THE BRITS HAVE DONE IT AGAIN!
Okay, I have to admit that I've always liked the Triumph Sprint ST. When I did the comparison of my favourite sports-tourers early in 2007, the Triumph Sprint came out as the winner. Moreover, it's probably the only bike that I’ve “fallen-in-love” with on the test. I almost bought one of the earlier 955 models; twice! The reason I didn’t was that I found the riding-position just a bit too lean-forward-sporty for my preferences. So I was interested in having a test-ride on the current Sprint to see how I liked it now; as well as check out the latest up-dates to this popular bike. I got the chance to do that when the Triumph test-fleet arrived at a local dealer. The 2008 / 2009 model is not much different to the 2007 one, although there have been a few up-dates. One change was to the fuel-tank, which is now steel instead of the previous model’s plastic. Triumph is a company that listens to its customers, and implements changes according to customer feedback. And one thing customers had complained about was the plastic tank, because they wanted to fit a tank-bag. (Magnets don’t work too well on plastic!). So Triumph changed it to steel. The Triumph rep told me that this created quite a problem in Australia though. They had to withdraw the Sprint from sale for 6 months because Australian authorities insisted on the new tank passing a standards / safety test before they would allow the new model to be sold. That test involved filling a tank with petrol and sitting it on a shelf for 6 months to see if it rusted. It didn’t. But the 6 months absence from the market hurt Triumph; especially as the Sprint had been the top-selling bike in its class at the time. Another change was to the internal panels of the fairing, which had a slight re-design to deflect more hot air out from the bike. The frame, seat and general ergonomics are all unchanged. Or supposed to be. I felt that the bars were lower and angled down more than on the previous model. I didn’t get a chance to ask the rep about this, but later I did contact a couple of dealers to ask them about it. They both said the bars were the same as the previous model; but then they also didn’t know about the other changes, to the tank and the fairing! (Perhaps Triumph need to educate their dealers a bit better?). Now this could be just my personal preferences in ergonomics changing, but I don’t think so; the difference felt too great for that. In any case, the riding-position works well at high speed, but at lower speeds I was feeling the weight on my wrists; to the extent that by the end of the ride my wrists were starting to get a bit sore. The seat is still just as comfortable, so no change there! Something that occurred to me on the test was how well the seat matches the suspension. The characteristics of the foam seem to complement the compliance in the suspension, adding to the comfort of the ride. And speaking of the ride, the bike has a very comfortable ride. The test route was exactly the same as for the Street Triple (in fact I rode the Sprint straight after riding that); so included the same mix of suburban running, a bit of freeway, a narrow winding mountain pass, and some secondary back-roads. Everything from smooth highway to lumps and bumps on the back-roads; so a good test of how the bike performed in real-life everyday conditions. And it performed very well! I reckon the suspension is brilliantly compliant. Small bumps and patches in the road surface you just don’t feel. Larger bumps are felt, but absorbed beautifully. It feels very plush, at everything from town speeds to hitting bumps at highway cruising speeds. Despite the plush feel to the suspension, it handles really well! As I said, I rode this straight after riding the Street Triple, and I felt more at ease with the handling of the Sprint. You wouldn’t be able to flip-flop it through tight twisties like you could the Street Triple, but through the tight flowing mountain curves the extra weight and slower steering made it feel more secure and stable. I felt more confident riding this than the Street Triple. But I could still point it through the corners just as quickly. In fact it was fun to ride in a sporting manner. I took particular notice of my speed on one tightly flowing hairpin, and my speed was exactly the same as it was on the Street Triple. The engine is a beauty! The 1050cc triple produces 93kw at 9,250rpm, and 105Nm of torque at 7,500rpm. Those figures might indicate an engine that has plenty of low-down go, but it’s even better than the figures suggest. It will pull easily from 2,000rpm. And as the revs rise, so does the rate of acceleration. But it’s all smooth. There’s quick acceleration available from just about everywhere in the rev range, but it’s never jerky. Roll the throttle on, even at lower speeds, and it just surges