You can't fault Triumph for trying the "conventional" route with its three previous middleweight sportbikes. After being rescued from extinction by British financial magnate, John Bloor, the company revived itself by first offering rather conservative bikes that provided decent performance for a moderate price tag, while retaining the incomparable character that Triumphs have been known for. Those bikes sold well enough to enable the company to get back on solid financial footing, allowing its designers and engineers the freedom to create more audacious motorcycles like the Speed Triple and Rocket III.
When Triumph announced that it was taking on the might of Japan by designing a four-cylinder 600 sportbike, the world was anxious to see if the upstart British manufacturer could measure up on the competition's own playing field--an arena in which the Japanese had been fiercely battling for almost two decades. Unfortunately, that first effort, the TT600, fell well short of the mark, graphically displaying the difficulty of overcoming that development head start. Even extensive updates to the engine and chassis with the second- and third-generation Daytona 600 and 650 failed to significantly close the gap as the Japanese continued their rapid and manic
development/refinement of the four-cylinder 600 sportbike.It didn't take long for Triumph to decide that
conventional methods wouldn't work in this case. So the company went back to the drawing board and the philosophy
that has brought it the greatest success: being different than everyone else, the heart of which consists of the
company's now-trademark three-cylinder engine configuration. The latest result of this philosophy is the new
Daytona 675--and it's not only different, it's damn good. Good enough that it just might set a new standard for
"MUST BE A THREE-CYLINDER ENGINE"
By throwing out the conventional playbook and deciding that the new middleweight Daytona would be a triple,
Triumph gained some major benefits. Having only three instead of four cylinders meant the new engine would be
narrower, which could help make the bike's midsection slimmer, as well as improve aerodynamics due to its smaller
front profile. Possessing one less cylinder also means that the engine can be made much lighter, and the narrower
crankshaft can provide less gyroscopic effect for better handling agility.
There is one big disadvantage, however. It's far more difficult to achieve the same horsepower numbers using the
same engine displacement with fewer cylinders. The design brief not only specified a three-cylinder engine, it
also had to have strong midrange torque to go along with serious peak power; this required Triumph engineers to
increase the new Daytona's engine size. So the new Daytona not only gains notoriety for being the first
three-cylinder middleweight sportbike but also for its distinctive engine size of 675cc.
The new Daytona 675 is also the first Triumph to make extensive use of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/manufacture)
and FEA (finite element analysis) technology in its design and development. This means that far fewer prototype
parts have to be made because much of their fitment and performance can be simulated in a computer program before
actually being fabricated, drastically shortening development time. In the Daytona's case, Triumph claims the
completely all-new engine went from early design sketches to full running prototype in less than six months!S
porting a bore/stroke of 74.0 x 52.3mm, the 675cc triple's cylinder head features a shallow included valve angle
of 23 degrees, with 30.5mm intake valves and 25.5mm exhaust valves controlled by single valve springs on both
sides. The exhaust valves have 4mm stems and are made from a nickel-based material that allows them to withstand
higher temperatures. The intake ports are CNC-machined for precise shape and flow. Forged pistons utilize rings
coated with DLC (Diamond-Like Coating, the same material used on fork tubes) to reduce friction that can cause
"flutter" at high rpm, and force a compression ratio of 12.65:1. Nutless connecting rods are used for less
reciprocating weight and higher strength.
The closed-loop fuel injection system (a lambda sensor located just inside the entrance to the collector measures
oxygen output and alters the fuel curves accordingly) is a Keihin unit with single-butterfly-valve throttle bodies
measuring 44mm using single 12-hole injectors. The fuel injection inhales through a ram-air induction system with
a centrally-located intake duct in the nose of the fairing directing air straight through the frame's steering
head into the airbox. An electronically controlled flapper valve in the forward portion of the duct helps control
intake noise and maximize intake velocity at lower rpms. Spent gases are fed into a three-into-one stainless steel
exhaust system equipped with a valve in the underseat can to help low-end torque, and a single catalyzer to assist
in meeting stringent Euro-3 emissions standards.
Following current engineering trends, the new Daytona engine utilizes a stacked gearshaft arrangement to
significantly shorten its length and overall size. Also saving weight and additional packaging is a combination
water/oil pump, although some of those savings were surely eaten up by the crank-driven counterbalancer shaft that
is used to help cut vibration. All told, the 675 triple is claimed to pump out 123 horsepower at 12,500 rpm, with
53 ft.-lbs. of torque at 11,750 rpm.
The all-new aluminum perimeter chassis is fabricated using closed- and open-back castings for the desired amount
of strength and flex that promotes improved cornering feel. It is claimed to be 21 percent narrower and an
astounding 19.4 pounds lighter than the old 650 Daytona frame. The two-piece cast swingarm has an adjustable pivot
(although Triumph doesn't offer accessory units; any changes require plates fabricated by the customer) and
measures 574mm in length. Rake and trail numbers are fairly aggressive at 23.5 degrees and 87mm, respectively,
especially when paired with the short 54.8-inch wheelbase. A non-adjustable steering damper located under the
steering head ensures some stability.The fully adjustable 41mm Kayaba inverted cartridge fork holds a
3.50-inch-wide cast aluminum front wheel sporting 308mm brake discs clamped by radially mounted (and radial master
cylinder-actuated) Nissin calipers with differential-diameter pistons sporting a friction coating for improved
action. The swingarm is controlled by a fully adjustable single Kayaba piggyback-reservoir shock with a
5.50-inch-wide rim and 220mm rear brake disc. Both wheels are shod with an OE-spec Pirelli Supercorsa Pro tire, a
120/70ZR-17 front and 180/55ZR-17 rear. Claimed dry weight of the Daytona 675 is 364 pounds.
