Triumph T595/955i Daytona (1997-2000): Review & Buying Guide

Kev Raymond
By Kev Raymond

Kev's been riding since acquiring half shares in a CZ175 field bike back in the seventies, passed his test in a blizzard on Christmas Eve 1985, and got his first job on a bike mag in 1990. Likes: long distance touring and short-distance twisties. Currently owns a 1987 GSX-R1100, a 1992 Ducati 400SS, a 1973 Honda SS50, a 1978 Honda CX500, a 1988 Honda Bros special, a 1957 Mobylette and a 110cc pit bike. None of them work.

 

Triumph made a big step into the unknown with the 1997 T595 Daytona. The reborn brand had only been selling bikes for six years – all of them based round a tall spine frame and a tall, heavy motor that had been based on older Kawasaki architecture. They were good bikes – still are – but in a Britain still in the grip of sportsbike mania, comfortable tourers and sensible retros were niche products, not mainstream money spinners. It wasn't BMW they had to beat back then, it was the Blade...

And they weren't really that far off. The 'Blade made more power (a genuine 118bhp vs the Triumph's 107bhp), and weighed less (183Kg claimed vs 198Kg), but the Triumph used lower gearing and a seriously punchy midrange to match or better the Honda off the line and out of bends, and good quality suspension and brakes to make it a seriously quick road bike. It sold well in its first year and was generally well received by press and public alike. The only problem was, Yamaha's R1 was just about to rewrite the rule books for 1998 and make both the 'Blade and the T595 obsolete in sportsbike terms. Technically the T595 only lasted two years before being replaced by the 955i. In practice, the 1999/2000 model 955i was identical except for some engine upgrades (they only changed the name because some people got confused and thought it was 595cc not the actual 955cc), so we're including it with the 595, and will cover the completely different 2001-on 955i in a separate guide. Regardless of the number on the side a T595 or early 955i is still a great, useable road bike and with prices of early ones firming up, and modern classic status assured, now might be the time to buy one – while you can still afford to... We'll take a look at the good and bad points, in the company of marque specialist Clive Wood – what he doesn't know about these bikes isn't worth knowing.

 

Triumph T595/955i Daytona (1997-2000) Price

Back in 1997 a shiny new T595 would have cost you a whisker under ten grand – not too bad compared with the FireBlade which retailed at just over £9500. With the name change to 955i in 1999, along with the damage done to sales by the R1's dominance, RRP was down to £8849, but sales were slow even so. These days you can pick up a mint, low miles T595 for around £2500 (although some dealers will be asking more than that for really good ones). Given that slightly shabbier examples are still going for not much under two grand, you're really best off getting the best you can find/afford, as Clive points out: "Get a bad one that needs tyres, has a seized rear axle, needs the suspension fettling and has juddery brakes. and you can easily end up spending more to sort it than buying a good one in the first place."

 

Hinckley Triumph

 

Power and torque

There were some ludicrous claims bandied about for the T595's power output prior to launch. A certain weekly paper claimed it would make 147bhp and blow FireBlades away without raising an eyebrow (the same imaginary power figure still appears next to the 955's entry in the reviews section of their website....). Triumph themselves claimed 128bhp – slightly more realistic but still about 20bhp more than the reality. But peak figures are never the whole story anyway, and the Daytona's real strength was its grunty, growly midrange, allied to a still-respectable top end. That made it a lot easier to ride fast on the road, giving solid thrust off the line and out of bends while still allowing a choice of gears for most situations. Twenty-odd years on, that ease of use is still the key to the bike's character, and although sportsbike power outputs are now in the realms of the unimaginable, most of us don't ride sportsbikes any more, so for a generation grown used to adventure bikes and softer power delivery, the T595's motor is still a very nice way to exercise your right wrist.

