New Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS Review (2021)

 

More speed. More street. More triple. But has Triumph done enough to be a heavyweight in the sporty streetfighter class with its all-new 2021 contender? We rode it on road and track to find out.

The sporty naked/factory streetfighter/hyper naked/super roadsters class – call it what you like – is where most of the factories are flexing their development muscles these days. Sportsbike sales have been in decline for a long time as riders look to bikes they can get more use from/justify the purchase of. And for most of us, a set of high bars beat a pair of clip-ons nine times out of ten. I’ve just recently turned 40 and put a set of bar risers on a 954 Honda FireBlade last year. But enough about that…

The point I’m dragging out is that naked bikes are booming – most manufacturers have offerings across multiple cubic capacities and often there’s a hero bike, festooned with technology. They literally all keep raising the bar.

In 1994, Triumph launched its first Speed Triple – ‘the original hooligan’ (their words) and claim to have created the category and set the benchmark of performance naked bikes. I’d argue the Ducati Monster M900 did that. Anyway, 100,000 Speed Triples built since the original and now Triumph have released its sixth incarnation (there’s been a few updates and derivatives) of the UK’s favourite and they’re not throwing their punches – the gloves are off.

 

For and against
  • Engine
  • Noise
  • Technology
  • Price
  • Gearbox
  • Harsh suspension
2021 Triumph Speed Triple RS Review | Road and Track

More speed. More street. More triple. But has Triumph done enough to be a heavyweight in the sporty streetfighter class with its all-new 2021 contender, the SpeedTriple 1200 RS? We rode it on road and track to find out.

 

2021 Triumph Speed Triple RS Price

Weighing in at £15,100 the new Speed Triple RS is £1,500 more expensive than the outgoing model. There’s no S model (from £11,600 for the 2020 bike), either, and chief engineer, Stuart Wood, assures us that there will only be this one, high-spec variant. So that gives you an idea of the positioning.

At this price you are getting a lot of motorcycle, especially in terms of out-of-showroom spec, but this firmly positions it at the likes of KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R, the Yamaha MT-10SP and BMW’s S1000R Sport. It’s also a lot cheaper than the Aprilia Tuono V4 Factory and the incredible Ducati Streetfighter V4 S…

But I’m a firm believer that you like what you want and then work the finances out later.

 

Power and torque

Triumph made a big point about the fact the 2021 Speed Triple has a 17% power-to-weight increase over the outgoing model and double that of the original bike: very impressive. The bigger, 1160cc engine brings with it a 180 PS (up 30 PS) and a rise of 8Nm to give a torque figure of 125Nm at peak.

Triumph shared with us some dyno charts to compare the new engine with the predecessor and they match that of my bum dyno: the mid-range to top end just takes off from 6,500rpm and there’s 650 extra rpm to make that inline triple really howl.

In terms of torque, this characteristic is what made the 1050 engine such a firm favourite and that seemingly endless, linear wave of the stuff has only got better: it really does feel like one gear can do it all – on road and track – the engine pulls so hard from low rpm and holds it right through the rev range. And that sound, my oh my…

 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

We are told that the engine development team from Triumph’s own Moto2 project (which has won every race in the class since 2019. Ha ha.) have been involved with the new Speed Triple.

Up from 1050cc to 1160cc, the engineers have shaved an incredible 7kg from the engine despite the increase. First off, I want to know what material they were using in the last one?! The result in such a post-lockdown mass reduction exercise is an engine that spins up faster – the electronics doing a great job to keep that delivery smooth – to a higher rpm. A new finger follower valve train has helped to reduce mass and helped the bike achieve its new higher rpm.

Riding the bike, it’s easy to forget you have this extra rpm to play. And much like the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S – there’s a reward when you keep it singing!

Straight out of the showroom there’s a Quickshifter for clutch-less up and down shifts. Speaking of the clutch, still a cable affair and the bike I rode had a flappy lever that was off-putting in my peripheral vision, but no other bikes on the press launch suffered the same affliction. I don’t know why there’s no hydraulic clutch when there’s a new ‘slip and assist’ clutch with less plates, maybe it’s for simplicity.

The Quickshifter is smooth when bumbling along or when in full track attack. What isn’t so slick is the ability to put it in neutral while coasting along. Or find neutral. And I wasn’t the only one at the media launch to have this gripe. Selecting first gear in the new stacked gearbox feel like a long clunk down, but it didn’t miss a shift on a full day of riding on road and track.

Manufacturers and dealers make more profit from accessories than bikes – the margins are better. So, of the 35 official accessories for this new bike, you’ll be surprised to learn there’s no exhaust option. How about that? Reason being, Triumph say they put so much effort into the now low-level, single exhaust that not only helps pass increasingly more stringent emission and noise restrictions, but with its new exhaust valve and that addictive intake roar, it helps deliver the ‘best sounding Speed Triple ever’. I agree with that, when at full throttle onboard and stood listening by the side of the road.

