2016 Triumph Speed Triple S

Editor Score: 91.75%
Engine 18.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.75/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 9.25/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score91.75/100

How do we love the Triumph Speed Triple? Let us count the ways… one, two, three… ever since the original naked Triple showed up in, well not the original one, but the first aluminum-framed one that arrived on scene in 1997. That first real Speed Triple had various teething problems you can read all about in MO’s test here, but nigh on 20 years later all the bugs seem to be worked out, including the chrome bug-eye headlights of the original, which we still miss.

But the latest S3 is so delicious I’m willing to overlook the new lights, now with LED position lamps, camouflaged as the misshapen things are by a tight-fitting flyscreen incorporating a gap-toothed air intake which leads to the new airbox. A bike we once thought would always amount to nothing more than a common street urchin has been refined into a sophisticated motorcycle that can do it all, including a bit of light touring – or maybe not so light as seen here in the lead photo with our large and in charge Sean Alexander, hauling ass with quite a haul.

We all mature whether we like it or not. Along with the original Ducati Monster of ’94, the Speed Trip really ushered in the whole naked-bike/hooligan era, which was just the thing we needed after the hunch-backed sportbike epoch that preceded it. The early S3 had some bad habits, but the sheer audacious party nature of the thing made us overlook them. Instead of being all about lap times, it was all about good times and perfecting one’s wheelie technique. (Or attempting to have one, at least.) Who else would dare paint a bike Nuclear Red? It’s pink we protested! No, it’s Nuclear Red.

The way we whir: The late-’90s Speed Triple was the Freddie Mercury of motorcycles, especially in Pepto-Bismol Pink.

The way we whir: The late-’90s Speed Triple was the Freddie Mercury of motorcycles, especially in Pepto-Bismol Pink.

You grow up and learn to behave yourself a little bit, or you don’t. When you’re as mature as the S3, you can’t hang with the KTM Super Duke R or the Aprilia Tuono, you just can’t. You no longer have the power, sorry. Those bikes make 160-plus horsepower.

Flattery (of the torque curve) will get you everywhere.

Flattery (of the torque curve) will get you everywhere.

Last week on the MotoGP Werks wringer, our lovely new S3 spun out 124.2 horses at 8900 rpm, with maximum torque of 76 ft-lbs arriving at 6900 rpm. Neither number is tremendous, but both are far more than adequate for a svelte 478-pound bike (only 9 pounds more than said Tuono). And it’s the way the Triumph delivers its power that keeps our hair smoldering, even if it doesn’t set it on fire like it used to.

Says Evans Brasstacks: “It doesn’t have the top-end rush of some other naked bikes, but it’s no slouch in the torque department, delivering grunt right where I need it out here in the real world. Add to that the characteristic sound of a Triple – complete with sexy intake honk – and I’m in moto-heaven.”

The new and improved Triple exhaust note sounds a bit gentrified idling alongside that Tuono, but there’s still something uniquely soulful about Triumph’s 120-degree Triple when you grab a big handful of throttle. There’s also the fact that its flat torque curve starts feeding the stuff in way low; you’re above 70 lb-ft from 4100 rpm on, and from there you’re skirling off into the distance. The Tuono makes 7 more lb-ft, but not till 9300 rpm.

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In general, really, where the Speed Triple used to reek of stale beer and was the personification of punk, this latest one is decidedly sophisticated. Sid Vicious has segued into Rod Stewart in his plaid Christmas vest. All the rough edges seem to have been rounded off over the years, leaving us an S3 with impeccable fuelling, a delicious low-effort gearbox, and some of the best ergonomics and comfort of any sporty two-wheeled vehicle we’ve tested. Instead of Nuclear Red or whatever they called that grasshopper-green version, now you get to choose between Diablo Red or Phantom Black in the S (standard version), and Crystal White or Matt Graphite for the upscale R. A little staid.

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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 70.2% 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 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.

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Our S model uses fully adjustable Showa suspension – a 43mm fork and linkage-mounted single shock. The beauty of not having 160 horsepower is that you don’t need suspension stern enough to keep all that power in check; the Triumph’s suspension is impeccably dialled, firm enough for aggressive backroad use (see lead photo), supple enough for everyday comfort. It helps that its sculpted seat is way comfortable for a broad range of buttocks, and that its ergonomics are really unbeatable, especially on warm days when you welcome bugs in your teeth. Not that there are any in California. Upscale instrumentation includes that sweet analog tach with programmable cool blue shift lights, your stylish aluminum handlebar has a classic Triumph logo embossed upon it, it’s all very nicely put together.

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Brasfield is on board again: “The upright riding position is just about perfect for my frame, and the seat accommodates my hind parts with more comfort than they deserve. However, it’s the balance of the Speed Triple that really makes me get all misty-eyed. The suspension straddles the compromise of plush comfort and sporty stiffness that general-purpose sporting machinery is likely to encounter along the roads of America.”

Harumph and indeed! $13,200 for the S sounds pricey, but that includes ABS and it sounds less pricey when you note that the going rate for a 2003 S3 was $10,599. And it’s positively cheap next to a Tuono Factory or Super Duke R.

Speaking of competition, tune in next week to find out exactly how Mr. Triple fares against its five closest competitors in an epic six-bike flog Brasscannons is sweating out of his brow right now.

