Flat-out on the famous Mountain section of the TT course on a typically blustery Isle of Man morning, I'm straining against the wind cascading over these big twin headlights. Triumph's new middleweight revs smoothly towards its 12,650-rpm limit on the uphill straight just past the Guthrie Memorial, with that distinctive three-pot howl just audible above the roar of the wind. Since this is one of Europe's few stretches of speed limit-free road, I'm a bit shocked to see just 107 mph on the speedometer; not exactly slow, but it felt quite a bit faster. This racier new version of Triumph's naked triple feels so quick, it's easy to forget you're on a softly tuned middleweight.
Upgraded suspension and brakes mean I'd taken the Waterworks and Gooseneck bends quicker than on the standard Street Triple. This bike uses the same 107 horsepower engine, so it's no faster in a straight line, but no worries. The Street Triple was Triumph's best selling model in '08, and the R-spec version adds firmer suspension and racier steering geometry, along with front brakes from the Daytona 675. The R-bike feels more aggressive at a standstill as well. The shorter fork and longer shock add up to a nose-down stance and slightly more angled-forward riding position. The R's rake and trail are 23.9 degrees and 3.6 inches, compared to 24.3 degrees and 3.8 inches for the standard model. At 31.7 inches the seat is nearly a quarter-inch higher than its predecessor, but the difference seems greater because the firmer shock compresses less. Straddling the R for the first time in front of the TT circuit grandstand, I get both feet flat on the ground easily enough, with the slightly raised handlebar within easy reach, but I'm tall. Short riders will find firm footing more elusive here than on the standard Triple.
Steering lock is limited on either version, but the Douglas traffic was light enough to minimize tight maneuvering on my lap of the famous old circuit. At 368 pounds, the R's dry weight figure matches that of the standard model. Typically crisp low-rev response helps make the R reassuringly rider-friendly around the slippery-looking Quarterbridge roundabout. Power delivery is wonderfully flexible by middleweight standards, allowing effortless acceleration around the occasional car heading towards Crosby. The engaging rev-happy three-cylinder character of the standard model survives, encouraging rapid progress through the sweet six-speed gearbox.
The R-model's handling advantage is clearest through the tricky bits; it's tauter and more aggressive through Laurel Bank and Glen Helen. Steeper steering geometry helped the bike carve through blind bends precisely, with enough precision and stability to change line without complaint. Spring rates are between the standard Street Triple and the Daytona 675, and Triumph's mechanics had softened both ends to cope with the Island's bumps. The result was spot-on: a firm, well-controlled feel without the harshness of many sportbikes. The softer standard Street Triple would have been marginally more comfortable on the bumpy Cronk-y-Voddy straight, but the R-bike still manages a fairly plush ride.
Dunlop's Sportmax Qualifier tires stick to the dodgy damp patches past Ginger Hall, making the most of the Triumph's generous cornering clearance. Holding the throttle wide open through landmarks such as The Verandah and Bungalow was magical, especially with orange corner signs still in place following the Manx Grand Prix. The Triumph's four-pot radial Nissin calipers bit the 308mm discs with all the controlled ferocity of the identical Daytona 675 set-up.
Those enhancements make the R roughly 10 percent more expensive than the standard Street Triple, and its taller seat and firmer suspension mean it's not quite as supremely rider-friendly. But for more demanding riders, the Street Triple R's extra attitude and chassis performance add an exciting new dimension to Triumph's middleweight contender. There's no better test of a sporty bike than a lap of the Isle of Man TT circuit. And though the '09 Street Triple R isn't the fastest bike I've ever ridden round the TT course, it's one of the most entertaining.
The tapered Magura handlebar looks similar to the 1050cc Speed Triple's, but is shaped lik
Plans for the sportier Street Triple began in May of '07. The development team considered