SLICING AND DICING
Triumph chose to introduce the Daytona 675 to the world's press at the superb Sepang F-1 circuit in Malaysia. In addition to those all-out racetrack laps, however, Triumph also arranged a street ride the next day, which gave further insight into the Daytona 675's overall performance that can't be done in the rarified high-speed atmosphere of a racing circuit.
The first trait that becomes immediately apparent as you swing a leg over the new Triumph is that inseam-challenged riders should probably not apply. Although the seat height is listed in the specs as 32.5 inches, we suspect it's closer to 33.5 inches. We found ourselves up on the balls of our feet at stoplights (although it should be noted that the suspension setup we rode used a 5mm spacer on the rear shock linkage to increase rear ride height; even with the spacer removed, however, the seat height would still be on the tall side). A side benefit of that tall ride height is excellent ground clearance combined with decent legroom. We never found ourselves wanting to stretch our legs during the street ride, and very aggressive riding on Sepang's challenging layout rarely saw the footpeg tips even nicking the tarmac.
Once underway, another feature becomes obvious. The Triumph feels incredibly narrow and compact. Riders brought up on a steady diet of four-cylinder machines will marvel at the 675's slim midsection that's thin enough to rival the Ducati 999. Combined with surprisingly roomy ergonomics for such a small machine, the Daytona 675 has the feel of a bicycle compared to most multi-cylinder bikes.
That same lithe feel translates into quick handling on the circuit and road as well. While not quite as razor-sharp as serious track-oriented tools like the Yamaha R6, the new Triumph is light years ahead of any past Daytona models in regard to agility and steering ease. That's saying a lot, considering that the previous models were no slouches in this area. The steep steering geometry combined with a short wheelbase adds up to a Triumph that can carve corners with the best, yet still retain a modicum of stability that has been the Daytona's strong point since day one. Little effort is needed to initiate turns, and steering is pretty neutral all the way to max lean. We did notice a slight tendency to fall in nearing aggressive lean angles, although that could be attributed to the OEM-variant Pirelli Supercorsa Pro tires that will come standard with the Daytona 675.
Front-end feedback from the 41mm inverted Kayaba fork was very good, even though we suspect it could be even better with a little time spent experimenting with ride heights and spring/damping settings. Nonetheless, overall suspension action at both ends was excellent on both Sepang's at-the-limit, closed-course environment and on the public road ride. Braking from the radial-mount Nissin calipers was likewise superb. The Daytona's binders were easily some of the best we've sampled on a middleweight, with outstanding power, progressiveness, and feel.
Enough with the chassis chitchat, however; what about the three-cylinder centerpiece of the Daytona 675? Well, we can say this much for certain: the Triumph will be right in the thick of the scrum for top honors in our upcoming middleweight shootout. As expected, the 675cc triple has a much wider spread of power than the four-cylinder powerplants. The Triumph pulls easily from 8000 rpm, and quickly zips up into the meat of its powerband starting at 10,500 rpm. It continues making power well into the rev limiter set at a stratospheric (for a triple in this day and age, at least) 14,500 rpm, although the peak seems situated around the 13,500 rpm mark (an adjustable shift light system controls when seven blue lights to the right of the tachometer illuminate). We obviously didn't have any of the four-cylinder competition on hand for direct comparison, but the top-end power easily seems on par. We were somewhat wary of whether the Daytona's racetrack engine performance would make the transition to the street ride because the circuit bikes were equipped with accessory exhaust cans that omit the honeycomb catalyzer and restrictive baffling. Our fears, however, were unfounded; the Triumphs we rode on the street exhibited the same free-revving power characteristics as the track machines.
In fact, we must admit we weren't expecting the Triumph's three-cylinder engine to be such a quick revver. The rpms snap upward instantly at the touch of the throttle in neutral, and response is very crisp in the higher rpm. Speaking of throttle response, it seems the overly abrupt off-idle response of the previous-generation Daytonas has been all but banished. The 675 test units we rode displayed none of the jerky mid-corner throttle/fueling antics that plagued the earlier four-cylinder Daytonas and caused major problems maintaining any smoothness in the corners (we'll have to reserve final judgment until we get an actual U.S. test model).
We were anticipating the 675 to have more tractable acceleration characteristics than a typical four-cylinder, and here the Daytona triple met our expectations. Despite revving very quick for a triple, the Triumph possesses some of that deceptive loping style of V-twin acceleration that fools you into thinking you're not going as fast as you really are. This can be a real advantage when traction conditions aren't the best because the Daytona doesn't have that accelerative hit of a typical four-cylinder that can catch you off guard and spin the tire at an inopportune time.
Although the Triumph lacks a slipper clutch, we really didn't see the need for one, even during banzai corner entries that would normally see the rear tire chattering and hopping on other non-slipper-clutch-equipped bikes. The 675 has enough flywheel effect to offset the majority of conditions that result in wheel lockup during aggressive braking, and only the most ham-fisted maneuvers would cause any chattering. We also noticed (or, rather, didn't notice) something else with the new Daytona--the transmission. The new 675's gearbox is far and away the best Triumph unit we ever sampled and offers the type of unobtrusive, yet crisp and positive action we're accustomed to finding on Japanese equipment.
WILL IT DO THE BUSINESS THIS TIME?
Well, it's pretty obvious that Triumph has pulled out the stops with the Daytona 675. Our quick riding impression was enough to discern that the 675 triple is by far the most capable sportbike the resurrected British company has ever produced, and it will surely be vying for the win in our upcoming middleweight shootout. Even without a direct comparison, it's easy to see that the new Daytona 675 has the necessary performance to be a contender.But will it be enough to beat the middleweight class of '06, possessing some of the most serious motorcycles in sportbikeland? Stay tuned for yet another mother-of-all-middleweight battles.