forward. Quickly! And it’s these sort of characteristics that make it eminently practical in the real world of every-day motorcycling. For example, on one occasion I came up beside a semi at about 80kph. The semi was in the centre lane and I was in the right lane. I began cruising past, and as I got to about the back wheels, the truck’s blinkers came on and he started changing lanes. Instant decision; do I brake, or do I hit the throttle and go? I decided to go, and gave the throttle a big twist. The bike surged forward and leapt past the truck in an instant. I was doing close to 120kph when I swung into the centre lane ahead of him and backed off to legal speeds again. The engine is extremely smooth while it’s doing all this too. Smooth and responsive; that’s the Sprint! The usual whistling sound that these engines make was there, although not as loud as usual. One sound that wasn’t so typical was a rattling noise from the gearbox. Loud enough that I’d be worried about it if it was mine! But in other respects the gearbox was great. Changes were easy and smooth. It’s quite high-geared, as you’d expect. In top it runs just over 27kph per 1,000rpm. So at 110kph it’s purring along at just 4,000rpm. By 5,000rpm you’ll be getting close to 140kph. This is one of the things I like about big bikes, the relaxed cruising. Compare that to most mid-size sports-tourers, or even the Street Triple; at 110kph they’re spinning at almost 6,000rpm. I know which one I’d want to be riding on the highway! And speaking of cruising, the bike cruises effortlessly. The relaxed mechanical nature and the stability of its handling are the main factors, but it’s also comfortable for the rider. The fairing keeps the wind off pretty well, and what wind does get past helps take a bit of the weight off your wrists. The down-side to full fairings is heat; at slower speeds anyway. And around town, and on the tight mountain section, I could feel heat around my legs. At highway speed it was fine. When it comes time to stop all this relaxed and quick forward motion, there’s a set of Nissin 4-pot calipers up front and a 2-pot Nissin at the rear. And they do a good job. They felt a bit better than the Street Triple, which was good without being particularly strong. Also better than it’s little street-fighter sister is the instrument-panel. There’s a big analogue tacho and digital speedo, both of which are easy to read. Weight, at 210kg, remains the same as the previous model, as does the seat-height, at 805mm. One change that I don’t like is the new colours. Some of the colours look a bit dowdy. There’s a dark metallic grey, which looks pretty grim. And even the blue of the test-bike didn’t seem quite as attractive as the older models. I’m not sure what other colours are available, but the ones I’ve seen have all looked a bit unexciting. So, over-all, how did I like it this time? Was I “in love” again? Well, no. This time I felt it was just a bit too sporty in it’s riding-position; and I was actually getting a bit uncomfortable by the end of the ride. A bit too much leaning-forward for the old body, and a bit too much weight on the wrists. (And I still reckon it’s different to the ’07 model!). Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a great bike! Actually, for the type of bike it is, in the areas of ride comfort, handling, and performance, I reckon it’s brilliant! The Brits have done it again; they’ve come up with another, just slightly up-dated, version of their great sports-tourer! It deserves to be popular, and it is. Even with having half the year off, it still came in at third place for sales in the big-bore sports-tourer category for 2008. (Top spot was the Suzuki Hyabusa – arguably not really a sports-tourer anyway – and then, beating the Triumph by just one sale, was the Suzuki Bandit). The bottom line has to be that it’s a sports-tourer with the emphasis a little more on the “sports” side of the equation. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your personal preference.
Ridden late 2008.
The first thing is that the Sprint ST is still being sold, despite the introduction of the new GT version. I'd heard that Australia wasn't going to sell the ST any more because the two versions (the ST and GT) were too close in specs etc. But they are continuing to sell it. There haven't been any significant changes since 2008 - that I know of anyway. Checking one out recently I did feel that the bars were a touch higher than the one I rode in '08. This was all a bit weird. There'd been no official statement to the effect that the bars were lower on the '08 model than the '07, but I felt that they were. Now, despite again no official word about changes to bars, I felt they were higher. Maybe it's just me. Anyway, the 2010 ST remains as per this one.
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