We're a nation of individuals. We're always looking to display our individuality, especially when it comes to motorcycles. To some, the thought of owning the same latest and greatest Japanese land-bound missile as the kid down the street is absolute blasphemy. Hell, even Ducati 916/996s are literally a dime-a-dozen these days at the local bike hangout. The problem for independent sportbike riders up until now was that straying too far beyond the entrenched Japanese and Italian four/two-cylinder designs usually resulted in a lopsided tradeoff of less performance for more character.
Triumph's original Daytona T595 carved out a nice little three-cylinder niche for itself in a sportbike landscape rapidly becoming overgrown with V-twins and inline-fours back in 1997. The triple's soul-stirring exhaust note was almost worth the price of admission; but it couldn't hide the fact that the T595's performance was a step behind the rest. The bike was lacking in horsepower and was a tad overweight, and flaccid spring and damping rates in the suspension kept the chassis from showing its true potential.
So the second generation Daytona (now called the 955i) made its entrance this year chock full of mods aimed at the three high-performance tenets: more power, quicker handling, and less weight. We covered the nuts and bolts of the changes in our somewhat wet introduction to the 955i ("Splashy New Triple," October 2001) in Estoril, Portugal, but for those short of memory, a quick recap, then? Breathing through a larger, non-ram-air-equipped airbox are bigger 46mm throttle bodies (vs. the old 42mm units) that feed a redesigned CNC-machined cylinder head featuring 1mm larger intake and 1mm smaller exhaust valves sitting at a narrow 23-degree included valve angle. New forged-aluminum pistons force a 12.0:1 compression ratio (over the previous 11.2:1 ratio), sitting atop stronger carburized connecting rods and a lighter crankshaft. We felt at the Estoril intro that the 955i was probably pumping out somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 rear-wheel horsepower, and our new dyno bore out that estimate, with an impressive 128 hp at 10,500 rpm showing.
The Triumph's chassis also received the cut-and-paste treatment, with the most notable change being the replacement of the original's single-sided swingarm with a more conventional twin-sided setup that is not only seven pounds lighter, but also far more rigid. Wheelbase was shortened a bit to 55.7 inches, while steering geometry was quickened considerably to a rather steep-sounding 22.8 degrees rake with only 81mm of trail. Suspension damping and spring rates were changed to compensate for both the lighter wheels (a pound less unsprung weight for each) and a revised rear suspension linkage sports a more linear progression rate for better bump absorption at high speeds.
A host of other minor changes such as revised ergos, restyled bodywork and lighter, simpler components were initiated, incrementally adding up to increased performance and helping emphasize the fact that this was indeed a new Daytona.
The Daytona's starting procedure is simple: do not touch the throttle, and hit the starter button. Follow this process, and the bike fires up every time. Open the throttle the slightest bit while cranking over the motor, and you'll just be wasting the battery. Like most EFI systems however, once the engine has started, you can basically ride away with no hiccups.
The original T595's ergonomics were a bit awkward, with a scalloped seat and long reach to the bars enforcing a static riding position that made the weird angle of the clip-ons even worse to deal with. Thankfully, the height and angle of the 955i's clip-ons has been altered to a far more comfortable setup, actually making the fuel tank (which has an expanded capacity of 4.8 gallons) feel shorter than it really is. The seat, however, hasn't really been changed for the better; the flat profile is an improvement over the previous sloped version, but its narrower width and hard foam make you feel like you're sitting on a two-by-four after only 15 minutes.
Riders with small hands will need to look into fitting a "dogleg" lever setup (commonly found on some dirt bikes) for the clutch lever. Not only is the stock non-adjustable lever made for King Kong-size hands, but engagement doesn't begin until the last quarter-inch of movement. The mirrors, while not the most stylish around, give an excellent rearward view, and wind protection by sportbike standards is decent.
Releasing the clutch and getting underway reveals two characteristics of the 955i immediately: first gear is pretty tall, and the throttle requires more of a twist before decent power becomes available. This is not to say the Triumph lacks low-end power--far from it--but rather a consequence of the long-turn throttle assembly. Going from closed to wide-open throttle takes more rotation than most; this means keeping slack out of the throttle cables is a must. We found the transmission on the Daytona we rode at the intro to sometimes be a bit recalcitrant to accomplish gear changes, but our test unit (which already had more than 2800 miles on the clock when delivered) had no such problems as long as you didn't get lazy with the shift lever.
Although the Triumph's cockpit...
Although the Triumph's cockpit is fairly bare-bones, it basically gives you all the info you need, and it's clean-looking. Repositioned bars are a godsend for ergonomics.
The Daytona's rather long...
The Daytona's rather long exhaust canister is tucked up enough that we didn't drag it or any part of the pipe like the T595. It's a bit heavy though, and you could probably drop some pounds by fitting an aftermarket exhaust.
