Is this the best looking Triumph motorcycle ever? We argue that might just be the case.
There are bikes that quicken the pulse at a glance by exuding power and performance, speed and aggression. But simply because your ticker might flicker at a sideways look, doesn’t mean what you are looking at is beautiful. Triumph appears to have taken the beauty approach with the new Speed Triple RR. It is beautiful. Don’t get us wrong, Triumph builds other stylistically interesting motorcycles but few could be called uniquely beautiful.
There is a reasonable explanation why what came before might not have been considered the best looking Triumph motorcycle ever. The iconic Triumphs, the classics of the Bonneville family, were styled more than 60 years ago. The new bikes are attractive but inherently derivative – their very success depends upon it. To trace a product with similar British heritage styling, consider the Mini. You can tweak and flow, stretch and lengthen but it is extraordinarily difficult to evolve a look that by its very definition is reliant on classic parameters — a Mini has to look like a Mini. A Bonneville needs to look like a Bonneville.
Heritage design is somewhat static regardless of how good it is. If the Bonneville family was to be completely and utterly redesigned, well, it wouldn’t really be the Bonneville family anymore would it? The styling changes that have occurred have almost always been lead by expectations —you can add liquid cooling, and traction control and ABS, but the result still needs to look like a Bonneville whether it’s bobber, a cafe racer or basic T100.
When Triumph expanded to cruisers, the resulting motorcycles had to look like the North American expectations of the cruiser. When the company went into the ADV segment, the bikes needed to look tall in the saddle, burly and tough: like the GS. Same goes for Triumph’s faired superbikes as Triumph again expanded into a market that had high expectations of what a bike was supposed to look like.
There are a few segments where Triumph has stood out in design. The new Rocket 3 is a good example. The bike lost the slightly bloated pseudo fringe characteristics of the first generation. And then there were the Triumph street fighters which were elemental, brutal machines — there was never meant to be anything pretty about them. The current Speed Triple RS certainly isn’t pretty. The gauges and headlights protrude like an inflamed proboscis. But that is “The Look” as the original street fighters were beat up superbikes with fairings removed and a set of upright bars bolted on —often as the result of some damage along the way. It was cheaper to go with the new rough look than spend a fortune on new bodywork; odds were it would be damaged again. The original Triumph Speed Triple was one of the first bikes that incorporated the hooligan look into a factory styling exercise. Not beautiful but effective for the message it was intended to convey. This is an urban assault vehicle: it’s nasty and fierce and does high, showboat wheelies though the deserted streets of mid-town— just as Triumph illustrates on it website to this day.
Thankfully, Triumph realized that with the new Speed Triple RR not everybody wants a tingle from visual aggression. The new RR is most certainly a looker and all it took was fixing that front end. Gone is the plastic nose replaced with a small, contoured fairing with several sculpted openings and a round headlight that’s simple in shape if not execution. But the good looks do not deter performance. The looks might be softer but the rest is not. The RR gets the 177hp 1160cc triple and the usual extensive suite of rider aids to keep the machine with its short wheel base partially tethered to the ground. There is a five-inch TFT display for the gauges and the suspension is electronically adjustable Ohlins.
While the new fairing is the most obvious improvement to the styling, Triumph followed through on the details that are so important. The rider side of the fairing sees a set of clip-ons, while the cables and hoses are hidden to keep the look uncluttered. Carbon fibre trim makes its way down the body to the colour matched seat cowl, belly pan, and the sculpted rear taillight.
But the best looking Triumph motorcycle ever does come at a price. The MSRP sticker is $23,250 in Canadian dollars.
Canadian Biker Issue #356