Warp-Speed TT Triple
It’s not often you get to do a quick roads-open TT lap with a seven times winner. Or even two laps. But that’s where I found myself last month. Sat astride a brand new Triumph Speed Triple, in the Isle of Man with a patchy-damp surface and brand new tyres. Gulp.
I think Ian Hutchinson was equally nervous. Not only did he have an external fixator cage on his still-broken left, lower leg, it was also only covered up by a piece of fabric and his left foot encased in nothing more than a DC skate shoe. If that wasn’t bad enough his loaned R1 was on brand new rubber and had no back brake hooked up – largely thanks to the fact that he now has to shift gear with his right foot.
For the blast up from Ballacraine to Kirk Michael, he looked like he’d got into his stride. I was flat out along Cronk-Y-Voddy straight, desperately pressing my face against the Triumph's LCD clocks to get out of the battering wind – Hutchy was on cruise-mode behind me. He came past me on the downhill left after Handleys. Like I’d just hit reverse. Passing four cars into the top of Barregaroo he was gone. I don’t think the car drivers knew what’d just happened. POW! Just a bur of Yamaha leathers and the dot was gone.
We stopped at Ballaugh to take some snaps and Hutchy started to tell me the harrowing tale of his left leg. Half an hour was clearly not enough time.
For me, the worst part of the whole 37 mile TT circuit is the stretch from Ginger Hall to Ramsey which not only do I find really hard to memorize in detail but the whole stretch is like a tarmac motocross circuit.
The Speed Triple dealt with it well. I found myself standing on the pegs and holding the wide bars as lightly as possible to avoid tank-slappers. On the fast stretch to Milntown I was suddenly conscious that my breathing sounded like a sparring boxer as the bumps battered my lungs.
With 133bhp and a whopping 111Nm of torque (7% more than the previous model) this rough-arsed but three figure-speed-fast section of road plays right into the Speed Triple’s grunty hands. Just short-shifting up through the gears in the mid-range keeps your progress quick but smooth - crucial to keep the bike stable. Pulling a higher gear and riding the big, fat spread of power really does help you to make quick and un-flurried progress. I was still glad to see Ramsey.
The mountain road was closed to the public due to some work being done on the bridge at the Bunglaow but, this being the Isle of Man, we had special permission to ride it. The run up to the Gooseneck was pretty treacherous with a dirty, cold and wet surface but once up and out of the trees and shadow, the conditions were more or less perfect.
Hutchinson cleared off on the run up the mountain. This was the first time in our two weeks together that the Speed Triple felt slow. Up the mountain mile, in the best tuck I could muster, 126mph was the best I could top. Hutchinson on his R1 was probably adding 40mph to that. By the end of the mile long drag he was just a dot.
It’s at these sorts of speeds that you appreciate the Speed Triple’s wide bars. Counter-steering is not only intuitive but also physically easy. I was thankful for this in the middle of the 100mph Veranda (a series of rights taken as one sweep) when we both happened upon a parked flat-bed truck and people all over the road. It wasn’t their fault – they thought the road was closed. Just a bit of trail braking and some hefty counter-steering and I missed them all. Just.
There’s nothing radical about this bike’s geometry – a 1,435mm wheelbase, 22 degrees of rake and a shortish 90mm of trail – but as a package it just works. There’s a great balance between stability at high speeds and an ability to change direction, especially when you’re full bank and want to go to the opposite full bank angle. You can boss it. You wouldn't be disgraced in most track day fast groups unless you were at Thruxton where the lack of wind protection is amplified by the high speeds.
Most of this manageability is down to the riding position. The Speed Triple would be a great bike for Gymkhanas.
Safely back in Douglas, the naked engine ticking and pinging its cooling protests, I came to the conclusion that this is a really underrated, all-day, every day bike. I might have wished for a full fairing for 2% of my whole lap but it’s much better without. And bearing in mind the state of my driving licence a bit of wind pressure is probably just what I need…
2012 Triumph Speed Triple £8,999 plus £600 for optional ABS system
Posted: 31/05/2012 at 14:45
Posted: 31/05/2012 at 16:08
Posted: 31/05/2012 at 16:59
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