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The Daytona's motor has a reputation for being robust, so long as you keep up with oil changes, and don't thrash it from cold (like all older Triumphs they use a lot of oil when cold and you can quickly burn it away to the point there's not enough to go round...). They're pretty easy to work on, with valve shims on top of the buckets so you don't have to remove the cams to re-shim the valves (the downside of that is they need doing a bit more often than the later under-bucket versions). Clive: "Very early ones had a big flat spot around 5000rpm - Triumph brought out a 'performance' cam but you can also just slot the original cam sprockets and re-time it. You can easily get a fair bit more power out of these. I've got a custom map for those, and combined with a very little bit of work – raise the tank for better breathing, open up the airbox, maybe nudge the cam timing a little – and you can get 145bhp out of them. enough to pass a standard early R1. You don't get many problems with them." That's not the case with the gearbox though: "Very early ones, fourth gear would just explode, and lock the rear wheel. I was going to ride the TT in '97 on one, and Triumph tried to stop me. They ended up sending us a new bike with a revised gear. In the end I fitted the modified part to 149 of these at Jack Lilleys – it wasn't even an official recall." Even with the modified part, the gearbox is pretty agricultural – forget fitting quickshifters, or even doing many clutchless upshifts. It's just not up to it. The other common problem with the bottom end is the starter clutch. "It's the same sprag clutch as all the T3 engines, and it can give problems, especially if you try and start with a failing battery as it can kick back and break. So listen out for it slipping as you turn the engine over. Fixing it is an engine out job, but once you get it out, the job's easy. I run training courses in the winter and I show people how to do it – they're always shocked how easy it is."

 

Hinckley Triumph

 

Fuel Injection

The T595 has a Sagem fuel injection system which is unike pretty much any other motorcycle system. There's a reason for that, says Clive:  People struggle with it, because it's derived from a Renault car system from the 80s. I went to France to learn all about it, and I know it inside out after all these years, but no Triumph dealer now knows anything about it – it's ancient history to them. It has an idle control valve, which the ECU controls – the throttles themselves are completely shut at idle, but the ECU tells this little valve to let some air through, just enough to run. So if you have a problem with that valve - which is common – it won't tick over, or if the hoses to the control valve perish you get the same problem. some people fit standard fuel hose but it doesn't last – I only fit genuine Triumph hoses and they'll last ten years. This system also makes it hard to accurately balance the throttle bodies until you get used to it."

 

Plastic fuel tank

Like most plastic tanks, the Daytona's doesn't like the ethanol content of modern fuel. Clive: "They're just not compatible with modern fuel, especially cheap supermarket fuel, which has the most ethanol content. You really need to use the best branded super-unleaded fuel you can find as it's usually got the least ethanol – some of it's ethanol-free but it does depend on which refinery it comes from. If you're not using the bike much I'd say drain the tank out when you get home and store the fuel separately, although that's obviously not an option if you're using it daily. Once the tanks start to swell, they can really swell – to the point where it interferes with your amount of steering lock. I empty them, take them off and leave them in the cold – that can help."

 

Electrics

Later Daytonas (like most Triumphs of the time) had a reputation for charging woes, but not the first models. "These had a whacking great traditional Denso alternator," says Clive. "Not a titchy one on the end of the crank like the later ones. So they're tough - they'll do 250,000 miles and never go wrong." Electrical gremlins on these early bikes are much more likely to be down to ageing wiring and corroded connectors, especially earth points, so it's well worth your while going through the whole loom and double checking, cleaning and protecting every connection and replacing where necessary.

 

Hinckley Triumph

Triumph T595/955i Daytona (1997-2000) Economy

The 595 was never an economical bike – it was all too easy to dip down to 30mpg with spirited riding, and averaging much more than mid-30s took a bit of restraint on twisty roads. With an 18 litre fuel tank, that means you're likely to be looking for fuel after about 120 miles of fun. Things are a bit better at motorway cruising speed, but not a lot, frankly...

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

As standard when new, the T595 was mostly pretty predictable, with decent quality suspension giving a supple ride, helped by a not particularly svelte kerb weight of around 215kg. However it wasn't particularly quick steering and could be vague in fast bends, and it sat up badly on the brakes. Dropping the yokes over the forks a fraction and raising the rear gave it  much more precise steering. If the suspension's in good nick it's still a nice ride today, but if it's not been done already then a rebuild and refresh by a specialist is well worth the outlay. Some riders reckon going down to a 180/55 rear tyre improves the steering too. There was a problem with very early T595 frames, which were recalled over concerns about cracking. Replacement frames were painted rather than polished and you're unlikely to find an early original frame now. However there is still a potential problem, as Clive explains: "Part of the cracking problem wasn't design or production, it was because nipping up the engine bolts to take up any play put stress into the frame. The factory answer was to shim the gaps as closely as possible to take up the play. It needs doing carefully, and if someone doesn't know what they're doing you can still get cracked frames."

