2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS

Editor Score: 92.5%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 14.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.5/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 9.5/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score92.5/100

How about giving incremental updates a little love? So many riders seem to immediately dismiss mid-cycle revisions of motorcycles as being BNG (bold, new graphics) or, as with one comment this week, BNH (bold, new headlights). In the case of the 2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS, the comment completely misses the point. Sure it would be great if every model year was a complete makeover year after year, but there’s something to be said for incremental refinement. Model year 2020 is one of those fine-tuning times, and Triumph has delivered a Street Triple that is better in two very practical ways. Additionally, there have been some appearance changes that are bound to appeal to many riders. And all this comes at no increase in cost to the buyer. Sounds like pretty good news to me. 

Triple-play

We’ll start looking at the STRS’ changes with the engine, which in addition to the annual goal of improving performance included the need to become Euro 5 compliant. Looking at the fun stuff, the increased performance all riders crave, Triumph focused on improving the engine’s mid-range performance while not sacrificing the top-end rush that separates the RS from the bulk of the middle-weight naked class. Working our way through the engine, the intake duct that resides between the angrier dual headlights and the new, swoopy flyscreen has been tuned for improved flow in the mid-range. While the cylinders, and their 77.99mm x 53.4mm bore and stroke remain unchanged, a new exhaust cam manages the spent charges’ exit into the exhaust. The exhaust headers feature a new balance pipe – again for the mid-range bump in power. Finally, the new silencer utilizes two catalysts to allow for freer breathing and throatier exhaust note. All of these changes combine to produce a net 9% increase in torque at 9,000 rpm. While that is nice, the real news is that the new torque curve separates from the 2019 model’s at just 6,000 rpm – where street riders can actually use it – and stays above it until around 10,500 rpm. 

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Naturally, because of the mathematical relationship between torque and horsepower, the mid-range also receives a 9% bump at 8,000 rpm. The long and the short of it is that both the horsepower and torque curves have lost their pronounced dips in the mid-range while keeping the same peaks of 121 hp and 58 lb-ft of torque.

While the peak numbers didn’t change, the 2020 RS received a nice bump in mid-range torque.

However, the mid-range power isn’t the only improvement to the Triple’s power delivery. Through the use of higher precision machining on the crankshaft, clutch, and transmission, the engineers were able to remove the engine’s backlash gears. This reduced mass results in a 7% lower rotational inertia, translating into snappier throttle response. Triumph is quite happy to tell you that these changes to the engine were designed by the same engineers who created the Moto2 engine that is enjoying so much success on international racing circuits this year – and for the next two. This is the point of racing (really). It pays off with developments that trickle down to the street side of the business.

The new balance pipe gives an assist in the mid-range increase.

Although it isn’t an increase in the engine’s performance, the third improvement to the rider’s relationship with the STRS’ power delivery comes in the form of the Triumph Shift Assist up/down quick shifter. This is good news and, according to Triumph, was the most requested feature from riders in research conducted in the development of the Street Triple. However, an IMU was not included in the electronics package. So, the standard ABS and TC do not take lean angle into account. 

Good news! Up/down Triumph Shift Assist is standard on the Street Triple RS.

Status quo

To put it bluntly, aside from the update to Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires, the Street Triple’s chassis remains unchanged. Now, before those among us who are prone to it begin to rend their clothes and gnash their teeth over this travesty, let’s take a minute to consider why this issue is a non-starter. First, the previous STRS was one of the best handling bikes in its class. MO’s testers raised quibbles in our shootout with the KTM 790 Duke, but that was a comparison. Taken on a ride by itself, you’d be hard-pressed to find flaws in the premium components carried by the RS. On its own, the Street offers astounding maneuverability and suspension control. The 41mm Showa Big Piston Fork is fully adjustable – as is the Öhlins STX40 shock. Both come with settings that properly straddle the requirements of day-to-day street use with performance chops. 

Brembo M50 calipers. Still the bomb.

