2017 Triumph Street Cup – In-Depth Review
The Triumph Street Cup was introduced at EICMA late last year to relatively subdued fanfare. Yes, there was loud music and girls in tight outfits and British racing legend Carl Fogarty, but considering the ballyhoo Triumph has put forward for bikes like, say, the Bobber or Street Triple, this thing was delivered with something of a whisper.
Which is a shame, because the adequately priced cafe racer – an extension of the Street Twin format introduced in 2015 – is worthy of some shouting.
Two Weeks is Not Enough
Whereas many of the reviews you’ll read about the Street Cup are based on a one-day experience that covered 90 miles or so, I spent 15 days with the bike, racking up more than 1,000 miles. But it still didn’t feel like enough. I got a good idea of what life might be like for an owner, but I sense this is the sort of ride for which time is an asset. The longer you own the charming 900cc parallel twin-powered roadster, the more you will love it.
If it was hard for me to give up the keys, I imagine an owner will struggle to ever consider selling. Expect these bikes to be passed on in wills, and to linger in sheds and garages and barns for the rest of time.
Meanwhile, it’s winter in the United Kingdom (where I live), which means cold and rain and mud and salt. And although the Street Cup performed without fault in these unhappy conditions, I suspect summer is when one’s love for the bike would become permanent.
On City Streets
Triumph claims a dry weight of 200 kilograms for the Street Cup; that’s 440 pounds in old money. Let’s assume an additional 25 kg (55 lbs) once the bike is full of fluids, including a full 12-liter (3.17 US gallons) tank of dino juice.
The People On The Internet Who Like To Complain About Everything will tell you this all means the bike is too heavy. Having ridden it, however, as well as moved it in and out of my shed every day for a fortnight (Fancy British word there, because, you know, it’s a British bike), I’ll tell you the weight isn’t terribly noticeable – especially once you’re rolling. The weight is kept low and the bike is well-balanced.
An overly restrictive steering stop (considering this bike is not actually a sportbike, I don’t see why it needs sportbike steering) can make particularly tight maneuvers more challenging than they need be, but otherwise the bike is well suited to urban use. It won’t slice through traffic like a Street Triple but it’s effective. Watch out for those handlebar mirrors, though: they stick out farther than you realize and will end up banging into things if you hit too small a gap.
The riding position has you leaning forward, but not uncomfortably so. The pegs, meanwhile, are in the same place as on the more upright Street Twin. It’s sporty, but not too sporty. If you’re long of leg (I’m 6 feet 1 inch tall), the ergonomics can start to feel a little cramped after a few hours. In fairness, most people have the good sense to avoid riding in a city for hours on end. I only did so because the delightful bassy note of the Street Cup’s exhaust is so addictive. It’s not loud enough to upset the neighbors but will make you feel like a badass when you hear it bouncing off surrounding cars.
First and second gear are pretty much all you need to get around in urban situations. The accurate five-speed gearbox isn’t as oily slick as on Triumph’s more upmarket models but it’s still superior to many competitors. The bike’s claimed peak of 59 lb-ft (80 Nm) of torque arrives just south of 4000 rpm, which means it’s pretty accessible from stop lights.
On the Highway
Actually, that torque is pretty accessible on the move, too. A lot of people will guffaw at the notion of a 900cc bike only delivering a claimed 54 horsepower, but I tell you genuinely – hand on heart – it is plenty. The accessibility of the Street Cup’s torque is a major reason why. There may not be an impressive amount of power, but it is power that is actually available to use.
In the real world – away from coordinated press rides and moto-journalists who can’t let go of their trackday bravado – and on real streets, a bike’s stats don’t really matter as much as its ability to answer certain real-world questions, like: “Can I get up to freeway speed on this too-short onramp?” Or: “Can I easily get past that truck?”
The Street Cup answers your questions confidently, and to the affirmative. Unless, perhaps, your question is: “Can I tour on this thing?”
