A TRIUMPH FOR ULYSSIANS ?
The Street Triple was introduced by Triumph as a mid-size version of it’s Speed Triple; Triumph’s iconic street-fighter. The street-fighter concept is basically that of a hooligan bike. It’s the sort of bike that is created by someone who dispenses with form for the sake of function. Someone who strips off “unnecessary” stuff like the fairing etc, to make the bike lighter by a few pounds to get it faster; then go race their mates with it around the suburbs. They don’t care if it doesn’t look as swish and sleek as the latest plastic-fantastic, they’ll happily trade looks for a win in the suburban street-race. That’s the sort of image these bikes have. As someone who spent my formative teenage years in the 1960s, I naturally like individuality. But, especially in the case of the Street Triple (and this applies to me too!), being individual doesn’t particularly mean looking good. I don’t think the Street Triple is the sort of bike you’d sit in the shed and admire! If you were sitting in the shed looking at it, you’d probably be hatching up some plan like, “Maybe I’ll tear off the rear section and bolt on that old tail-light off the box-trailer…” I reckon if you bought one of these you’d be constantly explaining it to your (non-motorcycling) family and friends. “I bet you saved a motza on that!” they’d say; assuming it was something that had fallen off the back of the delivery truck, and the dealer had just botched up to sell rather than repair properly. “No,” you’d explain, “they make them like that!” To which they’d just laugh and ask, “No, seriously, how much did they pay you to take it like that?” But if your family and friends don’t get it, a lot of people out there in the market-place certainly do; because the Street Triple was the biggest-selling naked bike of 2008. So I'd been keen to take it for a ride, and I got the opportunity to do just that when the Triumph test-fleet came to town. We were taken on a good test-ride that included some 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 bikes performed in real-life everyday conditions. It’s no surprise to learn that a lot of the bits used to make this bike came from the popular Daytona 675. Some parts, like the instrument binnacle, were swapped straight over; others, like the engine, were re-tuned for their new role. In the case of the engine, the re-tuning (or “de-tuning”) has reduced power to 79kw at 11,700rpm, and 69Nm of torque at 9,000rpm. De-tuned it might be, but they’re still pretty healthy numbers for a mid-size bike! Sitting on the bike, my first impression was that it felt a bit “bum-up, hands-down.” I don’t know why it felt like that, because it’s actually quite up-right. But it did. The seat height is 805mm, which isn’t overly high, but may have contributed to that initial impression. Anyway, that feeling soon disappeared. The bars are quite flat and straight; probably well-suited to the style of the bike. The riding-position is good, and quite comfortable. Adding to the comfort is the seat. It’s not exactly plush, but it is comfortable. The little instrument pod houses an analogue tacho, red-lined at a lofty 13,000rpm, and a digital display panel with the time and fuel level being prominently displayed. There’s also a gear-indicator, which is handy. Other info is available at the push of a button; things like engine temperature, fuel-consumption and so on. Being lifted straight off a sports-bike you also get things like lap-time, maximum-speed, average speed, and even adjustable shift-indicator lights; all of which you’d be less likely to use on this bike than the original. (Although the shift-indicator lights are kinda cool!). The speedo is digital and is located in a cut-out section at the bottom of the tacho dial. Having the speedo located in the same dial as the tacho probably makes sense, but it’s more usual to find it beside the tacho. You’d get used to that, if you owned it, but the main problem I found was that there were often bad reflections across it, which made it hard to read. (Even in the photo above you can see some reflections on it). The other display, with the time and fuel etc was always easy to see. At one stage, fairly early in the ride, we were approaching a speed-camera and I looked down to check my speed, but I couldn’t even find the speedo! A bit worrying! But I could still see the display to the left; so, while I couldn’t check my speed, if I did get booked at least I’d know what time it was, and what gear I was, in when it happened! The bike weighs just 167kg, so it’s light and very easy to manouvre around. Even wheeling it around the dealer’s forecourt was simple and easy. Out on the road it was equally easy to handle; “light and agile” is the expression that comes to mind. It handles very well! The steering is quick; not nervously quick, but “point-and-shoot in the twisties” type quick. But being light-and-flickable sometimes results in a bike that is less than totally stable at high speed. The Street Triple was never unstable, but it gave the feeling that it was ready to dart off to the left or right whenever the call came. Or even just the suggestion of a call. Until that call came though, it tracked straight and true. It was good fun, and very accurate, but I’d need a bit more time on it to get really confident with the quick steering and light feel. The bounce-up-and-down test in the showroom gave the feeling of a rear suspension that was quite plush. Out on the road though, the ride was actually fairly firm. Minor patches in the road surface could certainly be felt, while bigger bumps brought bigger hits through the seat and bars. Suspension at the front looks the goods, with that gold-coloured upside-down fork, but it’s not adjustable so you’re stuck with what you get. At the back there’s the usual mono-shock, which is adjustable for preload only. I’ve mentioned the engine, and of course that’s one of the bike’s biggest calling-cards. And it’s a beauty! There seems to be something eminently practical about the re-tuned race-engine. Yamaha, for example, did this with it’s FZ series (both the FZ1 and FZ6); producing engines that are amazingly flexible, considering their race-track heritage. The same thing applies to the Street Triple. As I said above, the numbers are pretty impressive anyway, but it’s the way that these numbers translate into user-friendliness that really impresses. The engine is designed to be flexible; Triumph