Buyer Guide: Triumph Speed Triple

The ultimate buyers guide to the Triumph Speed Triple written by the people who actually own the bike…

Click to read: Triumph Speed Triple owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

Streetfighter. Now there’s a funny name for a class of motorbike. Most groups of bike have a name related to what they do. Tourers, sports-tourers, sports bikes, adventure sport bikes; they’re all pretty obvious. But ‘streetfighters’ do not fight in the streets. Originally they were crash damaged sports bikes put back on the road with high bars and minimal bodywork so they are born of violent events on the road. They are all about an in-yer-face attitude. The bold, upright riding position is normally backed up with a loud pipe and the right riding gear, typically a Simpson lid.

Regardless of where the name comes from Triumph was the first company to make a factory streetfighter. And their current range – the smaller Street Triple and larger Speed Triple - are the best bikes in their classes.
We haven’t included the earliest Speed Triples in this article because they’re so rare. We heard recently the original single headlight model is actually appreciating in value now with high demand for clean bikes in Japan.

This guide focuses on the tubular aluminium frame, twin headlight models sold from 1997 onwards. They’re still pretty true to the original streetfighter mix – a sports bike minus bodywork with high bars fitted. They’re rapid machines until the point when the wind blast becomes a pain, they’re pretty comfy for distances, they stop go and handle almost as well as sports bikes (only weight distribution and lesser ground clearance hold them back) and they’re the most fun bikes to ride on the road, bar none.

Triumph Speed Triple Specifications

1994 Triumph Speed Triple

Engine L/C, 12V, in-line three, 885cc Power 96bhp @ 9,000rpm Torque 59ft/lb @ 6,750rpm
Dry weight 209kg Seat height 790mm Fuel capacity 25 litres Top speed 140mph

1997 Triumph Speed Triple T509

Engine L/C, 12V, in-line three, 885cc Power 96bhp @ 8,800rpm Torque 56ft/lb @ 6,700rpm
Dry weight 198kg Seat height 815mm Fuel capacity 18 Litres Top speed 145mph

2005 Triumph Speed Triple 1050

Engine L/C, 12V, in-line three, 1050cc Power 127BHP @ 9,100RPM Torque 78ft/lb @ 5,100RPM
Dry weight 189kg Seat height 815mm Fuel capacity 18 Litres Top speed 155mph

The nuts & bolts

A minor service is due every 6,000 miles / 12 months and a major one every 12,000 miles / 24 months. Prices for the 6,000 miles service were between £45 and £250 with an average of £154. The 12,000 mile one should include valve clearance checks and prices for this ranged from £280 to £500, average £411.
An impressive 28% of owners do all their own servicing, 60% do minor jobs only and 12% don’t do any at all.

With a 190/50-17 rear and 120/70-17 front all the best modern tyres with the Speed Triple. Really sporty rubber’s a waste and modern sports tyres provide plenty of grip in all conditions and last well too. The most popular tyre with owners who filled in our survey was Michelin Pilot Road II – 30% reckoned they were the best with comments like ‘Bloody great tyres, loads of grip wet or dry’, from 1050 owner, Anne Cherry. Next most highly rated was the Pirelli Diablo with 15% of owners giving them the nod. Five tyres came joint third each with 10% of owners reckoning they were the best option. They were: Continental Road Attack, Avon Storm ST, Michelin Pilot Power, Continental Sport Attack, Pirelli Corsa. Average tyre life was 3605 front, 5366 miles front.

Although original fitment is a 190/50-17 rear, some tyre manufacturers also approve the smaller 180/55-17. It doesn’t look quite as good and speeds up the steering slightly.

Consumables and running costs
The most popular brake pads are OE Triumph ones with 54% of owners using them and reporting good things about them. EBC are next with 32% of owners, all of whom are happy with them. A few have tried SBS and Brembo and reckon they’re good while Anne Cherry fitted a set of Ferrodos but doesn’t rate them highly.

Average chain and sprocket life is 14,000 miles. Minimum was 6,000 miles and maximum 20,000 but life is very much down to the quality of the item fitted and how well it’s maintained.

Vinny from Newcastle gets 35 to 55 mpg from his 1050 depending on how he rides which is a typical range most owners get although the overall average is 39mpg.

Owner Case Study: "I’ve owned three Speed Triples."

John Mason

“I’ve got an original 1994 one – and I still have it. I had the 2001 955i model but I’ve sold that and bought the 1050 version so I’ve had all three versions of the Speed Triple.

"I think I’m hooked on Speed Triples. Each one is lighter, more powerful and better handling than the last. The original one is a bit of a classic and I love it even though it’s a big heavy beast. The engine’s fabulous. The 955i was brilliant but I found the suspension too hard, it’d throw me out of the seat. It was great on track though. The 1050s better still – the best in all respects.

