Motorcycles

Road test: Triumph Speed Triple R

Road test: Triumph Speed Tripl...
Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R
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Triumph's Speed Triple R
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Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R - featuring Ohlins and Brembo goodies at the front end.
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Triumph's Speed Triple R - featuring Ohlins and Brembo goodies at the front end.
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Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R - the side covers and headlights are among the only visual distractions from pure two-wheels-and-a-seat motorcycling.
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Triumph's Speed Triple R - the side covers and headlights are among the only visual distractions from pure two-wheels-and-a-seat motorcycling.
Triumph's Speed Triple R dash
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Triumph's Speed Triple R dash
Triumph's Speed Triple R tail
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Triumph's Speed Triple R tail
Triumph's Speed Triple R single sided swingarm
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Triumph's Speed Triple R single sided swingarm
Triumph's Speed Triple R front wheel and ABS Brembo calipers.
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Triumph's Speed Triple R front wheel and ABS Brembo calipers.
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Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R - rear angle
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Triumph's Speed Triple R - rear angle
Triumph's Speed Triple R - rear angle
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Triumph's Speed Triple R - rear angle
Triumph's Speed Triple R headlights
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Triumph's Speed Triple R headlights
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Triumph's Speed Triple R

There's nothing exceptional to point out on the Triumph Speed Triple R's spec sheet. Its power figures are quite modest compared to the big guns in this day and age, it doesn't look particularly special, and it doesn't come loaded with sophisticated rider aid technology like a lot of the bikes we've reviewed lately. And yet, I've never had so much fun on two wheels, or fallen so hard for a bike so fast. So what is it about this snub-nosed British bad boy that makes it such a compelling ride?

I am an unashamed nakedbike fan. In my garage you'll find one stock naked and three formerly faired motorcycles that I've chopped and hacked into ratbike streetfighters. I love the stripped back look, the meaty engine swinging freely in the air. I love the wind and the riding position and the fact that fast feels faster when you're not hiding behind a fairing. The first bike I ever really clicked with was a Honda Hornet 919.

I mention these facts to demonstrate why you're not going to get a remotely objective review from me here: if I was to sit down with a motorcycle designer and custom build a bike from the ground up just for me, it would end up pretty much exactly like the Speed Triple R. Usually I'm visiting far-flung reaches of the motorcycle world with our Gizmag reviews – not this time. I loved this bike to bits 10 seconds into my test ride. For the rest of this column, I'll be barely restraining myself from gushing superlatives.

Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R

The Triple has a big, smooth, grunty 1050cc inline triple engine that perfectly bridges the gap between a torquey twin and a revvy inline four. It's injected, of course, but the throttle mapping is spot on – smooth on uptake, gentle and manageable on a squeeze, raucous and torquey on a grab.

It only makes 135 horsepower, which isn't a lot next to monster nakeds like the BMW K1300R (172hp) – and yet it never feels underpowered on the road. That's at least partially due to the totally street-focused gearing. Efficiency isn't bad – the fuel light came on for me after 165km of city riding, but according to my calculations, it comes on very early and there was probably more than 40 or 50km range left in it.

Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R

The Speed Triple is the epitome of a nakedbike to me – it's as simple and transparent a bike as I've ever ridden. It does exactly what it's told at all times, whether that's trundling slowly and smoothly around town (try that on an Italian twin!), ripping through twisty country roads or performing a variety of one-wheeled shenanigans that we'll get to later.

It's the kind of bike that disappears underneath you, leaving just you and the road and the ride. Like all good nakeds, it's minimal to look at from the rider's seat, which only serves to amplify the "magic carpet" effect.

Our test bike was the R version – which means it comes with Ohlins front and rear suspension, Brembo monobloc brake callipers, a few bits of carbon fiber and ABS. Naturally, it handled and stopped beautifully – but honestly if it was my dollar buying, I'd save a few thousand dollars and go for the standard version.

Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R

Pillion comfort has definitely improved since the previous model shape (2005-2011), which had a passenger pad the size of a CD case. The new Triple is far from plush, but it's a bigger and more secure seat than the older one. The rider's seat felt like home to me immediately – I love the upright naked feeling, head up high to see further over traffic, arms out wide for huge leverage on the bars.

The Speed Triple is so responsive, so easy to ride and so full of laughs that I quickly found 10-minute commutes turning into 2-hour backstreet jaunts. I just didn't want to get off the thing.

Triumph's Speed Triple R
Triumph's Speed Triple R

That's a big thing to say – I get to ride some of the best damn metal in the business in this job, some really impressive bikes. But at the end of the day, this one flicked my switch more than any of them.

Triumph's Speed Triple R - the side covers and headlights are among the only visual distractions from pure two-wheels-and-a-seat motorcycling.
Triumph's Speed Triple R - the side covers and headlights are among the only visual distractions from pure two-wheels-and-a-seat motorcycling.

