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First Ride: 2002 Triumph Speed Four

Picture the scene if you will. It's 2006, we're in the middle of a recession and another Government still ignores the benefits of motorcycles to the detriment of UK road users everywhere.




Meanwhile, insurance premiums have soared for sportsbikes and Cliff Richard hits number one with a cover of Smack My Bitch Up. Scary. But it could happen and at the morning roll call of motorcycling in this apocalyptic horror, naked middleweights like the new Speed Four could be our saviours. Fun, on road, furious on track, but without the associated and inflated costs.

In all honesty, initially I thought the Speed Four looked like something Ainsley Harriot had made on Ready Steady Cook with tripe. And this was despite my unreserved love for the Speed Triple. But, in the sun-kissed pitlane at Cartagena, that beam frame doesn't seem so out of place and the whole thing looks good.

Picture the scene if you will. It's 2006, we're in the middle of a recession and another Government still ignores the benefits of motorcycles to the detriment of UK road users everywhere.

Cartagena is a twisty little track and just the place to show up a bike's handling and by golly is this bike handy. Believe it. This bike will run rings around the likes of the Hornet, Fazer and the SV650 on the track and could even fry some bigger fish. The reason is the chassis - there's nothing but good old TT600 stuff beneath your cheeks, and for all the TT's foibles one thing it always did well was handle. So all this means you've got a top supersports chassis and fully adjustable suspension. That last comment does it. Naked middleweights are normally budget with a capital B. This one ain't. That's why you get fully adjustable suspenders, where the competition are built down to a price. AS standard, things were a little too soft on the road for me. More resistance up front helped, while on track the firmer base settings were beefed up further for my extra poundage. Once I'd done this, the bike started to show what it was really capable of. You could really stuff it into the braking zone hard which helps, as Cartagena's alluring curves sucker you into a sticky situation quicker than two bottles of wine and your best mate's missus. The brakes - coming as they do straight from the TT - are among the best I've ever used. On the downside, if you did need to brake mid-corner, you could only give the gentlest of brushes on the lever or the pads would bite those twin 310mm discs just a bit too hard and the whole bike would pick itself up, better to try and use the surfeit of handling to get round. The fact that you're on a 600 - and an excellent handling one at that - meant you could take real liberties on the track without a twitch from the Bridgestone 010s.

Plenty of folks have said bad things about the old TT600 motor, but last month Niall Mack rated the 2002 incarnation as a great improvement and the Speed Four lump is a tad better still. It has all the changes the 2002 TT has, including new pistons, cylinder liners, new cams with revised timing as well as tweaks to the electronic fuel injection, as well as shortened air-ducts up front, poking through the frame which have been tailored to boost the motor's midrange.

Whacking through the gears (same gearing as the TT) you spend less time chasing the dragon, which normally hides from around ten grand and above in the TT. In the Speed Four, you can actually use the motor from around 4,000rpm. Even in top you could trickle around about in the bottom end of 2-3,000 and there was still noticeable pick-up to be had from the motor. So all in all, you've something more flexible than the TT.

The irony is that by taking the fairing off the TT600, detuning the motor a bit and putting different bars on it, Triumph have made a much better bike than the one they started with.

And while the Speed Four is most definitely more capable, more powerful, better spec and probably a bit more fun than a Fazer 6 et al, is it a whole grand better? Only the future will tell.

VERDICT

Triumph's best 600 yet.

This is a better bike than a TT600 and deserving of success. Nice one Triumph.

SPECS


TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2002

PRICE NEW - £5999

ENGINE CAPACITY - 599cc

POWER - 97bhp@11,750rpm

TORQUE - 50lb.ft@10,500rpm

WEIGHT - 170kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 810mm

FUEL CAPACITY - N/A

TOP SPEED - N/A

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

Meanwhile, insurance premiums have soared for sportsbikes and Cliff Richard hits number one with a cover of Smack My Bitch Up. Scary. But it could happen and at the morning roll call of motorcycling in this apocalyptic horror, naked middleweights like the new Speed Four could be our saviours. Fun, on road, furious on track, but without the associated and inflated costs.

In all honesty, initially I thought the Speed Four looked like something Ainsley Harriot had made on Ready Steady Cook with tripe. And this was despite my unreserved love for the Speed Triple. But, in the sun-kissed pitlane at Cartagena, that beam frame doesn't seem so out of place and the whole thing looks good.

Cartagena is a twisty little track and just the place to show up a bike's handling and by golly is this bike handy. Believe it. This bike will run rings around the likes of the Hornet, Fazer and the SV650 on the track and could even fry some bigger fish. The reason is the chassis - there's nothing but good old TT600 stuff beneath your cheeks, and for all the TT's foibles one thing it always did well was handle. So all this means you've got a top supersports chassis and fully adjustable suspension. That last comment does it.

Naked middleweights are normally budget with a capital B. This one ain't. That's why you get fully adjustable suspenders, where the competition are built down to a price.

As standard, things were a little too soft on the road for me. More resistance up front helped, while on track the firmer base settings were beefed up further for my extra poundage. Once I'd done this, the bike started to show what it was really capable of. You could really stuff it into the braking zone hard which helps, as Cartagena's alluring curves sucker you into a sticky situation quicker than two bottles of wine and your best mate's missus.

The brakes - coming as they do straight from the TT  - are among the best I've ever used. On the downside, if you did need to brake mid-corner, you could only give the gentlest of brushes on the lever or the pads would bite those twin 310mm discs just a bit too hard and the whole bike would pick itself up, better to try and use the surfeit of handling to get round. The fact that you're on a 600 - and an excellent handling one at that - meant you could take real liberties on the track without a twitch from the Bridgestone 010s.

Plenty of folks have said bad things about the old TT600 motor, but last month Niall Mack rated the 2002 incarnation as a great improvement and the Speed Four lump is a tad better still. It has all the changes the 2002 TT has, including new pistons, cylinder liners, new cams with revised timing as well as tweaks to the electronic fuel injection, as well as shortened air-ducts up front, poking through the frame which have been tailored to boost the motor's midrange.

Whacking through the gears (same gearing as the TT) you spend less time chasing the dragon, which normally hides from around ten grand and above in the TT. In the Speed Four, you can actually use the motor from around 4,000rpm. Even in top you could trickle around about in the bottom end of 2-3,000 and there was still noticeable pick-up to be had from the motor. So all in all, you've something more flexible than the TT.

The irony is that by taking the fairing off the TT600, detuning the motor a bit and putting different bars on it, Triumph have made a much better bike than the one they started with.

And while the Speed Four is most definitely more capable, more powerful, better spec and probably a bit more fun than a Fazer 6 et al, is it a whole grand better? Only the future will tell.

VERDICT

Triumph's best 600 yet. This is a better bike than a TT600 and deserving of success. Nice one Triumph.

2002 Triumph Speed Four Specifications

SPECS
TYPE - STREETBIKE
PRODUCTION DATE - 2002
PRICE NEW - £5999
ENGINE CAPACITY - 599cc
POWER - 97bhp@11,750rpm
TORQUE - 50lb.ft@10,500rpm   
WEIGHT - 170kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 810mm   
FUEL CAPACITY - N/A   
TOP SPEED - N/A
0-60     - n/a
TANK RANGE - N/A