My New A"oldA" Daytona 955i

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander
Well, since we’ve been treated to the fabulous MO ’05 litersport smackdown and received news of Triumph’s recent good fortune, I figured it might be a good time to relate some experiences with my new, “old” Daytona 955i. Or, maybe it’s my old, new Daytona. I don’t know. I’m not that bright. But what I can tell you is that my bike was purchased as a 2002 model leftover at a pretty hefty discount. And for all the nice things that are said about the D955i, you don’t hear from too many people who own one. So, if you’re curious about the big sportbike that hails from the land of shepherd's pie, warm beer, and unwieldy dental bills, read on. If you’re not so curious and you’re wondering why I would waste my time and yours with an amateur review, well, you can just bugger off. There are plenty of cool, shiny things on MO to hold your attention. Use that mouse and click on one.

*NOTE* This is not an "official" Motorcycle.Com product review, this is an experience/opinion piece submitted by a subscriber. However, MO loved the Daytona 955i during last year's Open Class Comparo. If you're looking for a good value on a great street/sport bike; be sure to check with your local Triumph Dealer. -MO

Before we get started, let me warn you that this submission has grown long and cumbersome. What can I say? I probably need an editor. Because I had kind of a unique shopping experience, I thought I'd tell the story of how I actually came to find and purchase this bike. That's covered in Part One. If you don't care to read my tiresome blatherings, but you're interested in an impression (not a real review) of the D955i from an actual owner, scroll right down to Part Two. It covers only the first thousand miles, but I'd be happy to provide an update in the near future. Yes, one man can only write so many healthcare ads before going bat-sh#t crazy. I consider this part of my therapy, okay? Let's go.

For those not in the know, the ’02 spec Daytona is exactly the same as the ’05 spec, except the three year-old has slightly different (and sexier, in my opinion) bodywork and a less aesthetically pleasing but lighter and stiffer twin-sided swingarm–not that I’ll ever notice the difference. In any case, it’s really more bike than I can possibly use for street riding, but it’s as comfortable and utilitarian as a full-zoot sportbike can get.

Yes, yes, a KawaZukiYamaHonda ZSX-RR-1 would be faster, lighter and a better track weapon. But last I checked, I ain’t lining up on any Superbike grid anytime soon, although I do catch myself doing post-race interviews with myself while waiting at stoplights from time to time. I just wanted a bike that offered good performance, comfort and a fair amount of droolability and exclusivity. Thing is, I didn’t buy that bike. I ended up buying the orphan Daytona and got quite a bit more.

Part One: The Purchase (Or, What the Hell Am I Thinking Buying a New Bike?)

Did you know it’s expensive as hell to live in the NY-Metro area? My fellow NY/NJ/CT’ers know all too well. Unfortunately, just before the year 2004 called it quits, and well ahead of schedule, I was getting a persistent itch (and a very odd and unpleasant looking rash) to have a new, or at least, different, bike. But times are a wee bit tight around these parts now, so I resolved to show a little fiscal restraint. I’m not a big believer in buying the newest bikes on the showroom floor, anyway––depreciation, teething problems and all that. Besides, I can’t ride well enough to justify the latest and greatest anything—from at least five years ago. But this year, no. There would be no new, or new-to-me, bike in my garage. I would wait until next year—now known as 2006--and that was that.

Um, yeah, right.

To staunch my urge to buy, and to pass some of the depressing fall and miserable winter away, I figured I’d go around to a few dealers, peruse the used ads, and get a good, solid idea of what I might want when that magical “next season” rolled around. “Yep, that’s definitely the ticket,” I thought. Of course, this kind of logic is roughly the same as that applied by Kirstie Alley when considering donuts. But I was convinced I could do it. (I ignored the sudden hankerin’ for a double chocolate, glazed.)

