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.
The Daytona 675 breathes through...
The Daytona 675 breathes through a centralized ram-air intake that runs directly through the steering head for maximum efficiency. An electronically controlled flapper valve at the front regulates intake flow at lower rpms for optimum velocity and minimum intake noise.
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.