Triumph Speed Triple R | First Ride

Brute Force, Refined

By : Ari Henning, Photography by Paul Barshon

Glancing over the itinerary for the Triumph Speed Triple R press intro, I was surprised to see no mention of a street ride. Rather, we’d be riding the bike at the Circuito de Jerez, the fastest and most famous of Spanish racetracks. The 1050cc naked bike is the boss of the backroads and Andalusia is rife with worthy two-lane, so why wouldn’t Triumph unleash us in the most complimentary environment possible? The Speed Triple is a capable sportbike, but Jerez is no street course.

Triumph clearly had a lot of confidence in the new R-bike, and after reading the specs sheet I was beginning to be swayed as well. The bike uses the same top-shelf Öhlins NIX30 fork and TTX36 shock as the Daytona 675R in order to quell body pitch and provide more effective, fine-tunable adjustments. Compared to the base-model’s Showa components the fork springs are stiffer while the shock spring is softer, and the damping rates have been completely revised using data gathered during joint Triumph/Öhlins track testing sessions. Brakes are still from Brembo, but one-piece Monobloc units are used in place of the previous two-piece calipers. Tires are now Pirelli’s superb Supercorsa SPs instead of Metzelers.

The Speed’s 2010 overhaul found the bike rolling on lighter wheels, but Triumph had reached the limits of casting technology with those hoops. So when the engineers wanted even lighter wheels for the R-bike, they turned to forging. Made by PVM in Germany, the new wheels account for 3.7 lbs. of the R’s claimed 5-lb. weight reduction and look devilishly good with their new swirled spokes and red rim strips. Other styling changes include a black handlebar, carbon-fiber tank cover, radiator covers and front fender sides plus a red subframe. Besides the aesthetic stuff, everything Triumph changed on the R was aimed at improving handling. And it’s a big improvement!

Fresh off a feature test with the 2011 Speed Triple (“Tough Love,” MC, January), I was familiar with the Triumph’s only real deficiencies: a top-heavy feel and hesitancy to change direction at speed. With less rotating weight and better suspension at both ends, the big brute feels surprisingly light on its feet. The suspension sits higher in the stroke and helps hasten direction changes, but it also serves to keep the footpegs off the deck at all but the most extreme lean angles. We didn’t use Jerez’s Formula 1 chicane, but the Turns 2/3 and 6/7 transitions revealed just how much less muscle was required to get the bike redirected.

Jerez’s wide, sweeping corners and mesmerizing blue-and-white curbing can cause the unfamiliar to feel lost. Thankfully the Triumph is keen to change course, even at full lean. The bike’s accessible power, lighter handling and rock-solid stability made the R surprisingly easy to ride. Barreling down the back straight at upwards of 150 mph, the tiny dash does nothing to deflect the windblast, but that just adds to the excitement. Shedding 100 mph for the Curva Dry Sac is drama-free and accomplished with just two fingers on the lever. The NIX30 fork keeps the front supported so you can brake harder without the rear tire lifting and coming around. U.S.-spec bikes will only be offered with ABS, which can be disabled for track use by removing a fuse, as was done on the bikes we rode.

The 1050cc triple is one of the best engines out there, but Triumph is still tweaking it. The transmission has been updated with a new shift drum, shafts and five-dog cogs for greater “opportunity of engagement.” The bike clicked into the upper gears smoothly, but moving from second to third was difficult under hard acceleration. The bikes we flogged were barely broken-in so movement may improve with mileage, but I don’t recall having any issues with the previous gearbox. We would have rather seen the old tranny maintained and a quick-shifter installed, as on the Daytona 675R. Another problem we encountered was hard starting when the bike was hot, but that only occurred after especially intense track sessions.

The Öhlins suspension is fully adjustable—with greater effect per click or turn than the standard bike’s components—but I never felt the need to touch the clickers. At the end of the day, nothing had held me back except me. The R was up for everything I wanted to do, and the stable chassis and sticky Pirellis encouraged later braking, more cornering speed and even faster throttle application at corner exits. By the end of the intro the track surface was streaked with black, while a massive stack of spent Supercorsas had accumulated outside the garages. I’d had my reservations about Triumph introducing the Speed Triple R at the racetrack, but I can’t think of a better place to have ridden it!

By : Ari Henning
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