RideApart Review: Triumph Speed Triple R

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Take one of the most unique road bikes out there — the superlative Triumph Speed Triple — and add the best suspension, brakes and wheels money can buy. Cut the buyer a deal and you have a recipe for a very special motorcycle.

What’s New:
What makes a Speed Triple special? Well, unlike virtually every other naked performance bike, it was conceived from the ground up to be what it is here. No detuning, no decontenting. That may not sound like such a big deal, but the result is a cohesive package in which every component has been created, from the beginning, to emphasize accessible performance over race track success. A motorcycle free to be the ultimate riding machine for the road rather than one being pressed into service away from its natural race track home. But, this new Triumph Speed Triple R adds some very superbike-like components with its top-drawer Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes and lightweight wheels. Does a road bike really need race-spec components? Maybe somewhat counter intuitively, we went to Jerez to find out.

Take the basic performance motorcycle archetype — an aluminum perimeter frame, a powerful engine, tight geometry — and re-conceive it away from what’s needed to win races. Instead of that ultra-peaky inline-four, swap in a torquey three-cylinder engine. Instead of clip-ons and a fairing designed to maximize aerodynamics, swap in low-mounted flat bars and no plastics, emphasizing both comfort at road speeds and control. But, keep the wheelbase short and the suspension steep. Complement that with brutal, minimalist styling. What are you left with? A bike that looks like it wants to punch you in the face. A bike that doesn’t look like it crawled out of the pages of a cheesy superhero comic book. A bike that’s equally at home slicing through urban traffic as it is dragging knee on a mountain road.

This model, with its 1050cc motor, was introduced in round headlight form back in 2005. 133bhp, 82lb/ft and 471lbs (wet) wasn’t cutting edge at the time, much less today, but Triumph made up for it with a swollen mid-range, very fast steering and a general feeling of capability far exceeding its paper. All that is backed up by that unique triple growl.

The Speed Triple is Triumph’s best-selling model, occupying 10.6 percent of the roadster market across the US and Europe. With a name stretching back to 1994, it’s their de facto flagship too. The company itself calls it, “the most important bike in the Triumph range.”

What’s Good:
Triumph’s R formula is a pretty simple one. Take an already very, very good motorcycle and throw thousands of dollars of the best suspension and brakes there are at it. Cut the buyer a big price break — you’re looking at at least $6,579 worth of upgrades on this Speed Triple R for just a $3,200 premium. Unlike the Street Triple R or 675 R, The Speed gains fancy forged wheels too, massively reducing unsprung weight. All of that is then denoted with classy, understated graphic upgrades. Out goes the classic swoopy Triumph logo and in comes a modern font and subtle red Rs and pin stripes. Some really, really high-quality carbon fiber cosmetic parts — made on the same line as carbon parts for the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.

Triumph doesn’t just order its NIX30 forks and TTX36 shock out of a catalog. Instead, the two items are the product of a bespoke development program run by both the bike maker and Ohlins. Testing is conducted by Triumph’s own test riders, who evaluate a huge number of unique damping rates and spring weights, eventually arriving at a final solution that’s mastered by two identical sets of control suspension. Triumph retains one set and Ohlins another; the function of all production units can then be evaluated against those.

Wheels are forged aluminum PVM items that retail, on their own, for $2,980. Unlike cast wheels, forged aluminum isn’t porous, which means it can be machined down to the absolute minimum amount of material while retaining its strength. Wall thickness on the stock, cast wheels is 4.0mm. On these PVMs, it’s just 2.5mm. This reduces weight on the front wheel by .7kg or 16 percent. On the rear it’s 1.0kg or 20 percent. Most of that weight comes out of the rim which, since it’s on the outside extremity of the entire wheel, really helps reduce inertia. Front wheel inertia is reduced by 16 percent; rear by 25 percent.

Lower inertia means the wheels resist acceleration less. Lower gyroscopic forces speed steering. Less unsprung weight gives suspension an easier time, enabling it to more effectively keep the tires in contact with the surface, boosting both compliance and grip. Less inertia translates to more powerful braking.

