Road test: Triumph 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.