Some Triumph fans may opine...
Some Triumph fans may opine that without the single-sided swingarm, the 955i looks rather plain, but we don't miss it; we like being able to adjust the chain without affecting rear ride height. Spring preload rings on the shock are supremely difficult to get at, and there's no spanner in the tool kit.
At the Estoril intro, Triumph officials went through great pains to distance the new 955i from the R1/GSX-R field of competition. "The new Daytona 955i is not meant to be an R1/GSX-R1000 beater," said Triumph rep Ross Clifford. "Our goal was a much more powerful, lighter and agile handling Daytona; addressing its weaknesses while still retaining its unique character."
If you keep that design brief in mind, then they definitely succeeded with the new 955i powerplant. The 955cc triple has no problem pulling the tall lower gears due to its stupendous amount of low and midrange torque. Big power starts at 4000 rpm (any lower than that requires a smooth throttle hand), launching the Daytona forward through the rev band like a locomotive on crystal meth; revs climb even quicker once the tach hits 7500 rpm, spinning up far faster than the old T595 ever could. The power continues to build up top, with the Triumph's distinct exhaust timbre accompanying the blurring scenery.
Enlarged radiator openings...
Enlarged radiator openings in the fairing work with a more efficient radiator to help shed additional heat from the beefed-up motor, and avoiding roasted thighs like on the T595.
However, you can still feel...
However, you can still feel a little heat coming from the engine bay, and there's a lot of open space between the radiator, engine and bodywork that probably could be closed off for better air management inside the fairing.
The Daytona's 45mm conventional...
The Daytona's 45mm conventional cartridge fork works well up to a ten-tenths pace, where some stiffer springs may be in order. Front brake action from the four-piston caliper/320mm disc setup is excellent.
You'll notice we use the term "locomotive" rather than "missile." That's because--while revving much quicker than the previous Daytona--the 955i is still a somewhat sluggish revver when run next to the latest Japanese four-cylinders. Make no mistake, the Triumph can make time with the best of 'em through the curves; it just generates its acceleration in a slightly less frantic manner. Despite the claims of a lighter crankshaft, the 955i still has a lot of flywheel effect. This can be a boon for riders less accustomed to the precise throttle control and gearbox manipulation necessary with a typical four-cylinder. Throttle application isn't as critical, and sweeping turns where momentum is key allow you to showcase the Triumph's stomping midrange.
You wouldn't think so when...
You wouldn't think so when looking at the two bikes, but the 955i's ergos are amazingly similar to the Yamaha R1. The big difference is that the Yamaha is far slimmer between the knees--and much lighter.
In fact, the Triumph really does blend the best of both worlds: a V-twin's low/midrange grunt with a four-cylinder's screaming top end. The 955i is very deceptive in how it generates its speed. The gearing, especially in the lower cogs, is tall enough that the motor's relatively loping gait fools you into thinking you aren't really traveling that fast...until the next corner comes up. That tall gearing, however, when combined with the heavy flywheel effect, means care must taken with downshifts during corner entries in the tighter stuff to avoid rear wheel hop.
The 955i's injection was glitchfree, with no abruptness coming off of a closed throttle, and no hiccups anywhere in the powerband. Mileage was excellent for a fuel-injected machine, with averages in the high 40s leading to a range of almost 200 miles to a tankful.
Although the chassis has remained basically the same (besides the switch to a conventional swingarm), the steeper steering geometry has made the 955i a much quicker and easier steering motorcycle. Far less effort is needed at the bars to initiate a turn, although again, the Triumph is not in the league of cheetah-quick turners like the Honda CBR929RR. Carving tighter lines is more of a pleasure on the new Daytona, and despite the extremely steep steering head angle and lack of trail (claimed anyway, since Triumph altered the geometry by simply adding rear ride height), we never experienced any instability or nervousness in the front end.
The reason for the 955i's...
The reason for the 955i's excessively long throttle twist is this eccentric cable drum located on the EFI deep inside the engine bay. Note that the first portion of throttle grip movement will only actuate the throttle plates so far (probably to help alleviate off/on throttle abruptness common to fuel injection), then increases significantly as the throttle is opened up more than halfway.
Suspension action overall was very good, with only slightly soft spring rates intruding upon an otherwise excellent package. We had to crank in a fair amount of spring preload and compression damping in both ends (more so with the rear shock) to keep the chassis settled properly, avoiding the bottom portion of the suspension travel, where it stiffens up considerably. Once the suspension was dialed in, however, the Daytona was a stable platform, with none of the harshness we've been hearing so much about. (Don't ask us where we heard....) The fact that the suspension keeps the 955i's chassis under control is even more appreciable when you consider that the Triumph is still a bit of a porker. Weight savings is the one area where the Hinckley engineers came up short; despite their claims of a loss of 22 pounds from the T595, our scales showed it to be closer to nine pounds. At 486 pounds fully loaded with fuel, the 955i definitely isn't the lightest sportbike on the planet, and any attempt to fling it around like one of the Japanese flyweights will hammer that point home in a hurry.