I figured I'd start with Triumph: Attractive, reliable and capable bikes that are fairly uncommon around here. So off I went to the furthest of the two Triumph dealers within an hour of home. After a few minutes of snickering to myself about the crappy contraptions (Read: Line of expensive “custom” choppers) that the heathen dealer had placed in its showroom next to real motorcycles (Read: Triumphs), I got on to exploring several of the British models. I was harboring a crush on the D955i. The MO 2004 liter bike comparo—where the Daytona finished dead last but garnered much praise--solidified a warm, gelatinous interest I has developed in the bike. But I figured I should really consider the other models like the Sprint ST and RS, the Speed Triple and even the Daytona 600, because they would probably serve my all-around needs better. I knew the D6 was being replaced by the 650 and I just wouldn't be happy with a peaky motor when the new one was sure to be much better. Of course, in light of my feeling about buying new, first-year models, I had to eliminate the D650 from contention. Notice I had already forgotten that I had planned on buying a bike next
season. The Speed Triple? Really cool, but I already had a naked sport/standard, so it was moved to somewhere in the middle of my wish list. I knew the ST was also being replaced, but I figured I could live quite happily with an example of the then current generation. But, while the “old” ST is a wonderful bike, it just didn't turn my crank. I'd need the RS. But there were none at the dealer. From a desk in the corner, a desperate creature spotted me now looking at the Triumphs; I could see him salivating. And I had already formulated my first salvo: Could they get a Sprint RS in black? The second: What's your best price? And that was all I was going to give him. I was now prepared to do battle with a very cunning and unforgiving species of beast—the motorcycle salesman.

He approached slowly, trying to seem casual and non-threatening. I waited until I could see the blood red streaks in the whites of his hungry eyes. Wait for it...wait for it...

“Can I help you?,” he hissed.
I fired back, “ Yeah, uh, well...I'm really interested in the Daytona 955i.”

God, I'm pathetic.

Within five minutes, I'm in the back with the salesman firing up a brand new, all black D955i SE (Special Edition with blacked out frame and everything). He had me and he knew it. After another few minutes of staring at the bike like a ninth-grader who stumbled unoticed into the girls' lockeroom after cheerleading practice, I managed to regain some composure and escape the clutches of the crafty salesbeast. I barely emerged from his lair with a brochure, a business card and a few shreds of dignity. I had stood up to him, er, sort of.

A few days later I got a phone message from the saleserpent. Would I like to come in for a test ride? What? A freakin' test ride? “Oh, and we're offering some additional discounts.” Was this guy trying to emasculate me? Fortunately, fate intervened and I wouldn't find myself in his neck of the dark, foreboding forest for a long while. I had escaped again...for the time being.

But while killing some time on a gray and chilly December day, I unwittingly (uh huh) wandered into another part of the dark wood: My local Ducati/Triumph dealer, just about 15 minutes from my house. Uh oh. Trying to forget my humiliating display just a few weeks before, I resolved again to be strong. I would not give in to my motorcycle jones. Of course, I walked in and immediately asked if they had any big Daytonas. They had exactly four: A used, low mileage 2001 (prior-generation) model that looked just fabulous, but is not the bike the current iteration is. I was safe. Next! A used, low mileage 2002, in the silver color I loved. But—big "but"--the previous owner had chromed the frame and rims. Whew, dodged another bullet. Next! A new '03 leftover in the black color I really, really loved. Oh, crap...feeling woozy. Maybe we should move on. Um, ahem, next? An '02 in the Caspian Blue color I was never that crazy about in pictures, but looked pretty damn nice in the flesh. “Must be used,” I figured.

“Nope, brand new leftover. Zero miles on the clock.” said Salesbeast II.
“Reeaallllly,” I hissed .

Now I had him. So just to get a lay of the land, I started asking about pricing on all the bikes except the '02 I had in my sights. The used '01 was priced at $7000. The used '02, complete with bling-bling, was $7500. The new '03 was initially set at a hazy $8500. Of course, I knew there was some haggling room, but I had an idea of where the salesman was headed. With an approximate number for the blue '02 in my head, I asked about the price. I figured if I could get it for a shade under $8,000 with the requisite dealer charges, before tax, I would consider it. And then, just as quickly, I could justify not buying it and stick with my conviction about waiting 'til next year. Of course, things would not be so simple.

