If there is one manufacturer worth keeping an eye on in the coming years it’s Triumph. The British firm has virtually re-engineered its marketing strategy, and the results to date are impressive to say the least. Gone are the manufacturer’s finicky two-wheel time sucks of yesteryear; replacing them is a lineup of refined, well-packaged motorcycles that are more than capable of running with the Japanese — or European — competition on the street. And one need only look at the AMA Pro Racing results to see how Triumph’s aggressive efforts have paid off at the racetrack.
Much of Triumph’s recent success can be attributed to the brawn of its R models. Offered as an alternative to their standard counterparts, Triumph’s R-labeled bikes are everything you wish the base models could be — and for (typically) not much more money. They jettison middle-of-the-road suspension for high-dollar componentry, abandon run-of-the-mill brakes for something with more bite, and utilize carbon fiber where plastic panels would do. The result (as the Street Triple R and Daytona 675R have proven) is typically a class-leading package that’s one part practical, one part hooligan. For 2012, that impressive R lineup is one model stronger thanks to the addition of Triumph’s new Speed Triple R. Let the hooliganism begin.
The Building Blocks
The base-model Speed Triple was last updated in early 2011, and the improvements Triumph made back then would play a pivotal role in the success of the new R model. The chassis received the most attention, with the new Triple running a redesigned aluminum twin-spar frame that worked with a more heavily canted engine to put added weight over the front wheel. Steering geometry was tailored toward quick steering by means of a steeper 22.8-degree rake, while a 90.9mm trail (versus 84mm) and 18.5mm-longer swingarm were incorporated to add some stability to a bike that’s overly susceptible to windblasts (more on that later).
In an effort to put even more weight over the front of the motorcycle, Triumph engineers repositioned the battery to just in front of the reworked tank and pulled the handlebar closer to the rider, pushing the footpegs 29mm frontward to complement the aforementioned change. Engine updates were minimal in 2011, and consisted of little more than an updated airbox with increased filter area. The story is much the same for 2012 — no engine updates — with the R model retaining the same 1050cc powerplant that’s long made the bike a standout on the street. But what the Speed Triple R lacks in engine revisions, it more than makes up for in chassis and aesthetic updates.
The Speed Triple R’s numerous...
The Speed Triple R’s numerous carbon fiber panels are formed using an autoclave process and trimmed by CNC machines. It’s doubtful they offer much advantage in terms of weight, but boy do they look good.
Back in 2011, Triumph engineers hacked an impressive 6.6 pounds off the Speed Triple. And in embellishing the bike with its R treatment for 2012, they’ve lopped off another 4.5 pounds. Carbon fiber panels are placed just about everywhere the eye can see, but are more for aesthetics than weight loss. The PVM forged aluminum wheels, on the other hand, drop around 3.75 pounds where it matters most while at the same time significantly reducing inertia. Brembo monobloc calipers flank the new front wheel, and are identical to those seen on the Speed Triple R’s sportier sibling, the Daytona 657R. A Brembo master cylinder up front accompanies the new brake caliper setup.
But nothing transforms the Speed Triple R more than the Öhlins suspension front and rear. These Showa replacements ooze racetrack success, and while they’re identical to the 675R’s units in terms of architecture, they’re different in regards to spring and damping rates. The Speed Triple R’s NIX30 fork runs a stiffer 9.5N/mm spring, for instance (compared to the standard model’s 9.0N/mm example), whereas the twin-tube TTX36 shock runs a 100N/mm spring over the standard model’s 95N/mm piece.
Setting adjustments can be...
Setting adjustments can be made within seconds thanks to the TTX36’s easy-to-reach adjusters. The R-model’s shock is much more composed than the standard model’s Showa unit, especially when riding aggressively.
Earlier we mentioned that the R-model’s engine is identical, but that’s not entirely true — the Triple R runs a practically all-new transmission, bolstered by a new selector drum, selector shafts and tighter tolerances. Ten of the 12 gears in the six-speed transmission are retooled utilizing a five-dog design that’s intended to improve shift engagement, and sixth gear was shortened by 3.4 percent, a change we’d find difficult to discern on the street.
