Road Test: Triumph Speed Triple

It's the best looking bike of the year bar none. But is Triumph's new Speed Triple all show and no go? Urry heads south to find out.

Posted: 27 April 2008
by Jon Urry

I'm excited. Well, I think it's excitement I'm feeling. It could be terror. The French taxi driver is doing about 100mph and the people carrier appears to have suspension made from sponge cake. Not that the continual pitching from side to side appears to be bothering him. Oh no, he's too busy adjusting the volume of the moody jazz CD that's playing over the car's stereo to be distracted by what the car is actually doing. Or where it's going. Or the fact we are gently wobbling our way towards the Armco in the centre of the dual carriageway.

No, it's definitely excitement. I've been in hire cars and taxis the world over and, having survived a trip through Kathmandu in the back of a particularly psychotically driven tuk-tuk, it takes a fair amount to scare me. Excitement it is then. And the cause? I'm about to ride the new Triumph Speed Triple.

I've been looking forward to getting a go on this bike ever since I first saw it at a show last September. If it went half as well as it looked then it was going to be very special. Then I interviewed one of the test riders
during the development story we ran a few issues ago, who told me it did. By which point I was fairly frothing at the mouth at the thought of swinging a leg over it. And now I'm going to get the chance. About 15 of the new bikes are lined up outside our hotel in the south of France the next morning, in a variety of costumes. There are the three colour options, yellow (although it's more of a goldy-yellow), metallic blue and black, and some are fitted with the optional extra tiny front fairing (which I reckon looks a bit naff). Some have colour matched belly pans to boot.

Standing next to the bike it looks small, but perfectly formed. The painted black engine has stainless steel engine bolts that make it look like it's been peppered with bullets, the black frame looks smart, the stumpy under-seat pipes menacing, the five-spoke wheels stylish and the new inverted forks with their gold tubes and black base look great in contrast with the gold radial calipers. The whole effect is mean, moody and purposeful. Just what Triumph is aiming for.

The press conference the night before was full of words such as 'iconic', 'passion' and 'primal', and talk of returning back to the original 1994 Speed Triple's aggressive look and rawness, rather than the softened-down versions that have superseded it. The Speed Triple is a bike designed to stir emotions with both its styling and character.

"We want you to feel like you are sitting on an engine with a wheel at each end," a Triumph man told me. "The clocks and lights are especially low so nothing blocks the view. Just you and the road ahead."
Which is exactly what it feels like. The seating position is typical Speed Triple, and any other naked bike for that matter. You sit upright with the pegs slightly higher than the old model's and your arms at a comfortable distance apart on the flat bars. Not too spread out, not too close together, just a natural riding position. It's comfortable and, surprisingly, the seat is really well padded. Although the pillion 'seat' looks like a complete waste of time. It's too small and the pillion pegs must be designed for vertically-challenged midgets.

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