BikeSocial Publisher. Has been riding since before Frankie said ‘Relax’, owned more than 100 bikes and has written for, edited or published most of the UK’s best known bike magazines. Strangely attracted to riding high miles in all weathers, finds track days ‘confusing’ and describes the secret to better riding as ‘being invincible’.
It’s been a long pause. I’m struggling to know what to say. The question was simple; after getting to the office and babbling for fifteen minutes about what an amazing motorcycle Triumph’s Street Triple RS is, some wisecrack asks what I don’t like about it.
Er… I’m not too keen on the colour – it’s a bit too restrained for me. And why are the fat parts of the mirrors on the inside, not the outside. I love looking at my elbows, but not while slicing through Oxford’s rush hour with a 150bhp Ducati up my pipe. Oh, er, and the sidestand is hard to operate with chunky boots on and there’s a slight fluff in the fuelling as you let the clutch out needing a few extra revs, making you look like a novice as said Ducati almost rear-ends you.
But that’s it. Everything else about the Street Triple RS is as good as everyone else says it is. But weirdly, it’s the brakes that really stand out and I don’t remember ever wanting to own a bike because of the way it slows down before.
Something about the Triumph’s controlled front suspension, carefully set-up Brembo system and wide, flat bars make pushing the limits of deceleration more rewarding than anything else I’ve ridden. There’s so much feel both at the lever and from the forks as they compress and there’s so much power when you need it too. Is it just me, does anyone else care about how quickly you can make a bike go slowly?
I did a little over 500 miles on the Triple in a couple of days. Half of that was a 300 mile trip almost all in heavy April showers; roads running with teeny rivers, but weirdly the sun is out. The bright light triggers some kind of happy-juice in my head and, despite the standing (and running) water I can’t help pushing the Street Triple harder than I should. We’ve all been there.
The RS has the most powerful version of the 765cc, new-for-2017 engine. Triumph claim 121bhp, which is more than a first-generation Honda FireBlade in a package weighing a whopping 17kg less. Still think the Street Triple is some kind of middleweight ‘first big bike’? This one makes six bhp more than the mid-spec R-model, but it’s not just the headline figure that matters. Some say that the R has a stronger midrange.
It’s got the required tech stuff for credible pub bluffing - many levels of adjustable traction, five riding modes, ABS, TFT display with joystick and a Russian roulette quickshifter that sometimes makes life wonderful and other times launches the motor screaming into the red as it fails (again) to select any gear at all. Quickshifters are only quicker if they work every time. This one isn’t good enough yet and only works on upchanges. Thankfully the regular gearchange is precise and slick enough that it doesn’t matter.
It’s ok, I think. Sorry, I should be more enthusiastic. There’s plenty of power but you have to work quite hard for it and on a couple of occasions I found myself needing a bit more grunt halfway through an overtake, that a 21st century 750-class sports bike should have had on tap.
Obviously a three-cylinder 765cc motor has more torque than something like Yamaha’s screaming YZF-R6, but the R6 is easier to ride fast because it revs so quickly that the power just arrives in a blat that defies the capacity. The Triumph motor takes fractionally longer to build power and only really gets going at very high revs, which isn’t how you expect to ride it. Something like a Yamaha MT-09 in throttle-mode-A would leave the Street Triple for dead in the lower gears.
The riding position is surprisingly good for a tiny, lightweight sports bike. There’s enough reach to the footpegs for a six-footer in winter kit to not be too scrunched-up, but still with plenty of ground clearance too.
The handlebars aren’t too wide, or too tall or too low, making for a genuinely roomy riding position that still offers plenty of control in corners. Triumph always does ergonomics well, but this is probably their best one yet.
Pillion accommodation is a little less considerate with just a teeny seat, no grab handles and high-set footrests.
With no fairing to hide behind and a rucksack for a spinnaker, the Street Triple has the aerodynamic efficiency of a hippo on a washing line…in a hurricane. No surprises there, but it had been a while since I rode an un-faired bike in winter and I’d forgotten how flipping cold you get, even in full winter kit when the air temperature drops below 5°C.