If all this number crunching and spec-sheet jargon sounds familiar don’t fret, it’s not your mind playing tricks on you. We did in fact recently test and report on the Speed Triple R following the bike’s official launch in Jerez, Spain (“The Right Stuff,” May ’12), but that test saw us running laps around the world-famous Circuito de Jerez, a fast, bowling-alley smooth track that told us little more than how the Speed Triple R would work when ridden at ten-tenths. A chance to test the bike stateside, on our roads and at…well, just a tick below ten-tenths, right Bradley?…would ultimately tell us more about how the bike performs in a real-world environment.
Triumph redesigned the Speed Triple ergonomics almost two years ago now, but between the track launches and zero test time back home, we had yet to get a feel for how Triumph’s new ergonomics package would work in regards to day-to-day commuting. Testing the Speed Triple R would give us some insight. At 32.5 inches, the R-model’s seat height is a smidgen lower than the 2010 Speed Triple’s measurements, and overall pretty easy on riders looking to balance the 479-pound bike (wet, full fuel) on more than just the balls of their feet. Reach to the handlebar is best described as short thanks to the 2011 update that saw the bar pushed more toward the rider. Having just hopped off the Tuono V4 R however, Kento noted that the Speed Triple R’s handlebar is mounted relatively low, while Bradley confirmed that the bar’s comparatively flat bend didn’t help matters. Footpeg-to-seat distance is tight, but surprisingly affected overall comfort very little during commutes to and from the office.
A generous thumb to the starter brings the 1050cc triple to life and the bike settles in at a reasonably high 1300 rpm, with the exhaust emitting your typical three-cylinder note once the throttle is blipped; really, there’s almost no need for an aftermarket exhaust. As you sit there letting the bike warm up, rock it from side to side and you’ll notice the R doesn’t feel more than a pound lighter than the standard model. The difference is that the bike’s weight loss has been more than offset by its new ABS system. But the R is still plenty manageable at city-street speeds, and the light steering makes knifing through traffic child’s play. This is a streetfighter, after all.
We’d rate the Triumph’s instrument...
We’d rate the Triumph’s instrument cluster a seven out of 10. There’s plenty of information and it’s easy to read at a glance, but it could be more organized. We’d score the mirrors similarly, because while they are vibration-free, they’re mounted pretty close to the rider and don’t provide the widest view of what’s behind you.
There are two things to notice...
There are two things to notice here, Ohlins and Brembo. Both the NIX30 fork and monobloc calipers make riding in the tight stuff a better experience. Tied to the monoblocs is a Brembo master cylinder that thankfully doesn’t provide an overly aggressive initial bite.
Like ‘em or not, Triumph’s...
Like ‘em or not, Triumph’s new headlight design is here to stay. We really don’t have any complaints, and Bradley actually likes them better than the old design. Unfortunately, most hardcore Triumph fans won’t agree.
The aforementioned ABS can be turned off, so don’t shun the Triumph just yet. The system (which we were unable to test at the bike’s launch) reverts to the On position when the key is cycled however, meaning you’ll need to dedicate an extra 10 seconds or so to each gas stop should you wish to toggle back to the Off position. Thankfully, the LCD screen that flanks the Triumph’s analog tachometer is easy to navigate, with two buttons on its left side that allow you to swap between trip meters and adjust settings. Unless you’re a hooligan at heart, there’s not a pressing need to turn the ABS off. The system works surprisingly well to keep cycling to a minimum, and only out back did we occasionally get frustrated with the intervention levels.
The Speed Triple R’s brakes feel noticeably tamer than the 675R’s, be it because of the ABS plumbing or the added weight the naked bike carries over its sportbike sister. The first quarter-inch of pull is soft, but grab the brakes beyond that and you’ll have so much stopping power you won’t know what to do with it…aside from “inadvertent” stoppies of course. “No really, officer, I didn’t know this 479-pound bike would go on its nose so easy.” Back to reality, this brake package really is impressive, with great power and enough feedback from the lever to make stoplight-to-stoplight riding a one-finger chore.