"How much for the new '02?" I asked calmly, confidently.
What happened next would so completely dismantle my resolve that my fate was sealed at that moment. I just didn't want to admit it.

"I can give it to you for $6500."

(Moment of complete shock). Huh? It was less than the used ones? How can that be? I was so flustered, I then proceeded to follow form and utter something completely idiotic.

"Why so cheap?" (D'oh!)

The salesman then explained that they had gotten the bike via Triumph overstock from a dealer that went boobies-up. "We got it pretty cheaply, so we'll pass that along to the buyer," he said through his completely straight face. "Besides, it's winter." It sounded good, but just a little too good. Finally, prudence penetrated my rock-like skull. I thought something didn't smell daisy-like here and perhaps I should disengage my vise-like leglock from the object of my affection. Then, I finally did a smart thing. I had the presence of mind to have him write the price on one of his business cards and left the building pronto. (Thanks, Dad. I really did learn something.)

Now what? My carefully thought out yet moronic plan had been ripped to shreds. With visions of a blue Daytona dancing through my head, I went to home to seek advice. No sooner was I in the door than I was dialing my brother in Florida. The same brother who changes motorcycles like underwear—actually, more often. The same brother who has the world's largest collection of useless electronic do-dads. The same brother who once bought three MP3 players within two months and actually forgot about one that he never even took out of the box. Surely, he would be able to talk some sense into me.

The gist of the conversation went something like this:

(Ring, Ring.) "Hello?"
"I gotta buy a Daytona 955i," I gasped.
"What? Uh, I'm working right now. Can you call back later?"
"Um, yeah, but let me just tell you..."
"I'm really busy, call back later, okay?" he snapped.
"Hey, why do I hear seagulls and waves crashing the the background?"
(Enter long story you already know here.)
"You don't have to buy anything," he said.
"I know, but I really, really want to."
"Then, buy it." he said, rather matter of factly.
"Okay, thanks." (Click.)

Actually, I left out the part where I decided to wait a couple of months. If the bike was still there, I'd see if this whole thing passed the smell test. Besides, having a new bike that I couldn't ride in a foot of snow would have been torture. In the meantime, I carried that business card around in my wallet like a phone number you got from a woman so beautiful, you were afraid to call because it might be phony.

Like clockwork, two months later, I went back. I saw the bike as soon as I walked through the door. I was greeted by a different salesman and told him what I was after. And then I told him the price I was quoted.

"That can't be right," he laughed. "Who gave you that price?"

Triumphantly (pardon the pun), I whipped out the old business card and presented it as Moses did the Ten Commandments. He looked a little stunned.

After a moment of clearly painful refection, he whispered, "Well, we'll have to honor it."

Glory be! Holy shiznit! Fortune hath smiled upon me! I didn't buy the bike that day, but it was a forgone conclusion. The deal was square and the dealer lived up to its word. The bill came to a few ticks over $6700 before tax with a full two-year warrantee, rear hugger and the optional seat cowl. For reference, it would have cost about the same to buy a used '02 from a private owner. It was so good, I went outside and had a cigarette.

Part Two: The First Thousand Miles (Or, The First 989 Miles, to be exact)

This isn't my first experience with a Hinckley Triumph. My beach-combing brother owns a '96 Triumph Sprint 900 that he keeps in my garage for riding pleasure during his frequent weekend visits to New York. When he was looking for a cheap-but-solid local ride, I actually found it for him in the classifieds, so it seems only right that it lives with me. Naturally, I have a fair amount of seat time on this capable but--by today's standards--unremarkable bike. There was a certain poetic symmetry in that the day I picked up the Daytona, I brought in the old Sprint for some service. Very convenient, actually. Ride in on the old. Ride out on the new (old).