As standard silencers go, it doesn’t look bad at all – the packaging on this bike is really impressive. So maybe just add an Arrow sticker. The loss of the underseat cans really does expose a very tiny bottom indeed. I wonder how long before someone comes up with an unofficial twin, underseat option…

 

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

It’s an all-new chassis with the entire bike boasting a 10kg weight drop from the previous model and has high-specification, fully adjustable Öhlins suspension bolted at each end of the new, lightweight ‘V-spoke’ wheels.. With no ‘entry level’ S version, the chassis spec of the RS shouts very loudly the intention of this ride: fast road and track use.

Triumph themselves admitted at the launch that - on paper - the chassis dimensions, rake and trail figures point towards a more ‘relaxed’ geometry, but the reality when in dynamic use will provide a ‘more precise experience, better at holding a line and with less squat’. From our experience of riding the bike on road and track, it’s definitely a firmer ride - especially at the rear. So definitely less squat. I’m not a heavy guy - 76kg without my riding kit - but heavier riders from the media (no offence, gents) on the day were also commenting about this during the road ride. So the rear spring itself is certainly on the hard end of the scale.

The suspension is fully adjustable and so is there to be fiddled with. On track, more compression damping was certainly needed to control the movement of the rear, particularly through the Starkeys Bridge section. No such problems on the front - on road and track - the feel and feedback was there. If it was my bike, I’d be looking for a lighter spring in the rear shock as I don’t carry passengers often.

The wider bars mixed with countersteering make it easy to throw the bike around on the road and track. Personally, I found the riding position a little too low and racey. I’m 5’8” so not the tallest guy to lean forward, but slightly higher bars would be my preference.

Triumph claimed to have used the light, precise and agile Street Triple as the inspiration for the new bike. Funny - when big brother wants to be like the ‘little’ one. In my viewpoint, it wasn’t until the first 1050 that the Speed Triple lost its heavy, tall and vague poise. The new bike certainly feels sharper but it also reminded me a lot like my first ride on the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S last year; feels kind of vague and alien until tramping on a bit. By the end of a day’s riding on twisty B roads and on track, it felt like ‘my’ bike (aside from the stiff rear…).

 

2021 Triumph Speed Triple RS Brakes

Like hitting a brick wall. Like opening a parachute. Stops on a dime. All those cliches used to describe powerful  brakes are applicable here as the Speed Triple is exceptionally braked. Dual Brembo Stylema radial monobloc calipers bite down hard on 320mm discs thanks to a gorgeous Brembo master cylinder (shame the clutch lever and perch looks a bit cheap on the other side of the bar…) that is adjustable for ratio and span. You really couldn’t want for a better set-up.

Obviously on road there was no degradation in performance but three sessions of Donington Park track use - with one particular heavy-braking area (Melbourne Loop) also failed to fluster the stoppers. I used the pre-set ABS modes in the Road, Sport and Track riding modes I tested on the day. The ABS modes - with cornering sensitivity - are optimised for the chosen ride mode and I left it on for the track use. Unlike some systems on track, never once did I feel it intervene to an intrusive level that I wanted to switch it off. I’m no Marc Marquez, but I go ok on track and have a few plastic trophies (quite dusty now, mind). As a comparison, I’d always switch the ABS off when riding on track on the 2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R. But the ABS - which is also electronically front and back linked on some of the ride modes - can also be tailored to your individual needs. But out the box, Triumph have got it nailed.

 

 

Comfort over distance and touring

At the press launch, we rode only 112 miles on twisty roads followed by three 20-minute sessions on track (hanging off like a monkey). Suffering from sciatica, a hot tub is the only thing I find sitting in comfortably right now, so I’m not a great reference point. Triumph have worked hard on the seating - which is on the firm side - to give it a profile that aids a racing tuck when you slide to the rear of it - which does work well.

At 830mm, the seat is 5mm up on the previous incarnation, but the refined packaging of the chassis has meant the seat - and footpegs - are more narrow set. The upshot of this is that 5’8” me (on a tall day) could get two feet almost flat on the floor - something I was pleasantly surprised about and opens up the Speed Triple to more riders.

I’d fit one of the official accessory fly screens from the off. Not only does it make the bike look better, it will just ease the pressure off your upper body for those longer trips.

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

The previous Trip RS wasn’t lacking gizmos, but the new bike is brimming with them - in a good way.

We rode the bike on a very bright day until the sun almost set. The new, bonded 5 inch TFT display performed brilliantly in overhead sun as well as in dusk, when you’re switching from long shadows to being blasted by a setting sun. This new construction has removed the need for adjustment by tilting, though you can set the brightness to your preference.