The other things to watch out for on the chassis side are seized and/or worn suspension pivots, and a seized and/or damaged rear hub adjuster mechanism. Clive: "Have a look at the hub behind the sprocket, where the C-spanner should fit to adjust the chain tension. If it's damaged, just walk away because that tells me it's seized because of lack of maintenance (they need stripping and greasing every 12k miles or two years) and if they've not done that, what else haven't they done...?  Same with the linkages, they seize if you don't grease them, but people don't do it because the exhaust is in the way so you can't get the through bolt out. But if you do it once, and put the bolt in from the other side, next time it's easy."

 

Triumph T595/955i Daytona (1997-2000) Brakes

Few people complained about the Daytona's brakes when new, the exceptions being the odd track day fiend who might find repeated hard use led to a bit of fade and the lever coming back to the bar. Clive found the answer to that when he was racing a Daytona back in the day: "We found an R1 or ZX-10 Nissin master cylinder looked the same, but had a slightly larger bore – it worked well and kept the lever away from the bar." For most road riders, the original master cylinder is well-matched to the calipers, giving enough power, but crucially plenty of feel. You do need to make sure the calipers are regularly cleaned and serviced though or they WILL seize.

 

Paint

That lovely metallic yellow on the early bikes looks so good in the evening sun but it's an absolute bastard to match – in fact Triumph had trouble matching it even from new and it wasn't uncommon for yellow 595s to have a kind of patchwork feel to them from certain angles. So bear that in mind if you're buying one with damaged panels.

 

Comfort over distance and touring

For a sportsbike the Daytona is pretty comfy, for the rider at least. Certainly plenty of people use them for solo touring. For two-up miles you'll need a pretty patient and understanding passenger, although given the limited range due to the engine's thirst, you'll be stopping pretty frequently anyway...

 

Hinckley Triumph

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

Rider aids? Wash your mouth out – this is a motorbike, not a Playstation...

There were lots of accessories available from Triumph back in the day, from paddock stands to huggers to alarms to luggage, but the most popular mod was always the 'official' not-for-road-use exhaust with matching re-flash of the ECU.

 

Triumph T595/955i Daytona (1997-2000) verdict

The early Daytona was always a rewarding road bike and if anything, it's better suited to modern roads and modern riders than it was back then – we can't get away with ballistic speeds any more, and we've mostly got used to gruntier, more forgiving engines and moved away from racetrack precision and peak power at all costs, and towards ease of use and character. A good, well-maintained 595/955i of this vintage is a great place to park your bum on a sunny day with a twisty road in front of you. Yes it's thirsty, yes it has it faults and foibles, but it's still great fun. Not a bad place to put your money either – prices are going up, so get a good one while you can and you won't lose when you come to sell.

For advice on all things Hinckley Triumph, plus servicing, tuning and hand-on coaching in how to maintain them, contact Clive Wood either via the Speed Triple Owners' Club (www.mk1speedtriple.co.uk), on email at clivejlracing@aol.com or search him out on Facebook. For parts and general info, Jack Lilley Triumph (or LIND Triumph as they're known these days) are hard to beat – they've been Triumph dealers on and off since the late 1950s and they know their stuff.

 

Three things we love about the Daytona…

  • Growly triple experience
  • Organic looks
  • Fine handling

 

Three things we don’t…

  • Gearbox is crude
  • Rear axle eccentrics can be big trouble
  • Paint is hard to match

 

Triumph T595/955i Daytona (1997-2000) spec

Original price

£9,999

Current price range

£1500-£2500

Capacity

955cc

Bore x Stroke

79x65mm

Engine layout

Inline triple

Engine details

DOHC, liquid cooled, fuel injected

Power (claim)

128bhp (95kW) @ 9,900rpm

Torque (claim)

74 lb-ft (100Nm) @ 9,600rpm

Top speed

161mph

Transmission

6 speed, chain drive

Average fuel consumption

35mpg tested

Tank size

18litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

140miles

Reserve capacity

n/a

Rider aids

None

Frame

Aluminium tube type, single sided swing arm

Front suspension

Showa 45mm conventional forks

Front suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Rear suspension

Showa rising rate monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Fully adjustable

Front brake

320mm discs, four piston calipers

Rear brake

220mm disc, two-piston caliper

Front tyre

120/70 ZR17

Rear tyre

190/50 ZRX17

Rake/Trail

24°/86mm

Dimensions

2115mm x 720mm 1170mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1440mm

Ground clearance

n/a

Seat height

800mm

Kerb weight

215kg (approx)

 

Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance

 

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