Of course, this back-to-back experience would really give me a clear impression of how far Triumph has come in recent years, so I took some mental notes for comparison. But first, there would be my only problem with the Daytona to date. While fitting the optional seat cowl in the presence of a dealer employee, we realized that, well, it didn't fit. The pin for the locking mechanism wouldn't go in far enough. After a few minutes jiggering about, we got it to lock, but it seemed slightly twisted. Aside from that, it looked awesome, so I put the minor misalignment out of my mind. It would return later.

When I finally started the bike, I was amazed at how quiet it seemed at idle. There was a noticeable, almost exotic whine that I hadn't remembered from the '04, but it really did seem quite civilized. Blipping the throttle produced an otherworldly turbine-like rushing sound. Cool, but not the growl that I've heard so much about. Strange.

Shortly afterward, the reason for this would be clear. See, it had literally been about ten minutes since I had gotten off of old man Sprint. And the old man makes a whole lot of noise, especially since it's fitted with a famous Triumph "off road only" "silencer." If you've had any experience with a Triumph triple, you know they make all sorts of odd whirring noises and mechanical clatter at idle (I understand the new 1050 engine is much improved in this respect). I've even heard it described as the "Kenworth Effect," as in huge, freakin' diesel engine. Of course, once the engine is revved, it's a whole different story. After about an hour, my ears had regained their sensitivity. Yes, the Daytona was much quieter at idle than the old Sprint, but that diesel-like quality was still there, loud and clear. The distinctive growl would make it's entrance as some miles accumulated and the engine loosened up. Good lord, does it sound good. To my ears, much better than the vaunted Ducati sound and more exotic than an inline four. And all this with the stock exhaust. That cool whine is still there, now blended with a truly mean exhaust note.

So what's it like to actually ride? Well, first, the ergos are just about perfect for me. The bars are set fairly aggressively, but high enough not to pummel your wrists into submission. The reach to the bars is a bit long, as the Daytona is a fairly big bike by today's typical supersport dimensions, but not too much of a stretch. The pegs are ideal for a man of average height with good leg room for a 30-32" inseam. Taller riders, no doubt, would feel more at home here than any of the new Japanese or Italian superbikes. On the downside, the seat is a bit of a plank. The first couple of weeks of riding produced less-than-perfect results and some chafing on my left inner thigh. Um, you should try not to think about that image. Anyway, the seat's flat profile seemed ideal at first, but after about an hour, the corners were digging into the tenderest parts of my legs and nether regions. Not pretty, I know. The good news is that the seat seems to be breaking in and has become much more comfortable. We'll see how much more on the next longish ride.

Ah, on to that sweet, sweet engine. You know, you could probably just sit in your driveway and rev the thing and you'd be perfectly happy. But, in use, it's definitely a keeper. It spins up nice and fast, but not as quick as a four cylinder. At the rear wheel, it produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 peak horsepower and about 70 Ft. Lbs. of torque. But the real story is the smooth delivery with only the slightest hint of tingling through the bars. Don't let the new 150 HP literbikes cloud your vision. This thing is definitely fast. Way fast. More than fast enough to get you into a whole lot of trouble. But the power is easy to manage. There's not a huge amount of thrust under 5000 RPM, but then the it begins to thicken with a noticeable but still-linear hit at about 8000 RPM. The EFI has been mostly excellent, but I have noticed some surging at very small throttle openings.

Speaking of the throttle, it's kind of odd. As some have reported, it does have a longish travel, which means you have to turn it a bit farther than most. The first few days of riding caused some discomfort in my right wrist, which seemed like a shame since the ergos are mostly dead-on comfy. It doesn't bother me anymore, but I don't really see the point of the design. The only upside to this arrangement seems to be that it will help to keep a new owner out of the big power so as not to plant himself firmly into the side of a neighbor's house. The spring is also pretty heavy, which most of the time, I like. But it does make fine control at small openings a bit of a challenge. Accelerating out of tight, slow, first gear corners, where the EFI can be a bit abrupt, can be a little hairy. But this also has something to do with gearing. I have to agree with some of the MO testers when they said that the gearing could use some tweaking. Most of the time it's fine for street use, but those slow corners seem to call for lower gearing. Using second gear instead of first in some situations would probably make things less dramatic.

