Published on April 15th, 2016 | by Boris
2016 TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE S & R – DISTILLED AGGRESSION
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, then you’re aware I have long been a fan of Triumph’s Speed Triple. I have owned three, beginning in 1994, when I worked for Ozbike magazine, and progressing to the T509 and then the 955i – which I held to be the best-looking Speed Triple ever made until very recently.
The first Speed Triple I saw 21 years ago prompted me to appear in the Ozbike publisher’s office all fey and breathy.
“We need to do a bike test,” I declared to Bob Skol.
“We don’t do bike tests,” he replied.
And he was right. Ozbike did not do bike tests. It covered custom Harleys, outlaw motorcycle club parties, and naked girls. But I was not to be denied.
“Yes, I know,” I went on. “But Triumph has this mental new bike out and I reckon our readership, bless its tattoos, will be interested to read about an English motorcycle they can actually escape from the cops on.”
Skol agreed this was a valid point, and in short order I had convinced the importer to hand a brand new slab-sided Speed Triple over to a bunch of fiendish outlaws for testing.
Of course, I didn’t test shit. I just rode it and raved about it, and then bought one. My enthusiasm was infectious. Brother Silverback also bought one on the strength of my ravings and because I told him that his progress up the man-ladder was not complete until he did.
Thus began an almost decade-long affair with the wondrous English triple. But it was a lonely dalliance.
I think only about five people on earth bought the first Speed Triple, and that number rose to maybe ten who bought the second iteration, and possibly an even dozen who went on to own the 955i.
The whole goggle-eyed twin-headlight styling was only singing to me and to very few others. Sportsbikes were still all the rage in the late 90s, and these strange-looking Pommy nakeds that looked like they’d been built in a madman’s shed were not setting the world on fire.
Except they were. It just took some time for that fire to take. People eventually began to realise these great-sounding, torquey, fine-handling, well-braked and hooligan-friendly beasts were fabulously able to do many things very well, and they started to buy them in large numbers in the early 2000s.
I have had five mates who have owned or still own Speed Triples and love them passionately. There is no mistaking them for anything else, either in the way they look, or the way they sound. And there’s just something about them that whispers to the evil side of your brain.
Yes, there are more powerful bikes. And there are bikes that arguably handle better – though the 2016 version gives nothing away in that department. But there is nothing out there that slams its cards on the table and makes you grin like a fiend quite in the way that the Speed Triple does.
And so we come to the latest version.
Much has changed. Much had to change. And much has been improved.
But the original fiendish essence of the Speed Triple has remained the same.
I know this because I spent two days riding both the S and the R versions as hard and fast as I dared (and I dare a lot), but still behind blokes who rode them much, much faster than I ever could – and please note that I said “could” not “would”, because the only thing stopping me riding at their blistering pace was a lack of skill, not fear. I experienced no shame in being rounded up by Cam Donald, Paul Young, Trevor Hedge and Mark Fattore. I was instead exalted and inspired by their abilities, and felt I could push the Triple even harder than I was pushing it. After all, they’d made it around those corners at those speeds, hadn’t they?
So I applied myself.
Did I catch them? Don’t be silly. Of course I did not. I could apply myself until the end of time and it would still be futile.
I did manage to stay behind some of them for a short time, and I did pass Cam Donald, Paul Young and Mark Fattore once (they were engaged in a no-throttle rolling race down Mt Buffalo – and yes, I did help Fattore by dragging him by the arm until he could pass the other two); but most of the time Cam Donald’s insane green helmet appeared in my mirrors, and then he was gone, pursued by Youngy, Fattore and Hedgie. It was a magnificent sight to behold.
Triumph’s Nigel Harvey set a cracking pace and clearly chose a route which would see us ride every corner worth riding in Victoria.
Do yourself a favour and plug the following way-points into your Garmin – Albury, Mitta Mitta, Anglers Rest, Omeo, Mt Hotham, Bright, Mt Buffalo, Ovens, Rosewhite, Dederang, and back to Albury.
Give yourself two days. Order whiskey at the end of each day. Remember to breathe and praise the Road Gods. It is a route that will challenge and delight, and it was the perfect ride to essay the 2016 Speed Triple S and R.
THE S OR THE R?
