2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS - First Ride


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2018 Triumph Speed Triple S and RS - First Ride

The new Speed Triple S and RS are here, and they're just as fiery as the bikes they replace

While RideApart was out testing Triumph's new Speedmaster in San Diego, a quiet word was dropped into our ears advising us to be available in late February. Why? Well, to ride a new bike out in Southern Spain's Almeria, of course. Was it a new Daytona 765 we wondered? Sadly, that wasn't likely even if some track action at Circuito de Almeria was the likely destination. What was more likely was a new Speed Triple.

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Oh, that'd make a lot of sense. The then current generation Speed Triple was beginning to look rather long in the tooth. Even its little sister, the Street Triple 765, was nipping at its heels and making 'ol Speedy look a little dull with its full electronics package and 121 HP output. Not to mention the rest of its peer group which were all more powerful, less weighty, and boasted full electronics packages.

The new S and RS Speed Triples
The new S and RS Speed Triples

A couple of weeks later our hunch was proven to be correct as a teaser video emerged showing Gary Johnson and Carl Fogarty on what were very obviously a pair of shiny new Speed Triples. Relatively little could be gleaned from the video except for what looked to be the same TFT setup from the Street Triple 765 which had dropped a year earlier. Then we stumbled across an application made to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) by Triumph showing two entries—one for a Speed Triple S and another for an RS. The application showed that engine capacity would remain unchanged at 1050cc across both models, which put paid to a lot of rumors that the Speed Triple might be inheriting Triumph's 1200cc motor for more power.

Then, in typical Triumph fashion, there was a launch party where all of the juicy details flowed forth. Triumph told us that the new Speed Triple would be the lightest, most powerful, most sophisticated Speed Triple yet. As we were to find out in Spain, they were not wrong.

While the chassis on the new Speed Triple is a holdover from the previous generation, the rest is brand new. Starting with the engine, Triumph threw everything at it in what has to be its biggest overhaul since the 1050 first appeared in 2005. The updated mill has new pistons, a re-profiled crankshaft and sump to remove inertia and drag, a new cylinder head, a re-shaped airbox, new valves, and a revised exhaust profile. Triumph even deleted the backlash gear. All in all, there's no less than 105 changes made to the engine. The result is that it kicks out seven percent more power—bringing the maximum output to 148 HP at 10,500 RPM—and four percent more torque—86 lb-ft at 7,150 RPM. Peak torque has been moved 1,000 RPMs down the rev range, a rather impressive feat. The RS is roughly 6.5 pounds lighter than the outgoing model at 417 pounds, where as the S remains unchanged at 423 pounds.

In the suspension department, the RS comes kitted out with fully adjustable Ohlins forks (NIX30) and shock (TTX36), keyless ignition as standard, and an inertial measurement unit by Continental that feeds lean angle into the ABS and traction control systems. It also gains a fancy electronic steering lock, a "Track" engine mode (more on that later) and twin lightweight Arrow exhausts. The S, however, doesn't come with any of these fancy items and finds itself suspended by fully adjustable 43mm Showa forks and a Showa shock, and gone are the Arrows in favor of more standard looking exhausts.

Brembo Brakes
Brembo Brakes and an Ohlins Fork

Just like the Street Triple 765, there are now four engine modes available on the Speed Triple—Road, Rain, Sport, and Rider. These modes allow you to customize ABS, Traction Control, and throttle response levels to your liking. As previously mentioned, the RS has an extra fifth mode—Track. While rain mode dampens engine output to 98.6 HP while elevating traction control to its most intrusive level, all other modes allow full power at wide open throttle. It's worth noting that while you can move down to a less sporty engine mode while moving, to move up a mode—say from Road to Sport—you'll need to come to a stand-still. Oh, and, the TFT display has 6 different display modes plus high and low contrast settings. There's even an auto setting that adjusts the screen depending upon ambient light conditions.

Accessory-wise, the new Street Triples are pretty well kitted out. Heated grips are available as an official accessory for the first time ever. Cruise control is fitted to both the S and RS as standard, as are backlit "switch cubes" —handlebar controls to you and I—which illuminate after sun-down. I'd also draw attention to a welcome return of the 5-spoke wheels (much better looking than the previous generation in my opinion, and lighter) and the fact that a comfort seat is a standard option on the RS. For anyone wondering if baffles can be removed from the Arrow cans fitted to the RS, alas no, they can't be.