It's a good thing that the brakes are up to the task of slowing that mass. Braking action from the Nissin four-piston caliper/320mm disc combination was excellent, with an aggressive initial bite followed by a linear braking progression curve common to sintered metal pads. Overall brake power, feel and modulation were considered very good, with the rear brake garnering similar plaudits.
When looked at from the majority of the design goals initiated by Triumph's engineers when they set out to revamp the Daytona, the 955i is a definite success. Yes, the bike could stand to lose a few more pounds, and the seat could use a wider platform with softer foam, but the rest of the Daytona's revisions add up to a machine that meets the criteria that Triumph had in mind for its flagship sportbike: a more powerful, agile and comfortable Daytona that retains the original's unique character. This is one alternative sportbike that doesn't force you to compromise performance for that character.
FRONT: Spring preload: four lines showing; rebound damping: one turn from full stiff; compression damping: 1.5 turns from full stiff; ride height: fork tubes raised 5mm from triple clamp.
REAR: Spring preload: 25mm from top of spring to end of threads; rebound damping: 1.5 turns out from full stiff; compression damping: two turns out from full stiff.
Test Notes: Triumph Daytona 955i
+ Seriously strong motor puts old T595 to shame
+ Stable chassis, much improved suspension
+ Improved ergos
- Motor revs sluggishly compared with the Japanese fours
- Needs to lose some pounds
- Needs stiffer rear spring
x This bike isn't targeted at the GSX-R/R1 mob, and it's a great alternative to the mongrel hordes
Sport Rider Opinions
Triumph can claim the Daytona is not intended to compete directly with the R1s and GSX-Rs, and Kent can talk about individuality, but in reality the 955i will be compared to those bikes by potential buyers. Sure sport riders want their bikes to be different, and previously I would have said that for the extra cost of the Triumph you could get some nice trinkets for a 929 or ZX-9R and express yourself that way. The new Daytona, however, you could buy based on its performance, rather than its character alone. The new bike is heaps better than the old version, and much closer to the four-cylinders' playing field. The new die-cast motor is more powerful while retaining its friendly nature, and the chassis is solid (although there is a resonance in the front end at low speeds which I find quite distracting). Now the Triumph has individuality and performance on its side, a good combination in my book. -Andrew Trevitt
It's a seriously tough job to come out with an open-class sportbike that'll hang with the latest Japanese rocketships. And Triumph realized that when they built the Daytona 955i. They made sure all the moto-journalists at the Portugal intro knew that the new Daytona was meant to be a faster, better-handling Daytona`and that's all. No delusions of grandeur or adspeak effluvia; just an attempt at building a superior iteration of the original.
And in that respect, the engineers at Triumph have largely succeeded. The new three-cylinder powerplant absolutely puts the old version to shame, whipping up gobs of midrange torque and top-end horsepower that can get the 955i downright scootin' along at a competitive pace. It may take more of a throttle twist than most sportbikes, and there's a little more work involved. But none of the Japanese bikes have that wonderful three-cylinder howl at full chat. And the improved handling of the chassis has made me forget all about the old version's single-sided swingarm.
The Triumph Daytona 955i is still a tad quirky, yes. But there's no longer any major compromises-especially in performance-that need to be overlooked when shopping for a bike with the Trumpet's character.-Kent Kunitsugu
Specifications: Triumph Daytona 955i
Suggested retail price: $10,999
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse, inline, four-stroke three
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl. shim-under-bucket adjustment
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 65.0mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Carburetion: Electronic fuel injection, 46mm throttle bodies
Front suspension: 45mm conventional cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Single shock absorber, 5.1 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Front brake: 2, four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front wheel: 3.5 x 17.0 in.; cast aluminum
Rear wheel: 5.5 x 17.0 in.; cast aluminum
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17 Bridgestone BT011F
Rear tire: 180/55 ZR17 Bridgestone BT010R
Rake/trail: 22.8 deg./3.2 in. (81mm)
Wheelbase: 55.8 in. (1417mm)
Seat height: 32.8 in. (833mm)
Fuel capacity: 5.6 gal. (21L)
Weight: 486 lb. (220kg) wet; 452 lb. (205kg) dry
Instruments: Tachometer, speedometer, LCD readout for odometer, dual tripmeter, coolant temperature, clock, lights for neutral, turn signals, high beam, low oil pressure, low fuel level, and fuel-injection problem
Fuel consumption: 38 to 49 mpg, 46 mpg avg.
Top speed: 158.6 mph
Quarter-mile: 10.61 sec. @ 130.33 mph
Roll-ons: 60-80mph/4.05 sec. 80-100mph/4.30 sec.