2005 Triumph Daytona 650

More cubes equal more real-road fun for Hinckley's sporting middleweight

It seems strict adherence to displacement in the 600 class has become a touch pass of late. In 2003, Kawasaki built street riders a 636cc version of its ZX-6R . For '05, Triumph has followed suit, blessing its latest sporting middleweight with the magical displacement of the Meriden factory's venerable '60s-era Bonneville--650cc.The result is something to hoist a pint about, where stoplight-to-stoplight street riding is concerned.

Triumph boosted the Daytona's displacement the old-fashioned way--by stroking the engine. Stroke--the distance each piston moves from top dead center to bottom dead center--was increased 3.1mm for a total volume of 646cc. Triumph claims the added size allows the 16-valve, DOHC inline-four to make a claimed 112 horsepower and 51 pound-feet of torque. Those peak figures are only slightly different from the previous mill's, but the new motor's midrange is much stronger.

By going big with the new Daytona engine, Triumph has given up the pretense of building a 600 Supersport or Formula Xtreme racer. So there's no chance of seeing a Daytona 650 in the Daytona 200. Still, we can imagine the engineers and marketing folks in Hinckley saying, "So what? Our customers ride on the street or do occasional track days, where there are no displacement categories anyway!"

True enough.
With the additional exceptions of a revised clutch, new shift linkage and reprogrammed fuel-injection, the new bike is otherwise unchanged from '04. Which is a good thing, because the '04 Daytona's excellent brakes, suspension, ergonomics, bodywork, wheels, tires and general high level of fit and finish make return appearances. Even 6-footers will fit comfortably in this cockpit, which is roomier than other 600-class supersports. This larger cockpit translates into a slightly larger-feeling machine, too, but the impression of size evaporates the moment you click the new bike into gear and get rolling.

The Daytona 650's press launch was held on the tight Las Vegas Motor Speedway infield road course. Like its predecessor, the Daytona 650 handles superbly, snapping crisply and surefootedly into tight corners while offering tons of feedback even while trail-braking right to the apex. Throttle response felt spot-on, which bodes well for street use. The suspension's spring and damping rates seemed well chosen for my 150 pounds, and stability at speed was excellent.

But it was the added midrange wallop that really made us appreciate what Triumph hath wrought with its new Daytona. Where the old bike needed to be taken right to the rev limiter to get maximum thrust, the new bike can be shifted well below the red zone--and still pulls hard. That flexibility will be a huge benefit on the street, which is where most Daytonas will be ridden.One caveat: Two of the eight bikes at the launch experienced unexplained engine problems--a sudden loss of power followed by metal-to-metal noises. We've asked Triumph for a postmortem, and will report back once we get a 650 for a full thrashing.During our day at LVMS I wore a pair of knee sliders right through to the Velcro without a single disturbing moment. So we know the new Daytona is going to be big fun at the track. But as Triumph's Ross Clifford says, "We think [the new Daytona] will stand up well in comparison tests on the road, too." By retaining the Daytona's roomy cockpit and excellent handling characteristics and adding midrange power, Triumph has made it clear it is fighting for the hearts and minds of real riders on real roads.

The fact the new Daytona will retail for the same amount as the '04 bike--$7999--is just foam on the pint.

Triumph Daytona 650
MSRP $7999
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v
Displacement 646cc
Transmission 6-speed
Weight 363 lb. (claimed dry)
Fuel capacity 4.7 gal.
Wheelbase 54.7 in.
Seat height 32.1 in.
Except for the "650" sticker on the tail, the '05 bike is almost a perfect match for last year's model.
If you look closely, you'll see a new shift linkage. The consensus among test riders is that the subtly revised transmission shifts better than the old one, though it needs to be fully unloaded to accept clutchless upshifts, and we weren't the only testers to catch a false neutral.