2006 Triumph Daytona 675

With more cubes and just three cylinders, Triumph's latest middleweight sportbike heads in an entirely new direction

Photography by Kyoichi Nakamura

Current sportbike design is a vast, sterile wasteland devoid of original ideas, as me-too-alike as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Don't believe it? Just look at the specifications. Middleweights, 750s and literbikes all follow the same formula until their engines and chassis are virtually indistinguishable and all but interchangeable.

Triumph, though, seems poised to change completely this stasis of design, and in the bargain alter how we perceive what we really want let alone need from a sportbike. In fact, Triumph plans to reinvent the sportbike class with the debut of its all-new Daytona 675 triple.

And after comparing a black-painted pre-production prototype Triumph with a 2005 Honda CBR600RR and Kawasaki ZX-6R brought along for direct benchmarking, it's

difficult not to conclude the Daytona will do all of that. The bike's that good--and so completely different from anything that's gone before. All it took was a little bit of original thought.

Triumph has just a single word to sum up its new genre-smashing middleweight. "When we started the Daytona 675 project back in 2002, there was one thing we were aiming for it to be incomparable," says Product Development honcho Ross Clifford. "We were developing a new middleweight sports motorcycle specifically intended to be unlike any other, hence the 675cc capacity. We wanted a motorcycle that could stand right out in terms of performance and character compared to anything else in the middleweight sportbike segment, not something that just slotted into a row alongside everything else.

"But we also wanted to get away from developing a new model and finding that, by the time we launch it, someone else has produced a comparable bike that's half a horsepower more powerful and a third of a kilo lighter, so it's immediately perceived as being second-best before anyone's even ridden it. We wanted the new bike to stand or fall on its own merits, as a satisfying motorcycle to own and ride, without recourse to what others were doing along similar lines.

"In fact, the Daytona 675 is the epitome of everything Triumph stands for; when we do something, we're going to do it in a distinctly Triumph way."

Having been set such a daunting task, Triumph's engineers sat down to develop a bike that is by any standards ultra-narrow, compact and light, powered by an all-new liquid-cooled dohc 12-valve 675cc inline-three-cylinder engine with evenly spaced 120-degree crank throws and a single gear-driven balancer in front of the crank.

Astonishingly, the engine is a massive 1.85 inches narrower, 0.8 inch shorter and 0.6 inch shallower than the current 650 Daytona four, yet boasts 25cc more displacement. Bore and stroke is a not excessively oversquare 74.0mm by 52.3mm.

The valve gear features offset chain cam drive and a shallow, 23-degree included valve angle aimed at creating a very flat CNC-machined combustion chamber with a 12.65:1 compression ratio. Valve sizes are 35.5mm intakes and 30.5mm exhausts, each with a single spring. Each forged three-ring ultra-slipper piston's upper ring is treated with a friction-minimizing material called DLC (Diamond Like Carbon, which Suzuki uses on GSX-R1000 fork sliders). Developed in Formula 1 car racing, the coating is said to minimize ring flutter at high revs. Carburized steel connecting rods (titanium was considered, but rejected as unnecessary) have caps that bolt directly to the lower halves, thus doing away with nuts to save further weight.

Triumph says its fresh-think triple pumps out an impressive 123 bhp at the crank at 12,500 rpm 5 bhp more than a Kawasaki ZX-6R measured on the same dyno. Even more important to rideability, the Daytona 675 delivers a strong 53 pound-feet of torque at 11,750 rpm. "We wanted that strong, linear, lowdown grunt that's one of the key traits of our bigger triples," Clifford says, "and also the distinctive sound and feel you get from a three-cylinder engine, that are probably made even better by the intake and exhaust strategies we adopted on the 675. It really has a bark when it picks up revs."

In further pursuit of a compact build, for the first time on a sporting Triumph engine the close-ratio six-speed gearbox has a stacked layout, Yamaha R1/R6-style, which allows a longer swingarm aimed at increasing traction. There's also a combined internal oil and water pump, obviating an external pump with its visibly messy pipes and hoses, for a cleaner appearance.

And though not part of the original design brief, Clifford says he told the engineers he was hoping for a 675cc four-stroke triple that felt like a 250 V-twin two-stroke to sit on. He can't honestly have dreamed that's exactly what they'd come up with, but they genuinely have, as you realize the first moment you sit on the bike. Triumph's 675 makes Honda's CBR600RR seem much heftier, and positively porky when viewed side by side with the triple. Indeed, the new British slimline special appears narrower from behind than a V-twin Ducati 749. It's definitely shorter, with a 54.8-inch wheelbase coupled to quick-steering front-end geometry with a 23.5-degree head angle and just 3.4 inches of trail.

The Six-Seven-Five's architecture is so improbable even by relatively skinny 600 standards that it took me some minutes to adjust to what I was riding. Instead of the broad spread across the front of the seat and rear of the tank that most 600s now have in the wake of getting progressively shorter to quicken handling, the Triumph is narrow and slim, allowing your legs to hug the flanks of the 4.6-gallon gas tank. The tank's front is in fact an airbox housing the Keihin closed-loop fuel-injection's 44mm single-injector throttle bodies; a central air duct running straight through the steering head feeds the airbox.

