Live With It: 2017 Triumph Street Triple RS
Logging some extra miles on the nimble "little" Trumpet
It was a sad day when I finally returned the 2017 Triumph Street Triple RS that I so fondly grew to love. I begged, pleaded and even threw a candy-aisle temper tantrum, kicking and screaming to no avail. No, not really, but handing the keys back over to Triumph was bittersweet, like dropping family off at the airport. All good things must come to an end, I suppose.
The Street Triple RS has been my daily ride for the past three months and it reminded me of my trusty, raced-out Buell XB9S, except it did everything better. Unfortunately, I reluctantly had to sell the Buell to make room in my garage and pay off some looming debts. Ehh, we can’t keep them all, such is life. The Street Triple RS is a great do-it-all motorcycle for anyone looking for a bike to satisfy multiple purposes. From general around town riding and commuting to spirited canyon rips and track days, the ST-RS is one capable bike.
Streetfighters, or naked bikes, have come to be our favorite type of motorcycle at MO for this very reason. And we’ve been spoiled by manufacturers producing 1000cc+ nakeds like the Tuonos and Super Dukes, but I think we can all agree that bikes delivering 140+ horsepower to the rear wheel “approach the area of overkill for streetbikes” as Kevin put it in our 800cc Euro Triples Street Fighter Faceoff, which included the Street Triple RS and MV Agusta Brutale 800.
The Street Triple RS isn’t far behind those literbike numbers despite its three-quarter liter size, pumping out an impressive 119.4 horses. Its power, matched with its feathery 417-pound weight fully gassed up, means it likes to move. The Street Triple RS obviously isn’t the lightest or fastest bike on the road, however things can certainly get blurry in a hurry if you want them to. And why wouldn’t you? The 765cc triple produces one of the best sounding howls at full song I’ve ever heard, even with its stock pipe. The exhaust note alone makes you want to turn the twist grip to its stop.
Going fast isn’t any fun if you can’t slow down though, and the ST-RS has the best brakes in the business. The RS features Brembo M50 calipers that provide the quickest and most immediate stopping power currently available short of running into a wall (the S model has Nissins and the R has Brembo M4.32 calipers). The radially mounted M50s, paired with the radially actuated master cylinder, deliver great initial bite with ferocious deceleration as more pressure is applied. The ABS is also one of the best systems I’ve tested – it’s not overeager to engage, and when it does, you barely even feel it working – inspiring confidence as a result.
Rider ergos are nice too. Some riders have complained that the pegs are a little high and cramp your legs up, but I like the higher position because it makes faster, sportier riding more fun. It is a sportbike, after all… The higher position also eliminated the startling feeling of dragging peg mid turn. I only dragged the pegs once or twice, but that was at full tilt, long after my knee and toe sliders were already down. The lightweight RS is super flickable and loves to boogie down the back roads.
The saddle is as comfortable as sportbike seats get, even for longer 100+ mile stints down the freeway. And this might sound silly, but quite possibly my favorite rider ergo feature of the Street Triple RS was its grips. They’re just ever so slightly thinner than any other sportbike’s stock grips, which translated to a feeling of more control when manipulating the… controls. And that’s a good thing, especially when pushing the limits, which the RS so seductively encourages you to do.
Speaking of pushing the limits, the Street Triple RS comes with an electronics package and ride-by-wire throttle that helps the rider do just that. There are five rider modes: Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider. I mostly played around with the Sport, Track and Rider settings. I wasn’t really able to notice a big difference between Sport and Track, but both modes allow you to pretty much pin it out of corners without losing traction, which is nice considering 119.4 hp still provides plenty of get-up-and-go. The Rider mode, however, that’s a whole `nother story…
Rider mode essentially allows you to be one with the motorcycle, sans technology, if you dare. Full power and no traction control is the perfect recipe for hooligan type riding. The first time testing this mode I went for a second gear, clutch-up wheelie and rather than lifting the front, I laid a 30-foot strip of rubber down the road. Holy shit. Granted, the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires that come stock from the factory probably weren’t completely warm, but that didn’t stop me from doing it another dozen times or so… Add in a little more finesse, and the front end kisses the ground goodbye predictably thanks to its smooth fueling and incredibly linear power delivery.
The RS model, compared to the S and R, is tuned to deliver more top end power, which really starts to build at the 6K rpm mark and keeps on pulling to its 12.5 redline. A unique feature to the RS is its quick-shifter, which is a ton of fun, but not really necessary at anything less than full-throttle upshifts. With the three cylinders at full song however, clicking up through the gears is euphoric and music to my ears. That’s when things get blurry in a hurry, as aforementioned.
Bumps are handled by a 41mm inverted Showa big piston fork in front and an Öhlins STX40 monoshock out back. Both are three-way adjustable and also some of the best in the biz, so no complaints there. However, I can’t build the Street Triple RS up so much without giving it some sort of criticism, right?
One area in which it somewhat falters is when trying to launch it. You just can’t drop the hammer from a dead stop like you can on other bikes. Leaving from a stop requires you to really finesse the clutch, which is fine honestly, but it does take a little bit of getting used to, especially if you have to make some quick moves. I don’t know if this is a result of its bottom end, right-off-idle fueling, or just due to its higher revving, sport-tuned nature. I imagine the more streetable, mid-range emphasized S and R models don’t have this same problem as each model has its own unique engine character thanks to different cams and ECU tuning.
My second gripe with the RS is that it doesn’t have any way of strapping anything to the tail. No sort of a hook, bar or bracket – nothing! I know it’s a sportbike, but c’mon Triumph, it’s still a mode of transportation where the user is likely to bring something along other than just themselves at some point. Some sort of an anchor point is definitely needed on the darn thing.
Overall, the Street Triple RS is an incredibly athletic motorcycle that loves to be flung into corners and flogged out of them. It’s a bike that performs better the harder and more aggressively it’s ridden, and in return rewards you both aurally and viscerally. Some say they don’t like the weird bug-like twin headlight look, but I kind of dig it – it’s different, that’s for sure. Also, in my time with the RS, I managed to average a respectable 43 mpg, which isn’t too bad either.
We at MO always ask ourselves which bikes we would consider spending our own money on, and frankly, the RS is one I wouldn’t mind investigating further and potentially throwing down on. At $12,500 it’s not cheap, but it’s got top-shelf components and packs one hell of a punch, even for a “little” guy in the growing sea of horsepower hungry literbikes.