I mean, yeah, engine-wise it’ll never let you down, but tackling the 150 miles between my house and Triumph’s Hinckley, England, factory on a wintry day gave me insight into the Street Cup’s inadequacy as a long-distance superslab machine. That tiny screen doesn’t provide much protection, the seating position will wear you out (if you’re tall), there’s not really any place to put luggage, and the fuel light comes on after about 120 miles.
Shorter jaunts on the motorway/highway, though, won’t cause distress. At 80 mph the engine spins at a languid 4500 rpm. The bike runs out of puff if you try to head too far north of that speed, though. Doing the ton demands a wide open throttle and a fair bit of straight road.
On Back Roads
The Street Cup delivers maximum joy on those quieter roads that lead out of town: places where you can hustle, but you don’t have to. If your particular stretch of favorite road has corners, it will handle them with relative ease, the riding position helping to put more weight forward and thereby improve feel oh-so-slightly over the Street Twin.
I don’t understand why the Street Cup uses a bias-ply tire up front and a radial in the rear. When I asked the mechanic who maintains Triumph’s press fleet his answer was roughly that he equips the bikes that way because the tire companies say it’s a good idea. The question vexed me so much I asked our resident font of knowledge, Tod Rafferty, to try to explain things. I’m still not sure I understand the reasoning for two different types of tire, but the relevant information is that it works. The stock Pirellis give a good amount of grip and feel, even in the wet.
The fact the bike doesn’t have flesh-melting power helps you keep things a little closer to legal when moving through curves. That’s a good thing not just because it improves your chances of avoiding a ticket should a member of the law enforcement community be lurking, but also because the brakes aren’t really built to handle too much more excitement. The single front disc brake is a little soft for my tastes.
I learned to adapt – taking on a more cautious style that, arguably, is better suited to riding on public roads, anyway – and I suspect many owners might not even think it an issue. It may be I noticed simply because I’ve been riding a lot of Triumphs lately and this particular brake set-up wasn’t quite to the same standard as other models from the brand. But really, if you’re trying to ride the ever-living hell out of the Street Cup you’ve made the wrong purchase. This bike is just as much about intangibles (e.g., look, emotion, sound) as performance.
If you haven’t got too far to go and everything you need fits into, say, a Kriega R20 backpack, the Street Cup could easily serve as your daily commuter. You’ll be able to navigate the urban scrum with ease and you will look better doing it than everyone else. The bike seems to pick up road muck more easily than some, but is equally easy to clean – five minutes at your local jet wash is all that’s needed to return the cheerful Triumph to its sexy, sparkling glory.
Frequent washing is a good idea if you ride through the winter months. As is regular coating of bolts and fastenings with some kind of PTFE spray, like GT85. The Street Cup will set you back US $10,500 (£8,700), and I suspect that it’s in things like bolts and fastenings where Triumph managed to cut costs. Upon returning the Street Cup to Triumph HQ I noticed a fingernail-thin sliver of rust beginning to form on the exhaust. British winters and moto-journalists are notoriously hard on bikes, but I still wouldn’t have expected this one to be showing rust so soon.
Despite a classic look and “pure” riding spirit, the bike is equipped with numerous modern features: ABS, switchable traction control, ride by wire, torque-assist clutch, and so on. There’s even a USB socket located under the seat (though, good luck figuring out how to get that seat off). Power delivery on the Street Cup is so smooth I’m not entirely sure traction control is necessary, but I never noticed it interfering, so, hey: why not? It and the other features speak to the fact this is a modern bike, and with that comes modern convenience and modern reliability. Service intervals are every 10,000 miles. You’ll probably want a paddock stand to make chain cleaning easier, whereas the tires’ valve stems have been angled to improve access.