Thanks for keeping hope alive, Triumph. Lately I feel a second childhood coming on. I probably wouldn’t even complain about a pink Speed Triple. Nuclear Red, whatever.

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2016 Triumph Speed Triple S
+ Highs

  • 19-year-old Scotch
  • Details have been sweated
  • Delinquency for the discriminating adult
– Sighs

  • Underseat exhaust is long of tooth, but single-sided swingarm makes it okay
  • Still miss those big perky headlights, sigh…
  • Where’s the f#@*#g cruise control?
2016 Triumph Speed Triple S Specifications
MSRP as tested $13,200
Engine Type DOHC liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder; 4v/cyl.
Displacement 1050cc
Bore x Stroke 79.0 x 71.4mm
Compression Ratio 12.25:1
Horsepower 124.2 hp @ 8900 rpm
Torque 76.1 lb-ft @ 7900 rpm
lb/hp 3.85 lb/hp
lb/lb-ft 6.28 lb/lb-ft
Fuel System Multipoint sequential fuel injection
Transmission 6-speed
Final Drive Chain
Front Suspension Showa 43mm inverted fork; 4.72 in. travel, adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear Suspension Single Showa 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
Front Tire 120/70-17
Rear Tire 190/55-17
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.
Fuel Capacity 4.1 US gal.
MPG 40 mpg

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Triumph Communities

  • JMDonald

    I’m in love. Again. It hits all the right buttons. I need this bike.

    • Born to Ride

      It is the perfect standard bike. Powerful but not overwhelming, sporty but comfortable, and confidence inspiring in both rideability and reliability(presumably). When Givi and Motech come out with hard luggage options, it will be the ultimate rounded bike.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    The headlights stick out too far for my taste. Otherwise awesome machine.

  • Auphliam

    That old article is awesome LOL, I especially liked the video :) Oh, how far MO has come since then.

    I’ve always been a fan of the Speed Triple, but (like nearly everybody else) I’ve got to say something about those headlights. I like the original round, chrome, bug eye headlights. This newest iteration isn’t so offensive as many recent attempts, but there’s just something ungainly in their appearance from the side. The nice thing about two big round chrome headlights is that they look just like two big round chrome headlights from any and every angle. No matter how hard they try to make these modern headlight “pods” look appealing from the front, they all look like the eye sockets of a crab from the side. There’s just no nice way to put it.

    • Mahatma

      I like the original big round single head light it came out with at the beginning.Was that the first iteration?

      • Auphliam

        I don’t recall a single headlight model. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I thought they all had two.

        • Mahatma

          Maybe some joker replaced his with a big single one…

          • john burns

            first ones not so hot…

          • Auphliam

            Learned something new. Thanks JB.

    • Kevin Duke

      Interestingly, the old article referenced how the second-gen’s dual round headlights could be substituted from the factory for a single big round one because the dual lights were initially not very well received.

  • Stephen Miller

    I may sound like an old guy here, but I remember when 124 horsepower was A LOT. How much can one really use on your favorite twisty road? Is passing a truck uphill a problem for the Speed Triple?

    • 12er

      Demo’n a Superduke I determined that it has more power than I can be trusted with…

      • Larry Kahn

        After a run of liter-plus speedy bikes my current three bikes are all under 80hp and no fairings. Could not be trusted either it seems, still want this (another) Speed Triple. Praises to Mr. Bloor, he has done good.

  • allworld

    I love the Speed Triple, and while the Thruxton is very nice it is more Rolling Stones then Sex Pistols, and that has always been a part of it’s charm. Refinement is part of all our stories, as well as navigating in the real world.
    This Speed Triple is spot on. They put you in jail for speeds in excess of 130 mph, my get out of jail card has expired, but I’m still a punk at heart.
    Let the good times roll.

  • Robs

    I love my 04 955. I think a 2016 R would suit me just fine.

  • spiff

    The very first speed triple was sooo cool. Then the ones in the late 90s were sweet. After that I lost interest. Good bike, just don’t havethe passion for it after the first couple of gens.

  • Gferrando

    It was Roulette Green :-)

  • Dan

    Those knees look awful bent for sport touring…

    • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

      34″ inseam…. my knees always look bent. It really was quite comfortable for the whole trip from LA to Laguna and back.

  • ken mcguire

    The headlights are a very nice evolution of the previous gen. I’m in the minority but the round chrome headlights were crap looking 😀

  • 2chilled4u

    Ive got a ’13 S3R, and love it -its a keeper. Id prefer the original round lights, but with the fly screen the new ones work. As for the pipes, with a tail tidy they look sweet.

  • Allison Sullivan

    Colors are definitely “a little staid”. If they made this in Imperial Purple, I would sell my soul.

    • Born to Ride

      I miss the matte blue.

  • sgray44444

    “Sid Vicious has segued into Rod Stewart in his plaid Christmas vest”. That got a laugh out of me, and it’s not easy to do. Nice work there.
    I have an 09 Speed Triple, and it is a lot of fun (and still has the proper bug-eyes). The one area it has always lacked was suspension. It’s a really versatile platform that can be taken in a lot of different directions if you have the skill for modification.