The levers continue in the tradition of the Gigantor school of design. Apparently, Triumph employs Yetis in their studio. The clutch is cable operated, the lever is not adjustable and it provides a heavy pull, but none of that is at all a problem for me. The problem actually comes with the adjustable brake lever. I have medium-sized hands, and while the brake lever works perfectly acceptably in most situations, I still can't figure out how to blip the throttle when downshifting without removing my fingers from the brake. And this with the lever set at the closest position to the bar. Of course, the long-twist throttle does nothing at all to help. Ah, well, a minor irritation. More pleasing are the positive-feel, quality switchgear; simple, useful and visible tach/speedo/odo unit; and, get this, wonderful mirrors.

You want handling? You got it. While I'm sure the Daytona is not as flickable as the latest Japanese offerings, it does turn pretty quickly and you're rewarded with great stability. It's rock solid in the corners, even on the softish stock suspension settings. The boingy-boingy units are probably not the best setup for the track, but on the street they offer a very supple ride. I have not yet begun to tweak suspension settings because the factory ones are fine for casual riding during the break-in period. They're definitely soft for aggressive riding, but I figure with the third-world state of NY roads in the springtime, they're better left alone until someone gets off of their a$$ and smoothes out some of the lunar landscape.

Okay, I've given you a vague idea of how this thing rides, but how's it stop? Well, pretty damn well. The brakes are excellent. And while they're not the current-rave radial mount units, they're strong, progressive and offer great feel. And as all Triumph sportbikes, The D955i comes with steel braided brakelines. I haven't noticed any real fading, but having just completed break-in, I haven't had a real barnburner of a day yet. We'll see.

Aesthetically speaking, the big Daytona is a pretty bike. Like I said, I prefer the pre-'04 looks to the current plastic—it's a bit more voluptuous and Euro-inspired—but it's not drastically different. They're all pretty bikes. In fact, much prettier in the flesh than in pictures. Notable is the unique multi-tube perimeter frame; it's actually quite stunning. Fit and finish is pretty good, but there are little areas where it can be, and most certainly will be, improved with the next generation. As noted by some motojournalists, the inside of the fairing on the pre-'04s looks a bit unfinished (this was addressed on the '04-'05 model) but it's nothing offensive. The heel guards look a bit chintzy, and while the pegs, hanger brackets and shifter/brake pedals look solid, the finish is plain and uninspiring. The paint is quite pleasing and well applied except toward the bottom of the tank where I noticed some orange peel. But you probably won't notice many of these flaws because the bike makes such a strong presence. Everywhere I go, someone wants to talk about it. The conversation usually begins with the word beautiful.

Oh, the seat cowl! Well, about a week after I got the bike, I noticed a crack had appeared in the side of the cowl. This soon turned into two big cracks. Seems the slight twist in the alignment caused the plastic to fail. It has been sent back to Triumph USA where it's undergoing a battery of sophisticated tests to determine the cause of the failure. (Read: sitting under someone's desk.) The dealer assures me that it'll be covered under warrantee or they'll give me a new one. No news as of yet.

Whew! So there it is. The bottom line on my Daytona 955i is that it's an exciting, attractive and useful bike. It's as good of a commuter as a sportbike can get and I'm sure it's far more capable than most riders can use at the track. It's comfortable enough to do some sport-touring on, assuming you get a new seat. And it generates positive vibes wherever it goes. (Just get used to hoards of old geezers saying things like "Dat don'a look like any Triumph I remember.") Oh, and the sound, that beautiful sound. And really, could you ask for much more than that in any bike, especially for less than seven grand?
Get in your Inbox
Sean Alexander
Sean Alexander

More by Sean Alexander

Join the conversation