In fact, this may be the Speed Triple's greatest strength and its greatest flaw. Riding it, you feel like an unstoppable stunt god of the highest order – and as a result, you have to keep your excitement in check.

I found it one of the most engaging, simple and rewarding rides I've ever tried. I'm not sure if I ever want to ride anything else again. I'm in love.

10 comments
Jimbo Jim
at one time old blighty bikes rein supremo, such as the brough superior even RR cannot find any fault to dispute them as RR of all bikes. RR sent some folks there to quell the myth, but only came away to officially bestow them the title. fast forward to the 60s as Nippon is getting up to speed in 2 wheels as well as 4 wheels. The death knell is probably cause by intransigence of the brits to add an electric starter to their bikes. circa mid 60s one can buy a honda 250 twins with elec start. and even a pint sized damsel can get her sailed away without much motivation. on the contrary a brit bike does require a herculean effort to coax her into running at all. should it back fires the rider could be launch several feet up like a ICBM received command from NORAD somewhere in the deep underground of Colorado. it doesn't took too long bike riders would defect to Jap bikes enmassed and that spelled the end of all brit bikes. I have a school mate who had a supercharged norton commando, it never ran, usually see him worked on the bike every friday, perhaps she ran after I have left. I sure hope they will rise from the ashes just like a phoenix. growing up in Hong Kong i get to see many brit bikes, from BSA to AJS to Norton & triumph, kind of sad to see them all disappear faster than david copperfield did away with the jumbo jet.
Daishi
@Jimbo Jim As someone that rides Japanese bikes I think European bikes are making a strong come back. The Japanese companies are still delivering a lot of performance in a reliable and well built platform but a lot of people's preference for styling seems to be leaning more to European streetfighters, Ducati's, and throwback Cafe Racers. I even heard Yamaha is thinking about making the next R1 a tripple instead of an inline 4. I look at something like the current Suzuki GSX-R and to me it doesn't look nearly as sharp as a Ducati. The bright colors thrown all over the GSX-R plastics just seem really tacky compared to the much cleaner look on something like the Ducati Superbike 848. The latest Kawasaki's are marvels of modern motorcycle technology but lime green? eww. That color is as tasteless as some of the Honda Civics with huge multi-color spoilers, unpainted body kits, and noise maker coffee can exhaust tips. And here is a picture of the 2013 CBR600RR: http://i.imgur.com/JVYz2.jpg I have no idea if that is some kind of 80's anniversary theme or not but who ever gave approval on that color scheme needs to be let go. I am a HUGE fan of of Japanese motorcycle technology but I would never spend new bike money on something that tacky looking. As someone in a science/engineering field I rarely say I am certain of anything and I am absolutely certain I could design a better looking bike than Suzuki or Honda. Their engineers are bringing it and their designers (if they have any) are asleep at the wheel.
Omen
You are wise beyond your years grasshopper. Back in the day, Triumphs, BSAs and Nortons were all naked, only we didn't call them that because we didn't have the contrast of fairings and other baggage. My love was a BSA Gold Star 500 that had 7 1/2 inches of clearance and would lay almost all the way over. On and off road it was a gas. Good to see that sensibility returning.
Dave Brumley
Loved the video, Loz. I love bikes, and I love people who love bikes and love telling others how much they love bikes and make great videos of why they love bikes. Your enthusiasm is truly infectious; the only cure is to go ridin'.
Hurtlegear
I'm not usually the type to become a fan, but I'm a Loz fan now. Old and badly behaved, you're my kinda guy. He's wearing a f!@#$n' cardigan.... That's gold.
Kwazai
are they ever going to get past the 'dawg humpin a football' look for a superbike? the latest bonnieville still eclectic? (T120RR.....)
Daishi
The review was great. After watching this I had to watch the Diavel and S100RR reviews.
Tom Phoghat Sobieski
"I mention these facts to demonstrate why you're not going to get a remotely objective review from me here" Then WHY even bother? Fluff pieces I can find anywhere
electric38
These noisy, carbon monoxide spewing dinasaurs are sad. When will the bike manufacturers get a clue? Where are the Electric bikes? Where are the solar PV charged quick change batteries? c'mon guys... No pollution, No supporting the oil companies, No deafening noise.
CaptD
To electric38 check out Electric Motorcycles: http://www.gizmag.com/zero-motorcycles-2013-model-lineup/24394/ The old Brit bikes were heavy and powerful, if you could get them running and they leaked oil, think early British sports cars. When the Japanese bikes appeared with much lighter weight, electric starters and a new generation of high tech aluminum castings which allowed the engine to REV, it was game over for the British Bikes... BMW was the only thing back in the day that stood out and that is because of their shaft drive and reliability that you could depend upon! Face it Honda and Yamaha knew how to market to the masses, something the British Motorcycle Dealers did not figure out until they were forced to adopt similar sales models...