After coming away impressed with Triumph's new Daytona 600 from our brief initial ride in Spain ("Second Time Around," Aug. '03), we couldn't wait to get our hands on the U.S. version and see how it performed in the real world of American canyons and city streets-as well as on the racetrack against the latest razor-sharp Japanese 600s. There was no dillydallying from Triumph this time regarding the specific role of the new Daytona 600; the British company fully intends for it to meet the best of the Japanese middleweights head-on. So you can imagine our anticipation when we finally took delivery of our U.S.-spec Daytona 600.
But the transition from Euro-spec fuel injection curves to the more stringent U.S. settings can sometimes be a problem, especially for smaller manufacturers lacking big R&D resources. Despite ditching the predecessor's somewhat unreliable Sagem fuel injection system for a new Keihin EFI setup similar to some of the Japanese 600s, the Triumph still has a couple of quirks you must get accustomed to. Unlike other 600s that can be started immediately after turning the key, the Daytona 600 requires you to wait a few seconds for the system to reset itself before the starter will turn. The Daytona is also fairly coldblooded; you need to warm it up for at least a few minutes (even on a 75 F day) before it will run properly at lower throttle settings. Even then, any slow-speed maneuvering requires a deft throttle/clutch hand due to the Triumph's lack of off-idle power.
Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the Triumph has the most oversquare bore/stroke configuration in the 600 class-there's definitely not much low-end power overall to speak of. Taking off from a stop reveals an annoying dead spot in the powerband just below 4000 rpm, meaning that some revs are necessary to get away from traffic. Any type of decent acceleration requires that the engine be at least above 7500 rpm before you twist the throttle, often requiring a minimum of two downshifts in order to make a quick highway pass.
We also found that our U.S. test unit-contrary to what we experienced at the Spain intro-still runs somewhat hot during normal operation. Highway cruising in 75 F ambient temperatures has the temp gauge hovering in the 190 F range, and any type of traffic slowdown quickly sees the digital readout rising into the 210-215 F range, with waves of heat emanating from the engine bay. We grew accustomed to hearing the whine of the radiator fan upon engine shutdown.
Nevertheless, the Daytona is still an amiable street companion. Ergos are fairly comfy, with plenty of legroom (much better than the TT600's cramped position, though the Daytona's seat height is a bit tall) and a short reach to the bars. The seat itself is broad and flat to provide good support, and suspension rates are cushy enough on the softer settings to provide a smooth ride. There's decent protection from the windscreen, and the mirrors are far enough out to give you an excellent rearward view. Vibration was a little noticeable, however; highway cruising had the mirror images fuzzy, and the footpegs began to get buzzy after 15 minutes in the saddle. The low-fuel light comes on rather early (around the 135-mile mark), but we were able to stretch approximately 160 miles from one tankful.
Once the horizon starts tilting and the footpegs start scraping, however, most of the Triumph's minor annoyances fade into the background. The Daytona's biggest forte is its well-balanced chassis and handling. Front-end feedback from the 43mm conventional cartridge fork is excellent, and spring/damping rates-while a bit on the soft side-are well-chosen, combining good wheel control and compliance without being overly stiff. The new chassis' slightly relaxed steering geometry numbers provide an excellent compromise between super-sharp response and rock-solid stability; we saw no need for a steering damper during all of our full-tilt testing regimen, something that can't be said for many of today's racebike-influenced 600 chassis. And despite the increased legroom, ground clearance was never a factor, with only the pegs touching down.
Despite being equipped with...
Despite being equipped with a humongous radiator, our Daytona 600 test unit still ran pretty hot (unlike the test bikes at the Spain launch), with temperatures easily spiraling over 200 F on a 75 F day. We're wondering if airflow management inside the fairing (as well as the side-panel cutouts) could be the culprit.
We did notice the Daytona's tendency to fall into the corner once past the halfway point in its lean angle, though we would attribute that trait to the tires. Our test unit came equipped with standard Pirelli Diablos, while the OEM fitment is a special "T" model of the Diablo. We weren't able to get the Diablo T tires in time for the test, so we can't positively blame the handling idiosyncrasy on the bike's rubber, but when we slapped on a set of Michelin Pilot Race H2 street/track radials for racetrack testing, the fall-in tendency disappeared.
Another of the Triumph's strong points is its brakes. While exhibiting none of the flashy external components of its competition, the Daytona's four-piston calipers perform admirably, offering fantastic feel and power. We'd say the brake pads are responsible for the surprising performance, with a near-perfect compound choice providing good initial bite and progressive action that allows deep corner entries with little effort.
The Daytona 600 thankfully...
The Daytona 600 thankfully has a more angular, aggressive styling approach than the previous TT600, with a distinctive frontal profile underlined by the central ram-air intake. Note the "double bubble" shaping of the tinted windscreen-a nice touch.
Unfortunately, the Daytona 600 still lags behind the competition motorwise. Three years ago, 97 horsepower would have put the Triumph right in the thick of the 600-class hunt, but with some of the latest Japanese middleweights stomping out 105 horsepower and above, the Triumph once again finds itself at a deficit right from the start. Compounding this is a lack of midrange acceleration compared to the latest competition-the 599cc mill revs quickly and top-end speed is good, but really strong power isn't available until 9000 rpm, making the Daytona rider work harder to keep it in the powerband. Throttle response is still a bit abrupt when getting on the gas above 7500 rpm, despite the new EFI's dual butterfly valves that are designed to counter this problem. Overall fuel delivery just lacks the refined feel of a Yamaha R6 or Honda CBR, sapping rider concentration during cornering that could be put to better use. While not dog-slow by any means, even a small deficit like the Triumph's is magnified in the ultra-competitive 600 class.
It's a tough task trying to compete in that middleweight Supersport segment, especially against the combined R&D might of the established brands. Triumph should be commended for taking on such a difficult job from scratch, and with the Daytona 600, they've come tantalizingly close. If you're looking for the absolute best-performing 600 weapon, there are better choices, but the Triumph remains a great alternative, and is probably only some engine modifications away from being in the thick of the 600-class battle.
This article was originally published in the December 2003 issue of Sport Rider
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, inline four
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, shim-under-bucket adjustment
Bore x stroke: 68 x 41.3mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Induction: Keihin twin-throttle-plate electronic fuel injection, 38mm throttle bodies
Front suspension: 43mm conventional cartridge fork; adjustments for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Single shock absorber; adjustments for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Front brake: Two four-piston calipers, 308mm discs
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front wheel: 3.50 x 17 in., cast alloy
Rear wheel: 5.50 x 17 in., cast alloy
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo T
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo T
Rake/trail: 24.6 deg./3.5 in. (89.1mm)
Wheelbase: 54.7 in. (1390mm)
Seat height: 32.1 in. (815mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.7 gal. (18L)
Weight: 448 lbs. (203kg) wet; 419.8 lbs. (190kg) dry
Instruments: Analog tachometer; LCD display panel for digital speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, clock, coolant temp; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signal, low fuel, EFI failure, oil pressure, coolant temp