Triumph takes it to the Street
It feels like Groundhog Day. Just a month ago, I test-rode the outgoing Triumph Street Triple R, and now the latest 2013 version is currently cooling down in the Owen garage after a ripping good ride.
|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 fully-adjustable inverted front forks with 120mm of travel, fully adjustable rear monoshock with 130mm of travel|
|Price: $17,990 (as tested: $18,290)|
|Hot: Evolutionary changes arrive for the Street Triple R just in time for it to deflect the challenge of the revolutionary Brutale 675.|
|Not: Accessory crash-savers ($300) block the view of the new frame's paint, ugly numberplate and rear indicator architecture hurts the eyes.|
Click photo for more views of the Triumph Street Triple R.
There's quite a number of changes between the two bikes, primarily a new engine exhaust and engine management, new bodywork and paint, and a sharper-steering, more rigid-yet- lighter frame. Yet the riding experience remains the same in essence. So if you managed to cut a deal on the outgoing 2012 version, don't worry, be happy. The identically-priced 2013 only offers incremental improvements in powertrain refinement and steering quality, and I'd happily trade them for the opportunity to add a grand or more to the running cost budget after a little haggling on the deal for a 2012 model.
However, those who paid the full $17,990 price of the outgoing Street Triple R have definitely sold themselves short. You were warned that the incoming version was likely to occupy a "tantalising" position in the market given the current purchasing power of the kiwi dollar on the world stage, and that's exactly the way things have turned out.
With no change in the recommended retail, buyers of the smallest-displacement Triumph triple essentially get the incremental improvements of the 2013 Street Trip-R for free.
What was already arguably the world's finest middleweight streetbike has definitely got even better; so much so that the model is more than ready to tackle the new challenge to its market turf posed by the more sophisticated and sexier-looking new MV Agusta Brutale 675. With just a $310 price difference between these two new three-cylinder streetbikes of equal engine capacity, the marketing battle between them is perhaps the biggest fight between England and Italy since the two nations last faced each other in the football World Cup.
Italy won that 1990 match on the sportsfield, 2-1, but they did have a homeground advantage as hosts of the tournament. Out here, this is Triumph country. We buy more of the new British bikes per head of population than any other market, and have done so for the past 20 years. It is the MV Agusta that is therefore the intruder, and the bike with the most to prove.
The Italian bike therefore comes stocked to the gills with new features - MotoGP-inspired contra-rotating crankshaft, outrageously oversquare bore and stroke architecture, and the ride- by-wire throttle that allows it to have traction control, rain modes, and other digital goodies. By contrast, the Triumph is refreshingly analogue (although there is a large blanked-off control on the left switchblock that suggests that it won't remain so for long).
The Street Triple R's traction control consists of Pirelli's finest road tyres, and the clarity of the feedback that the new frame and revised suspension deliver from the bike's interaction with the road surface.
It's an insanely easy bike to ride at a clip over a bumpy backroad as it plugs your nerve endings directly into every aspect of its performance. So long as that road surface remains dry, any rider of 2013 Street Triple R won't wish for the electronic riding aids of the MV, and will revel in the Brit-bike's extra suspension compliance and the slipper-clutch effects that the new engine Electronic Control Unit (ECU) adds when downshifting for a hairpin bend.
That ECU also improves the refinement of the engine at lower speeds, and unlike the MV, the Triumph is happy just to bumble along quietly if that's what the rider orders. There's none of the delayed response that a ride-by- wire throttle often exhibits as the electronics make up their mind on what the rider actually wants. All you get with the Triumph is smooth, strong, linear thrust at all engine speeds once the needle of the good ol' carryover analogue rev counter has gone past 5500rpm. Below that rev point, the Triumph's engine is meek and mild, but is still as happy as a lamb to burble along where the more highly-strung MV's is having a few issues.
The new frame steepens the steering geometry of the most flickable Triumph in the showroom to the point that the bike carves almost as well as the incredible MV. With the new low- mounted exhaust centralising the bike's mass more, it feels like the Street Triple R's centre of gravity is now right between the rider's shins, reducing the pitching and squatting effects of acceleration and braking, and adding leverage to any input through the rider's feet to the steering of the bike.
In a riding-it-every-day context, the new Street Triple R heads off the challenge. It's a bike more capable of catering to every human mood, and while it might not be as focused on outright performance, it offers a wider repertoire of talents.