On a worldwide level, Triumph has the Speed Triple to thank for keeping the company afloat. Almost since its inception in 1994 the bike has been Triumph's best-seller worldwide. That year it sold 1100 units-16 percent of sales for the year. In 2005 the bike established its own identity and moved away from the "naked Daytona 955" stigma. During this time the streetfighter craze was really starting to take hold in Europe: 6600 Speed Triples were sold worldwide, 1700 of them in Italy. On this side of the pond it's the company's second-best seller behind the Bonneville and its variants. For 2008 Triumph is touting a major redesign of the bike, though at first glance it would be hard to tell any difference. The biggest change is a switch to Brembo four-piston front brake calipers (from Nissin). Oddly, a Nissin radial master cylinder is included in the mix as well. The calipers bite on 320mm floating discs.
After that the differences become harder to spot. Black multispoke wheels give the bike a meaner look, while a black anodized 43mm inverted Showa fork complements the dark theme. Out back lies a new subframe, which gives the rear of the bike a slightly different profile and the pillion more leg room.
That about covers the changes. At its heart lies the same 1050cc, DOHC, inline-triple we've all come to know and love for its wonderful sound and aggressive character. According to Triumph it pumps out 131 horsepower and 77 ft-lb of torque.
Seeing as how the Speed Triple is the company's favorite son, it's easy to understand why Triumph would invite journalists to ride the "significantly redesigned" 2008 version. And frankly we're not ones to say no to free meals and riding motorcycles. Gatlinburg, Tennessee, would be the site of the launch, and the ride route would take us through some of the best roads Tennessee and North Carolina have to offer-including the fabled Tail of the Dragon.
Sitting on the Speed Triple, the upright seating position and the naked front end scream out "wheelie!" as all kinds of devious thoughts run through your mind. The bike just evokes that kind of emotion. Surely Triumph banks off of that, as what jumps out about the Speed Triple is obviously the inline-triple engine. The melodic intake growl and exhaust note just beg the rider to open the throttle more and more. Except for some minor lag during on/off throttle, power delivery is smooth and responsive.
Triumph put great emphasis on updating the braking system, and those efforts paid off. The Dragon has a few tight bends that require extensive scrubbing of speed, and the Nissin/Brembo combination worked flawlessly. Initial bite wasn't excessive and stopping power was superb. Modulation at the lever was great as well, no doubt aided by the steel-braided brake lines.
Beyond that, however, things get a little strange. Because there isn't much weight over the front end, the front tire doesn't feel planted when being pushed through the really twisty bits. Adjusting your riding style to put more weight over the front helps but isn't the cure-all. Quick side-to-side transitions are also hampered by the unruly front end. Give the suspension enough time to settle-say on long, arcing sweepers-and the Speed Triple is more in its element. Overall, if you're looking for an urban brawler to scoot you from point A to point B in style, the Speed Triple is your bike. It's not meant for lap times; its purpose is to make a statement . . . and to release the inner hooligan in all of us. In addition to the standard black, white and green color options, a new Sapphire Blue is added to the '08 lineup. Pricing starts at $10,299.
While we were in Tennessee, Triumph also wheeled out the rest of its Urban Sports lineup for us to try. You can get a full review of the Daytona 675 in our 600 shootout elsewhere in this issue, so what follows is a quick rundown of the remaining bikes: the Sprint ST and the Tiger.
Sport-Touring, Triumph Style
The Sprint ST is a bit of a dark horse in Triumph's lineup. Despite the fact it doesn't get much fanfare or publicity, it is still a solid sport-touring platform for many long-range riders. Largely unchanged from last year's model except for improved headlight performance, power for the Sprint comes from a slightly detuned 1050cc inline-triple-the main difference from the Speed Triple's state of tune being an altered fuel map. Nonetheless, twisting the throttle still generates the same inline-triple excitement. Riding position is comfortable with higher-set bars and a spacious seat. Suspension duties are rather outdated, however, with a conventional 43mm fork up front, adjustable for preload, and a rebound- and preload-adjustable shock lying out back. Of course when ridden in its element the suspension performs the way it should. But on roads like the Dragon it quickly gets overwhelmed. The soft settings act more like a pogo stick than a damper. The binders could use an update as well. The non-radially mounted Nissin four-piston calipers offer good feel and modulation but lack any real bite or stopping power. Nonlinked ABS is optional, and the Sprint ST is available with a whole number of other options for the racer or utilitarian in you. Pricing starts at $10,999.
Same Name, Different Attitude
When Triumph decided to take the Tiger and strip it of any off-road pretenses, the company had big hopes for it as the do-it-all motorcycle consumers would flock to. Unfortunately that hasn't panned out as planned. Too bad, really, as the Tiger is a very capable machine. Again, its motivation comes from the 1050cc triple retuned from the Speed Triple, though this variation feels more powerful than its Sprint ST cousin. Long-travel suspension soaks up nearly everything in its path, though when carving the canyons the bike tends to wallow and seems unsure. For an adventure-tourer, however, it handles as well as anything else in the category, and the engine can keep up with the best of them. The Tiger's strong braking power comes from twin four-piston, radially mounted calipers that bite down on 320mm discs. They bring the Tiger to a halt quickly and offer great feel. For the person looking for one motorcycle to do it all, it would be hard to overlook the Tiger. Add some suspension upgrades and it really can be a jack of all trades. Standard models start at $10,999; add ABS for $11,799. Though part of the Urban Sports family, the Street Triple wasn't present during our time in Tennessee. Not to worry, however, as we spent some time on it back in the May issue ("Alternative Twins").