Triumph’s updated Speed Triple, specifically the “S” base model, already impressed us tremendously once this year, when it finished second to the all-conquering Aprilia Tuono Factory in our little six-bike comparo jaunt up the coast of California in August. You could argue the Triumph won that one, really, since the Tuono’s $17K price tag has it really in a different category than the $13,200 Triumph (though the Speed Triple also came out on top of the $16,395 Ducati Monster 1200 S).
Last week, Triumph impressed us tremendously once again when it forked over the keys to a brand new “R” model Speed Triple for another little naked-bike comparo that’s currently rattling around in Tom Roderick’s head, where it again takes on the mighty Aprilia (this time the downmarket RR instead of the Factory), also the EBR 1190 SX and Yamaha FZ-10.
Adding the R onto the Speed Triple ratchets the price up $1700 over the S to $14,900, but gets you lovely Öhlins suspension – a gold-encrusted full-adjust 43mm NIX30 fork in front and a TTX36 twin-tube monoshock at the rear. What little bodywork there is is carbon fiber on the R, complemented by a red subframe, red-striped wheels, and red stitching on the very comfy seat. But wait, there’s more! Billet machined handlebar clamps, risers, swingarm pivot covers and rear wheel cover.
Aside from those things, the song remains the same between S and R; both got a highly revised 1050cc Triple for 2016, and it’s a pip. I’ll go ahead and quote myself from earlier in the year when I wrote about the S:
“Triumph tells us there are 104 new components in the (still) 1050cc Triple, including new pistons and crank, squeezing mixture into new combustion chambers via higher-flowing intake ports, exiting via that pair of undertail exhausts said to flow 70% more efficiently (and wail even more movingly). Undertail exhausts are passe, but on this bike they still work (except when it’s time to bungee on soft bags). So what, the S3 still encourages you to carry a toothbrush in your jacket pocket and not change underwear.
There’s a new ride-by-wire system with adjustable riding modes and variable traction control. In addition to the usual Sport, Rain and Road modes, there’s also a Track mode – and one more customizable one. We used Sport and Road modes on our 700-mile flog to Laguna Seca on the Triumph, and both are extremely well-sorted and glitch-free. Surfing along on the S3’s wave of torque is almost effortless, and shifting its revised 6-speed gearbox is likewise buttery positive. There’s a new slipper clutch in there too. If you don’t like buzz, the S3 is your bike; geared a bit tall, 6000 rpm on its beautiful big analog tachometer gets you 96 smooth indicated mph.”
The S produced 124 horses at 8900 rpm on our MotoGP Werks dyno, which isn’t going to win you any drag-racing trophies anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s not more than any 478-pound (fully fuelled) street motorcycle needs (maybe the R is only 476 with that carbon fiber, but Triumph says they weigh the same).
Most of the time and especially on tight little roads, the bike’s 76 lb-ft of torque at 6900 keeps it right up with the other bikes, mostly because it’s already above 70 lb-ft at only 4000 rpm. Also because its newly ride-by-wire fueling is without peer, which encourages you to open the throttle early and often.
Its gearbox, with slipper clutch, is likewise one of the absolute best in the business, and its Brembo brakes are strong like bull but also capable of great finesse and feel. Stir well and let marinate since 1994, and the Speed Triple winds up being more than the sum of its parts, through refinement and carefully crafted systems integration. Judging from this and a few other Triumphs that have come down the pipeline lately, it feels like that factory might have the finest cadre of “product testers” in the world. They sell no wine before its time.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter: The Showa suspenders on the bargain-bin S model were so well dialled-in that that bike ranked second, behind only the Öhlins-equipped Tuono Factory, in last summer’s six-bike comparison. So do you really need to spend the extra money for the Öhlins equipment on the Speed Triple R? The answer is, of course you do. If you have it, anyway.
Our heaviest rider, 250-pounds plus, felt the S was a bit soft when the going got rough, but the rest of us were fine with it. The R model just adds to the impression that the ST is one of the most comfortable naked bikes you can buy, suavely rounding off the corners of every bump and adding even more chassis control as you flog the bike through tight mountain switchbacks you’d think weren’t really part of its design brief, given how Rolls-Royce stately it is around town. A super-short trail figure of just 3.6 inches, and the steeply raked 22.9-degree fork angle mean it can turn quickly, and the Pirelli Supercorsas have plenty of grip.
Even if it’s not the absolute fastest backroad tearer-upper, it’s damn close, and for just about everything else – dropping your kid at school, schlepping across town for a bank robbery, picking up a box of wine at the Piggly-Wiggly – the Speed Triple leaves its more extroverted competitors in the dust… so smooth-running, so refined and comfortable. Then again, the new Yamaha FZ-10 has cruise control. Stay tuned to see how the Striple R fares against it. And the EBR 1190 SX. And the Aprilia Tuono RR! It’s our job to get to the bottom of it all.
|2016 Triumph Speed Triple R|
|+ Highs ||– Sighs |
|2016 Triumph Speed Triple R Specifications|
|MSRP as tested||$14,900|
|Engine Type||DOHC liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder; 4v/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke||79.0 x 71.4mm|
|Horsepower||124.2 hp @ 8900 rpm|
|Torque||76.1 lb-ft @ 7900 rpm|
|Fuel System||Multipoint sequential fuel injection|
|Front Suspension||Öhlins NIX30 43mm inverted fork; 4.72 in. travel, adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping|
|Rear Suspension||Single Öhlins TTX36 shock; 5.1 in. wheel travel, adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping|
|Front Brakes||Dual 320mm discs, 4-piston Brembo calipers, switchable ABS|
|Rear Brakes||255mm disc, Nissin 2-piston slide-type caliper, switchable ABS|
|Seat Height||32.5 in.|
|Wheelbase||56.5 in. (1435mm)|
|Rake/Trail||22.9°/ 3.6 in. (91.3mm)|
|Curb Weight, MO scales||478 lb. (maybe a lb or 2 less due to carbon-fiber bodywork?)|
|Fuel Capacity||4.1 US gal.|