The switch cubes
The switch cubes

Armed with all of that information, I had two questions to ask Triumph before we headed for a ride on the RS—what's up with these brakes and where's the quickshifter?

I expected to see a pair of Brembo M50 calipers bolted to the forks just like on the Street Triple 765. Triumph said that they didn't feel M50s were necessary, and the M4.34s they opted for had a revised brake pad compound and together with a Brembo master cylinder (plus a brake lever which is adjustable for ratio as well as span, something I've never seen on a road bike before) were more than up to the job. Okay Triumph, sure. That seems reasonable.

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As for the quickshifter, or lack thereof, why wasn't it a standard feature on the RS? Triumph commented that after listening to customers, they simply weren't asking for one. That's a curious one to my mind and not a response that I buy. I can't see a customer who demands an IMU and rider modes who also wants to change gear using the clutch. I think Triumph were working to a price, and cutting the quickshifter off the standard equipment list was likely to cause the least uproar.

For good measure, I had one main question to answer for myself (and you, dear reader) while out riding—by adding more power, had Triumph ruined the 1050's charm? The previous generation was a very sorted bike, with tons of grunt available from low RPM which more or less defined its character. It'd be a crying shame if the motor had sacrificed some of that grunt for top-end peakyness in the quest for those extra 10 horses.

Respectable curves
Respectable curves

With that in mind, it was time to ride. Triumph advised we had about roughly 20 miles of highway to work through before hitting mountain roads for a few hours on our way to Circuit de Almeria. Once there, we'd get a handful of track sessions on the 2.7 mile circuit.

With the key fob in your pocket, the revised motor barks into life eagerly. Just blipping the throttle before setting off made the changes to the engine evident. I am more than familiar with the previous generation 1050, and this new one spins up fast in a way that's very reminiscent of my old Street Triple 675. Thinking back to my power question, this fact actually concerned me slightly even if I was enjoying the tighter engine note and rather fruity noise coming from the Arrows.

The RS's fancy keyfob
The RS's fancy keyfob

Hitting the on-ramp to the highway provided a great opportunity to pin the throttle and tap the optional quickshifter a few times. It's good, real good. By good, I mean it's not violent like some units are (Aprilia's V4 Tuono, I am looking at you). Instead, it's just smooth and refined. Triumph saw it fit to change the gearing thanks to the hike in power, and the new ratios allow cruising at 60-70 MPH at 4k RPM or thereabouts in 5th or 6th. Wind blast isn't too bad for a naked bike, and the fly screen which shields the rear of the TFT screen does a fairly good job given its size. It's worth noting I'm not hugely tall (5'9" / 1.75 M), so results may vary for taller riders.

Turning off the straight and boring highway and onto twisty roads, the bike simply comes alive. As the revs climb and fall between endless corners you can really, really feel the changes to the engine. Stuart Wood, Triumph's Chief Engineer, explained that by shedding weight from the wheels and engine internals there's far less gyroscopic force to battle against on corner entry. Clearly, he's not wrong. The Speed now feels extremely close to how the Street 765 does on corner entry—it's a piece of cake to chuck it into a corner, where as before it was, well, a bit of work. In fact, the only time the Speed's weight is noticeable is when it barrels forwards under its own momentum as you let off the brakes after scrubbing speed off.

Twisty mountain roads
Twisty mountain roads

The Ohlins suspension makes for fantastic ride quality and helps the Speed feel extremely solid and planted in basically any situation. On the throttle, off the throttle, mid corner as you bury the front into an apex, even if you trail-brake into a corner, it's sublime and provides plenty of feedback.

At the first coffee stop—after perhaps approximately 65 miles of combined riding—I'd already concluded the Speed wasn't ruined at all. The fueling is spot on—those guys at Triumph are absolutely on it when it comes to getting those 3 cylinders hooked up to your right hand—and there's still all the grunt we ever had low down in the rev range. Phew. The mid range is where it's at though, and it finds the redline with ease. It simply stomps through the gears from 7,000 RPM before pinging off the 11,000 rev limiter.


