The call went something like this:
“Hey JT, it’s Nigel” he opened.
“Hey man, what’s happening?”
My usual jovial reply (though, under my breath I’m wondering, ‘what does he want now?’).
“Wanna’ test a bike?” With a tone suggesting he already knew the answer (I must be pretty predictable).
“Oh yeah, what have you got?”
Like I’d decline… (Or even have a say in what I would prefer if there was a choice, or if there wasn’t anything interesting!)
“We’ve got a few, but I thought you might be interested in the Speed Triple R” was his genius like assumption.
I took delivery of Triumph’s 1050cc Speed Triple R from Cycle Torque HQ after a brief rundown of what I could and couldn’t do with it and how far I could travel without wearing it out.
A weekend trek to Dorrigo for a combined NSW/QLD Ducati get-together was booked into my calendar. Now, the unfortunate thing is the weather decided to render all travel from both ends of Oz a non-event. The fortunate thing was I still had a Speed Triple R in the garage that required some assessment… Better get to it then!
What a stunner!
First things first, let’s take a look at this beauty. Now I’m not a huge fan of naked bikes, they always look somehow unfinished, as if the mechanics at the factory forgot something. So I’ll be as impartial as I can be for somebody who is usually a bit set in his ideas. Which brings me to the overall finish of this beauty.
The fit and finish of everything on this machine is top class, as you’d expect for a $22,000 bike. The matt finish silver/grey paint on the tank and tail piece looks great and blends nicely with the textured charcoal finish of the frame and the all-black powerplant. In contrast, the textured red sub frame and the smooth finish on the radiator side guards, red rim accent stripes and red stitching on the seat, gold of the suspension and stainless steel engine fasteners, all give a flash of colour to an almost monochrome palette. In fitting with ol’ Blighty’s need to keep traditions from the past alive, the tank has a chrome finished badge of raised lettering to let you know it’s a Triumph. The model designation is a decal on the plastic radiator wings and overall, the whole thing looks bloody fantastic. Time will tell how it stands up to everyday applications of road grime wash downs.
Other drool-worthy adornments you’ll notice on the 1050R, are Öhlins forks and rear shock, Brembo radial-mount monoblock brakes, LED lighting, mag wheels shod with Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tyres, neat bar-end mirrors and cast aluminium alloy wheels.
Comfy, slightly forward riding
The riding position was quite comfy with a seat height of 825mm, just nudging ‘too tall’ for my compact dimensions, but an easy reach to the ’bars with the ’pegs at the correct angle to suit the slightly forward-leaning posture. Not quite upright, but without putting all your weight on your wrists like a sportsbike, which worked rather well travelling at higher speeds, as the wind did all of the work to hold me up and I didn’t feel as if I was going to be dragged off the back either. The bar-end mirrors are perfectly placed to see around my body, with plenty of clear vision of the road behind. I was surprised how clear they were, with little discernible vibration destroying my view. However, at higher speeds they would turn outwards and I needed to adjust them every time I got back into the traffic. I couldn’t see a way of tightening them, but I didn’t try too hard either. I’d be finding a solution to this if I was going to live with the bike long term, and it isn’t going slower.
Out front, above the dual headlight of the Triumph is this small, token gesture of a wind deflector, which doesn’t look to be of any use at all apart from giving a resemblance to a Transformer. Not big enough to hide anything behind or to even be dangerous to insects drawn to the fast approaching light, but I must say at no time did the wind get under my helmet and try to pull my head off, nor did the front wheel try and loft toward the sky, perhaps being more useful than it appears…
When you first turn the key on this Speed Triple, there is a plethora of sparkly warning lights as the dash goes berserk through its start-up sequence before settling down to its default settings. On your left handlebar there is a mode button, so you can fine tune the Speed Triple’s behavior to the conditions of the day. The default rider mode is ‘Road’ and this seems to be like an average/user friendly mode, which is logical, as you could happily ride around in this mode all day every day with adequate mumbo on tap to get yourself in and out of trouble without feeling intrusion from the electronics. It’s just like the good old days, when bikes didn’t have an ‘intervention’ button and all we had to rely on was proper throttle control and progressive braking.
Pull in the clutch with its lightweight feel, select a gear and go. Being inherently lazy, I rarely use the clutch to change up, above third gear and the smooth gearbox didn’t protest about this at all, despite the fact that it was still being run in. Each gear was a positive shift and I didn’t experience any false neutrals while in my care.
The distinct sound of the three-cylinder engine is something Triumph has made their own, though the ADR-spec stainless exhaust hushes the Speed Triple R down considerably, there is a noticeable growl as the revs climb, indicating there is plenty of performance hidden behind the mellow note and with 138 ponies on tap at 9,500 revs, you certainly start to feel it. The power felt pretty linear to me as I accelerated through the rev range and at no time did it feel like it dropped off anywhere, all the way up to end of the white numbers on the tacho, to the beginning of the red ones. By the way, I don’t tend to look at the instruments much once I’m up and running, so when I saw a strange blue flash out of the corner of my eye, I thought I must have been pinged by a speed camera or something, but no, it was just the dash letting me know I was getting close to the red numbers! And for those who need to, you can program the shift lights to your preference, a mighty handy way to keep your eyes on the road where they should be.
