Used Review: Triumph Sprint RS

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By Bertie Simmonds on Sat, 5 Apr 2008 - 09:04

Visordown Motorcycle News


I was at the launch of the Sprint RS in southern Spain in 1999. Some muppet in the office thought it would be a good idea to ride back from there to the Midlands, in late December.

thanks to decent winter kit and the Sprint RS's solid attributes, I got back in one piece and none the worse for my ordeal. The days in the saddle gave me plenty of time to suss out the Sprint RS. Here was a solid, capable machine which shared most of its bits with the more expensive Sprint S - the ally beam-frame was the same and so was the motor. The RS worked well over more than 1000 miles of good, bad and plain ugly weather and was comfortable for many hours at a time. The motor was plenty peppy enough and the suspension pretty good, even with a firm shock and slightly soft forks. Turn-in was quicker than the ST too, thanks to modified, 'sportier' steering geometry.

Despite its virtues the RS never shone like the more popular ST. Instead, the RS's image was that of the solid family man. But, unassuming as it may be, the RS can spring a few surprises and it's almost as capable as its bigger brother ST - and let's not forget that the ST routinely gave Honda's VFR a run for its money.

All that niggled was the lack of 'sock-you-in-the-face' looks and any creature comforts. Half a fairing on a bike costing more than seven grand? Where's the grab-handle? The centrestand? These were extras from the accessories catalogue, meaning the price could really add up if you wanted something properly equipped.

Servicing

Generally every 6000 miles, but watch out for the big one at 12,000 miles. 1999-2001 bikes need regular valve adjustment, so servicing is pricey. The first scheduled check is at 12,000 miles, although a few owners say this is a little late - some have had their valves tighten up by then. You'll spot this because the bike will be hard to start on a cold day. Apparently the '02 and later engines have a different valve train and they hardly need any valve adjustments. Even if the bike you're looking at has a low mileage, make sure it has been treated to its annual oil change at the very least.

Recalls

2000 Sprint RS - recall for possible fracture of the final drive chain

2000 Sprint RS - fuel lever sender may leak over the engine, resulting in a fire

2001 Sprint RS - clutch cable may fray and snap

2004 Sprint RS - possible fracture of male connectors on fuel hoses

Comfort

A big plus point of this machine, for both rider and pillion. 400 miles a day or more is no problem.

Suspension

The standard suspension is built down to a price so some owners have either re-valved the forks (they're soft as standard) and either had the shock rebuilt or replaced. Worry about the forks first, sort the shock later.

Chain and sprockets

The original chain and sprockets can last for ages, if looked after properly. One owner has seen 24,000 miles out of a set.

Gearing

Standard gearing is 18/43 but a number of owners have swopped to 18/45.

Used values

We'll tell you now - it's a buyers market. '02 and '03 RSs are currently on sale for around half their original list price and with bugger all miles on 'em.

Engine

The compound adjective 'silky-smooth' could have been invented for Hinckley's triples. The RS's in-line three is a marvellous motor, providing lots of motive thrust irrespective of what version you have (108 or 118 claimed bhp). Many call the motor a little characterless, but this is simply because of the stepless, linear surge of torque right through peak power at 9200rpm and then onto the redline and into the rev-limiter. It's the flexibility of this motor that's impressive - it can give a similarly aged VFR a bloody nose at the top end, yet you can trundle along in top at a paltry 2000 revs. Even so, the motor does benefit from a bit of work. Bolt on a Power Commander with a custom map and you'll smooth things out even further and have the sort of power you'd see on the latest 1050 Sprint.

Fuel consumption

Excellent. On some trips, fuel consumption can average as much as 50mpg. An average range-to-fuel light is 150 miles plus, but many owners can see 180 miles on the trip before the fuel light comes on.

Finish

Patchy. Huge doses of TLC are needed to keep it up to scratch.It seems on a par with some of Suzuki's offerings. Clean the bike after every winter ride to remove salt - the stuff eats everything, particularly engine cases, swingarm paint, shock bodies and fasteners. Oddly, owners report that gear levers can become slack during prolonged winter riding.

Engine problems

Few major problems reported by owners. Some report rough running (lean) in the lower part of the rev-range every now and again, but taking the bike to a dealer with the appropriate diagnostic equipment helps. If you're feeling adventurous, you could try sorting it yourself with a Tuneboy, or get a Power Commander fitted.

Headlights

The trick is to connect them together with two relays under the seat so both come on together instead of one for dip and one for main. Be warned, though: some owners just wire the two together which can lead to disaster. While you're at it put better Xenon bulbs in too - Phillips Vision Plus bulbs are favourite.

Mirrors

A poor point to practicality. Not only do they vibrate badly on many bikes, you generally can't see much in them other than your (blurred) elbows.

Engine management light

Sometimes - maybe after the bike's been left idle for a while - the engine management light will stay on after start-up. Easy to get rid of, this. You need to put the bike through three heat cycles. Start from cold, run the engine until the cooling fan kicks in, shut off engine and let it cool right down, then repeat this process two more times. If nowt's wrong the light should go out.

Tyres

Bridgestone's 020s are THE big favourite. They offer an excellent compromise between grip and longevity. Rears on average last about 8000 miles, fronts a little more.

Brakes

Very good indeed. Triumph have for a long time produced excellent anchors and these are no different. Like all brakes, regular cleaning and strip-downs makes a big difference to performance. So keep 'em clean.

Aftermarket parts

As with BMWs, Triumph aftermarket parts can actually add a little bit of value. However, in some case owners prefer non-Triumph add-ons, because some bits and pieces - such as huggers and other bodywork bits - have reportedly been of varying quality. The downside is that not many accessory manufacturers make bits for some Trumpet models owing to the small numbers sold compared with, say, a Japanese supersports 600. One thing loftier owners do recommend is a taller flip-up screen because the standard item is sleek and low.

Today, though, the RS makes an excellent second-hand buy. Strangely for a Triumph, the residual values aren't that good, so picking up a 150mph sports-tourer from just £2500 is now very possible indeed.

I was at the launch of the Sprint RS in southern Spain in 1999. Some muppet in the office thought it would be a good idea to ride back from there to the Midlands, in late December.

But thanks to decent winter kit and the Sprint RS's solid attributes, I got back in one piece and none the worse for my ordeal. The days in the saddle gave me plenty of time to suss out the Sprint RS. Here was a solid, capable machine which shared most of its bits with the more expensive Sprint S - the ally beam-frame was the same and so was the motor. The RS worked well over more than 1000 miles of good, bad and plain ugly weather and was comfortable for many hours at a time. The motor was plenty peppy enough and the suspension pretty good, even with a firm shock and slightly soft forks. Turn-in was quicker than the ST too, thanks to modified, 'sportier' steering geometry.

Despite its virtues the RS never shone like the more popular ST. Instead, the RS's image was that of the solid family man. But, unassuming as it may be, the RS can spring a few surprises and it's almost as capable as its bigger brother ST - and let's not forget that the ST routinely gave Honda's VFR a run for its money.

All that niggled was the lack of 'sock-you-in-the-face' looks and any creature comforts. Half a fairing on a bike costing more than seven grand? Where's the grab-handle? The centrestand? These were extras from the accessories catalogue, meaning the price could really add up if you wanted something properly equipped.

Continue the Triumph Sprint RS Buyer Guide - 2/2

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