First Ride: 2002 Triumph TT600

When I've mentioned the TT600, a few unkind souls have been mean to suggest it was a shame the entire remaining stock of TTs wasn't destroyed in Triumph's factory blaze. Highly out of order a suggestion as this may be, it does have a reason behind it

After all, the original TT was hardly a bike to write home about because although Triumph did a demon job on the chassis and stoppers, they fell well short of the mark in terms of engine performance, throttle response and styling and, in a class as fiercely (and closely) contested as the supersports 600s, a miss is as good as a mile.

You have to admire Triumph's spunk, as it were, for even daring to dip a toe into the boiling pit that is the (entirely) Japanese-dominated 600cc market and going toe-to-toe against a bunch of bikes that are at the pinnacle of their respective factories development trees. And to be fair to the Hinckley massive, they took the competition apart to learn all they could and set about building their own contender based on their findings. Hell, they were even brave enough to make the jump to 600cc fuel injection before the rest of the bunch. Unfortunately, bike development doesn't happen overnight, and by the time the TT rolled off the production line, the bikes it was based on were already outside the performance ballpark.

The original TT's biggest failing was that engine. It was gutless lowdown, lacklustre in the midrange and although there was a top end to play with, compared to the likes of Yamaha's whirling dervish R6 and Suzuki's rampaging GSX-R600 it was flat to say the least. And then there was the fuel injection that brought new meaning to the words 'hesitant', 'vague' and 'lurching'.

So there's the history, and when this year's TT appeared chez TWO, you could perhaps understand why people weren't falling over themselves to get near it. I think Grant might have fallen over, but that was down to his advancing years and dicky hip rather than any great excitement over the TT.

"Just sitting on the TT it straightaway feels heavy," reckoned Niall. "It's not a very pretty thing either, especially not in black. The cockpit looks spartan, the bodywork's a bit clunky and all in all the finish isn't up to the standard of the rest. There's the potential there to make it look good, but as it is I have to say it looks really old-fashioned."

But there's more to any bike than looks alone, as any Hayabusa owner will tell you, so let's get to the nuts and bolts of the TT riding experience. First up, that engine...

"I'm well impressed with the developments Triumph have done to the motor," chirped Niall after his first session on the thing. "They have actually now sorted that fuel-injection flatspot which was a complete nightmare. It is now loads more rideable, although there's still no midrange to speak of and the TT does run out revs long before the rest so you'll find yourself bopping around the gearbox in a bid to keep the others in sight."

And bop around the gearbox you must for fast progress on the TT because, like a slower version of the R6, this is a bike that demands your full attention and max revs at all times. Easy, bimbling progress is not the TT's forte.

Tune into it however, and there is a lot of fun to be had from the Triumph because its weaker power delivery compared to the rest means you can simply bang the throttle to the stop pretty much whenever you like without any fear of anything nasty happening because there's just not the power there. And with the gas full on, and the needle buried into the red at least the Triumph is very agile indeed and has the handling to let you corner as hard and fast as you possibly dare without missing an apex. Oh, and should you wish to stuff your mates on the brakes - you'll need to because so way are you having them on the power - then the TT's anchors are well up there letting you pin the front end into the ground with merry abandon.

As Niall put it, "because the other bikes were so much quicker and more capable, thrashing the TT to stay in touch was actually a very satisfying challenge - if you got past anyone you knew it was down to your riding and not the bike you were on."

Out on the road, the Triumph's strange ergonomics with its very high pegs (excellent ground clearance by the way - the only time you ground these out is likely to be swiftly followed by one of those earth-sky-earth-sky-falling-into-a-hedge experiences) and a long reach to the bars seem to either suit you down to the ground - I find it fine for long stretches - or cripple you very quickly - Sonic, who's pretty much the same dimensions as me found it a torture rack. So if you fancy a TT, try and get a good hour in the saddle first. At least getting a TT test ride shouldn't be too difficult though...

Otherwise, the lack of any urge lowdown is annoying through town as you rev and lurch from traffic light to traffic light at 10,000rpm and 25mph and the mirrors are largely useless but beyond these the TT is as bearable on the road as any other modern superbike. Just remember that if you wanna go fast, you've got to be prepared to work for it.


On the track it was so much slower than the GSX-R that it actually allowed me to keep up with and even pass (he wasn't trying) Niall Mackenzie when I was on the Suzuki. But it's great in corners, the chassis has always been tight, and the brakes are excellent. The engine still sounds like it's about to blow up everywhere, but unlike older versions it doesn't. For me, the main thing counting against the TT600 is the styling. Bikes need to look special, and this thing looks about as unspecial as you can get. The black-anodised frame is excellent, the bodywork is awful. Get a new bodykit on it, finish off some rough edges, and the TT will be better still.

Triumph TT600 Specs

Production date: 2002
Price new: £6999
Engine capacity: 599cc
Power: 100bhp @ 12,700rpm
Torque: 42lb/ft @ 10,600rpm
Weight: 170kg
Seat height: 810mm
Top speed: 153mph