Once we were done with the coffee, it was onward towards big, fast, open roads. The kind of roads where you can take in corners at literally any speed you like, it's just more of the same. Stable, planted, well-behaved and stupid speeds achievable all to soon—the only thing you'll be battling is the wind blast when the speedo reaches license losing speeds. That's not a problem with the Speed per se, more with the type of bike itself, obviously. These roads gave us the chance to test the cruise control and, well, it works. Handily it's on your left handlebar (exactly where it should be - please take note, KTM), and works exactly as you'd expect. Press to arm, press again to set, then adjust up and down. Cancel by touching any control. Simple. I'll add that given I'd not even thought about comfort so far, it must be comfy (it is).

Track with a view
Track with a view

Finally we arrived at Circuito de Almeria. I'd actually never ridden there before, and boy is it one hell of a track. Twisty and technical with plenty of elevation and completely blind corners and a long back straight for a bit of respite. I spent the first two sessions simply trying to understand the track, but after that it was more or less a case of being faster every lap. Track mode—which dials the lean-angle sensitive ABS and TC right down—came into its own here, but what was most surprising was how much difference the extra 1,000 RPM before the redline gives you in this situation. At the end of the back straight, the forward Brembos proved more than enough, with each lap I was braking deeper and later from an indicated 150 MPH in 5th. A shout to the Pirelli Supercorsa SPs fitted as standard too, they were utterly perfect in this situation with silly levels of grip (and silly levels of tire life too—we were destroying pair after pair), but you'll probably want to fit something else if you never venture onto the track.

Easily thrashed on the track
Easily thrashed on the track

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On the ride back to the hotel I had time to reflect on the Speed Triple's price tag and competitors . The RS will set you back $16,350 and the S $14,350. Now, for the RS, that sounds like a lot, but it's within $500 of what I'd guessed it would be. You're getting an awful lot for your money, and other than the quickshifter and perhaps heated grips depending on where and when ride, you literally don't need to spend another cent on it. It's already got the Arrow exhausts fitted, and the spec is monster—IMU, cruise control, comfort seat, rider modes, Ohlins front and rear, even carbon side-pods and front fender. Its competitors—BMW's S1000R and Yamaha's MT-10—might be cheaper and more powerful, but they're nowhere near the mark in terms of standard spec. By the time you've specced up a S1000R (Sport) to be as close as possible to the RS, the RS' price tag starts to make sense. KTM's 1290 SuperDuke R and Aprilia's V4 Tuono 1100 are more expensive and, in my opinion, in a slightly different league anyway, but if you're considering any of those, you'll definitely be considering a Speed Triple RS. Because of that, I think this update just about keeps the Speed Triple sitting in the upper echelons of the super naked road bike category.

Track mode in its glory
Track mode in its glory

So here's the straight dope. Triumph hasn't ruined the Speed Triple, not in the slightest. It's definitely their best yet, and arguably by a country mile when you look at the RS. Mind you, this is coming from a die hard Street Triple rider who would previously swing a leg over a Street over a Speed any day of the week. Previously I liked the Speed, but now I love it. It's a fantastic road bike and it's one that'll look after and flatter you. Quite literally the only thing I can pick fault with was the decision not to include a quickshifter on the RS as standard. Unlike most of its competitors it can actually be ridden sensibly without risking your license as it won't constantly be egging you on into pulling wheelies and other questionable behavior. Triumph likes to bang on about the Speed Triple being the "original hooligan", but I think that's a bit far fetched. It'll do hooligan if you want, it'll ruffle sportbike feathers on track if you so desire, but being a hooligan is not really what the Speed is about. It's a sublime roadster for the thinking man, and it nails it.

Randle wears:

Jacket: Dainese Racing 3
Trousers: Dainese Pro C2 Pants
Helmet: Arai RX-7V
Gloves: Dainese Druid D1
Boots: Dainese Torque D1
Back protector: Forcefield Pro L2K Dynamic

1pc: Dainese Steel 1
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R
Gloves: Racer High Racer
Back protector: as above
Helmet: as above

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