First Ride: 2016 Triumph Speed Triple R

Has Triumph updated the Speed Triple enough to put it back on top of the class?

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R

The 2016 Speed Triple performed beautifully, delivering gobs of power no matter where the tach needle was pointed.©Motorcyclist

They say: "More tech and more torque than ever."
We say: "Yes...but will it be enough to beat the competition?"

Way back in 1994, Triumph introduced the Speed Triple. We, as in motorcyclists with a pulse and employees of this particular journal, pretty much fell instantly in love with it: a powerful, minimalist machine packing real-world performance and enough charisma for three bikes. Over the years, Triumph moved the Speed Triple to ever fresher platforms and boosted displacement, but never left behind the hooligan spirit.

In the years since, we’ve been seduced by bikes like the Aprilia Tuono (especially the V-4 version), Ducati’s ever-more-potent Monsters, BMW’s stunning S1000R, and KTM’s definitely awesome 1290 Super Duke R. In this company, the evergreen Speed Triple was starting to look a little brown around the edges.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R right 3/4 view

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R

A thorough update of one of our favorite naked bikes, now with ride by wire, ride modes, and even more sophistication to go with its innate aggression.©Motorcyclist
2016 Triumph Speed Triple R headlights

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R

The headlights for 2016 have an inset marker light that adds style and a bit of functionality©Motorcyclist

The 2016 rework aims to fix all that.

At first glance, the new model looks a lot like the previous model, with the familiar profile and signature single-sided swingarm. Take a closer look and you’ll see some styling details that differentiate the new from the old. The first thing you’re likely to notice is how the cantilevered twin headlights are now framed in a graphite-colored outer bezel that is a bit rounder with more sinister squint. The headlights now have an inset marker light that adds style and a bit of functionality. The headlight unit is mounted lower for a more aggressive profile and crowned by a smaller and sexier (but less effective) flyscreen that incorporates a functional fresh air intake.

Above the fairing is new switchgear with mode and info buttons on the left side to access the new suite of rider aids and a hazard switch and combined kill switch and starter button on the right. Bar-end mirrors are now standard. They look cool and work great, but for California- and Euro-dwellers will make lane-splitting more challenging.

Triumph has slightly updated the signature instrument cluster that combines an analog tachometer with the info screen that displays the digital speedo, gear indicator, service interval reminder, lap timer, trip computer, fuel gauge, and rider mode. Some have ridiculed this layout for its somewhat dated design and the LCD screen for being too small to display info that is readable. I found it attractively simple, but agree that some of the icons and text are hard to read at a glance. The array of blue gear shift indicator lights along the top of the tachometer are bright and easy to use.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R instruments

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R Dash

Dated but attractively simple.©Motorcyclist

Gazing downward, the engine case covers now have a crinkle surface treatment with the Triumph badge emblazoned on both sides. The swooping radiator shrouds, sleek tail section, reshaped high-mount silencers and two-part seat contribute to the more assertive look. The R model gets a belly pan, red seat stitching and some carbon fiber bits to flaunt its upscale pedigree.

These careful styling changes make the Speed Triple more visually appealing, but what about the rest of the bike? First impressions may fool you into thinking the 2016 Speed Triple is not really new at all. But you’d be wrong. Take the bike for a spin and you’ll quickly realize that what we have here is a significantly more refined machine.

Much of this refinement comes from the reworked 1,050cc three-cylinder engine that now produces more usable power thanks to a new combustion chamber, cylinder head, machined crank and piston design, as well as 100 other new components. The result is about the same horsepower as last year’s motor, but with a beefy 82.6 pound-feet of torque (up 5 percent from last year) at 7,850 rpm. The new restyled exhaust emits that charming, three-cylinder growl while increasing flow by 70 percent, further contributing to the stronger, freer spinning motor.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R 1,050cc engine

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R Engine

Triumph claims that the Speed Triple's 1,050cc three-cylinder engine delivers more usable power thanks to a new combustion chamber, cylinder head, machined crank and piston design, as well as 100 other new components.©Motorcyclist

Another change that contributes to the overall sense of refinement is the addition of ride-by-wire fueling that precisely meters fuel and air for instant throttle response that is utterly controllable; an area where many manufacturers struggle. Triumph claims the new system increases fuel mileage by 10 percent while meeting the stringent Euro 4 standards.

The new ride by wire system makes possible a complement of electronic rider aids that bring the mighty Speed into modern times, including five riding modes: Road, Rain, Sport, Track, and Rider Configurable. Selecting the Road, Sport or Track modes will get you pre-set throttle-map, ABS and traction control settings. Choose the Configurable mode to customize throttle maps, ABS and traction control settings to suit riding style and road conditions. This adjustability came in handy when I wanted smoother throttle pickup while transitioning from trail-braking to acceleration during our racetrack sessions. A few button presses allowed easy navigation through the menu to change the standard track settings from the Sport map to Road, while keeping ABS and TC in the less intrusive track mode.