I’ll tell you right now that I prefer the R over the S.
The R comes with Öhlins front and rear, which is the crucial difference between the two variants. Otherwise the difference is all in the bling; with the R boasting a carbon fibre front mudguard and petrol tank infills, some sexy-as machined billet swingarm pivot covers, rear-wheel centre-plug and handlebar clamp and risers. You also get a belly pan, a red-painted subframe and red stitching on the seat.
The S is $17,990 (plus ORC) and the R is $20,350 (plus ORC).
Is The R $2360 better than the S? Will you notice the difference?
Yes and yes. Öhlins, OK?
There’s nothing wrong, per se, with the fully adjustable Showa suspenders on the S once you dial up the pre-load on the front and maybe back off the compression on the back. The fast boys felt the brilliantly powerful Brembo monoblocs tended to overwhelm the Showa front a little, forcing it to play catch-up during the death-races, and the general consensus was that if you jammed some more oil into them and tweaked them to suit yourself, they’d be fine.
But Öhlins is Öhlins is Öhlins.
The R felt tauter and steered with more precision. Hell, I’ve been known to spend $2360 on a big night out with terrible people, so I’d have no issue paying that for top-shelf suspension. And while the extra bling is nice, at the end of the day, Öhlins. After all, you do want to give those Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SPs a proper tearing, don’t you?
SO HOW IS IT BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S?
There have been quite a few alterations in this year’s model. Not the least of which are 104 engine component changes, all of which have contrived to make the engine 16 per cent torquier throughout the rev-range (five per cent more in the mid-range), topping out at 112Nm at 7850rpm.
And it’s always all about the torque. Sure, 103kw at 9500rpm is nothing to sneeze at, but I’m old enough to know that big horsepower figures don’t make the ride. Torque, bitches, is where it’s at and where it’s always been at. That’s where the sheer rideability and tractability of a bike comes from. That’s where the fun is. And that torque number pushing 192kg (dry) of Pomnian hooliganism is Fun Central.
And the lovely newness of the Speed Triple really is very lovely. It’s like a bus full of virgins on its way to the beach in their new bikinis. So much promise and hope.
The piston design is new, as is the crank, the intake ports, and the combustion chamber. Then there’s the cylinder head, the exhaust headers, and the airbox. The fly-by-wire throttle is also new and the fuelling has been revised with a new ECU. The radiator has a narrower front profile and the gearbox has new gear linkages, which has transformed the way the box shifts. Gone is that somewhat pastoral feel the older models had. The Speed Triple now shifts light, precise and positive both up and down, and let me tell you how much that lighter-feeling, slip-assist clutch helps when the sun is going down, the Blue Duck Inn is still 30 magical kilometres away, and you’re wondering just how fast Cam Donald really is.
I would also fit the optional quick-shifter, but I’m silly like that. The bike is screaming for one and I like the hell out of them.
Interestingly, the new Speed Triple also sounds different. The big triple-cylinder donk has always had a very unique note, and you could never mistake it for anything else when it came by. It still sounds unique, except it now sings a deeper and boomier song and the engine has thankfully lost that grindy mechanical tone it used to have.
I’ve never been a fan of the high-arse exhaust system, and would swap the whole system for the aftermarket Arrows ‘low boy’ set-up. Speed Triples make great touring bikes and those high-set pipes making strapping shit to your seat problematical.
That said, the new stock cans are a bit lighter (300gm a side), deliver a 70 per cent increase in flow, and a most pleasing stock note if you’re not inclined to go the full-roar Arrows path and you like collecting pretty French scarves.
NEW STYLE AND SUBSTANCE
Daytime Running Lights (DRL) are also new, so the Speed Triple now comes with headlights you can turn on and off. I don’t know how well they work in the dark, because I have not yet ridden it at night, primarily because Cam Donald had had too many wines to take up my challenge that evening.
The now iconic headlights are also set lower, and that (as well as the bar-end mirrors) has improved the profile of the bike no end. The whole stance of the bike has changed from its former startled bug-eyed insect with biceps, to a much more aggressive, shoulders-hunched, does-your-mother-sew-then-get-her-to-stitch-this-up look, that appeals to me greatly. To my eye, this is the best-looking Speed Triple since the 955i.
