Living with a 2004 Triumph Speed Triple

The Triumph Speed Triple enjoys life in the hands of Steve Moore

September 2004

Pull up somewhere on a sparkly new bike and there's a chance you'll get at least a look or perhaps a comment. I've now discovered that if you do it on a Triumph you're guaranteed one.

There's something about certain brands that seem to exude an image without trying, and the 'Big T' is one of them. And it's not just the Old Gimmers making their approach to tell you about the good old days when bikes were bikes and men were, erm... men. It's not only fellow owners that have an affinity to the name - even the logo on a T-shirt has provoked such eloquent comment as "Triumph. Cool". Like any clued up
company, Triumph is extending its brand, and as well as a whole raft of trinkets for your bike, you can stylishly clothe yourself and your kids in hats, watches and belts. There are scale models of bikes, even a cigar holder adorned with the 'T' logo for the man (or Lewinsky) who has everything.

A few weeks back I went to the Isle of Wight music festival, weighed down with tankbag and waterproof rucksack, and using my son, Joe, as additional ballast. For those of us with saggier arses, the optional Gel Seat takes the edge off the slightly hard standard option and the pillion seat was a necessary replacement if I wanted Joe to still be behind me on my arrival. If I was a caring father, I'd have fitted a grab rail, but I'm not, so his only option was to hang on to his Dad.

Having never visited the IOW before, I was looking forward to sampling some sweeping island roads. Unfortunately, the combination of biddy driver overload, an unsporting amount of GATSOs and the influx of several thousand stoned musos meant I was limited to pretty sedentary speeds. Take a moment to ignore these obstacles and there are plenty of places worth a visit. There's no shortage of good pubs and purveyors of traditional British seaside resort fare, with fish & chip shops and ice cream parlours vying for your attention, and tacky gift shops looking to bleed you of your last few quid.

It still amazes me how civilised this bike is. From responsible parental two-up touring to irresponsible solo hooliganism, it copes effortlessly. Back on the twisty West Sussex A-roads, keep it in third gear between 5-8000rpm and the engine will slow you down for most corners and the revs are still high enough to get on the gas on the way out, no need to go near the brakes, which remain on my list of things to get sorted. Even two-up it didn't bat a bug-eyed lid.

I had to replace the rear Bridgestone after 4500 miles so just for a change I plumped for Dunlop Sportmax. It's very hard to compare tyres like-for-like unless you're in a controlled environment, but they don't seem to have bothered the un-shakeable S3.

More proof of brand loyalty is the camaraderie shown by fellow owners. Suggested mods that have come via
E-mail have ranged from switching to a 17-tooth front sprocket, to a switching of the headlamp relays to make them both come on when dipped. There is the apparent possibility of frying the whole loom, so I'd suggest that anyone interested in trying this holds fire (sic) until my next report to discover whether I've succeeded or created a Tornado Red modernist sculpture of molten metal and plastic.

November 2004

Bwoooarrr... first... wooaaarr... second... bwooaaarrr... third... the high level exhaust I've had fitted to my Speed Triple takes the pleasure of riding to another, far more hooliganish plane.

Let the revs drop back through 6000rpm, and BANG-burble-burble-pop-burble. It's all thanks to the revised engine mapping that gets programmed in when the pipe is fitted. I know it's only noise but the simple things in life are often the best, especially when they're really loud. It does  interfere with my right foot as the pipe sweeps up more sharply, and you do lose the pillion pegs, but as the new body kit I've also had fitted comes with a rear seat hump there's now nowhere for prospective passengers to park their butt-ox anyway. The fancy new chequered flag design has had a mixed reception, but my propensity for the 'tart's handbag' school of design is well satisfied.

All the extras were added by Flitwick Motorcycles ((01525) 712197) along with a 6000 mile service. When I picked up my new-look bike I was taken to one side by chief mechanic George who explained that, like many Triple owners, I had over-tightened my chain. The correct adjustment is a whopping 40mm of play! I had also been lazily using the kill switch instead of the key to shut the engine down, which was upsetting the ECU. Doing this causes the ignition system to stop mid-cycle, which means occasional starting problems as the ignition has to reset itself every time. George also gave my brakes a thorough clean and got rid of the sponginess I had been experiencing, although with a couple of thousand miles later and they seem to need doing again.

Armed with my freshly-fettled bike I set off to Lydden for my first-ever track day. I had only one thing in mind: it was time, once and for all, to get my knee down. And, with the help of Jon 'Beaver Boy' Urry and the very accommodating chaps at 100% Bikes, I was going to do it or trash the bike trying. I'd had the forethought to get some R&G crash bungs fitted in case of the latter.

Jon's help was invaluable and I'd recommend taking a 'track veteran' with you as a first timer. I followed him round for the first session getting to know the braking points and correct lines through the corners - a seemingly endless series of right-handers with one lefty thrown in to catch out the unwitting novice. By the start of the second session, and after a few more pointers from Jon, it was do-or-die time. After a couple of laps to warm the tyres, it happened. It was on the hairpin and it was only the gentlest of slider/tarmac caresses, but I'd finally done it.

By the end of the session I was getting my toe and knee down regularly and really having a ball. Just as I was considering the possibilities of getting my elbow down the heavens opened and we called it a day. I slept well that night in the knowledge I had mounted the first rung on the ladder to riding greatness... well OK, maybe not, but not bad for an old fella eh?

March 2005

Winter. Love it or hate it, it happens. Once a year, without fail. And every year I forget to prepare properly and every year my cheerful demeanour is shattered. I vowed not to get caught out this year.

Now the worst bit of winter riding, for me, is cold hands. Not just slightly chilly, but the excruciatingly numb, can't-move-for-crying-like-a-stuck-baby-pig kind of cold. So, armed with some quality Alpinestars winter gloves and some natty little heated inner gloves,I reckon I've nipped things in the bud.

Something else that often comes in quite useful on slippery winter roads is tread on your tyres. This is an area where my trusty Dunlop Sportmaxes were lacking, and in a traditionally Japanese style the rear tyre selflessly impaled itself on a random rusty nail, heroically making it back to the comfort of my garage before letting out its final breath. They'd clocked up a healthy 5000 miles including several laps on the track at Lydden.

A quick call to the RAC, and the Triple and I were off to have a nice fresh pair of Metzeler Roadtec Z6 tyres fitted. Hopefully they are of a hard-wearing compound that will see the bike through to the spring.

One thing that continues to baffle me is the gradual fade of the brakes' performance. It never gets to any
critical level, and the gradual drop-off in performance is only really noticed retrospectively after the brakes have been bled. All of a sudden the lever requires fingers to be at full stretch and the same pressure as before has you stopping on a proverbial sixpence (five pence for those requiring a 21st Century equivalent). Either way not a situation you want to take too long acclimatising to on the greasy mix of tarmac, oil and salt that seems to coat the highways and byways of our sceptred isle about now.

Which reminds me how filthy the bike has been getting. It must be the lack of rain around these parts, but the whole bike is coated in a thick black tar every time I ride, and the Triple's nakedness means the dirt really shows. So the discovery of a hand carwash that'll do a bike for a fiver (the same price as the jet washes around my way!) means I get a nice clean bike for no effort, while keeping my new eastern European friends gainfully employed.

Actually ignoring the inclement nature of the climate for a moment, the bike is still a joy to ride. Its riding position accommodates all shapes and sizes and the engine and frame provide a seemingly unflappable combination. And with the hi-level exhaust burbling away, life just doesn't get much better. In fact the only thing that could improve my existence would be a new-style Speed Triple in yellow. Now that's one sexy moto-sickle! Something to look forward to next year, mebbe?