The display centres on speed and gear, surrounded by the rev counter using a choice of two themes - Cobalt or Furnace (I prefer the latter) - and navigation through the many screens and functions - static or on the fly - is made easy by the intuitive menu journey and left bar joystick. The way the main display animates to slip to one side when rooting through the menu is really neat; it is the little things.

Bluetooth connection allows pairing with a smartphone for call answering (or declining), toggling through music playlists or displaying turn-by-turn directions. You can also operate a GoPro via the dash and toggle switch.

In standard trim, you’re getting adjustable cruise control, an up-and-down quickshifter (that’s not a reference to how it performs - it’s really slick and quick), cornering sensitive ABS and traction control, five different ride modes (Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider - which is your preferences saved). There’s also ‘Advanced Front Wheel Lift Control’, which isn’t ‘wheelie mode’ but helps control those unintentional lifts and doesn’t cut power violently when it senses daylight under the tyre; something this bike is desperately trying to do when full throttle in the first few gears. And if you’re a fan of intentional lifts, have a closed road and are a professional rider, you can turn that off or fool the system…

LED lights feature front, rear and there are self-cancelling indicators (check out the accessory ‘scrolling’ indicators). Way gone are the wide-open ‘bug eye’ lights of really old (I miss them) Speed Triples and the new ones give an aggressive, squinty face to the bike. We didn’t get to sample them at night, but they’re extremely noticeable in mirrors. The rear light has a distinctive ‘look’ when following from behind. To me, it looks like an ‘M’. Or when you used to draw a silhouette of a flying bird on a scenic picture. Or maybe that’s me. But tell us what you think it reminds you of, please.

Keyless ignition and fuel cap is what you’d expect on a premium machine like this and the LED-lit switchgear is trick. The lithium-ion battery is 60% lighter than the equivalent lead-acid battery, but you’ll need the accessory ‘combined’ battery charged to keep it topped up when not being used for long periods.

 

Rivals and competitors

It’s a tough one to call as big-bore naked bikes with more tech and shove than a spaceship are plenty. Three are no bad bikes here. Once a budget is set, it will come down to what brand floats your boat and how you like the performance served up - V-twin, inline four, V-four or inline triple. If you’ve never ridden a triple, you need to - the induction howl, the torque at any revs.

Sitting at the top of the charts in the super naked class are the Ducati Streetfighter V4 (£17.,595 - £19,795 S) and Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 (£15,500 - £18,100 Factory). But at a very similar cost is the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R (£15,749 base price), the Yamaha MT-10SP (£15,052) and BMW’s S1000R (from £12,055).

 

Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS 2021 Details Price Spec_02

 

2021 Triumph Speed Triple RS verdict

In terms of performance and technology, there’s never been a better Speed Triple. There’s also never been a more expensive one, either. But with this bike, Triumph are not playfighting in the super naked class - they’ve charged in, swinging punches at all contenders.

The engine is simply incredible - sound, power delivery, responsiveness; I challenge anyone to get bored of it. The ride modes make sense, don’t interfere with the fun of the ride and are easy to switch between and customise. There’s also real track performance should you want the bike to really flex its muscles. Looks are subjective, but Triumph have packaged the new bike in such a way that not only helps the riding ergonomics but has given it a lean look without losing its mean stance.

Take a test ride - you won’t regret it.

 

2021 Triumph Speed Triple RS spec

New price

From £15,100

Capacity

1160cc

Bore x Stroke

90 x 60.8mm

Engine layout

inline 3-cylinder

Engine details

liquid-cooled, 12 valves

Power

177.5bhp (132.4kW) @ 10,750 rpm

Torque

92 lb-ft (125 Nm) @ 9,000 rpm

Top speed

165mph (estimated)

Transmission

6 speed, chain

Average fuel consumption

50.2mpg claimed

Tank size

15.5 litres

Rider aids

5 ride modes, cornering abs, cornering traction control, quickshifter, front wheel lift control,

Frame

Aluminium twin spar, bolt-on aluminium rear subframe. Aluminium single-sided swingarm

Front suspension

Öhlins 43mm NIX30 upside down forks

Front suspension adjustment

Preload, rebound, compression

Rear suspension

Öhlins TTX36 twin tube mono-shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload, rebound, compression

Front brake

2 x 320mm disc, Brembo Stylema 4-piston monobloc radial calipers

Rear brake

220mm disc, Brembo 2-piston caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17 Metzeler Racetec RR K3

Rear tyre

190/55 ZR17 Metzeler Racetec RR K3

Rake/Trail

23.9°/104.7mm

Dimensions

2090mm x 792mm 1089mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1445mm

Seat height

830mm

Kerb weight

198kg

Warranty

unlimited miles / 2 years

Website

www.triumph.co.uk

Photography: Chippy Wood & Stuart Collins

 

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Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS 2021 Details Price Spec_MCIA

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

 

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