First Ride: 2013 Triumph Daytona 675R review

Forget 250s. This is the best handling bike you can buy.

THIS is the Daytona 675 Triumph always wanted to build. It isn’t just a couple of tweaks and a facelift, it’s a totally new model - the front mud guard is about the only part that carries over from the old bike.

According to the Daytona 675’s lead development rider, when Triumph started the Daytona 675 project in 2004, the market trend was for centralised underseat exhausts and while Triumph felt a radical three-cylinder Supersport bike was the direction to go in, they didn’t want to stunt the sales of their new model with looks that, 8 years ago, could have proved controversial.

That’s the main reason the original Daytona 675 featured an underseat exhaust. Meanwhile, Triumph were already testing a model with an under-slung exhaust and knew it was the next step.

Moving the exhaust doesn’t just place the weight further towards the centre of the bike, it also allows the engine’s position to be changed and the bike’s geometry to be altered too. One of the project’s main tasks was to improve agility and for anyone who’s ridden either the old Daytona or Daytona 675R, you’d know that’s a tall order.

At the heart of the new 675 is the engine. Triumph have widened the bore and shortened the stroke (2mm wider and 2.7mm shorter) and in doing so, have ditched the old wet liner design and switched to an all-aluminium block in order to keep the engine’s dimensions the same, despite running wider pistons. The added benefit of the new block is that compression can be raised and it’s now up from 12.65:1 to 13.1:1. Other additions include twin injectors per cylinder, higher-grade main bearings, a 5% lighter crankshaft assembly and an oil-scraper in the lower crankcase to remove oil from the crank webs. The thinking behind these changes is that the less power you need to accelerate engine parts, the more you’ll have to accelerate the rear wheel.

The engine changes don’t stop there, the inlet vales are no longer steel and are replaced with titanium alloy valves, shaped to improve air flow. The exhaust valves are smaller too and weigh 7% less, meaning they can be lifted higher. The valve train is 10% lighter overall and its improved lift means more gas flow and more compression means more bang.

The gearbox features a new selector mechanism, designed to improve selection between first and second gears and to also give a lighter feel. The final drive has been altered too; the gearbox sprocket has been changed from 16T to 15T in order to improve acceleration. The new air intake saves 0.5kg from the previous version and improves airflow too.

Perhaps the largest single component change and one that many owners been crying out for is the addition of a slipper clutch (Triumph call it a slip/assist clutch). It’s there to stop the rear wheel hopping when braking hard, meaning you can enter corners faster and smoother. Triumph also claims it makes the lever action 25% lighter too. Let’s be honest, Triumph are late to this particular party.

Is the new Daytona 675 a Street Triple with a fairing? No, far from it in fact. The tank and wheels are the same as the new Street Triple but everything else is different. Compared to the older Daytona 675R, the swingarm is lighter, shorter and stiffer but remains adjustable. The suspension remains the high quality Öhlins TTX36 rear shock, with a revised sprint rate and damping (mainly due to less weight over the rear thanks to the repositioned exhaust) and the front forks are still Öhlins NIX30 but with 10mm more travel. Don’t confuse this stuff with gold coloured forks that carry an Öhlins sticker like you might see on some manufacturer’s ‘S’ models.

One of the key changes to the chassis is the new Daytona 675’s weight distribution and wheelbase. The wheelbase is now 1,375mm, 20mm shorter, thanks in part to sharper rake (and therefore reduced trail), down from 23.9-degrees to 23-degrees. Weight bias is now set slightly further over the front at 52.9% compared to 51.8% on the older model.

The 675R comes with ABS as standard. It has three modes; Off (ok, not strictly a mode), On (still, probably not exactly a mode) and Circuit. Circuit mode is interesting as it reduces intervention in dry conditions and will allow you to drift the rear on the entry to corners (although being allowed to and being able to aren’t options you can switch on and off). While Circuit mode will reduce intervention it won’t back-off if the rear wheel lifts, so you can go over the front if you brake too hard, even with ABS Circuit mode on. You have been warned.

It’s only 1kg lighter than the previous model but during the press conference, the words ‘owner feedback’ and ‘race team feedback’ were liberally sprinkled in among the changes, this is more than just a weight saving exercise. Tiny changes like 5mm higher bars to reduce the weight on your wrists or baffles in the sump to reduce oil surge under braking are both examples from either end of the ownership experience that prove Triumph are listening. 1kg doesn’t sound like a lot but if you look at those changes above, you’ll get a feel for how much thought has gone into the new Daytona 675.

Race tracks like Cartagena are the ideal proving ground for bikes like the Daytona 675: tight, twisty and narrow. Pin-point precision wins over brutal horsepower. The Daytona 675R looks well armed for this particular battle.

I used the first session to familiarise myself with Cartagena’s layout, not trying to squeeze everything I could from the bike. Despite the bike’s higher rev-ceiling it doesn’t feel like low down torque has been sacrificed for horsepower higher up the range. You can still slot 3rd and drive cleanly from low revs but the revs don’t stay low for long. Even cruising around not chasing the redline, the rev-needle wants to sweep around the clocks, eager to take you past 8,000rpm where the action really begins to heat up.

Lapping at a moderate pace, concentrating on finding some good lines, I found myself running over pieces of tarmac that looked broken and lumpy, but their harshness is fed back to me through the bars with just a small wiggle and not the expected jolt. Even at these slower speeds the front feels rooted in place, a perfect balance between firm and forgiving.

