Auto Tech Review: Launched in 1994, the Speed Triple is presently one of the best sellers of the Hinckley-based Triumph Motorcycles. Now, the same motorcycle that gave birth to the streetfighter segment is being assembled at Triumph's plant in Manesar, Haryana. We got astride the Speed Triple on Indian roads to understand the technology that made it a global success and to find out how effective that is in India.
The Speed Triple is a motorcycle unlike any other, not just in terms of styling but the overall approach it has got from the engineers. When Triumph updated the original model in 2011, the most significant change came across as the replacement of the twin-round head lamps with bug-eyed angular units. While many criticised the styling change, customers stood through the time and the bike continues to be one of best-sellers of the iconic British company. Such a strong acceptance despite the lack of instantly likable looks point towards impressive technology, which competitors find hard to match.
One has to admit that even when quirky, British designs in cars and motorcycles are widely regarded as impressive. The Speed Triple continues in the same fashion, especially with its front design. The bug-eyed headlamps along with a small wind-reflector give the Speed Triple a look that cannot be confused with any other motorcycle in the world. The design might not be pretty but offers a head turner effect.
The bike looks more like an alien machine with a unique character and aggression, all of which make for a great presence on the road. The neatly fitted engine within a blacked out twin-spar frame and the rising lines up to the rear maintain a sporty stance throughout. Pretty much every design element of the Speed Triple is unconventional, which is also its strength. The only bit that looks conventional, ironically, doesn't look too good and that is the rear section. The elongated plastic rear panel housing the tail and indicator lamps looks out of place and brings in a sense of ordinariness on a bike, which otherwise looks spectacularly special.
On closer inspection, one finds that material quality is of top order and it's hard to find even a cable-tie or a bracket of ordinary quality. The switches, handlebar, paint, instrument cluster and everything else around reflect quality of craftsmanship standards.
The Speed Triple is one of the easiest litre-class motorcycles to ride but great fun at the same time, primarily due to its engine behaviour. The engine is an in-line three-cylinder 1,050 cc liquid-cooled unit, developing a little above 133 hp and 111 Nm of torque. DOHC coupled with four valves atop each of the three cylinders aid the combustion chamber.
The engine starts off on a loud and firm note and settles into a pleasant hum. Given the Speed Triple's positioning as an urban motorcycle, the engine is tuned to offer more performance low-down and in the mid-range. Owing to the availability of ample low-down torque, the bike pulls cleanly in 6th gear from about 55 km/h too. The low-down and mid-range power band allow for lesser gearshifts in traffic and quicker passes. The motorcycle, in fact, is so easy to ride that below 3,000 rpm it's hard to guess the kind of power being reined in. Throttle past about 3,000 rpm and the Speed Triple is a completely different motorcycle.
Past this mark, an array of nice-looking blue lights flash to indicate an upshift, which minus the aesthetic appreciation can be ignored on an empty stretch of road. The motorcycle willingly pulls power-wheelies, partly owing to the sharp throttle response, with the first gear alone allowing for a top speed of about 100 km/h. Since the gear ratios are aimed at urban riding and not track, power starts tapering off closer to the redline of 11,000 rpm. Between 4,000 and 10,000 rpm though, performance is potent yet controllable, bringing us to the highlight of the Speed Triple. This is one motorcycle that can be used every day for practical reasons unlike many other motorcycles, which constantly need to be revved hard to stay in the power band.
A key reason for this balance is the advanced fuel-injection system and the intelligent mapping by Triumph engineers. The six-speed gearbox deserves a special mention for the smooth shifts throughout the range. Finding the neutral too never takes more than a gentle dab. A dash to 100 km/h of speed from a standstill came up in 3.8 s during our testing, and accelerated all the way to a top speed of 210 km/h before the road ran out. Triumph claims a top speed in excess of 230 km/h, which looks easily achievable on the right stretch of road. Rounding up the powertrain is the three-in-two exhaust, which sounds impressive once past about 6,000 rpm. Closer to the red line too, the sound is brilliantly pleasant and authoritative.
When Triumph updated the Speed Triple in 2011, it introduced an all-new frame aimed at providing more forward weight distribution in favour of sharper handling and better front-end feel. Astride the Speed Triple, one finds the riding posture to be sporty yet straight-forward, offering easy manoeuvres and comfortable long rides.
Once moving, the Speed Triple immediately seems to lose weight like most litre-class motorcycles. The straight handlebar and high seating position provide a commanding view and good control over the bike. The front is extremely light to handle, primarily due to the sharp 22.8o rake and the short 1,435 mm wheelbase and 90.9 mm trail. The kit also includes 43mm diameter Showa upside down forks upfront and a centrally mounted, adjustable single rear shocker at the rear. The brakes comprise of a 320 mm dual-disc set-up with Brembo's four-piston radial callipers at the front and a 255 mm single disc at the rear with ABS as standard. Lightweight cast aluminium wheels lower the unsprung weight, the effect of which is welcome when leaning into and straightening out of corners.
A key feature of the package is the single-sided swingarm made out of aluminium, coupled with a chain adjuster. The stiff set-up of the swingarm and the chassis enable for good handling, right up to a level where one won't be disappointed on a track day too. The low handlebars, rear-set and high foot pegs along with a supportive seat enable quick rider body movement on tight courses.
The front end is impressively communicative, sending through precise feedback to the rider over varied surfaces and situations. This helps in getting used to the dynamics quickly and in turn entering at and carrying through corners a lot more speed than visuals of the bike might suggest. Of special mention is the way in which the suspension and brakes work during sudden braking, translating into controlled dive and excellent bite from the brakes.
The ABS unit works brilliantly well, ensuring the rear wheel doesn't get locked up too easily. The overall composure of the bike is so good that while braking hard from about 150 km/h, the rear end stuck to its line with very little sideways movement. This is also due to the balanced weight distribution and sticky Metzeler tyres on the bike.
The short wheelbase and low-down responsive engine also means that pulling up wheelies is mostly a non-intentional act, when riding hard. The overall combination provides a rider with a machine with impressive performance in all areas. Even in terms of features, the Speed Triple is generously loaded as it comes with a LCD information display housing digital speedometer, fuel gauge, trip meter, analogue tachometer, lap timer and service interval notification.
The Speed Triple, after a day of rigorous riding and looking into its technologies, left us mightily impressed. Being a naked motorcycle, the Speed Triple has a small visual footprint for the rider's vision and is so engaging that in no time it gradually disappears beneath the rider, compounding the feeling of gliding over the road.
Naked motorcycles have a different charm and the Speed Triple epitomises it, even when pit against more powerful competitors. That mainly is down to the strong and versatile character of the machine, stemming out of the technologies used. It is also down to the way these technologies come together to offer the rider an unparalleled riding experience, whether on the limit or negotiating the ills of traffic.
The only negative we could find was the way the rear looks and we're also told that the pillion seat isn't too comfortable. Nonetheless, we weren't able to put that claim to test given the shortage of time. The Speed Triple does exactly what the rider intends with no excess intervention from electronics but adequate safety all round. Given the fact that the motorcycle retails at an ex-showroom price of Rs 10.4 lakh in Delhi, one is hard pressed to find a reason against the high VFM it offers. The Speed Triple may not be the perfect litre-class motorcycle around but everything else, it surely is!