2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Track [Video]

Can the GSX-R750 hold off the 675R and 848 EVO at the track?

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2011 Triumph Daytona 675R

If this were a beauty pageant, we’d wrap things up here and call the Triumph Daytona 675R the winner. But alas, this comparison is more than skin deep, and if the Trumpet were to have any chance at winning this shootout it would have to perform as well as it looks.

We’re happy to report that, in many ways, it does. A theme we harped on about the Triumph on the street was its amazing agility. That surely isn’t lost on the track. Direction changes on the 675R are lightning fast and require little effort. At a tight and technical course like the infield section at Auto Club, this proved to be a huge advantage.

“Neither the Suzook nor the Duc could carve up the track’s tight sections like the nimble and small-feeling Triumph,” said Duke. Credit to that goes to the most aggressive chassis geometry, backed up by an Ohlins NIX30 fork and TTX36 shock – the most dramatic (and obvious) improvements to the R model over its standard variant. The 43mm fork is actually 5mm taller than the Kayaba units on the standard 675, which slows the R model’s steering ever-so-slightly, but in this company it has the quickest steering of the three.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Track

As delivered, the suspension’s heavy-rate springs provided a ride much too stiff for our liking. But the bike was transformed into a compliant track weapon with a few adjustments. The amount of adjustability and the corresponding difference it makes is a product of Ohlins’ commitment to advancing suspension technology.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Track

With agility and nimble feet being its greatest strength, where the 675R falls short in this trio is in the power department. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the machine with the least displacement delivered the least amount of power — 111.2 horsepower at 12,800 rpm. Torque, too, is smallest with 48.4 ft.-lbs. at 10,000 rpm, though its curve is pleasingly linear throughout the rev range. Interestingly, up until approximately 4800 rpm, the Triumph actually produces more torque than the GSX-R750. It lags behind after that, but not by much. This, combined with its racetrack-appropriate tall first gear, resulted in explosive drives out of slow-speed corners.

On track this linear powerband more than held its own against its two larger rivals. While tailing GSX-R750-mounted Duke, the Triumph stayed within a whiff of the Suzi’s exhaust fumes around most of Auto Club’s corners. Only on the front straight was the Gixxer able to stretch its legs and barely pull away. This disadvantage in power for the Triumph had an interesting byproduct, as our testers still managed to have the most fun aboard the 675R. “There is something intrinsically satisfying about holding a throttle wide open, and you can do it more often on this bike,” notes Kevin as to why he enjoyed the Triumph.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Street

While the Brembo monobloc brake calipers, combined with its steel-braided lines and Brembo radial master cylinder, make quick work of scrubbing off speed, one puzzling anomaly I noticed during my first ride story of the 675R was a high-frequency vibration pulsing through the lever during especially hard braking, and it’s a condition we were able to recreate during our track testing. “It slightly spoils what is otherwise a fantastic brake system,” Duke says. Still, this didn’t upset the chassis during turn-in.

Other notables about the Triumph: in contrast to the Ducati and Suzuki, when aboard the 675R, one sits “on” it rather than “in” it. The 5mm taller fork tubes push the clip-on bars up slightly, but the pegs still rest rather high and rearward. This results in a seating position that’s not quite as track-oriented as the Ducati, but one still clearly focused on spinning laps. Pete felt “perched over” on the Triumph, with much weight on his wrists. This bothered him most under the strain of heavy braking.  

Further, the standard quick-shifter we enjoyed on the street proved to be a big asset on the track. When fractions of a second mean the difference between winning or losing, perfect full-throttle upshifts with just a flick of the toe are a godsend.

The Trumpet, despite being the uprated R model, is still sans a slipper clutch, though it is available as an accessory in the Triumph racing catalog. That said, none of our testers complained that it was missing. Triumph employs a clever trick wherein, upon deceleration, the fuel-injection system opens a throttle plate slightly to reduce engine braking, which helps calm the rear end similar to a slipper clutch.

We also had no complaints about the large tachometer which was easy to read at a glance. Progressive shift lights, too, are easily spotted in the peripheral while riding. However, the white-on-black LCD info panel was as difficult to read on the track as it was on the street.

2011 Middleweight Sportbike Shootout - Track

For the trackday enthusiast, the smiles-per-mile factor is very high on the 675R. To put it bluntly, this machine is just plain fun to ride. Its handling is not only quick, but it inspires confidence as well. And there’s no better melody in motorcycling than a three-cylinder wailing at the top of its lungs. All three riders recorded their second-best lap times on the spunky little Triumph, though it should be noted that a long, flowing track would likely skew this result against the 675R.

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