Main Street. The scene is a cross between a freak show and good ol’ biker silliness. It’s important to be noticed, to be different in this group; thousands of eyes are lined up along the street, looking at you. This is Daytona Bike Week.
As I turn onto Main to join the two-wheel parade, I can see cameras flashing in my peripheral vision. At one stop, I see a couple checking out my bike and pointing to the rear wheel. Before I let the clutch out to advance another five feet in this slow-moving procession, a woman smiles and says, “I love your bike.” As I move along, the gawkers continue to stare, point and comment. Everyone’s taking notice of the 2012 Triumph Speed Triple R.
I reach the end of the strip and pull into a gas station. I’m barely off the machine when a gent comes up to me, totally ecstatic about this “R” version. “Wow, that’s so cool,” he exclaims. This is no kid; he’s at least 45 years of age. I’m taken aback — I wasn’t expecting all this attention on a stock bike in a pseudo world that puts a high premium on being different, or better yet, outrageous. But this isn’t a cookie-cutter sportbike or cruiser. For a stock bike, it’s almost a bit of a cheater. Carbon-fiber inlays, PVM wheels, Ohlins suspension components and Brembo brakes all come as stock items on the Speed Triple R. Enough goodies to keep you out of the aftermarket catalogue for at least three weeks.
The base (non-R) Speed Triple is a unique machine in its own right. Introduced in 1994, it has been a mainstay in the manufacturer’s line-up and a bike that defines the company much like the Bonneville did some 40 years earlier. The R version takes the Speed Triple to another level, both aesthetically and performance-wise.
Prior to the evening circus in downtown Daytona, I head the opposite way in search for twisty roads — no small feat in Florida — so I can find out how this bike handles. I take a chance and get off Route 40. Shortly down the sparsely populated road, I’m rewarded with a curve warning sign with a speed limit of 20 mph. I’m overjoyed. A little farther down the road, I’m greeted with 15 mph and 10 mph warnings. I can’t ask for more than this, and immediately put the Triple to task.
The Speed R handles the curves without fuss, and I immediately think of what an interesting trackday weapon it would make. In the right hands, it should give the latest and greatest 600 sportbikes a run for their money. Up front, the Ohlins NIX 43mm inverted fork is tuned with a higher spring rate than the base model. The typical pitch forward and back when getting hard on or off the throttle is substantially reduced, which is quite welcoming. I don’t fiddle with the compression and rebound damping, though the system is simple enough. One fork cap adjusts the rebound, while the other adjusts the compression. The Ohlins TTX36 shock is also fully adjustable, with rebound and compression damping, but I’m pleased with how the bike is performing and leave the standard settings alone. If one was truly serious about spirited road/track riding, there is more than enough adjustment — on top quality components, I might add — to really make this bike sing.
Contributing to the excellent handling (and good looks) of the Speed R are a set of PVM forged five-spoke wheels, upgraded from the cast-aluminium rims on the base model. Combined, the new wheels reduce unsprung weight by 1.7 kg (3.75 lbs). As one would expect, the beefed up Brembo monobloc calipers (replacing the Brembo two-piece units on the standard model) give excellent feel and stopping power; combined with ABS, the entire braking system inspires confidence.
Critics may frown on the fact that the “R” version’s engine is the same as the base model, but when it works so well and has more than ample power, why change it? The 1,050 cc inline triple has a meaty and very usable rev range, mounds of torque and a nice throaty exhaust tone. The engine is very smooth; so smooth, in fact, that in the absence of a gear indicator, on more than one occasion I found myself cruising along the highway in fifth rather than sixth gear. And yes, it will power wheelie in the lower gears, but power delivery is so smooth that you are in control when that happens. Peak torque is 82 lb-ft and comes at 7,750 rpm; by 9,400 rpm you’ve hit peak horsepower of 133. There’s not much left up top after that, so keep the revs in the fun zone!
The Triple R looks more portly than it actually is, weighing in at 212 kg (466 lbs) wet (heavier than competitors like the MV Agusta Brutale 1090RR and the Ducati Streetfighter S). But thanks to a solid package, weight is a non-factor on the bike as a whole. The seating position is relaxed and upright, with just a slight cant forward to keep the pressure off your tailbone. The seat itself is a pleasure, meaning all-day rides are certainly within reason. Reach to the handlebars and to the ground are natural and comfortable, though at six-foot-two, I’ve got a bit of an advantage there.
Instrumentation is straightforward, simple and easy to figure out. What you see is what you get. Obviously there is an absence of wind protection thanks to the complete lack of a fairing or windscreen, but it doesn’t diminish the ride experience. In fact, it’s quite welcome under the hot Florida sun.
My time with the Speed Triple R is running out, and to this point I am downright pleased. Handling, power, braking and shifting are all fantastic. A bike that does everything so well may create a new problem for those of you that have convinced your spouse that you need separate bikes for the road and the track! This Triumph is a solid all-rounder that still stands out in a crowd after nearly two decades of Speed Triple production.
If you are truly interested in the R version of the Speed Triple, which retails for $17,499, you would be well advised to ‘run not walk’ to your local Triumph dealer — units are limited to just one R model per dealer. According to Triumph Canada, half of those have already been sold at the 21 dealers here in the Great White North. Of course, if your local dealer is sold out, you can still walk out with the standard Speed Triple and keep four grand in your pocket.