Top speed will be a little shy of motorcycling’s usual one million mph and any kind of distance above 85mph quickly becomes uncomfortable. But keep the speeds somewhere below that and you can manage a tank of fuel (around 160 miles at an average of 45mpg) without too much trouble.
Fuel consumption was disappointing and the best we saw was only just over 50mpg. Maybe we need a smaller hippo.
The RS’s fully adjustable Ohlins shock is adjusted for someone less well-fed than me and bottoms out over bumps, but still keeps control in soggy, rippled corners and is now so filthy with Lincolnshire slime that I’m not going anywhere near those adjusters without surgical gloves on. Combined with the big, fat Showa forks the RS’s suspension gives a really good account of itself though, especially on the brakes where there is so much confidence.
I can’t remember the last time I rode a properly quick, lightweight naked motorcycle. After the best part of a year wrestling 230kg-plus sports tourers and adventure bikes around, the 166kg (dry weight) Street Triple feels like an old 350 or 400.
I love small bikes, always have. Easy to flick and snick through traffic, easy to chuck into corners and even easier to lift up and fire out the other side. Small bikes are just simply better than the overpowered chest wigs that grab the headlines
Like we said up top the Street Triple stops like no other bike we remember. There are other sports bikes with brakes this good on paper, but what makes the RS different is the riding position. The bars are higher and wider than most sports bikes, giving very different feedback. The Brembo set-up can be massively powerful or delicate as you like, helped in no small part by a set of forks that work in the most sublime manner. If you’ve ever wondered what really top-notch suspension feels like, go get a ride on a Street Triple RS.
The clocks will be a revelation for anyone who’s owned previous sporty Triumphs. Finally you can see all the info you need, switch functions with ease and fine tune settings without needing to take your eyes off the road for an hour or stop. Switchgear is intuitive too. Swapping between riding modes is simple using the joystick and tailoring the display to see the information you want needs a few minutes and some patience but can even be achieved by a short-tempered digital luddite, should you happen to know one. The only cockpit niggle is that there are a lot of cables and wires cluttering up the steering head which makes operating the steering lock and doing three point turns a bit clumsy as they get in the way on full lock.
This RS-spec Street Triple costs £10,200, which is pricey compared to Suzuki’s GSX750S but cheaper than an equivalent-spec Ducati. In journalist world, where it’s not our money it would be easy to say the suspension alone is worth the extra money, but in real life I might be more tempted by the £9000 Street Triple-R which has the same forks, similar brakes, but a Showa shock absorber. Suzuki’s £7699 GSX750S with aftermarket suspension upgrades would be even better value and let’s not mention Yamaha’s MT-09SP which is £1200 cheaper. On PCP the Yamaha costs £119 per month with a £2k deposit and £4400 final payment, where the Triumph RS is £121 per month with a £5739 final payment.
As the member of BikeSocial who tends to clock up the big commuting miles, taking a bike to track for a test is not the norm for me. But, as I was about to find out, this was no ordinary bike…
To start with I treated the RS to some ‘light’ commuting, back and forth from Coventry to Peterborough. It’s about 77-miles each way and covers every type of road in the UK so is a pretty good test. First off; this bike has a ridiculously well sorted front end. It not only makes chasing apexes a hoot but also means slipping through traffic in town and on motorways is a giggle. At low speed the bars are so light you don’t realise you’re turning them and when you have the hammer down moving the bike from apex to apex is more an act of telepathy than physical exertion!
As Steve alluded to above, the bike is a bit thirsty but I’m sure this is more to do with the way it begs to be ridden than the amount of fuel it actually could use! The induction howl you get above 3500rpm is intoxicating, it beckons you on, further and further round the rev-counter as the centrally mounted air intake hoovers up the country side before you. If, and it’s a big if, you could ride the RS like a normal, boring bike, I’m pretty sure you could return some pretty impressive – and equally boring – MPG stats!