The bike’s midriff—where the seat meets the 4.1 gallon fuel tank—is now 20mm narrower, making it easier to put both feet flat on the ground. Adding to the overall narrower feel is the smaller, yet more efficient radiator mounted forward of the unchanged twin spar aluminum frame. Pulling away from the curb you appreciate the light feel of the new slip-assist clutch.

During our chilly street ride along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, the Speed Triple performed beautifully, delivering gobs of power no matter where the tach needle was pointed. Within the first few miles it became clear that the old mill’s rough edges were mostly gone. The new motor might be described as pleasant, but don’t worry, the visceral excitement of the big three-cylinder is very much alive. The transmission is buttery smooth and the throttle is light and responsive. Riders accustomed to a traditional cable-actuated throttle body may initially find the ride by wire throttle response a bit too light and lively. But for most it’s easy to acclimate.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R canyon shot

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R, Canyon

The Speed Triple is first and foremost a well rounded charismatic, balanced, and immensely capable street bike able to perform well as a commuter, mid-distance traveller or track day scratcher.©Motorcyclist

Our route had us climb into the Catalan hills over fast sweeping curves where the 1050 showed its strength as a stable, yet agile machine. The bike feels light yet planted thanks in part to slight changes in weight distribution from the more forward seating position. The stock Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires instilled confidence to handle steep lean angles.

On the motorway, the tiny flyscreen lets most of the windblast reach the torso, and it gets a little tiring during fast highway stints. The sporty Öhlins suspension did a great job balancing control with impressive bump compliance, but was set a bit too stiff to erase sharp-edged bumps. Vibration is minimal with the most pronounced vibes reaching the handlebars under deceleration. Legroom is fine for sub-six-footers and the sporty reach to the bars is perfect to position your body against the inevitable windblast.

Later the same day we rode the Street Triple R on the tight and technical Calafat Circuit to fully experience the new updates. The Speed Triple was always a capable track-day bike with decent performance and handling, but the new bike seems to be more agile with responsive power delivery. As expected, the fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 piggyback shock and NIX30 fork delivered excellent manners.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R with Öhlins

The R-Spec Öhlins Suspension

As expected, the fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 piggyback shock and NIX30 fork delivered excellent manners.©Motorcyclist

The 1050 motor propels the bike with impressive immediacy. Brembo Monoblock brakes clamp onto the twin 320mm front rotors when it is time to scrub off all that speed. With Track mode selected, traction control and ABS stayed out of the way, allowing deep braking into and hard drives out of the second and third gear corners. The transmission was a bit less cooperative when banging clutchless upshifts, but never failed to engage the desired gear.

While the Speed Triple is nimble and easy to turn-in, tossing around 467 pounds (wet) gets tiring when navigating tight transitions at speed. Also, at very deep cornering angles the footpegs drag and the front end loses some feel.

But, that’s okay because the Speed Triple is first and foremost a well rounded charismatic, balanced, and immensely capable street bike able to perform well as a commuter, mid-distance traveller or track day scratcher. The 2016 Speed Triple may have matured, but still emits the badass demeanor it had when it hit the scene as the first streetfighter.

The standard S model is quite reasonably priced at $13,200. Add $1,700 to get the top-shelf Öhlins suspenders and carbon bits for a total of $14,900 for the R version—that’s within $50 of a fully loaded BMW S1000R. A back-to-back comparison will be the only thing that tells us whether or not the new Speed Triple gained back all of the ground it lost on its competition, but updated electronics and more torque is a step in the right direction.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R side view

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R Side View

Add $1,700 to get the top-shelf Öhlins suspenders and carbon bits for a total of $14,900 for the R version.©Motorcyclist
EVOLUTION  
The latest generation Speed Triple rolls out of Hinckley with new styling and a more powerful engine.
RIVALS  
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100, BMW S1000R, Ducati Monster 1200R, Honda CB1000R, Kawasaki Z1000, KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Suzuki GSX-S1000
TECH  
PRICE $14,900 (S model: $13,200)
ENGINE 1,050cc liquid-cooled inline triple  
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 140 hp @ 9,500 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 82.6 lb.-ft. @ 7,850 rpm
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Öhlins 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Öhlins shock adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping; 5.2-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin two-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 22.9°/3.6 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.1 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 423 lb. dry
AVAILABLE Spring 2016
CONTACT [triumphmotorcycles.com][]
VERDICT  
A thorough update of one of our favorite naked bikes, now with ride by wire, ride modes, and even more sophistication to go with its innate aggression.