The 675 is one of those bikes that doesn’t just allow you to get on the power early, it invites you to.

I pick up the pace for session two and start to ask more of the bike, particularly the front end, by carrying more brake into corners at increasing angles of lean.

On the brakes in to turn one, a 2ndgear corner, scrubbing off speed from 5th, I get into the corner and I realise I could have gone in faster and braked later, but I’m already braking at a marker I think is optimistic. There’s more power in that all-Brembo braking setup than I’ve given credit for or have the balls to use, whichever way you look at it.

The slow corners at Cartagena are super-slow and punish you if you get on the power too early, throwing you out to a line you don’t want to be on. The 675R changes direction so quickly, I can stay in the corner slightly longer to line-up a better exit or, as is often the case, correct a bad entry line and convert it to a decent exit.

Heading down to Cartagena’s first fast chicane, throwing the bike over to the left and pitching the 675R’s front wheel over the first apex, the bars protest slightly and in that moment we’re all the way over to the right. The peg scrapes as we skim over the right-hand apex paint, the bike, still at max lean, unsettles slightly. I wait for moment then dial in the power, gently at first to build up trust that the rear’s ready for it but it’s already one step ahead of me: settled.

Triumph set the suspension up to a firm track-based setting at the front but halfway between road and track on the rear. This meant the rear felt supple but soft on occasions, like under hard drive out of a corner. The feeling was similar to when a tyre goes off towards the end of a race: it moves from side to side as the suspension squats under power and you drift 6-inches wider than where you expect to be. It’s actually a nice feeling; a gentle slide is far more preferable to loss of traction, usually announced with a sudden snap, sometimes not announced at all. With an engine as smooth as the 675’s and suspension that gives consistent feedback, you’d have to be doing something seriously wrong to get in trouble coming out of a corner.

Getting in trouble going into a corner could be another matter. The 675R doesn’t want to stop leaning, you see. Way past where the fuse in my inbuilt gyroscope has blown, the front end still gives out positive vibes. In the early sessions I was coming back in on the corner and having to stand the bike back up, such is the speed at which it turns in and once turned in can keep on turning. 

Despite asking more and more of the front end, entering corners faster and keeping pressure on the front brake lever for longer than considered sensible, I didn’t have one 'moment'. I run Pirelli SC2 tyres on my 848 Challenge race bike, the Daytona 675 comes with Pirelli Supercorsa SP tyres but the grip difference is negligible. The 675R gets into corners easier than my 848 Challenge bike but the flatter profile of the SC2 tyres helps the 848 feel more planted mid-corner. The 675R is so good at all the bits that connect the straights together; it’s easy to forget you’re on a road bike.

It’s hard to think of a better combination than the Daytona 675, Öhlins suspension and Pirelli tyres. We’re at a point where the well-worn phrase ‘handles like a 250’ ought to be replaced by ‘handles like a 675R’, it’s that good.

Mind you, the standard bike’s KYB ‘centre fixed cartridge’ suspension (Kayaba’s version of Showa’s Big Piston Forks) sounds like it’s got what it takes too: one of Triumph’s test riders claimed there was just 0.7 seconds difference in lap times between the 675 and 675R on their test track.

In the later sessions I set the rear shock up to Triumph’s suggested track settings, slightly firmer than what I had been running. The bike stayed on a tighter line thanks to the rear not squatting quite as much. Even though the bike felt that bit tighter, my lap times between the two settings differed by under a second.

The majority of the lap at Cartagena is spent with the engine revving over 8,000rpm but 8,000rpm is positively tranquil when you consider the madness of the 675’s 14,400rpm redline. The engine pulls well from 8,000rpm and instantly responds to even the smallest of throttle inputs but you feel a noticeable step up when the engine hits 11,000rpm and after that, the needle whips around to 14,000rpm in a matter of moments. The throttle feels like when you use someone else’s computer mouse and they’ve got it set to move faster than yours. Y0ou find yourself having to recalibrate your throttle hand to be less cumbersome if you want jerk-free inputs mid-corner.

At first I struggled with the quickshifter, gauging my shifts by ear, I was shifting close to 14,000rpm but when the needle hits the rev-limiter the quickshifter won’t allow a shift, so early in the day I had two or three amateur stabs at the gear lever trying for a higher gear while the engine bounced off the limiter. It pays to be positive with the quickshifter fitted to the 675R as when you get yourself dialled in, it’s super slick. Second guess it or get it wrong and the shifts are aggressive and quite blunt.

I’d like to be able to tell you what the ABS Circuit mode is like but try as I might, I couldn’t get it to kick in. I could get the bike to back in a touch into Turn 1, something that can cause ABS systems to kick in, but not on the 675R. According to Triumph, the speed differential allowed between the wheels is 40% before the system intervenes. Still, at least we know the slip/assist clutch works.

The new Daytona 675R handles better than the previous version and feels much more at ease when closing in on the limit. It did exactly what I wanted it to do and felt like an extension of me. As far as riding on track goes, that’s the holy grail.

You can see why this is the Daytona that Triumph wanted to build: it's the best handling motorcycle I've ever ridden. Sensational.

Price: Daytona 675R with ABS as standard - £10,599 OTR

Available: From Jan 2013 in UK dealers

Click here to watch the 2013 Triumph Daytona 675R onboard video.

If you have any questions about the bike, please post below and i'll do my best to answer.