2011 Triumph Sprint GT | First Ride

What James Bond would ride

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Graeme Brown, Tim Keeton

Triumph has built its share of outrageous motorcycles-the "Nuclear Red" Speed Triple jumps to mind, as does the Rocket III in any color. The Sprint GT is not one of those bikes. This heavily revised Grand Touring version of the old Sprint ST is more like James Bond's Aston Martin-a sophisticated machine that conceals its potent performance behind a cloak of reserved elegance.

The Sprint is an important model for Triumph, with more than 48,000 examples sold since its 1993 debut. The company polled current Sprint owners and found that most valued practicality above all else, so the Sprint GT was created with a greater emphasis on utility and touring performance. Though it looks similar to the old ST, the GT is new from the fuel tank back, and significantly revised everywhere else. The result is a bike that retains the sporting aptitude of the ST, with better passenger accommodations, increased carrying capacity and improved performance all around.

A conventional side-mount muffler replaces the ST's underseat exhaust, making room for a longer, lower subframe to improve passenger comfort and restore underseat storage capacity. This new subframe carries standard-equipment saddlebags, now expanded from 22 to 31 liters and big enough to hold even the largest helmet. The cast-aluminum rack is also standard, and pre-wired to accept an optional 55-liter top box that features a built-in 12-volt power socket to charge gadgets on the fly.

We had ample opportunity to assess the Sprint GT's newfound comfort and perform-ance during a four-day, 900-mile ride across Scotland and England, ending at the Triumph factory in Hinckley. Day one began in the village of Inveraray on Loch Fyne, and climbed to the Scottish Highlands. Fast, wide-open sweepers through the rock gardens surrounding Glencoe revealed a stronger version of Triumph's signature, turbine-like 1050cc triple. The new exhaust system and revised ECU settings produce an increase in max torque to 80 lb.-ft., now arriving 1200 rpm sooner. This more relaxing, midrange-biased power delivery is better suited for sport-touring, yet still retains enough of a high-rpm rush to reward occasional visits to redline.

We noted the suspension improvements when the road tightened up on the climb to Kinlochleven. The old, right-side-up cartridge fork remains, but damping rates have been increased to effectively eliminate the previous version's excessive dive under braking. The single-sided swingarm is 3.1 inches longer to increase stability under a heavy load, and a firmer shock now offers 30 clicks of remote preload adjustment to easily accommodate solo or two-up rides. The suspension isn't especially sophisticated, but calibration is spot-on; plush enough for pleasant touring but responsive enough for sensible, high-speed sport riding, too.

The braking system-another weak link on the ST-has likewise been addressed. ABS is standard, and provided added peace of mind in Scotland's frequently wet conditions. Re-calibrated software sets the threshold of activation acceptably high, and we never felt the ABS intrude when we didn't expect-or want-it. A new pad composition delivers a claimed 10 percent increase in braking power, though performance remains only adequate; we'd appreciate more stopping strength for easier one-finger braking. The lack of radial-mount brakes is one cost-cutting decision that costs performance on this 600-plus-pound machine.

After overnighting on the Isle of Skye, day two dawned dark and stormy. The GT's new, bigger fairing provided exceptional weather protection, pushing wind and rain smoothly over the rider's shoulders without buffeting. A new reflector headlight replaces the previous projector-beam unit, and casts a brighter, broader beam that better cut through the thick fog rolling in from the Sea of the Hebrides. New mirror mounts provided a clearer rearward view, and the gauge package is very thorough-though we'd appreciate a bar-mounted switch to toggle between the digital trip computer's eight functions without having to take one hand off the bar.

On day three we reluctantly left the Highlands and traced Scotland's Borders Historic Tourist Route south from Edinburgh back into England. This route served up a mix of interstate-like M roads and winding country lanes in the sprawling, 683-square-mile Yorkshire Dales National Park. With a new, taller sixth gear ratio, the Sprint GT consistently delivered upwards of 50 mpg according to its digital readout. Generous legroom and a reshaped, firmer saddle make it possible to drain the voluminous, 5.3-gallon tank in a single, 200-plus-mile sitting.

With the disappearance of Ducati's STs and the increasing popularity of bigger, bulkier sport-tourers like the BMW K1300GT, Kawasaki Concours14 and Yamaha FJR1300, the Sprint GT is essentially in a class of one. It's slimmer, sleeker and sportier than any of the above, yet still capable of knocking out an Iron Butt if the mood strikes. And there's no denying that it's an incredible value. At just $13,199 including ABS, hard bags, a centerstand and other usually optional equipment that would add thousands to already-more-expensive bikes, Triumph's Sprint GT is Bond's bike at a bricklayer's price.

tech
SPEC
Evolution
Triumph's Sprint ST sport-tourer, reconfigured to increase practicality, passenger comfort and performance, and rechristened the Sprint GT.

Rivals
BMW K1300GT, Honda VFR1200F, Kawasaki Concours14 and Yamaha FJR1300.

TECH
Price $13,199
Engine type l-c inline-triple
Valve train DOHC, 12v
Displacement 1050cc
Bore x stroke 79.0 x 71.4mm
Compression 12.0:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower 128.7 bhp @ 9200 rpm
Claimed torque 80 lb.-ft. @ 6300 rpm
Frame Aluminum twin-spar with single-sided swingarm
Front suspension 43mm Showa fork
Rear suspension Showa shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Nissin four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Nissin two-piston caliper, 255mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-021
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-021
Rake/trail 23.5°/3.3 in.
Seat height 32.1 in.
Wheelbase 60.5 in.
Fuel capacity 5.3 gal.
Claimed dry weight 558 lbs.
Color Pacific Blue, Aluminum Silver
Available September
Warranty 2 yrs., unlimited mi.

Contact
Triumph Motorcycles America
385 Walt Sanders Memorial Dr. #100
Newnan, GA 30265
678.854.2010
www.triumphmotorcycles.com

Verdict 3.5 stars out of 5
The GT retains the sporting prowess of the Sprint ST while improving its touring ability, all at a value price.

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armarra
Great review, but radial brakes were actually invented to stop the steering shakes because of upside down forks. placing the callipers at another point around the disc like radial ones, does not improve braking performance. The usd forks are heavier and not used on the GT to keep weight down. The spongyness of the front brake lever was reduced to give more feel, even though this brings the takeup point further away from the grips.

For an Aston martin style bike, it would have been nice if it was available in ...well Aston Green as was the 2004 sprint.
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