2012 Triumph Speed Triple R | Doin' Time

Photography by Ari Henning

WRIST: Ari Henning
MSRP (2012): $15,999
MILES: 3451
MPG: 40
MODS: Ventura luggage rack, a spattering of dust

I've wanted a Triumph Speed Triple for a long time. It's a unique, stylish, powerful, and ridiculously fun bike. But I'm a track-day junkie, and I didn't think the big naked would cut it compared to a proper sportbike (like all my previous long-termers). My opinion changed after attending the Speed Triple R press intro at the Jerez circuit last year. The new R-bike, with its lightweight forged wheels, Öhlins suspension, and Brembo brakes proved plenty capable of unraveling the Spanish MotoGP circuit. Not only would this bike satisfy my need to drag knee at the track, it would be comfortable enough to take on longer trips.

Longer rides, you say? Just a few days after taking possession of the Speed Triple R (with 1000 miles already on the clock), I set out on a 1500-mile tour of Central California. Officially, I was headed to Chico, CA for the introduction of Kawasaki's new ZX-6R, and while Kawi was kind enough to offer an airline ticket, I opted to ride instead. I let the Speed's sporty handling steer me toward the twistiest route I could plot, which meant mostly two-lane back roads. For the inevitable straight bits, I slipped an Omni-Cruise cruise control onto the throttle grip.

It's not polite to show up for one manufacturers event on another's bike, but nobody was calling me out after I told them that yes, I had indeed left LA that morning. Hard miles and long hours in the saddle stamped a few lasting impressions in my mind: As a touring rig the R works great, so long as you keep your speed below 80 mph. Above that, the Triumph's lack of wind protection strains your neck. But geez, that engine is wonderful. It's got loads of torque and a sound that makes you smile every time you twist the throttle.

Legroom proved less than ideal while wearing my Aerostich Roadcrafter suit, which has somewhat bulky knee armor. Even during the committed lean angles I experienced during that first ride at Jerez I never dragged a footpeg, so I'm confident I can get away with lower footpegs, either via adjustable rearsets or lowering plates, and not sacrifice any necessary cornering clearance.

I averaged 40 mpg during the trip, which meant I had the range to explore some pretty roundabout routes. One road through the Mendocino National Forest deteriorated to dirt, and remained that way for nearly 20 miles! Thankfully it was well graded, and the Triumph's upright riding position made me feel pretty confident on the loose surface.

The only modification I made to the bike for the trip was the addition of a Ventura Mistral 1 luggage system (www.ventura-mca.com; $479.00). The kit comes with the bag, pack rack and L-bracket mounts. It installed in 20 minutes thanks to its simple design, and turned the Speed into a proper pack mule. There's only one real drawback to the system, that it's pretty damn ugly! Oh well, it lets you haul lots of stuff, and you can't see it when you're in the saddle.

I only had one issue during the trip, and it was a real shocker: The turn signals fell off! I admit that I rode on some rough surfaces, but that shouldnt cause the Speeds signal stalks to snap. I called Triumph when I got back to the office and was told that one of its suppliers had sent out a bad batch of signals, and that any problem units will be replaced under warranty.

Back roads, racetracks, and even dirt--the Speed Triple R is proving to be a legitimate all-rounder, just as I'd hoped.

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