Triumph's new 2018 Speed Triple S and RS: Stronger, smarter, sexier
Triumph isn't swinging for the fences with its new Speed Triple. Top-end horsepower is up, but still nowhere near the raging 180-plus totals of the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 and KTM Super Duke 1290 R. The British brand decided long ago not to engage in an ever-escalating top-end power vendetta, opting instead to concentrate on low- and mid-range grunt where most riders will actually use it on the road. It's been a terrific formula so far, a raw and raucous road riding beast with all-round comfort and capability. I lusted over the 2005 model, flipped out over the 2011, bought the 2014 and loved the 2016.
For 2018, thanks to a fairly major engine upgrade, we're looking at "just" 150 pferdestärke. Pferdestärke, for your information, is metric horsepower, and thus a term that makes equally little sense in metric or imperial countries. In regular horses, you're looking at 148, up a decent whack from the previous model's 140-odd.
The engine remains a 1050cc triple, instead of growing to a beefier donk around 1200cc like some folk were quietly hoping. There were 104 engine changes between the 2011 and 2016 models, and there's a further 105 changes for 2018. The press release tells us: "engine updates include new lighter crank gear, lighter Nikasil-plated aluminium cylinder liners, a smaller starter motor, and lighter battery and alternator. New profile pistons and a new cylinder head with optimised exhaust ports improve gas flow and deliver an even higher compression ratio to achieve the increased power output.
"A new sump lowers the oil level in the engine, reducing drag and improving weight distribution. The re-routed oil system now runs the oil internally through the head gasket to the cylinder head, allowing for the removal of external oil pipes, improved styling and reduced mass."
Righty-o, then. Torque (on what was already a magnificently grunty beast) is lightly boosted from 83 to 86 pound feet (113 to 117 Nm), and the rest of the power increase comes from an extra thousand RPM at the top of the tacho. The 2016 bike was a pretty furious little customer in the lower gears, and it's fair to assume the 2018 will stomp even harder. Excellent.
The exhausts breathe a little freer, which Triumph says contributes to the best sound a Speed Triple has ever made with a standard pipe on, as well as its super free-revving feel. The designers have stuck with the signature double underseat cans, which stay nicely out of the way of the rear wheel on its lovely single sided swinger, and have a decent look to them. But it's no secret these bikes elicit just as much dribble with a single, lightweight low slip-on that takes a lot of unnecessary weight off and lowers the center of gravity for quicker steering. I think a trip to the Arrow section of the accessory catalogue would pay dividends here.
The rider interface is vastly upgraded with a beautiful, full-color, five-inch TFT dash, similar to the one on last year's new Street Triple 765. There are four modes: Road, Rain, Sport and a programmable "Rider" mode, which interact with the bike's traction control, ABS and ride-by-wire throttle systems to give you plenty of options. Interestingly, Triumph claims the on-off throttle response is smoother than the 2016 bike, but I thought the power on that bike came in beautifully smoothly – if anything, all I wanted was a touch more feel between the throttle and the motor.
There's daytime running lights, a USB charging port and … wait, what's that on that LED-accented left switchblock? Could it be?
Yes! The 2018 Speed Triple gets a cruise control system for the first time. I think I've made my opinions on this sort of thing clear in the past – if a bike's running fly by wire, there's really no excuse for it not to have cruise, which does an excellent job of keeping your right wrist fresh on a long ride.
2018 Speed Triple RS
Instead of a standard and an R version, the Speed Triple is now split into S and RS versions – the S being the standard, the RS being a touch more special. And although the 2018 RS does indeed have some carbon fiber bits and a set of Ohlins NIX30/TTX36 suspension, the gap is a little wider now thanks to some other nifty inclusions.
The RS model gets a higher spec inertial management unit, developed in conjunction with Continental, that allows for optimized Cornering ABS and track-style partial slip traction management. There's also an extra Track mode on the dash.
The exhausts on the RS are a brushed titanium finish Arrow job, lighter and more sharply angled than the S model's pipes, with a carbon fiber heat shield.
The RS is a bit fancier in terms of paintwork and the like, but it's not overdone. Even the gold Ohlins fork stanchions have been switched with black ones to keep the look a touch more low-key. And the RS also features the first keyless ignition/steering lock system ever fitted to a factory Speed Trip as well, which is lovely.
In all, it's a solid upgrade for 2018, with a modest ladle of extra power, a much nicer dash, and a few much-appreciated pinches of luxury like the cruise system and the keyless ignition. The overall look hasn't changed, and I'm of the opinion that gorgeous frame is still one of the sweetest looking backbones in the business, so there's no complaints there. Two shades are available: white and black. That's for both the S and RS models. No pricing or availability details are out yet.
I remain, as always, a huge fan. Enjoy the condensed launch video below: