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Triumph Speed Triple (2011) Motorcycle Review

The Speed Triple may have been best known for its signature double round headlights, but under that hooligan facade lay one of the most balanced motorcycles ever made. In the name of progress, there’s now a new Speed Triple. The round headlights are gone, but the “balance” was sacred.  

“Don’t screw it up.” Apparently these were the words of wisdom Triumph’s sole owner John Bloor left his development team as he gave the boys the go-ahead on the new Speed Triple project, some three years ago. All agreed the model had to evolve, but Bloor knew there was a fine balance that made the Speed Triple a success, and how much work it took to achieve. Through its last couple of evolutions, the bike has attained an amazing level of refinement and blessed its owners with a unique mix of fun, comfort and competence. The formula was actually so pleasant and made the bike such a nice ride it was often referred to (I know I did) as one of the best motorcycles on the market, period. The Speed Triple didn’t need a lot of fixin’. 

What Triumph has introduced for 2011 is quite a particular new model that doesn’t strive to break records or achieve some extraordinary new level of performance. Although the 2011 version is very close to being an all-new bike, it clearly sticks to the formula. In other words, the Speed Triple is still the Speed Triple. 

Model year 2011 marks a technical milestone for the Speed Triple because it has been developed independently rather than as the derivation of another model. For the first time, the Speed has its own unique frame, which has allowed Triumph engineers to dial in exactly the desired steering geometry, which is all-new, engine positioning, which is now moved forward, along with various other crucial specs. While fully fueled weight is down by three to 214 kg, it is noteworthy that each wheel lost a full kilo. ABS is also offered for 2011, a first for the Speed Triple. Base model pricing is $13,495 (ABS $14,295). 

The first impression you get of the new Speed Triple is that it feels like, well, the previous version. While that may amount to a lack of progress for many other models, such isn’t the case for the Speed. 

Remember that delicate and hard-to-get balance the development team was asked not to screw up? Well, it’s intact. Which is great news because balance is what made the Speed Triple. It’s defined by three aspects: riding position, engine character and handling. 

The new riding position is very similar to the previous version’s, yet it’s not quite the same as you feel closer to the bars and in a slightly more compact, but not cramped, environment. 

What I found particularly pleasing about the stance was how it felt great both on the street—where it seems simultaneously natural, relaxed and sporty—and on the track, where it doesn’t intrude too much with the business of pushing a bike around a circuit. 

While Triumph claims an eight per cent increase in torque at 82 ft/lbs. and a five horsepower gain at 133 hp, the engine is essentially carried over from the 2010 model. 

The improvement in performance isn’t stellar and, frankly, at times hard to feel without a direct comparison to the old model. Here again, however, it takes only the smallest amount of seat time to realize how pleasant these particular amounts of power and torque are. Personally, I certainly wouldn’t say no to the added fun something like another 200cc can bring, but I also know this wish amounts to gluttony. I would never trade any sort of handling quality coming from added weight for that performance improvement. 

As it is, the Speed Triple’s sweet sounding inline-triple is a torquey plant and undoubtedly remains one of the very best mills in motorcycling. 

There may not be a more crucial aspect to the balance of a model like the Speed Triple than handling, and it is also where the new version feels most improved. Making a naked handle brilliantly isn’t a hard thing for manufacturers who produce pure sportbikes. Just strip a model of its fairing and voilà. Thing is, you’ll still feel like you’re on a race bike, not a street bike. Making a street bike keep its balance and feel while making it handle like a race bike is a far more difficult and rarely achieved feat, but the new Speed Triple does just that. 

It made the transition from street to track in an absolutely effortless and transparent manner, which means it went from being one of the finest and most fun street rides money can buy to comfortably cutting fast lap times without a single mod. 

Mr. Bloor, your boys did good.

SIDEBAR – Putting the R in 675

Better, in 600 Supersport terminology, has traditionally been a matter of less weight and more horsepower. But that was not the way Triumph went about making the new-for-2011 Daytona 675R a better 675.  Amazingly narrow and powered by a torquey 675cc, 124-horsepower triple, the new R comes at a significant $2,000 premium over the standard Daytona 675 ($11,999), which makes it the most expensive model of its class. Connoisseurs may well appreciate what the extra money buys. Actually, its Öhlins suspension alone likely costs more. 

We’re not talking rebadged stock stuff here either, this is the real deal: a NIX30 race fork and TTX36 rear shock, a class-first and decided rarity for any sportbike, whatever the price. 

The goodies list doesn’t stop here as the R-bike also uses super-powerful Brembo Monobloc radial-mount calipers and benefits from an electronic quickshifter for clutchless upshifts. Special graphics, unique white paint and a sprinkling of carbon-fibre parts finish off what is both a classy and exotic package. 

All things considered, the Brembo calipers may be the least beneficial of the upgrades. Obviously there’s a certain prestige in mounting a brand name component, but the stopping power of the Brembo package, though immense, doesn’t seem that much superior to the excellent stock setup. In fact, under intense braking during track sessions at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in Desert Center, California, some test models occasionally felt as though they had a warped front disc.

But a day spent riding the 675R in that track environment revealed a package that is genuinely sweet. Power delivery from the fantastic-sounding triple is unchanged, which means the 675R offers torque that is out of this class—literally—and a fun, solid rush to redline. 

The quickshifter needs a little bit of getting used to, but once that’s done, its efficiency and value around a track are undeniable. It’s one of those things you don’t feel the need for until you actually try it.

The 675 always demonstrated excellent handling, but the Öhlins-equipped R is a superior machine. At speed, it effortlessly hit every mark I aimed for, feeling as though it was on rails through turns and remaining absolutely stable and sure-footed under full throttle at corner exits. 

In a segment of the motorcycle world often dominated by ultra-peaky 600cc Japanese fours, the Daytona is indeed a very different “600.

by Bertrand Gahel, Canadian Biker #273


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