claim that it has almost 90% of it’s torque available from 3,500rpm right through to 12,300rpm. On the road this allows the bike to pull away easily from 2,000rpm. It also revs very freely. I didn’t rev it out much during the ride, just getting it to around 7,000rpm, but it was keen to go further. It doesn’t sound or feel as busy at these revs as a 4-cylinder either. Being a triple, I suppose you’d expect it to feel 25% less active than a 4-cylinder; and it does! It goes well. As I keep saying, those power figures are impressive for a mid-size bike, and with its low weight, this thing can really fly if you open it up! The engine sounds good too. There’s the typical Triumph whistling sound, but also enough noise coming out the back to make it sound interesting; especially with a few revs up. I found the gear-change to be a bit jerky sometimes; especially at low speed. Probably more to do with the light weight of the bike, and perhaps me being a bit ham-fisted (“ham-footed?”) with it, than any direct fault with the ‘box. Gearing is similar to other modern bikes in this mid-range category; top gear (of 6) running at just under 20kph per 1,000rpm. So at 100kph it’s doing just over 5,000rpm; and by 110kph it’s well on it’s way to 6,000rpm. Now, as I said, it doesn’t sound or feel quite as busy at these speeds as a 4-cylinder, but it’s not exactly a relaxed cruise either. On the subject of cruising, the wind isn’t too bad. You can certainly feel the wind as speeds rise (say, over 100kph), but it’s not too bad. The bike I rode was, as you can see in the photo at the top, fitted with a little fly-screen thing, but I doubt that would have done much to reduce the wind. The brakes are good; not brilliant, but good. A sudden squeeze, when I realised I was coming to a major intersection while still doing 110kph along a back-road, pulled the bike up easily if not exactly standing it on its nose. One thing I didn’t like was the positioning of the back brake lever. It’s kind of tucked in, and I could only get the side of my foot on it. It felt like I was braking with just my big toe! So, there it is. Not something you’d buy to impress the neighbours, but for a quick blast around the ‘burbs and back-roads this has the power and quick handling to be a real hoot! And what makes it even better is that you don’t have to wring its neck to do it; and you can do it in relative comfort. If you’re an old bloke who wants to just cruise along and take it easy, this is perhaps not the bike for you. As I said at the top, it’s a bit of a hooligan bike. Now, Triumph mightn’t like me saying this, but if you’re an old bloke who wants to really live out the Ulysses Club motto (“Grow Old Disgracefully”), this is probably just the thing for you!
Ridden late 2008.
P.S. In November 2008 Triumph released an up-spec version called the Street Triple R. The intention was to pitch it kind of half way between the basic model and the Daytona. As such it gained the Daytona’s radial-mounted 4-piston brakes. And it got up-graded suspension that is fully adjustable at both ends. The rear unit also provides more travel than the standard one. They’ve set this a bit firmer than the standard model, but a report I read said that it’s actually quite compliant. Being fully adjustable should allow you to fine-tune it for your ride / handling preference. There are a couple of other differences too, like tapered handlebars; although their shape is exactly the same as the standard. At the time of writing it hasn’t been released in Australia yet, but is due sometime during 2009.
A few up-dates for the 2012 model, but the changes are mostly just cosmetic. So essentially, everything you've read above still applies. One of the first things you'll notice is that the headlights have been replaced with angular shaped ones. I've read some criticism of this but I reckon these look better. The headlights look like they belong to the bike, rather than something bought at Supercheap Auto to replace the real ones that broke when it fell off the truck. (See my comments above!). Another thing you'll notice is the logo on the tank has changed. Why? It looks a bit like some back-yard amateur painted the name on, rather than it being the proper Triumph logo. (Maybe that's the look they were going for?). Of a more practical nature, the instrument binnacle has changed. It still looks like the one pictured above, but the left-hand display now holds the digital speedo - so you will now be able to read it, which could be a help sometimes!
The Street Triple has come in for some up-dates for 2013. Some significant tweaking went on in several areas. First was the frame, which is different. There’s a new swingarm, along with new wheels. Also a new exhaust, which is now mounted low down, rather than under the seat. (Yes, the one in the test here had it mounted low too, but that was because it was an after-market one). The looks have been tidied up a bit too. It still has that bolted-together-from-left-over-bits look, but somehow the angular headlights don’t like quite as much as if they’ve been found in the back of the parts shed as the previous ones did. The new frame places more of the bike’s weight over the front wheel. According to a road-test I’ve read, this improves the handling. Oh, and speaking of weight, there’s a bit less of it, the engineers at Triumph having shaved a few kgs off somewhere. The engine produces the same power and torque as before, but Triumph claim that modifications they’ve made to the manifold and fuel mapping have increased the engine’s efficiency, broadening its spread of power and making it up to 30% more economical on fuel around the city. So quite a few significant differences. As I said at the time of the last up-date, I reckon it will continue to sell well; it's a good - if very individual - bike!
UP-DATE / REVIEW 2014.
Well, it's a sort of review. I test-rode the Learner Approved Street Triple 660. Now, that bike is exactly the same as the normal Street Triple, apart from the engine. And the engine of the normal Street Triple is very similar to the one here, with just a few minor tweaks to broaden its spread of power and improve economy (see Up-Date above). So you can take the comments on the engine from this test, combine that with the rest of the general stuff in the report on the 660, and you've essentially got a road-report of the 2014 model.
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