Triumph Speed Triple

The Triumph Speed Triple returns to our 2007 Streetfighter Comparo beefed up and ready to improve upon '06s last place result. While the Factory Tuono can be compared to a title holder who returns even leaner and more agile, the Speed Triple for this year’s test is peaking on a triple-dose of ‘roids. As one of 50 limited-edition ’07 Speed Triples souped-up with an aftermarket exhaust and scores of carbon fiber bolt-ons from the Triumph accessory bin, this year’s S3 looked and performed better than its predecessor. No surprise there. Although the majority of the special-edition Triples were snatched up by dealers as soon as they were made available, we somehow got our grubby mitts on a test unit. So how did we end up with one? ‘Cause we’re cool.

Once the modified Triple rolled into our garage we were surprised by how delicious the 3-into-1 aftermarket Arrow exhaust looks and sounds. We were flabbergasted, however, when we compared dyno numbers from last year and noticed the Speed Triple had jumped up 13.5 horsepower!

Achi machi… That’s kind of just cheating isn’t it? As we tried to justify the juiced Trumpet in our minds as a “Factory” Speed Triple, we discovered the aftermarket pipe is “for off-road use only,” meaning our Trumpet tester isn’t even street legal. Well, that shot our “factory” argument down in flames. So this year’s Speed Triple and its unofficial third-place results get a Marion Jones-like disqualification from the final rankings. But there is no disputing the fact that this bike is a real kick in the teeth.

This year’s Speed Triple was an absolute riot – the highlight being its distinctive three-cylinder mill. We harp on it every time we throw a leg over one, but Triumph has a sweet-sounding gig going with its distinctive 1050cc Inline Triple. Not only does it emit a grin-inducing exhaust note, with a downshifting backbeat that we can’t get enough of, it produces gobs of torque even when it isn’t hopped up on aftermarket juice. On our dyno, the enhanced Triple peaked at 123 ponies at 9,400 rpm, as we stated above, a mammoth increase from last year’s 109.6 hp. The Triumph also gained 5 lb-ft of torque, with its 73.2 lb-ft at 7,700 rpm peak and high dyno torque curve dilly-dallying around in a lb-footage world all its own.

The aftermarket mods make the grunty Triple even gruntier, with the British beauty a real pub brawler in the engine category because of its copious torque teetering on the edge of sanity right from the get go. Only the high-torque Kawasaki rated above the S3 on our tester’s scorecards. With its 79mm bore and 71.4mm stroke, the almost cubed Triple does an excellent job delivering the best characteristics of the Fours and Twins.

“The highlight of the Triumph is the motor,” says BC. “While deceptively smooth and docile in delivery, the Triple makes good power and lots of torque. A strong grunt down low, a very linear power delivery and a smooth throttle makes the Triumph a great bike for doing wheelies.”

Our testing ringer, Jimmy Filice, also enjoyed the Triple saying, “It has good throttle response and sounds really cool.”

Gone is the starter complaint we had during last year’s test, when the S3 required over a second of cranking before firing to life. This year’s ECU-controlled digital ignition had our test bike rip-roaring with the blink of an eye.

The Triumph’s six-speed gearbox didn’t impress any of us, as you can see by its last place result on our overall Transmission scores. The transmission wasn’t as slick or precise as its competitors, with riders registering complaints about missed shifts between both first and second and false neutrals in the first three gears.

Exhibiting a drastic improvement from ’06, however, were the Triumph’s brakes, with last year’s S3 binders mushy and the major complaint lodged by our crew. Nothing changed on the Speed Triple’s spec sheet, with dual 320mm rotors and four-piston Nissin radial calipers up front still teamed with a 220mm rear disc and two-piston caliper out back. The secret to the improvement is internal, with the caliper pistons now Teflon-coated. Our return testers from ’06, Ken Hutchison and Brian Chamberlain, both took immediate notice of the improved brakes.

“Hauling the big Triple down from speed didn’t take an act of Parliament,” muses Hutch on the improved binders. “After a while it actually infused some confidence to go ahead and late brake, trailing it in a bit while carrying good entry speed. That’s a nice upgrade to the Triple’s track worthiness.”

In the handling department the Triumph pulled third behind the two Italians. While it sports the steepest rake angle at 23.5 degrees and second-shortest wheelbase at 56.2 inches it couldn’t match the nimble Monster, much less the swift Tuono.

“Up in the twisties and out on the track, I felt the Triumph to be about mid-pack in the cornering category,” says BC. “While it’s no match for the quick turning and extremely stable Italian bikes, it does get in and through the corners pretty well, and considerably better than the street-focused Japanese models.”

A 43mm Showa fork and rear monoshock are fully adjustable and provide adequate stability. In transition, the Trumpet is no doubt aided by the dramatic 23-pound weight loss compared to last year. It also benefits from wide bars, which provide added leverage in the slower turns, but at higher speeds it just can’t match maneuverability of the Italian Twins.