The Öhlins NIX fork and TTX shock match the Brembo brakes in terms of performance — especially when you get into the tight stuff, where the more aggressively damped suspenders feel immediately at home. Conveniently, Triumph will ship each Speed Triple R with recommended suspension settings (based on extensive testing done with Öhlins) for Comfort, Sport or Circuit — as the Brits label them. The Comfort settings provide little compression or rebound damping front or rear, whereas the Circuit settings require you significantly tighten the suspension up on both ends. Sport splits the difference, and was where we set the clickers. Aside from a few small damping adjustments, we went about taking some preload out of the front fork.
The biggest difference between the R model and its less-equipped counterpart is that the bike is much more stable through the corner, without that soft feel that has the standard model pumping over the smallest undulations in the road. Feedback from the front isn’t overly inspiring (this is a 479-pound naked bike after all), but feel out back is rock-solid once the suspension settings are dialed in to suit your pace — and weight. Getting the bike to work well in the tight stuff — for us at least — didn’t come at the expense of a brutal ride down the freeway either.
Another advantage the R model holds over the standard Speed Triple — and perhaps its biggest advantage — is that it requires less effort through the transitions. One reason is its firmer suspension, which sits higher in its travel rather than packing down. The PVM wheels reduce inertia by 16 percent up front and 25 percent out back, and play an even bigger role in the Speed Triple R’s quick steering. These hoops are 2.5mm thinner along the walls, and are perhaps the most overlooked addition for 2012.
Because there were no drastic changes made to its powerplant, the Speed Triple R feels identical to the standard model when you roll the throttle on. Power is immediate and available throughout the rev range thanks to the triple’s extremely flat torque curve. Most jaunts down the freeway are spent with the tachometer needle hovering right around the 5000 rpm mark, and there’s enough midrange power to squirt past cars when need be. The 1050cc engine doesn’t feel like it revs as quick as its 675cc siblings, but power builds seamlessly up to the bike’s 10,300 rpm rev limiter. In the canyons especially, we found ourselves making fewer shifts and using the bike’s torque to launch us off the exit of corners.
Forged aluminum wheels direct...
Forged aluminum wheels direct from PVM drop an astounding 3.75 pounds and turn the R model into a much quicker steering motorcycle…thankfully. Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires come standard, and offer superb grip plus improved steering characteristics. Notice the ABS ring out back.
Even when ridden aggressively, our test mule was capable of some impressive fuel mileage numbers. 150 miles were a breeze on a full tank, and 40 mpg wasn’t much of a problem. The Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires took a bit more of a beating when speeds picked up, their softer construction wearing a bit quick after a few spirited rides. Grip is absolutely superb however, and we gladly traded mileage for traction.
Switching through the gearbox is evidence that the transmission is better than in years past, although it’s still not perfect. Shifts are just a bit notchy, and you need to roll off the throttle pretty generously in order to grab the next gear. Finding neutral requires some patience, and why we couldn’t get a quickshifter for the extra money we don’t understand. Especially considering how well the 675R’s unit works.
There are a few other concerns with the Speed Triple, but it really comes down to us being nitpicky. Windblasts are pretty brutal the second you pass the 80 mph mark (Triumph’s most popular accessory is its flyscreen), and there isn’t an overabundance of room in the saddle for bigger riders to move around. These are aspects we didn’t bother to recognize when blasting around the racetrack, but found important when commuting on a daily basis. Aside from that, our only gripe goes back to having to turn the ABS off every time we cycle the key.
High Expectations…At A Higher Cost
You may or may not have noticed earlier that we said Triumph’s R models are (typically) not that much more expensive. Sly, aren’t we? The honest truth is that — while the Daytona 675R is only $1700 more than the standard 675 — the $15,999 Speed Triple R is a whopping $3201 more than the ABS-equipped standard model, and $4001 more than the devoid-of-ABS base model. That’s a decent chunk of change no doubt, but add up the cost of the Öhlins suspension and PVM wheels and it’ll come out as a wash; the carbon fiber panels, Brembo brakes and special graphics are freebies in our opinion. At least that’s how we’ll sell it to our significant other.