Just as they have with the mechanicals, Triumph's designers have done a great job of packaging the rider. Although the 675 seems so minuscule (and makes the ZX-6R feel like a 750), there's lots of room for a 6-footer like me, and I never felt cramped during my afternoon aboard it despite the handlebars being fairly well dropped and tucked-in. What's more, you feel a part of the Triumph rather than perched on top, as is often the case with smaller bikes. Still, the prototype's saddle sloped too far forward, so I often ended up sitting too close to the fuel tank.

Apart from that minor shortcoming, the remainder of the Daytona 675's ergos are welcoming. The screen is low and flat, and offers adequate if not exceptional wind protection, while the small dash is broadly similar to the one on the current Speed Triple. The instrument panel comes complete with an adjustable shift light as well as a gear-position indicator, 99-lap timer, maximum speed and average speed readouts and more. Lots to keep you occupied between track-day sessions.

Fire it up and get ready for a virtuoso performance from that musical three-cylinder, which pulls hard from as low as 2000 rpm yet has the lusty appetite for revs you'd expect from a short-stroke Supersport contender. The Triumph has hefty midrange grunt by any stand- ards the torque curve is nearly horizontal, with 44.2 pound-feet allegedly on call at just 4000 rpm and especially those of a middleweight sportbike, as 50-mph top-gear roll-ons against the Honda and Kawasaki decisively proved.

Indeed, aside from a harsh flat spot in the fuel-injection mapping around 3000-3500 rpm, the 675 triple's power increases in a completely linear fashion until the digital tach hits the 10,000-rpm mark, whereupon it then totally targets top-end performance, hurtling toward the 14,000-rpm rev limiter. But that's not all: There's an extra treat in store from 12,300 rpm, when the Daytona goes mental with another decisive kick in the power delivery.

Such dominant performance is all the more impressive considering the Triumph's 3-into-1 catalyst exhaust, ending in that distinctive triple-pipe underseat silencer, is fully Euro 3-compliant. Those strict new norms significantly impact midrange power on certain other motorcycles one reason why several twin-cylinder manufacturers are currently working on bigger-displacement engines. For Triumph to deliver such torquey power delivery while meeting Euro 3 norms is an impressive piece of R&D.

I better not reveal exactly what top speeds I saw indicated on Her Majesty's highways, but let's just say the Triumph is apparently geared to top out somewhere beyond 160 mph, and feels ultra-stable 'round fast sweepers taken hard in top gear. Plus, in spite of its short wheelbase and rather radical steering geometry, the way the Kayaba suspension handled bumps taken cranked over at speed was remarkable; a steering damper is fitted as standard beneath the lower triple clamp. And the skinny Triumph has great cornering clearance. In spite of some enthusiastic charging through the wiggly Warwickshire countryside, I couldn't persuade the 675 to deck either side, not even the flick-out sidestand on the left. There won't be many bikes faster than the Daytona 675 along a winding country road, but there'll be a surprising number outpaced in shorter snatches by the British sportbike's incomparable acceleration and overall chassis performance.

A key element of that performance is superb handling courtesy of the 675's open-backed cast-aluminum twin-spar frame that extends up and over the engine, rather than around it. The new frame is 5.5 pounds (22 percent) lighter than the 650 Daytona's chassis and a massive 4.3 inches (21 percent) narrower. Although it felt tiny, the 675 was not only light and easy to chuck around, but very assured and predictable. The braced hollow-section swingarm, consisting of two cast-aluminum halves welded together in the center, skillfully laid all the triple's torque down via the fully adjustable piggyback Kayaba shock, which can also be altered for ride height. The swingarm pivot is now adjustable too, for the first time on any Triumph. There's also a substantial weight savings with the new five-spoke cast-alloy wheels; the front is 1.5 pounds lighter than the three-spoke 650 Daytona's wheel, with a corresponding 3.7-pound reduction at the rear.

Two things I reckon still need a bit more work are the brakes and clutch. I'd rate the brakes merely adequate, even though Triumph has fitted radial calipers and a radial master cylinder. And the clutch's engagement point needs tweaking; actual clutch operation is very light, but it's not always easy to judge the degree of slip when dialing up a fast getaway. Those are minor shortcomings, though, ones likely to be solved prior to production, and which don't impinge on the bike's significance.

Because, after a close first look at the Daytona 675, it's exceedingly difficult not to conclude that Triumph has turned a new page in sportbike development by combining the best of two worlds in a single package that shows plenty of original thought. By blending the grunty low-end of a twin with the more eager appetite for revs--and compact build--of a triple, the British manufacturer has created a super-middleweight of sorts; one with more performance than current 600 supersports and the lean build of a V-twin. Such a combination could easily become a firm favorite among discerning riders for whom horsepower numbers and quarter-mile stats are much less important than fun factor.

It might also play a key part in shaping the future of sporting streetbikes, because it addresses their increasing implausibility in real-world road use. Existing middleweights have become excessively peaky, while ever-rising insurance and other costs call into question the current breed of 160-plus-bhp and 180-plus-mph literbikes.Reconfiguring sportbike design in its entirety, though, is an exceedingly tall order. Whether Triumph's Daytona 675 is truly up to the task remains to be seen. MC

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