… belatedly slung a leg over the 11 Speed Triple for the first time. Glorious weather, demanding roads in a variety of guises.
I had the opportunity to ride the new model some time ago, but waited until I could do it justice – in decent conditions, and with sufficient time to get to grips with the bike. Apart from the redesigned lamps – and quite enough has been said about those already, bearing in mind the fact that you can negotiate a swop for the older variety – at first glance little seems to have changed. Beware of first glances: this is way more than a makeover. So let’s get down to business.
The ride position felt excellent – just the right balance between an aggressive, sat on the clocks stance and a more ‘sat in’ feel. The ergonomics generally seemed spot on (and not a million miles from the Street Triple), although such matters are always subjective, depending on rider size (in this case 6 foot x 12 stone).
The revelation is the complete stability and attendant confidence the bike inspires from the off. Balance is near perfection and steering neutral. A redesigned swinger, frame and relocated lump (to bring weight forward) have all contributed to a sense of well being for the rider: unlike so many machines, this one is remains perfectly composed on a variety of surfaces. We’re talking a proper re-design here, with all those involved singing from the same hymn sheet. The result is harmony: the bike would be as happy at the track as it is in the supermarket car-park, an impression confirmed by those who have tried it on a circuit.
Some weight has been lost: I’m fed up with reading tests which include the lazy phrase ‘once on the move you don’t feel all that weight’. Sure, if you’re made of stone. Too many non sportsbikes sacrifice corner speed: sports tourers, cruisers and Japanese nakeds particularly so. The Speed is still heavy compared with many of its European competitors, but it has moved in the right direction. The venerable 1050cc inline triple has been breathed on, apparently making more power in the midrange, where it matters for a naked. But in this respect I was a bit underwhelmed. Think of the 2011 Speed as the exact opposite to many an old skool Kwak, examples of the latter being (in)famous for extroverted, power happy lumps overwhelming an inferior chassis and suspension. The current Speed package feels like it could cope with a fair bit more than the smooth 1050 is willing to offer. Which is probably no bad thing. Granted, this particular mill was still in mileage infancy, and shackled to a standard, euro emissions friendly zorst system. The 1050 motor remains a highly competent and well adapted unit. It’s just that those pesky goal-posts keep moving…
However, this criticism would only be an issue for reasonably determined thrill seekers, and equally may be seen as an endorsement for the superb chassis. Drop the 1050 mill into a Zed 1 and you’d quickly take the point. Unlike the old muscle bikes, which remain the ancestral watermark for this type of machine, the Speed looses speed without the theatrics: the brakes are progressive, with plenty of bite – the kind of anchorage that was unthinkable on a bike like this a few years ago. Top marks to the four piston Brembos. The hallmark of quality suspension is quality damping, and compared to both Street Triple models, the Speed’s suspenders are in a different class: the 43mm Showa USDs and standard shock (Showa again) feel superior to the Kayaba kit found on its little bro in every respect.
Slight reservations about standard engine performance apart, is there a problem? A downside? Some would point to the absence of a coherent electronics package. Or indeed any electronics package. A sorted leccy pack permits both faster and safer progress on our pot hole strewn, gravel sprayed and overcrowded highways. Fact. You could argue that the Triumph is designed for riders looking for a more traditional approach. For that privilege, they will pay £8650 OTR – but if you’re not bothered by the absence of ABS, TC and ESA etc., its still the cheapest way into the club of big, new European naked bikes. For those wanting the advantages of decent (if not state of the art) Triumph ABS you will need to find another 600 smackers.
bg is not about the latest must have, but equally our heads are not yet buried in the sands of time. So what about the competition, price wise? If you chuck in Triumph ABS, you may find the brand new 1100 Monster Evo for similar money (June 2011), depending on the small print and your negotiating skills. Granted, the Monster is a different type of machine, and caters to a different market – the air-cooled heritage, the whole Ducatisti thing – but for for the relatively modest outlay plus ABS and TC its would be silly not to consider it as a potential competitor in this company. The standard KTM Superduke is another Euro ballpark contender – opposite approch to the Ducati, better suited to the really tight stuff but c/w inferior fuelling around town (despite remaps over the years). Anyone interested in the new Speed really ought to check those two out: personally I reckon the Brit feels like a mid way point between them ride wise, and in a good way.
The highly regarded ‘entry level’ MV Brutale 920, with a comprehensive leccy pack, will take a smidge under ten grand off you, and it is a seriously good real world bike. The 2011 Tuono V4: £10638 minus the best in show APRC package, £11,638 with. However, I can’t help feeling that offering APRC on a road bike without ABS makes little sense, and if my heart ached for a V4 Tuono with the trimmings, I would wait for the inevitable upgrade. And however good the new Tuono turns out to be – BG review here – part of me regrets the passing of the original V2 version – in Mk2 factory guise I reckon the old boy would still put up a helluva fight against all the current crop of nakeds, which is why its such a tempting alternative to buying new. In fact, you can still find a new V2 Tuono for around eight grand: thus arguably the Speed’s traditional nemesis is still just in the frame as it’s closest competitor, dosh wise. The Nutter from Noale was always massive fun but I reckon the new Speed would get the call, so improved is the latter’s handling. Still think we’ll see a Speed R before too long…
BMW’s neglected storm trooper, the K1300R, gets pricey (and hence neglected) when the excellent electronics options are chucked in the ring, with all the whistles and bells – over 13k OTR will be required. And that is just a sample of what the competition have on offer: there are other European contenders, plus the Japanese mob, but these days buying Japanese does not necessarily mean buying cheaper. And this is a market where European bikes have ruled the roost, with good reason.
The only conclusion we can draw from that pricing barrage is this. If you want a new, naked European litre bike, and aren’t worried about acronyms, the Triumph is decent value. It is also easily the most complete Speed to date and was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, being more composed on poor roads than the Street Triple R, while the extra grunt makes it a better distance conveyance than the Tona derived stable mate. The only thing we can do at bg is ride the rest of em and try to make a comparative call, and then look at the best old models on the used market: a busy summer awaits. Meanwhile, Triumph have a genuine contender on their hands: recommended.
Thanks to all at Three Cross Motorcycles for the loan.