This R also debuts a couple mechanical upgrades that will roll out to the regular Speed Triple in 2013. ABS, which all US models will be equipped with, is now switchable via the instruments. It’s a road-oriented system and Triumph pulled the fuses on all bikes at the launch since we were only riding on track. The gearbox has also been upgrade in the name of slicker shifting, a traditional Triumph bugbear. Gear splines are now formed rather than cut, materials have been strengthened and there’s a new five dog design to replace the old four. That should make shifting more positive and engagement more reliable. 6th gear has also been reduced by 3.4 percent, so should pull stronger than before.

What’s Bad:
Despite the efficacy of the upgrades, it still is an upgraded Speed Triple. One that, at $15,999, prices itself against some very fast competition. For that money you could buy a BMW S1000RR or an Aprilia RSV4 R APRC. A more direct comparison can probably be drawn against the APRC-equipped Aprilia Tuono V4 R. That bike is equipped with inferior components, but has 34bhp more and is $1,000 less. Not to mention the presence of APRC where the Triumph doesn’t even have traction control.

The Verdict:
Pull the trigger on the Speed Triple R and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most unique and, now, most capable experiences in motorcycling, but you’re going to have to really want a Speed Triple to do so. We know we do.

RideApart Rating: 9/10

Gear:
Helmet: Bell Star Matte Carbon ($650, Worth Considering)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450, Highly Recommended)
Gloves: Alpinestars GP-Pro ($240, Worth Considering)
Leathers: Custom Icon one-piece (N/A)

  • John Goddard

    I can’t get over the bug eyes. Ugly.

    • TP

      Every bike in that embedded comparo portal has fugly-ass headlights.

    • HoldenL

      They’re adorable, like a chameleon’s eyes.

    • Piglet2010

      Is there an aftermarket fly-screen that camouflages the headlights to some extent?

    • akaaccount

      Doesn’t anybody in the motorcycle industry read things on the internet? There are three stories on Rideapart right now where one of the main complaints is ugly headlights. Perhaps that means something?

      ROUND. HEAD. LIGHTS. PLEASE.

  • JerseyRider

    Damn! I got so excited. I though the headline said STREET triple r.

    • Piglet2010

      I for one would not spend the extra money, as a “Striple” already has more power than one can really use on the street. Same reason I would get an older V-2 Tuono over the new V-4 – low-end and mid-range power is much more useful on the street, than a bike that will get you thrown in jail in many places if you get to peak power in 2nd gear.

      • Yumsy

        I have a Striple. Took me 18 months but have speedy envy every time I see one. More power more torque more fun!,

        • Piglet2010

          Most cost, more weight → less fun.

          • Hugo

            Indeed, I have a Street triple. Recently rode a Speed and wasn’t impressed, I think my expectations were too high and I was expecting lots more power, but it just doesn’t feel like it. The weight really ruined it for me, I’ll take the agility of the Street all day.

  • VagrantCoyote

    If I had more money, this would be my bike of choice, absolutely awesome bike. Since I don’t, I have my eye on the FZ-09, can’t wait for a review.

  • Bill Rushlow

    The Speedy’s biggest competition is in Triumph’s lineup…the Street Triple. I have ridden both, and I found nothing that compelled me to spend the extra money to get the Speed. The Striple is a blast to ride, gets decent mileage, and didn’t make me feel too light in the wallet.

    • Hooligan

      The other thing with the Speed is it is a bit lardy. While the Street R is so light and flickable. I test rode the Speed and bought the Street Triple R.

  • Christian Youngblood

    Just an editorial note here because I have noticed it too many times in articles: Something is either unique or not. You can’t have a thing that is more unique than another unique thing, because then that less unique thing is no longer one of a kind. It’s like saying something is more fatal than another thing. It’s not possible because it is an absolute, either way you’re dead.

  • Dan

    Where is the actual review? This is basically a really long introduction.

    • nick

      Agreed. Reads like a thank you letter to Triumph for giving the Ride Apart staff something cool to do.

  • Andy s….

    Just bought a Speed Triple R – Put an Arrow 3 into one on it.
    Rides lovely ,looks Stunning in white. Sounds great and it’s a Triumph – What’s there not to like lol !