A new Triumph Street Triple R is on the water, and the bike you see on this page is the one that will be replaced by it.
Normally I wouldn't bother to review a bike that's about to be consigned from current model status to the pages of history, but the 675cc triple-powered Street R is such a personal favourite that I just couldn't say "no" when the opportunity to retest it arose.
Besides, a little accessorising has helped this particular Street Triple R keep pace with current motorcycle design trends. Biggest change from this model to the next is the replacement of the 2012 version's twin undertail exhaust mufflers with a single muffler located beneath the engine, a feat also achieved by fitting the optional Arrow exhaust system from the factory-approved accessory catalogue to this test ride.
The change in plumbing gives this review a more relevant context: should you wait for the coming new Street Triple R or simply grind down your chosen Triumph dealer on the price of old showroom stock and use the savings to buy the $2500 Arrow exhaust system to effectively create your own 2013 version?
The definitive answer to that question will be determined by the eventual pricing of the 2013 Street Triple R, and given the current status of the soaring value of the kiwi dollar versus the wilting pound, the incoming model is quite likely to occupy a tantalising position in the market. However, summer is never endless, to paraphrase the title that Bruce Brown gave to the classic surfing movie that he made before moving on to motorcycles and On Any Sunday. So if you don't want to miss riding a Street Triple R during what is likely to be the best weather of the new year, head on down to the dealership and be prepared to haggle harder than a camel buyer in a North African market.
The starting point in these negotiations will be the $17,990 price tag of the 2012 model. If you don't want the sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tyres of the R, or the brick-wall effects of its upgraded brakes, or the more upmarket fully-adjustable suspension that also tips more weight on to the front wheel for quicker steering, you can quickly save $2000 by negotiating for the $15,990 base Street Triple instead. Either bike is susceptible to being given a healthy discount when using the bargaining leverage of the imminent arrival of the 2013 models. Either will also prove to be a highly satisfying ride.
For both possess what I consider to be Triumph's best engine. So good is the smallest inline-triple in the Hinckley factory's portfolio that Triumph has left it virtually unchanged on the incoming 2013 model.
The only tweak according to the Hinckley press office is a revision to the fuel-injection system that leans out the fuelling at low revs and light loads, and adds a little throttle on the overrun to reduce engine braking and create the effects of a slipper clutch without having to invest in the hardware itself.
The rest of the fab motor they've left untouched, including its ultra-light mass, the long piston strokes that give it more mid-range grunt than is credible for just 675cc, and its cam-chain whine thankfuly reduced below that of larger Triumph triples. With the Arrow system fitted, it is no longer audible, and all you hear is a bellicose bellow that's normally associated with a certain German rear-engine sportscar when tugging the throttle open. Snap it shut, and there's the popping and banging of a high- performance race engine.
Street Triples are generally just as quick to accrue speed as their 1050cc Speed Triple brethren thanks to their reduced mass. At just 189kg fully fuelled, and equipped with the leverage of wide handlebars and a longer shock than the base model which raises the rear and sharpens the geometry of the front end, the Street R is also one of the most flickable streetbikes on the market at present.
Which is fine for 2012, but won't be so segment-leading in 2013 with a new MV Agusta Brutale 675 setting a new standard for steering precision thanks to its backwards-rotating crankshaft. Hence the coming 2013 Street R sports a new frame and swingarm that reduces the wheelbase and chucks more weight on to the front tyre for even sharper steering.
The latter is the one attribute that you should wait for if seeking a British streetbike that will also do track-day duty. The rest of the market will find that the soon-to-be-replaced 2012 model steers and rides just fine.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 675cc liquid-cooled dohc 12-valve fuel-injected inline triple, 78kW (105bhp) at 11,700rpm and 68Nm at 9200rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed sequential gearbox, chain final drive.
Frame: Tubular alloy twin-spar frame with alloy rear swingarm, 41mm inverted front forks with 120mm of travel, fully adjustable rear monoshock with 130mm of travel.
Price: $17,990 (but don't pay this).
Hot: Set new dynamic standards for middleweight streetbikes when it first arrived five years ago that still have relevance today; cut your own deal using leverage of replacement model.
Not: Underseat exhaust systems are so 1990s; due to be replaced any time soon; lacks the reduced engine braking and sharper steering of incoming version.
- © Fairfax NZ News