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.
Triumph Sprint ST
Triumph Speed Triple
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.
The biggest change to the...
The biggest change to the Speed Triple this year is a switch to Brembo four-piston calipers. We've never had a problem with the Speed Triple brakes, and these units work just as great. Note the steel-braided brake line, standard on this bike.
The rear of the Speed Triple...
The rear of the Speed Triple received a makeover, highlighted by the stunning multispoke rear wheel. A new subframe gives the pillion more legroom as well. The Arrow exhaust is a factory option, though the stock units sound plenty charming as well.