All of the electronics act together to try to create the perfect bike for any situation and I’m certain if you like to fiddle and you got to live with the Speed Triple R for a while you’d learn how to tailor your riding experience for every situation. Switchable-ABS, traction control, rider modes and fly-by-wire controlled fuel-injection give racetrack personalization to any rider capable of setting up a bike to be a razor sharp, precision tool. Equally, you could stuff it up completely if you don’t know what you’re doing.
I didn’t get a chance to explore all of the gadgets on this machine, so I can’t really say how much refinement each mode brings to different riding situations, the five modes cover all riding conditions so well I didn’t really need to. Discovering ‘Track’ mode was a good excuse to give it a whirl over my favourite bit of local ‘track’… If you’d rather have a sportsbike for the rush you get riding the twisty bits – between all the boring bits – the Triumph Speed Triple R does not disappoint. It allows you to ride just as hard, and is much easier on the wrists.
Equally as important as being able to accelerate faster than a million dollar piece of four-wheeled exotica, you need to be able to decelerate just as deftly. Four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers on 320mm twin discs up front and a Nissin two-piston sliding caliper gripping a 255mm disc at the rear, combined with switchable-ABS ensure this is possible with plenty of bite, but not at the expense of feel. The ABS gives the bike good balance and stability under heavy braking, again a good thing to have in an emergency, but shouldn’t take the control out of the rider’s hands. Triumph has got it right on the Speed Triple R, without even a hint of intrusion from the ABS on the rides I took, leaving me confident that I can brake, confident in the knowledge that it’s there as a backup in those unexpected moments, or if I overcook things a little.
If I have one complaint about this bike, it is the rear suspension is a bit stiff. Unfortunately it’s quite a bit of work to set up the preload and I didn’t have the right tools, so I just rode it with the settings it had. I’m not a big bloke, but Nigel also commented on this. The spring preload was already backed off, which is the only adjustment I might have made, still the rear felt like it was rebounding a bit too fast. Only really noticeable on bumpier roads (which is most of them in NSW) and will depend on the requirements of the individual. Perhaps a lighter spring is in order?
(Note: after JT’s test, we adjusted the rebound damping and found a pretty good setting which took the harder hits better for both Nigel, Ryan and even Chris. With JT being much lighter than the three of us, he might find the new setting is a bit better, but he still might need to set the preload first.)
Front end performance was exquisite, with good feedback from the Öhlins. Again, I made no adjustments to the forks, even though you could adjust everything except the colour. Soaking up the bumps and giving a firm but compliant, ‘in control’ ride on all surfaces and providing reliable feedback.
Taking delivery of a naked bike in winter could be seen as a cruel joke, however a ride is a ride and opportunities need to be taken advantage of. Though it was coolish, the sun was shining each time I got the chance to ride. Being aware that road surface temperatures weren’t going to be very high, I didn’t expect the Pirelli Super Corsa’s to end up feeling like chewing gum, but at no time did they feel like they were going to let me down either. The rear gripped under hard acceleration and whether the traction control intervened, I can’t say for sure. Reason being I don’t twist the throttle and ‘hope’, I tend to exercise a little control, a technique developed from years of riding with the only rider aids available being a low tolerance for pain and a fear of expensive repair costs. If the traction control was joining the fun, I’d have to say that it was not intrusive at all, as acceleration didn’t falter at all, no ignition cutting out and wanting to pitch you forward as the acceleration pauses. This in combination with the excellent rubber saw the front rail around all corners, rough and smooth, and supplied great drive coming out of them.
In this day and age of plastic everything, it was nice to discover the 1050R has a steel fuel tank, well at least half of it is. I needed to go for a ride and carry some gear and I have a magnetic tank bag, so being able to use that instead of having to wear a backpack or trying to tie something to the pillion seat was a bonus.
I have nothing but admiration for the 2016 Triumph Speed Triple R. It handles with precision, behaves well when commuting, but will accellerate hard enough to dislocate your arms on request and looks good standing still despite being a naked bike . I’d soften up the rear a bit to suit me and it may be worth asking your dealer to take care of this before you ride away, because for me it could require a spring change.
In no way is it a turn off, because a lot of big nakeds are generally quite stiff in the rear. If you’re looking at something to give you awesome performance in the twists, but is a bit easier on the body getting there, give your dealer a call and arrange a test ride. The Speed Triple R is one seriously good all-round bike. It’s happy in traffic, on the open road and would make a great run what ya’ brung track day weapon as well. No matter your riding style, you’ll have a hoot in the twists and come back on the boring stuff refreshed. n