kg. Other updates included restyled bodywork, digital instrumentation, and a more compact twin-headlight arrangement.
A brilliant all-round motorcycle, to the cognoscenti the Speed Triple was the star in the 2002 line-up, and Triumph’s best model. It was also a hit as a film extra, Natalie Imbruglia riding one in the 2003 release film Johnny English.
With the Speed Triple established as one of Triumph’s most important models it continued for a nearly decade virtually unchanged. A larger (1050 cc) engine and an upside down fork with radial brake calipers appeared for 2005 and a moderate restyle by Milan-based Marabese design for 2008.
With more than 35,000 built since 1994, and as the most popular Hinckley Triumph, a Speed Triple limited edition was offered for 2009. This carried a John Bloor signature on the gas tank, unique metallic Phantom Black colors, red pinstriped wheels and a color matched bellypan and screen.
The 2009 Speed Triple made another significant movie appearance, ridden by Angelina Jolie in Salt. By 2011 the Speed Triple had notched up more than 65,000 sales and a completely new version was introduced.
This left the 2002-2010 version as one of the most significant, and more memorable, modern Triumphs.
Ian Falloon is one of the world’s leading motorcycle historians. For more than thirty-five years he has been a regular contributor to a number of motorcycle magazines worldwide and over that time has authored more than 50 books on motorcycles. These books have covered a broad range makes including Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Laverda, MV Agusta, BMW, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki and Triumph
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