The new throttle maps also appeal. There are five of them, Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider, which is the one you can configure to suit your personal demons.
In all the modes, you’re getting the full power and torque of the engine. It’s just the throttle response, ABS and traction control that varies. The different modes are all noticeably different. The further you go from Rain mode, the less ABS and Traction Control interfere with your kung fu and the more aggressive the throttle response is. In Rider mode, you can dial in what level of interference you want, or turn the whole lot off and just use your hands.
You can switch modes on the fly (throttle off and clutch in), but you need to be parked to fuss about with your Rider mode programs, which the bike will remember even after you’ve switched it off.
Of course, I worked my way through all the modes. In the immortal words of Marc Bolan, I banged the gong and got it on as best as I could in the wake of the fast bastards out the front. Track mode seemed to work best for me, though I did choose the gentler throttle delivery of Road as I tried not to go over a cliff descending Mt Hotham.
If I was theoretically trying to see what the top-end was, I could tell you I might have seen 228 on the dial. I understand others might have theoretically seen slightly in excess of 235. But that is as it may be.
The Speed Triple isn’t about top-end. You need to buy something else if you wanna see what 290 looks like. I am perfectly happy wallowing in a torque curve that allows me to do Mitta Mitta to Omeo in third if I choose.
At no time did the Speed Triple put a tyre wrong or cause me to shit out my stomach. I could open the throttle the entire way coming out of a corner and know there was going to be no savage gut-clenching second of panic as the rear-tyre offered lessons I did not want to learn.
The corners did not relent for two whole days, and I did not doubt the bike’s ability to deal with them for a second. The harder I pushed, the more I was rewarded with a planted front and a predictable rear. The R was certainly better at this than the S, but nether caused me to hesitate. I just rode them a little differently.
The seat, all stitched up sexy for 2016, was comfortable and I had no problems sliding my mangina from side to side as the corners dictated. I was walking upright and unbroken at day’s end.
I was also smiling. I had so much to smile about.
The new Speed Triple is a far more refined motorcycle than its recent ancestor. It is gruntier, it changes direction better, brakes more effectively and offers lots more feel and response when your balls have been nailed to the wall and the gong needs banging. The refinement extends to the gearbox and the electronics, and the end result is a motorcycle that is not only better than its predecessor, but is much more enjoyable and fulfilling to ride hard. Or to just putt around on, but you’d be selling it and yourself short doing that.
The 2016 Speed Triple looks meaner, goes harder, handles sharper, and sounds better than it did in 2015. I endeavoured to make myself worthy of it. I’ll still never catch Cam Donald on it, but I have made my peace with that.
You may have the S in black or red, the only two true colours any motorcycle should ever come in. And you may have the R in non-black (white) or a lovely light black also known as matte grey.
The S is $17,990 plus ORC
The R is $20,350 plus ORC
POWER: 103Kw @ 9,500rpm
TORQUE: 112Nm @ 7850rpm
ENGINE TYPE: Liquid-cooled, in-line, 3 cylinder
SEAT HEIGHT: 825mm
R MODEL FRONT SUSPENSION: 43mm Öhlins NIX30 fully adjustable USD front forks with adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping. 120mm travel.
R MODEL REAR SUSPENSION: Öhlins TTX36 RSU twin tube monoshock with adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping. 130mm travel
S MODEL FRONT SUSPENSION: Showa 43mm USD fork with adjustable pre-load, rebound and compression. 120mm travel.
S MODEL REAR SUSPENSION: Showa monoshock with adjustable pre-load, rebound and compression. 130mm travel.
FRONT BRAKE: Dual 320mm floating disc, 4-piston Brembo radial monobloc calipers
REAR BRAKE: Single 255mm disc, single Nissin 2-piston sliding caliper
TANK CAPACITY: 15.5litres
DRY WEIGHT: 192kg dry
PHOTOGRAPHY by Jeff Crow
Nolan helmet – Reviewed HERE
Segura jacket – Reviewed HERE
Held gloves – Reviewed HERE
Held sunnies – Reviewed HERE
Oxford face-sock – by Ficeda
Rhok Jeans – reviewed HERE
Boots – Old Alpine Stars reviewed ages ago in some magazine.