Brembo M50 calipers were MO’s favorites until the company came out with the Stylemas. M50s still offer the same kick-ass braking power they always did. Couple them with a Brembo master cylinder that is adjustable for lever ratio (from 19-21) and distance, and you’ve got a hot setup for any motorcycle. 

The Street Triple’s riding position is the same versatile one that won our hearts over years ago, offering the ideal combination of everyday utility and sporting chops. One small change made for 2020 was to lower the passenger footpegs to give pillions a little more creature comfort. 

Compare this to other contestants in the naked middleweight class. Öhlins for the win!

Putting it to the test

Triumph did its best to cram every kind of riding into our day with the 2020 Street Triple RS. We began with a street ride that took us to the hill country outside of Cartagena, Spain. With pavement ranging from billiard table smooth to bumpy and broken, the STRS was put through the paces. What’s most notable about the suspension is that it is able to provide the suppleness necessary to soak up real-world roads yet still capable of providing the sporty firmness we all crave when sport riding. On the 765, I never felt beat up by the bumps nor did I suffer from excessive chassis movement when the pace hotted up. Once we moved to the Circuit de Cartagena for the second half of the day, the Street Triple felt equally at home at peg-scraping speeds. The suspension is, I think, the best in its class. 

Not all the best motorcycle roads have smooth pavement. The STRS’ suspenders can handle the bumps as well as high cornering forces.

The changes to the engine power were most noticeable on the street. Having more linear power throughout the rev range is a real advantage when riding on unfamiliar roads. Throttle response was just about flawless, whether rolling off or on the gas. Honestly, while I could feel the increase in mid-range power, I had trouble differentiating that from the lowered rotational inertia. Still, when coming out of the corners in the middle of the tachometer, the improved acceleration is tons of fun. 

The quickshifter gives you one less task to worry about when you don’t know which way the next corner is going to go. Simply lift up or tap down as necessary. On the track, not needing to rev-match on downshifts makes it easier to concentrate on smooth braking when approaching a corner. Although I didn’t encounter this issue, a couple of journos said that they occasionally had trouble downshifting into second from the high-speed front straight into Turn 1. They surmised the quickshifter was reticent because it was preventing them from overrevving the engine. 

There’s no arguing that the new headlights look angrier. We predict that there will be plenty of fans – and critics. The rest of the changed bodywork on the radiator and tail section will be less controversial.

What can be said about the brakes other than OMG? On the street, setting the lever ratio at 19 allows for maximum finesse for trailing brakes into unknown corners. On the track, however, turning the adjuster to 21 delivers the most immediate power for brake application. Brembo’s M50s are as impressive as they ever were. However, the brake system is not without fault. Thanks to Euro 5 regulations, the ABS cannot be turned off – even in track mode. This was a major gripe for the faster track riders, as they kept tripping the ABS, braking for corners. Perhaps the fix is as easy as pulling a fuse. Time will tell. 

The takeaway

When looking at the spec sheet or the press release, the 2020 update to the Street Triple RS looks like nothing more than changes necessary to address Euro 5 requirements. However, the changes are more than they appear. For bikes that will spend the vast majority of their time on the street, improved mid-range power will pay dividends on every ride. Similarly, having a bidirectional quickshifter doesn’t sound like a lot if you’ve never lived with one for an extended period. Once you have, it’s hard to go back. 

Now, we come to the IMU issue. Triumph says it is just following the wishes of the riders they interviewed, but the reality of cost also comes into play. Hinckley has clearly decided to spend its component money on suspension and brakes instead of lean-sensitive ABS and TC. Other manufacturers (KTM, for example) have gone the other way. It’s nice to have options. 

It’s hard not to love the Brembo MCS 19-21 master cylinder and its ability to tune braking performance to suit the riding task at hand.

The 2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS will have a U.S. retail price of $12,550 and be available in two color options. Triumph has hinted that the R and S models will probably follow in a similar capacity to their previous designations, but since the RS is the Street Triple’s best selling model, the initial focus will be on it. Look for the 2020 STRS to begin landing in your local Triumph showrooms in November.

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