Yes, yes, I know, “GT” stands for “Grand Touring”, but with the new Triumph Sprint GT it could stand for “Greater Triumph”. Or perhaps “Grown Triumph”. Because it has. Grown. It’s grown a bit in a few significant dimensions, and also in power. Triumph is a company that listens to its customers. When they introduced the re-styled Sprint ST in 2005, owners who up-dated from the previous model found the riding-position a bit too sporty. So in 2007 Triumph revised it, raising the bars and moving them closer to the rider. For the 2008 model, Triumph changed the petrol tank to steel (the 2007 model was plastic) after owners complained that they weren’t able to attach their tank-bags for touring. But still suggestions came in. (Triumph owners must be a finicky lot mustn’t they! Sorry, just kidding!). Some owners wanted the bike set up a little more for touring. And in response, Triumph has introduced the new GT version. Now, I want to say that I think that the Triumph Sprint – with perhaps the exception of the 2005 model – has always been a superb sportstourer, equally good at both sports type riding and touring. But Triumph listened to its customers and tweaked the model considerably, to make it more touring focused. But in doing that they didn’t want to upset those who loved the bike for its sporty nature. So the old ST model continues – at least for now. In Britain both are continuing, but I heard that Australia wouldn’t be continuing it; and it doesn’t appear on the current 2011 list of bikes. (I’m writing this at the end of 2010). However when I asked about this, I was told that they would still be selling the ST. So, for the moment at least, you have a choice. If your riding leans more towards the sports side of the sportstourer equation, buy the ST; if you want it more for touring, buy the GT. But both are still capable as all-rounders; you can still tour on an ST and you can still ride enthusiastically on a GT; it’s a matter of where the emphasis lies.
IN THE DRIVEWAY
I said they’d “tweaked” it, but that’s a bit of an understatement really, because a lot has changed, even though it looks very similar. Suspension at both ends has been altered to better suit its touring emphasis, with the rear unit getting a remote preload adjuster. The rear wheel is lighter and sits at the end of a longer swingarm. Brakes are also different, boasting lighter discs, greater stopping power, and ABS as standard. The rear sub-frame is different, allowing for a re-shaped seat – especially in the pillion area – with lower pillion-pegs. The exhaust has moved from under the seat (where it could get a bit hot under the pillion’s posterior!) to a more traditional side-mounting. Catering again for the pillion (and their extra luggage), the panniers – which come standard, but had been removed from the test-bike – have been enlarged to 31-litres. A colour-matched top-box (with pillion back-rest) is available as an optional extra too. But it doesn’t stop there. The engine has come in for a bit of a tweak too, bringing an extra 4kW of power and 5Nm of torque. The gearing has been raised slightly; again, with the intention of better suiting touring duties. There are more changes too, including a new headlight. Triumph say the new light is a reflector type, rather than the projector type fitted to the ST. And it puts out more light than the previous one, with a better light distribution. Good for seeing where you’re going as you pull into your destination at night after a long day’s ride! I mentioned the seat had been altered in shape. It’s also 10mm higher, although you don’t really notice that. What I did notice is the different shape, which isn’t as scalloped in profile, so it allows you to move around a bit more; as well as providing a better perch for the passenger, of course. I’ve always liked the seats on the Triumph Sprints, but this one didn’t feel quite as plush as earlier models. Still okay though. One thing that they didn’t change was the bars. I wasn’t the only one present at the test-ride to comment on this; with the general consensus being that they should’ve raised them a bit to make the position more up-right. Despite that, it didn’t feel quite as lean-forward-sporty as the 2008 one; although the standard ST didn’t feel quite as lean-forward either, so maybe it was just me; or maybe there’d been a minor tweak that we didn’t know about. In any case, the bars are actually the same on both. It’s a comfortable riding-position, and, probably due to the different shape of the seat, does feel a bit more comfortable and roomy than the ST; although it does still lean (pardon the pun!) more towards the sports side of the sportstourer brief. From the cockpit everything looks pretty much as before. The “triple” theme of the gauges is the same as before, with analogue dials for speedo and tacho, and a digital panel in the third one displaying a whole lot of other useful information. I did find the numbers on the speedo a bit small, and consequently harder to read. (You can see this in the photo). The tacho is easy to read, and red-lined at 10,000rpm.