What Other Folks Say
“The Cup... shares the Street Twin’s excellent light-pull clutch, flawless five-speed gearbox and excellent, smooth throttle response – and it’s a super-easy bike for anyone from rank beginner to hop on, not stall, and roar off upon.” – John Burns, Motorcycle.com
“You can pigeonhole the Street Cup into a retro segment if you like but it’s not trying to be anything other than a well-engineered and sharp-looking barrel of laughs.” – Ross Sharp, The Bike Shed
“I’ll be the first to admit that this engine looks rather lackluster on paper... But motorcycles aren’t ridden on paper… The fun, torquey engine is full of character. It provides enough power to bring a grin to your face while stopping short of ripping your arms out of their sockets.” – Spurgeon Dunbar, Common Tread
“Because the Street Cup shares the motor, frame, and several major parts with the Street Twin, it’s easy to assume this is merely a styling iteration. But, by adding, subtracting, and replacing key components, Triumph Motorcycles was able to transform the Street Twin into a sportier roadster while maintaining the base bike’s easy-to-ride demeanor and accessibility.” – Ken Condon, Motorcyclist
The Little Things
There isn’t too much to dislike about this bike. I mentioned the steering stop already, as well as the Street Cup’s tendency to get dirty easily. Those are things you’d get used to, or, in some people’s case, never even care about in the first place. Beyond that, an owner might – after a while – want to dive into Triumph’s catalog of 120 accessories to tweak the bike’s aesthetics a little. To that end, I wish there were a green paint scheme.
The headlight’s not great and the sidestand can be hard to find when you’re sitting on the bike. Nothing spoils your cool-guy aura like having to sit there fumbling around with your toe. You can remove the seat cowl to reveal space for a passenger, but he or she will need to be a svelte 12 year old, because passenger accommodation is not very roomy. To be fair, though, I doubt anyone will buy this bike with the intention of hauling around a second person.
The Best Things
I haven’t really spent much time talking about the sound of the bike, but it’s the thing that has stayed with me longest. It’s the thing that I made my wife come out of the house in the rain to listen to. It’s the thing that made me want to shout, “Hey! Look at me!” as I rode through town. It’s the thing that made me happy and uncomplaining when stuck for half an hour behind the world’s most cautious driver on a no-passing road in the dark. I could listen to that deep-bass rumble all day long.
Aesthetically, too, there’s a lot to sing about. You cannot ride a Street Cup without having someone comment. I honestly can’t remember a single gas or coffee stop that didn’t include a conversation with someone who was enamoured of the bike. Most loved the bike’s classic looks – one man refused to believe that it was a 2017 model, thinking I was pulling his leg.
What I loved most, though, was the feeling of connection I was starting to develop. Perhaps that has something to do with its size – not at all intimidating – or its feeling of simplicity; I don’t know. But each consecutive time I threw a leg over its saddle some part of me would think: “OK, bike. It’s me and you against the world. Let’s go.”
Would I Buy It?
By and large I’d say the Triumph Street Cup is fairly priced. You get a lot of bike for not a lot of money. In Europe you can get the more powerful Yamaha XSR700 for considerably less moolah, but the Triumph wins the aesthetic battle hands down. It also has more technological whizzbangery and if you ever do sell it, you can probably buy a Yamaha with the residual. The Indian Scout Sixty might also be considered a competitor; the Street Cup again takes the prize for whizzbangery, as well as handling and price. I’d say the Scout Sixty edges out in terms of fit and finish, though, and you can have your own little debate about which has more heritage veritas. To my taste, the Street Cup would also beat bikes like the Moto Guzzi V7III, and Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer.
I’m too tall for the Street Cup, and being a one-bike guy (Writing about motorcycles isn’t exactly lucrative, y’all) means I am forced to own something that is much more multi-purpose. But, let’s ignore these Chris-specific facts and imagine I were someone looking for a fun does-it-all-but-especially-does-it-in-warm-weather bike. In that case, I’d find myself strongly leaning toward the Street Cup. I’m confident it’s a purchase I wouldn’t regret, especially as the years rolled on and I kept returning to the garage day after day, month after month, just to listen to that bike rumble.
Tale o’ the Tape
Rider: Chris Cope
Height: 6 feet 1 inch
Physical build: Lanky; like Ryan Reynolds if he had been lost in the wilderness for six months.
Riding experience: I got my license the same year that Frente! Released “Labour of Love.”
Helmet: BMW System 6 EVO
Riding suit: Hideout Tourer
Gloves: Held Air N Dry
Boots: Alt-Berg Hogg High All Weather