Price aside, the Speed Triple R is a pretty significant model for the naked-bike category. It takes an extremely popular, well-built platform and adds to it everything that the serious rider would need. Triumph is definitely on to something, and we’ll continue to keep our eyes on the manufacturer’s next move. SR
The Speed Triple’s horsepower...
The Speed Triple’s horsepower figures aren’t really anything to write home about, with our R test mule putting out just over 117 horsepower. More impressive is the bike’s torque curve, which is extremely flat and makes tighter sections of road all the more appealing.
Suggested Suspension Settings
Speed Triple R
|+||Steers much quicker|
|+||Brakes have tons of power|
|+||Very few vibrations|
|–||Footpeg-to-seat distance a bit tight|
|–||Costs a lot more|
|x||The Speed Triple just got better|
Spring preload — 4.5 turns out from full soft; rebound damping — 12 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping — 20 clicks out from full stiff
Spring preload — 3mm thread showing above locking preload collar; rebound damping — 9 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping — 17 clicks out from full stiff
2012 Triumph Speed Triple R
Type: Liquid-cooled, inline triple
Valve arrangement: DOHC, four valves/cyl. Shim-under-bucket adjustment
Bore x stroke: 79.0 × 71.4mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Induction: Keihin EFI, 46mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front suspension: Öhlins 43mm NIX30 inverted fork with adjustable rebound and compression damping, 4.7 in. travel
Rear suspension: Öhlins TTX36 twin-tube monoshock with rebound and compression damping, 5.1 in. travel
Front brake: Dual 320mm rotors with radial-mount Brembo 4-piston monobloc calipers, switchable ABS
Rear brake: Single 255mm rotor with Nissin 2-piston caliper, switchable ABS
Front wheel: 3.5 x 17 in. forged aluminum alloy
Rear wheel: 6.0 x 17 in. forged aluminum alloy
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP
Rake/trail: 22.8 degrees/3.6 in. (90.9mm)
Wheelbase: 56.5 in. (1435mm)
Seat height: 32.5 in. (825mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
Weight: 479 lb. (218kg) wet; 451 lb. (205kg) dry
Instruments: Analog tachometer, LCD multi-functional instrument pack with digital speedometer, fuel gauge, dual trip meter, fuel consumption, remaining fuel range, average mpg, odometer, clock, programmable gear change lights, lap timer, service interval announcement and TPMS ready. Warning lights for low fuel, high beam, neutral, oil level, coolant temp, ABS and turn signals
Quarter mile: 10.84 sec. @ 127.13 mph
Top speed: NA
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/2.80 sec., 80-100 mph/3.27 sec.
Fuel consumption: 35 to 40 mpg, 38 mpg average
After hustling the Speed Triple R around the Circuito de Jerez during the bike’s launch a few months back, I’ll admit I was extremely excited to get a test bike stateside. But my initial excitement was curbed a bit following a stint through the canyons; soft settings in the rear left the bike wallowing both into and out of the corner, and an overall imbalance front to rear saw me rolling out of the throttle more often than not.
Some major adjustments to the Öhlins suspension turned things right around, and a few quick stabs at the throttle reminded me what makes this Speed Triple so great. The thing’s got a killer engine for the street, decent ergos (albeit a bit tight for taller guys) and tons of character. $16 thousand seems a bit steep in my opinion, but if you want the ultimate Speed Triple, this is it.
The Speed Triple R is one of those bikes that’s hard to fault when you’re riding it. Nice torquey engine, smooth throttle response, nimble chassis, superb suspension, brick-wall brakes…the list goes on. I was having so much fun on it that I figured there couldn’t be anything better in the naked bike category…until I jumped on the Aprilia Tuono V4 R, and get most of the same attributes along with 25 more horsepower to peel my eyelids back for $1000 less.