Trick parts make Triumph a triple treat

PAUL OWEN
Last updated 14:06 05/06/2012
Triumph Speed Triple R.
Fairfax NZ

TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE R: Better5 and less expensive than the sum total of its parts might suggest.

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Triumph would have had to mess up royally to get the new Speed Triple R wrong. I mean look at the recipe: take the already tasty and newly upgraded Speed Triple streetbike, stir in liberal amounts of desirable eye-candy components from such iconic brands as Ohlins and Brembo, cook for 30 minutes, then sell at a price equivalent to that of a standard 1000cc Japanese sportsbike.

It was an absolute no-brainer that I was going to enjoy riding this bike, so why am I not smiling as I write this?

Because it's still raining, that's why. Thunderstorms and heavy showers have rained constantly on the Speed Triple R's parade while it has been in my hands. With its stiffer suspension, more authoritative brakes and Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tyres, the R is tailored more towards occasional track use than the standard Speed Triple. And it definitely helps if the sun is shining.

The chosen Pirellis have minimal grooving with which to wick away surface water, and they provide the confidence- enhancing grip they are famous for only when enough heat has permeated their carcasses. Stiff suspension is less forgiving than a softer setup when tyres start to slip, which the Pirellis are quite prone to do when there is not enough heat in the road to warm their bones. Patchy roads in the first signs of a North Island winter aren't really the R model's forte. The standard Speed Triple makes a far better fist of that, so spending another $2400 for the R is wasted.

So let's imagine a different test at the Jerez race circuit in sunny Spain, scene of the Speed Triple R's introduction to the international bike press. The Pirellis quickly reach their operating temperature, while the stiffer-sprung Ohlins forks and rear monoshock give the rider more of a feeling for the now-paranormal limits of their grip. With braking, the R's top-shelf Brembo monobloc front calipers haul up the 215kg bike like it's a calf caught in a rodeo rider's lariat. To a man and an occasional woman, the bike press corps leave the circuit that evening impressed.

And so they should be, given the extra value and dynamic edge of the Speed Triple R package. The Ohlins 43mm NIX30 cartridge front forks and TTX36 rear monoshock might be found in the middle of the elite Swedish suspension makers range, but just buying them in the aftermarket to fit to a standard Speed Triple would cost $4000 or more. Add another $2000 for what used to be Brembo's finest motorcycle brake calipers until the new stoppers of the Ducati Panigale came along, and maybe another $3000 for the lighter, stronger PVM forged alloy wheels of the R, and you have a total package worth about $7000 just in components for the private home-shed tinkerer.

Triumph then ices the deal by chucking in several carbon-fibre bits, and painting the rear subframe red. The alpha Triumph streetbike model offers such good value that I suspect some bargain-oriented big- store chain would be happy to sell it.

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While the R's stiffer suspension package and slick-like rubber place limitations on winter rides, the lighter wheels and stronger brakes can be enjoyed all year round. It's said that a kilogram removed from a motorcycle wheel is equivalent to eight removed from a less critical area of the bike, such are the dynamic benefits. The forged wheels contribute 1.7kg of the R's 2kg mass reduction over the standard Speed Trip, and their effect on the steering of the bike is immediately noticeable. Speed Triples have always had radical geometry to give their agility a razor-like edge, but the R changes direction like few other bikes. The immediacy of the response to steering input is absolutely breath-taking, to the point that those used to slower-steering rides might find it a little too nervous.

As for the better brakes, Triumph tuned them beautifully, and their eye-popping power to retard momentum arrives in a well-considered progression. With the stiffer front end providing more sensation of front tyre traction when braking, there will be some debate for skilled riders about whether to specify the $1000 ABS option for their Speed Triple R.

As for the rest of the R, that's just like the standard Speed Trip, which means carry-over 133bhp engine, upgraded gearbox, and more trustworthy and rewarding handling than previous models thanks to a comprehensive chassis upgrade. The extra finesse and bling of the more expensive model will be hard to pass up for those simply wanting the best Triumph streetbike that money can buy. For it definitely has the potential to be a better ride most of the time than the already excellent standard model.

Just not on cold, wet wintry days like these.

AT A GLANCE

Engine: 1050cc liquid-cooled DOHC 12-valve inline triple, stoked by electronic fuel injection to develop 99.3kW (133bhp) at 9400rpm and 111Nm at 7750rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed sequential gearbox, chain final drive.

Frame: Tubular alloy frame with alloy rear swing-arm, 43mm fully adjustable inverted front forks and fully adjustable rear monoshock.

Price: $22,990 (with optional ABS: $23,990).

Hot: Wears $7000 worth of high-value suspension, brakes and wheels for a $2400 premium over the standard Speed Triple; changes direction quicker than a hummingbird.

Not: Track-ready Pirelli Supercorsa radials prefer warm sunny days; improved gearbox still capable of a missed upshift; whistling idle can annoy.

- The Press

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