Lago di Garda, Italy was the perfect location to launch Triumph's Street Triple. The bike, a milder dose of the 1050cc Speed Triple, seemed like a no brainer-675cc engine, very little bodywork and headlights from its big brother. To top it off, pricing would be a touch over $8,000. What's not to like? Unfortunately, to meet its modest price point the suspension and brakes would have to be unadjustable budget parts at both ends. At the intro in Italy these items weren't much of an issue as the roads proved to be glass smooth and virtually ripple free. It wasn't until we got a test unit Stateside where we noticed the limits of the crude suspension on our less than stellar roads. Around the office, the three staffers all shared similar sentiments, "If only it had better suspension..."
Looks like the boys in Hinckley got the memo-introducing the Triumph Street Triple R. In what has shown to be Triumph's style of late, the groundwork for the R model was on the drawing board not too long after the regular model's introduction in Italy. Now more than ever the R model truly is a naked 675, suspension and all. The same 41mm inverted fork sits out front while the rear shock features a piggyback resevoir, giving both ends full adjustability of the spring preload, compression and rebound. There is a slight change as the spring rates for the R are a touch softer than the Daytona's, yet a bit more firm than the standard Street Triple's, resulting in a seat height that's five millimeters taller than the standard model. That's not the only change as the new model also gets the Daytona's radial-mount Nissin four-piston calipers. They bite on the standard 308mm rotors found on all three bikes. A radial-pump master-cylinder is another new bit taken from the Daytona.
Location Is Everything
Much like Lago di Garda was the ideal location for the standard Street Triple launch, what better place to unveil the R model than the Isle of Man? Best known for the legendary TT races that have been held here since the turn of the last century, nowhere on Earth is the pursuit for motorcycling nirvana so accepted and so loved as here. The locals know it, the local economy adores it and-get this-the authorities welcomed our arrival! In fact, the Secretary of Tourism for the island personally greeted the American journalists at the airport and took us to our hotels. But aside from all that, the Isle of Man is the complete antithesis of Lago di Garda. It's bumpy. Very bumpy. Around here, it wouldn't take long to decide whether the Street Triple R was a winner or a pretender.
Apart from the suspension and brake components, the Street Triple R hasn't changed much from the standard model. Forward persuasion is by way of the Daytona's 675cc, DOHC triple with four valves per cylinder churning out a claimed 108 horsepower and 51 ft-lb. of torque. What's more, the torque curve on this engine is flat as a pancake, making for great pulling power no matter where the tach needle is resting. The new bike also retains the same Magura handlebar and gauge cluster as the standard model. Basically, the only thing that sets the R apart from the regular version is the black-anodized inverted fork from the Daytona, the radially mounted brakes up front and the two color schemes that are exclusive to this bike: Matte Graphite and Matte Blazing Orange.
Taking It All In
What we came to the Isle to find out is whether those changes would set the bike apart from its twin while in the saddle. Our ride would consist of a couple laps of the TT circuit, as well as sections from the lesser known Southern 100 course to boot. The night prior, Manx resident and multiple TT race winner Richard "Milky" Quayle led a guided tour of the circuit, inspiring all in attendance with his stories and also reminding us all of the real dangers involved with this race-his spectacular near-death crash (which he shrugs off) is a hit on youtube.
After getting oriented with riding on the wrong side of the road, the Street Triple R didn't take long to get used to. Though the seat height is a tad taller, it was hardly noticeable in the saddle. What was noticeable was the sweet joy that bellowed out the exhaust-the sound that comes from the inline triple could make Pavarotti cry. The six cogs in the gearbox, while maybe not as smooth as some Japanese bikes, was definitely smoother and more positive than the Daytona 675 I rode in our 600cc shootout, as well as the standard Street Triple we rode a few months back ("Altenative Twins", May '08).
As mentioned earlier, the main complaint with the standard model was its lack of adjustability and its inconsistent damping. It seems like Triumph's rather simple solution of retaining the Daytona's suspension was all that was needed to remedy the problem. While I've never had an issue with the front end of any of the Triumphs, the rear would be put to the test along the TT circuit. Whereas the standard model would have been overwhelmed with the many bumps and dips around the course, the R model's upgraded pieces proved just what the doctor ordered. After having to adjust both ends for a slightly softer setting than stock, the new bits proved themselves around the course. On the standard bike, hitting a bump, especially while leaned over, was met with a harsh initial reaction from the rear shock, followed by a gradual progression in the spring and a slow rebound. It was a rather unpleasant feeling that made spirited riding difficult, especially on the local twisty roads in the Los Angeles area as we'd have to wait for the rear to settle before soldiering on.
Not so with the R. The many imperfections on the road surface of the TT course were absorbed rather plushly with this bike, making it easier to give it the berries sooner without upsetting the chassis. It should be noted that the swingarm pivot has been raised 10mm (like the Daytona) by way of eccentric inserts. Having had bad experiences with the rear suspension on the Daytona and not the Street Triple R, this would lead me to believe that the spring rate (and possibly linkage) on the former would be the cause of my plight. Back to the current and the action at the front of the bike was rather nonexistent. The 41mm inverted fork soaked up the bumps without any fuss, while the standard Dunlop Qualifiers provided neutral turn-in and pretty good grip from a street tire. They even did a pretty good job during the wet Manx morning ride. Later in the day when the roads started drying off and the pace picked up, the R, like its Speed Triple sibling, proved to be extremely agile from side to side, yet a little light on the front end when pushed-despite its almost 24 degrees of rake. No matter, however. Like the Speed Triple, the Street Triple R benefits from a slight shift in body positioning to place more weight on the front tire. While coming to a stop was never an issue with the standard model, having the use of the radially mounted, four-piston Nissins was nice. The TT circuit makes very little use of the binders, but on those rare occasions when they are needed the lever provides firm feedback, thanks to standard steel braided lines. Initial bite is just a touch on the soft side, though it doesn't detract from the bike's strong stopping power.
Just Shy Of A Ton Up Lap
Riding the Street Triple R around the TT circuit, it's amazing to think just how crazy the superbike riders are to be wide open during a considerable part of the lap. (And no, we didn't come anywhere close to averaging a 100-mph lap). What's also amazing is to think why anyone would skimp on the extra $700 to grab the Street Triple R at $8999 and get the standard model instead. The middleweight naked-bike segment might be short of contenders, but there's no denying that Triumph's Street Triple R is staking its claim to the top. We'll just have to wait and see if it truly delivers once we get our grubby little paws on one stateside. Stay tuned.
Triumph Street Triple R
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC inline three-cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 74.0 x 52.3 mm
Induction: Keihin EFI, 44mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Rake/trail: 23.9 deg/3.6 in. (92mm)
Wheelbase: 54.7 in. (1390mm)
Claimed dry weight: 367 lb.
Seat height: 31.6 in. (803mm)
Fuel Capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.4L)