Engine Glitches Sideline Triumph's TT600
Just before lunch on the first day of back-road testing, our Triumph TT600 test bike began making ugly and expensive noises. The kind of engine noises that makes us and Triumph nervous. (For details see "Doin' Time.")
It's dangerous to pass judgment on a motorcycle without extensive testing, but because we were able to get a decent amount of commuting miles (and some back-road time) on our TT, we feel like we can blithely venture onto such soft and treacherous ground.
Initial impressions reveal that there's a considerable difference between the bikes Marc Cook rode at the world press launch last month (see our First Ride, July 2000) and our American-spec tester. Mainly, the differences center on the engine's low-speed behavior-not something we got much of a chance to sample on the racetrack or the rapid French-back-road flog. Stateside, though, the bike's throttle response below 4000 rpm, which we would categorize as the worst we've seen on a streetbike in a long while, made us wonder if we didn't get a bum test bike. So it was returned to Triumph's U.S. test-fleet coordinator, who pronounced it healthy before the breakdown.
From idle to 4000 rpm, the TT600 is wheezy and inconsistent, with a serious flat-spot between 3000 and 4000 rpm. It's singularly cold-blooded, too, a characteristic made worse by the lack of a fast-idle control-everything's automated by the injection computer. Once past the 4000-rpm threshold, the TT springs to life and hustles up through a decent but not class-leading midrange surge. Up top, between 10,000 rpm and the 14,000-rpm redline, the TT's massively oversquare engine puts out competitive power. (We'll know how competitive when we get the TT to a dyno.) Unfortunately, throttle-response is semiabrupt and not particularly well-sorted, making us wonder if the lack of fuel injection in 600s is not an oversight by the others.
Chassis-wise, the TT fares better. It's amazingly quick-turning, able to change directions minutely faster than even the best in the class (F4 and ZX-6R), with unquestionably the lowest effort. If you like power steering on your car, you'll love the TT. (Unfortunately, the bike broke before we moved to our ultratwisty test road.) You'd expect to give up stability for such maneuverability, but the TT remains solid at triple-digit speeds-though it was a touch more unsettled after quick-flick transitions than the stellar GSX-R and R6. We'll also praise the bike's four-piston front brakes for their huge power and good (but not great) feedback; even so, our test bike's discs were starting to smear a bit from the aggressive pads.
Maybe our early production TT600 is just an anomaly, a poor-running example of what is otherwise a fine sporting motorcycle. We'll see when we get the bike (or another one like it) back from Triumph. We want to love this bike and welcome Triumph into this diabolically difficult class. But we can't-at least not yet.