Overlooked and Underrated
We Are Worthy
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Triumph 955i Daytona
When the first Triumph Daytonas came out in 1997, the jingoistic British press had it picked, sight unseen, to be the bike of the decade. Triumphant Triumph was back from the dead, ready to pick a fight with Japan, they said. However, while we felt it was a fine machine, it wasn't a better motorcycle than the GSX-R750, ZX-9R, CBR900RR or YZF-R1. Many other consumers agreed and this cost the Triumph in initial sales as the Daytona sat on American showroom floors a bit longer than anticipated.
As a whole, the bike is beautiful, the frame is strong and the motor makes wonderful sounds while it pulls as smoothly as any large displacement motor can. It was a surprise on the smooth track at Pahrump, where the bike's stiction-plagued fork action wasn't as noticeable as we'd initially feared, and soon we fought among ourselves to ride it since the chassis was planted and stable and the smooth motor offered power everywhere. The only thing we'd change performance-wise is to install an aftermarket pipe. Since Triumph's optional Hi-Level pipe costs $469 and they couldn't -- or wouldn't -- give us any performance or weight-savings figures, we'd probably look to an aftermarket supplier first. Still, the transmission was the only real motor-related complaint since downshifts had to be extremely deliberate and up-shifts were occasionally missed. When everything was executed just as the Brit-bike asked of us, it responded favorably, posting some very impressive lap times; it just took a bit more work than on the other bikes.
The motor that was so smooth on the track proved to be a mixed blessing on the road. It didn't have the same grunt as the VTR, but it has ample power in the mid-to-upper rev range to move you along without requiring a handful of downshifts. Over the bumps and expansion joints of day-to-day street riding, the suspension is a bit ill-sorted, especially with that enormous amount of stiction in the forks. Combined with the most race-oriented riding position of the three, the Triumph caused quite a bit of discomfort when we weren't hell-bent on setting new personal speed records. Then, just as we were getting used to the bike's inadequacies and focusing more on its positive aspects, suddenly the Triumph decided that it just didn't need compression anymore. The motor died and one staffer was left stranded on the side of the highway as the yellow bike drooled greenish, brown fluid. We were starting to really like this bike.Overlooked Overview
Not one of the bikes we chose as overlooked and underrated really deserved to be. In stock form they are all extremely capable of making any owner smile, and if folks would just stop reading these damned editors babble on about the latest and greatest, prospective owners might find a motorcycle that they actually enjoy riding instead of owning one that fulfills an empty need to be socially accepted on the basis of one's accouterments.
The Triumph had us starting our days off with tea and crumpets instead of coffee and Spudnuts until it puked and became MO's third Triumph in a row that had fatal engine problems. It was looking like it had a strong second-place finish in its cards up until that point. The VTR is almost the bike to have because of its wonderful motor, excellent street manners, comfortable ergos and typical Honda quality. It would have been the first-place finisher in this trio if not for the lack of wind protection and a lousy touring range can be a drawback since every ride has to be planned around frequent fuel stops.The Superhawk is overshadowed by the YZF600F, which in turn is sure to be often overlooked by customers instead looking at the YZF-R6 . The little Yamaha has a wonderful, flexible motor, excellent wind protection, comfortable ergos, great fuel range and with stickier tires it can become a decent track-day scraper. You can't go wrong with any of these bikes, though. None of them should be overlooked but, of these three, the one that deserves the most apologies for its recent neglect is the YZF600F.
It's only when you look at the bikes in post-mod condition that the finishing order gets shuffled. With the handful of recommended mods mentioned, the VTR surpasses the YZF for top billing. The Erion Racing exhaust system makes a difference and, along with the Race Tech re-valve, the bike becomes a well-balanced, unflappable machine ready for anything. Yet even thought the mods allow the Honda surpasses the YZF, it isn't by much. The Yoshimura pipe does a good job of opening up the Yamaha, even if not to the extent that we found with the VTR. Still, the pipe and rear shock make the YZF a livelier, tighter road scratcher all around. As for the Triumph, well, even though Triumph's pipe adds a few ponies, the suspension is still harsh and is costly to fix or replace. The overall package is heavy as well.
Stock? Make ours a YZF. There aren't many better all-around motorcycles sold in the States. This bike has peg-scratching sportiness mixed with just the right amount of civility to make for a mount that, whatever your passion, will please. Add a few mods to the mix? A VTR, please, but, make ours black so we can sneak up on the local Ducatisti.