"I still really like the original one though – it’s got a character to the engine and the sound it makes the later bikes don’t have. I think it’s because of the heavier crank.

"I’ve got a 1050 Triumph Sprint ST as well. I rode it to Norway last year; that would be a bit far for a Speed Triple. I’ve had nine Hinkley Triumphs in total now. I had Japanese bikes before but they’re got no character compared to the Triumphs. They do what they say on the tin but they’re bland. I think the three cylinder engine is a good compromise between a twin and a four – twins have the torque and character but they can vibrate a lot and fours are powerful but they’re revvy and bland.”

Speed Triple owners like to modify their bikes. Just one person who filled in our survey (Paul Webster) has a completely standard bike.

Exhausts are popular and many Speed Triple owners go for less well know brands. Triumph’s own loud exhausts were the most popular but little known Italian brand Zard was next. Everyone who’s got one seems extremely pleased with it too. Arrow are also popular, ditto Blue Flame. Fitting any non standard exhaust will mean the engine needs some attention. Triumph dealers can re-map the ECU to suit some exhausts – a much cheaper option than getting a Power Commander and having it mapped.

Flyscreens are widespread with Triumph’s own being the most common. How effective they are is hotly debated but the consensus seems to be better than nothing at the very least. Hugger mudguards and front fender extenders are also widely fitted and help keep the bike tidy.

Brake wise the Speed Triple’s got a pretty good set up to start with but wavy discs of various sorts are fitted by some for cosmetic reasons as much as any.

Crash protectors are fairly common too with R&G the number one brand in our survey. Getting more cosmetic there’s plenty of carbon and stainless steel ‘bling’ such as heel plates, radiator covers. Seat cowels and belly pans are also popular and tail tidies to a lesser extent too.

After market bars are fitted by a handful, as much for looks as anything. One owner fitted risers to his 955i to boost comfort. Loads of people have improved their Triple’s seating, with after market seats or modifying the originals.

Surprisingly few owners feel the need to upgrade the suspension.

Then there’s the weird and wonderful mods which only a niche machine like the Speed Triple would get. There’s pink underseat neons (step forward and take a bow, Spencer Cullen) and remote ignition (Spencer again).

What goes wrong
68% of owners reported no problems at all with their bikes. Others had suffered issues but most were minor niggles with no real pattern except two 1050 owners had clock/instrument failures of some sort. Pam Rokins reported the chain adjuster (it’s an eccentric cam in the single sided swing arm) on her 955i seizing – it’s a known problem we’re heard of before on that model so worth checking when buying used or greasing it if you own the bike already. The sprag clutch on the starter motor can give trouble at higher miles but was sorted from 2002 onwards models. The original plastic fuel couplings on the 955i models were prone to fracturing. Most should have been replaced with stronger ones but it’s worth checking anyway.

We’ve heard rumours of brake problems which involve the lever coming right back to the bar and affected bikes needing new pistons in the calipers to fix the issue – but only one person in our survey suffered from this. A friendly Triumph dealer tells us if water gets in the spark plug holes it can not only make the bike run rough but also cause the plugs to seize in place which can be a nightmare when they have to be replaced – a front mudguard extender’s worthwhile for this reason alone.

52% of owners think their bike’s finish hasn’t disappointed them but 34% say it has. The bits that come in for criticism are fasteners, rear shock, forks legs, paint especially the tank on the 1050 and rear foot pegs.

Owner Case Study: "I toured Europe on mine"

Gary Crossley

“I covered 20,000 miles on my 1050 in two years including touring all over Europe on it. I was with a group of guys on big sports bikes, R1s, GSX-R1000s and those sorts of things and the Speed Triple was fantastic. It was great for cranking into turns in the really tight stuff in the Alps and Pyranees. Also on the downhill sections where the other guys got sore arms I was fine. It didn’t have a screen of any sort but I’ve had lots of naked bikes and I was fine for an hour at a time at 100mph. There wasn’t a lot of luggage room either but I was travelling light so that’s okay.

"The clocks were replaced under warranty four times – three times because the LCD display went wrong and once becuase one of the little coloured covers on one of the warning lights fell off. Also the faulty tip over valve caused vacuum in the tank which distorted it slightly. Everything was replaced, no quibbles, under warranty.
I had the 955i before too. The 1050 has twitchier steering, is more flickable and handles better. The earlier bike was better built though. I think Triumph have outsourced some manufacturing to Thailand and you can tell if you compare the 1050 with something like a Honda which looks
better built.”