2016 Triumph Speed Triple S Review

John Burns
by John Burns

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.

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
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 9.25/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score91.75/100

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 TypeDOHC liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder; 4v/cyl.
Bore x Stroke79.0 x 71.4mm
Compression Ratio12.25:1
Horsepower124.2 hp @ 8900 rpm
Torque76.1 lb-ft @ 7900 rpm
lb/hp3.85 lb/hp
lb/lb-ft6.28 lb/lb-ft
Fuel SystemMultipoint sequential fuel injection
Final DriveChain
Front SuspensionShowa 43mm inverted fork; 4.72 in. travel, adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear SuspensionSingle Showa shock; 5.1 in. wheel travel, adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Front BrakesDual 320mm discs, 4-piston Brembo calipers, switchable ABS
Rear Brakes255mm disc, Nissin 2-piston slide-type caliper, switchable ABS
Front Tire120/70-17
Rear Tire190/55-17
Seat Height32.5 in.
Wheelbase56.5 in. (1435mm)
Rake/Trail22.9°/ 3.6 in. (91.3mm)
Curb Weight, MO scales478 lb.
Fuel Capacity4.1 US gal.
MPG40 mpg
John Burns
John Burns

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3 of 23 comments
  • 2chilled4u 2chilled4u on Jul 21, 2016

    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 Allison Sullivan on Jul 21, 2016

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