“The Triumph just doesn’t seem as competent on the track as it does on the street,” says Hutch. “In public this bike is a contender, with its combination of a gnarly motor and a comfortable riding position backed up by arguably the most stylish digs of the bunch. Once it’s pushed really hard though, its loose chassis sends it backwards in the ranking pretty quick.”

Seating position and ergonomics are amenable for tall riders, with its 32.1-inch seat tied with the Yamaha as second tallest of the group. The seat is also cozy and when combined with the relaxed peg placement and easy reach to the high-placed handlebar, it makes it a competent bike for commuting or longer-distance rides.

All told the S3’s Fit and Finish scores are decent, but some of the bike’s quirks bring it down. After a day on the track the handlebars loosened a tad, which was a skosh disheartening, but in its defense a rider is responsible for making sure the bike is in good running order before hitting the track. The press-on reflectors on the fork tubes came off and left an unsightly remnant that we couldn’t get off before the photo shoot and with the Arrow exhaust installed there are exposed unused brackets on the sub-frame that don’t look too swell. Another little gripe on the Trumpet was its schizophrenic fuel light, which popped on and off at will without much regard to the actual condition of the fuel in the tank. The instrument cluster features an analog tach with an electronic speedo inlayed, which made it easy to glance down and get the vital rpm and mph stats. A left-side LCD display gave you all the extra bits, dominated by a digital clock and engine temp gauge.

Now that we’re done complaining, the overall appearance of our test unit can only be described as lust-worthy. The 3-into-1 Arrow pipe both adds performance and trims down the clunky look of the stock cans, accentuating the sexy side of the stubby rear-end. As for carbon fiber, it’s all over the place on this limited-edition model, adorning the flyscreen, radiator trim, exhaust hanger and heel guards, as well as the front and rear fenders. Carbon fiber appeals on two levels to the gearhead, there’s that weight-saving advantage, but in the Trumpet’s case the CF speaks to us on an aesthetic level even more. Our test model also sported the accessory belly pan and seat cowl kits, along with the black anodized axle covers. Combined with the distinctive dual headlamps, this year’s Triple is quite a looker, finishing second in our tester’s Appearance opinions only to the Tuono.

“Black on black, Mad Max-style with an unconventional and mean appearance is what the Triumph Speed Triple is all about,” states Mr. Steeves. “It has a little bit of the Aprilia ‘look at me’ essence with a James Dean-cool twist. This one is smoking a cigarette with an attitude that’s drawing attention without making much noise.”

Value is a difficult concept to judge on the Speed Triple this time around. The limited-edition run of 50 have already been snatched up by dealers, and with an MSRP of $11,999, they are a virtual steal if you can find one being offered at that price. The aftermarket Arrow exhaust alone costs $1,299 from Triumph’s accessory catalog. The limited-edition’s aftermarket adornments sold separate would tack $2,900 onto the $9,999 base MSRP. Is the trick aftermarket, off-road only Arrow system worth its $1,300 asking price? Would you shell out $349 for a carbon fiber flyscreen? Hard to say. Last year the Triple was the only machine to boast a sub-$10K MSRP, but the special-edition was right in the middle in this year’s comparo. Our testers felt it was worth the extra scratch, with only the budget-friendly Z1000 placing higher in the Value scores. Considering that the base model can be had at $9,999, the same as last year, it’s a still a reasonable option for buyers.

The Triumph took top honors in only one category. But, from a rider’s point of view, it’s the most critical of them all – Grin Factor. You can rate all the physical attributes of a bike, but there are intangible traits that endear all of us to a certain machine. With the Triumph it is the combination of that magnificent exhaust note, single-sided swingarm and a burly look which just sets it apart from the crowd and beckons the rider to do something bad – just for the hell of it. Maybe it’s something else, like the fact that the Speed Triple was the lone Brit in the pack, or that you know everybody will be gawking at your decked out Triple at coffee stops… Who knows? All we know for sure is our testing cadre were happy to hop on the Triple at every stop and there were plenty of grins under those helmets.

Still, grins alone don’t get you the win on our testing scorecard and with its 73.5% score, the Triumph finished this comparo all alone in third…but the results from the Triumpet’s urine screening are in and after much deliberation on behalf of the Streetfighter Evaluation and Rules Enforcement Committee (SHREC) we have no choice but to disqualify the Triumph and pass its bronze medal on to the competitors that did not use performance-enhancing bolt-on parts to gain an unfair advantage.

Triumph Scorecard:

  • Engine: User Friendliness 8.2
  • Engine: Open-Road Performance 8.0
  • Transmission/Clutch 6.5
  • Handling/Chassis/Suspension 7.0
  • Brakes 7.8
  • Ergonomics/Riding Position 7.5
  • Fit & Finish/ Instruments/Cockpit 6.8
  • Appearance 7.5
  • Grin Factor 8.3
  • Value 7.5