OUT ON THE ROAD
On the move it feels remarkably similar to the ST. Yes, there’s a bit more power, but with the ST pumping out 92kW, you’d have to be really flogging it to notice the extra 4kW that this puts out. Like the ST it’s still an amazingly tractable engine, pulling from under 2,000rpm in top without complaint. It just vibrates a bit, as if to remind you you’re in the wrong gear, but goes about its business quickly and smoothly anyway. It goes extremely well! The test route was exactly the same as used for the 2008 Sprint (and more recently, the Triumph Daytona). It’s a good route, combining a bit of city, some suburban running, a back-road mountain pass, some open secondary road and a major road and highway coming back to the city. A good indication of how a bike handles give-and-take every-day riding. It’s easy to ride around town. The riding-position tells you that it’s going to be happier out on the open road, but the flexible engine and easy handling make it good around town too. When you do get it away from the city and get a bit more speed happening it works extremely well. As good as it is everywhere else, it's cruising the highways and by-ways where the Sprint has always been so impressive. At 120kph it’s very smooth, and the wind takes the weight off the bars just enough to make it feel natural and comfortable. Yep, this thing is going to be good for any "Grand Tour" you’ve got planned! I mentioned the gearing was slightly higher. It didn’t need to be higher, but it is. Top now runs at 30kph / 1,000rpm. It makes for a nice relaxed cruise well past any legal speeds. It is slightly heavier than the ST, but you certainly don’t notice that. It doesn’t effect performance; or anything else for that matter. It feels very much like the old ST to ride. The longer swingarm was intended to provide greater stability (not that it ever lacked stability before!), and it certainly felt very stable. But the stability doesn’t come at the expense of handling. It still handles well, and can be ridden in a sporty manner. Okay, I suppose it’s probably not quite as “flickable” as the ST, but you’d have to be really flip-flopping it through the twisties to make you want the shorter wheelbase ST. I certainly wasn’t pushing it hard enough to want quicker handling! I’ve always praised the ride of the Sprint, right back from the late 90’s models. And this one continues the tradition. My only criticism here is that the new seat seemed to transmit the bumps through to the rider a bit more than the ST. When I last tested the ST I commented that the seat seemed to compliment the suspension very well; what bumps the suspension let through, the seat seemed to cushion out. But the new seat doesn’t feel quite as complimentary to the suspension as it did on the ST. Any other minor gripes? Well, the gearbox felt a bit notchy, but they tend to be until they’ve got a few more miles and gear-changes under them. It was still okay though; and even clutch-less up-changes (with appropriate roll-off of the throttle) were no problem. Of course, fully-faired bikes tend to be hot around town and at slow speeds. When I did the test it was a warm spring day and I could feel a bit of heat on my left leg around town. No problem once we were moving along on the open road though. And the final thing is that it’s still the great value that Sprints have always been. At just under $16,000 with included panniers and ABS and all the other gear, it’s very cheap for the bike that it is.
Triumph have taken everything that was good about the ST and re-engineered it for a better touring experience. In the process, it probably made it a better bike over-all. So it really is a “Greater Triumph”. It’s an excellent sportstourer, with the emphasis being shifted slightly more to the tourer end. The only criticism to what they’ve done seems to be the bars, which could’ve been higher to better suit the touring brief. But it’s still a great bike – in either of its roles.
Engine: cylinder, cc. Power: 96kW at 9,200rpm. Torque: 108Nm at 6,300rpm.
Fuel capacity: 20litres.
Weight: 268kg (Wet).
Seat height: 815mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17; Rear: 180 X 17.
Brakes: Nissin, with ABS. Front: Twin 320mm disc, Rear: single 255mm disc.
Price: $15,990 (+ORC).
No real changes here. The blue colour seems a shade lighter. All the specifications are the same.
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