The Monday after picking up the RS I had to travel to Wales to get muddy at Triumph’s newly opened adventure centre. With my overloaded rucksack on I set off at 5:15am on the wettest and greyest Monday morning since records began. Fitted with track biased Pirelli Diablo Supercorsas I expected the bike to flap about like an aqua-phobic in a submarine but, the tyres and the well sorted traction control system were good enough to keep me out of the hedge. The nature of the tyres and the firm suspension did make the bike tramline on road markings a bit but nothing heart stopping, for such a track focussed bike it’s extremely well mannered.
The riding position and (lack of) aerodynamics did make my rucksack push the bike from side to side quite a bit. If you were going to ride distances regularly a tank bag and some throw over soft bags may perform better – at the cost of reduced fuel economy.
The most surprising thing about this trip was: After jumping on the RS at 5:15am, riding all day in Wales on a big adventure bike, then riding the RS the 100 miles to Bristol afterwards – I still felt fresh. I’m 5’7” and about 12-stone, for me the ergonomics are a perfect mix of sporty manoeuvrability and long distance comfort. Yes, I was still giving my legs a stretch after a couple of hours but I still do that on tourers!
It’s normally pretty easy to go out and test a bike in its native habitat, problem is the RS is so damn good everywhere! I have a feeling that for most RS owners, the bike will be their fair-weather friend and short-range commuter. Wheeled out of the garage at the weekend when the sun is shining, to allow them to go and play on the back roads with their mates. And it’s here where the RS and it's wonderfully composed front end shines. The setup is so well tuned and stable, it allows you to brake massively late into corners, using all of the Brembo M50 calipers and 310mm discs bite. Then, when lesser well set up bikes would have you releasing the brake and tipping in, you can carry on trail-breaking, right the way up to the apex.
As soon as the apex is dispatched, the grunt from that 765cc engine takes over. Missed a down shift? Don't worry, the 12-valve triple has a torque curve so flat that missed downshifts just result in a slightly slower than normal get away. The bike doesn’t shudder or struggle, it just pulls, from right down in the rev-range all the way to the to the next ‘snick’ of the Triumph fitted quick-shifter - which may, or may not engage the next gear!
The morning of the Bennetts Customer Trackday at Donington was wet – biblically wet! The ride from Coventry had still been a blast though. I’d spent enough time – roughly 600-miles – at the helm of the RS to now feel totally at home on it.
My first session was out at about 10:30 and there were still rivers across the track at Craner Curves and Coppice. With Rain Mode selected, the RS’s mapping had softened the torque curve noticeably. Pulling out of slower corners the lack of urgency was more noticeable but still provided enough of a shove to keep me on my toes. I only felt the traction control cutting in when riding the wet, uphill section from Old Harpin to Schwantz. The faster speeds and greater lean angle meant the back end was pattering a bit on the surface and it did tend to wander under hard braking – both understandable in these conditions. It’d be hard to imagine a track-day novice such as myself riding a 150bhp superbike in these conditions, I’d be in the gravel trap before the safety briefing had finished! Credit to Triumph and their engineers, they have built a bike that is composed enough to not scare the life out newer riders, yet exciting and complex enough to keep a more experienced jockey entertained.
As the sessions progressed the track conditions and my confidence improved. Switching up through the four riding modes with each session ending up in full-blown Race Mode for the final – and now totally dry – session. Now this was what I had brought the bike here for. In Race mode the rear tyre was now freed from the computer’s shackles and could try its best to deliver all of its 122 horses to the tarmac. Coming out of the final left hander – we were using the National Circuit – the bike would raise the front in second gear on command and devour the start finish straight, firing me past the grandstands in a blur. On the back straight the RS would keep pace with GSX-R 750s with ease and even some 1000s ridden by less experienced riders. The fastest riders on the 200-bhp superbikes were untouchable but, the little naked bike from Hinckley definitely surprised a few folk, on and off the track.
To say I was gutted to take the Street Triple RS back to Triumph is an understatement. Okay it’s not perfect, the indicator switch takes some getting used to. The quickshifter needs some fine tuning - but those are both small things, that you can learn to live with. I think the measure of a bike is how it makes you feel, when you are riding it and when you aren’t, thats where the Street Triple RS won me over. I can honestly say that every time I got off that bike I’d walk away and never once be able to stop myself from looking back at it.
Farewell chum, it’s been a blast!