We learnt a few months ago that the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR was not going to be the ‘Daytona Superbike’ that everyone wanted it to be. No, rather than a superbike, it’s more of a premium spec super-naked, in café racer clothing. So to see if the ride is as premium as the spec sheet, I jumped on a Sleazy Jet flight to Malaga, to take the new Speed ‘Trip out for a morning of road riding, and an afternoon on the track.
Before we got to Malaga, we were warned about the weather. The boys and girls from Triumph were there a week or so before we arrived (it was a big international launch event so they take a bit of setting up), and a few of them were caught out by the unseasonably cold weather. So by the time I was kitted out with two pairs of socks, my thermal undercrackers, RST Thermal Wind Block Gilet, race leathers and my big ski jacket over the top of it all, I was sweating like a pig. I’d even taken my heated gloves with me. In all fairness, it was cold out. There was a heavy frost on the ground in the morning when we left for the road ride. But I still think I might have gone over the top with layers.
Hit the road
Anyway, that’s besides the point. When we did hit the road, I was pleasantly surprised by the RR’s ergos. One of the single biggest differences between the RR and the RS is the ergonomics. It’s got new clip-on handlebars which are 135mm lower and 50mm further forward; and new footpegs, which are 15mm higher and 50mm further back. To me that sounded like quite a lot, on both counts, and I was concerned about comfort levels. I needn’t have been. Yes, it was slightly more sporty feeling than the RS, but it wasn’t so focused that it was uncomfortable. What it did do was make things seem a bit more natural when leaning off the bike. And that translated to a better bike for cornering on in the winding mountain roads.
Tech-wise, the RR comes with all the stuff the RS comes with, plus a few saucy extras. So that’s five riding modes (Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider-configurable), up-and-down shifter, ABS, TC, LED lights, keyless ignition, cruise control and electronic suspension. I’m still not a fan of keyless ignition but I realise whilst it’s still in vogue, it’s going to keep appearing on ‘premium’ motorcycles, so I guess I’ll just have to deal with it. Luckily, the filler cap is keyless too on the Triumph, so at least you don’t need to remember which pocket you put the key in every time you get to the fuel station.
The problem with the keyless system on the Speed Trip’ is that it seems to take so long start it. When you press the ‘on’ button, it takes a good second or two before anything happens. Long enough for you to think, “Am I close enough with the key?” or “Have I pressed the right button?”. Because it takes so long, I kept pressing the ‘on’ button again, which would in fact turn it back off. It was annoying and unnecessary.
You get Öhlins EC2.0 electronic suspension which is adapted for each of the five aforementioned rider modes. In road mode, the suspension was soft, supple and made for an extremely comfortable ride, but it wasn’t very supportive. When I started to try and corner a bit faster in road mode, it almost felt as though the front tyre was a bit flat. In sport or track mode though, it was a lot better and would hold the road well, even when pushing on at a fairly decent speed.
As a road bike, the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR is good; lovely; fine. It’s got plenty of good qualities, not many bad ones, and no terrible ones at all. Whilst slightly more sporty than the RS, the RR still wasn’t the Triumph superbike that we wanted it to be; or it wasn’t on the road anyway. perhaps it would be on track.
There was only one way to find out.
I’d never been to Ascari before bit I’d heard a lot of good things, so I was really rather excited. Not least of all because I knew a circuit would be just the place to see how sportily you could ride the RR. The first session was spent mainly learning where the track went left and where it went right; that meant not pushing too hard. Riding at that kind of pace, the Trip’ was actually lovely. The circuit at Ascari is billiard table-smooth so the track-mode settings worked as they were intended to and offered plenty of support.
The first thing that became a problem when going a little faster was the engine and gearbox. The engine and gearbox on the RR is the same as the RS, so I knew this would be the case. The issue is, the triple-cylinder 1,160cc motor doesn’t have a lot of revs available, and the gears aren’t very long. Because of that, I found myself having to change gear mid corner, in quite a few of the bends.
I found the best way to ride the bike was, a lot of the time, to enter a the corners in a gear one higher than what I thought was appropriate, so that I had the space in the rev range to accelerate out, without running hitting the limiter. The problem with doing that is you don’t get the same amount of engine braking on the way in; meaning you quite often rush into the corners too fast and miss your apex.
The 177bhp and 125nm of torque on tap were enough to trouble the traction control once or twice, which didn’t upset the bike too much. But I didn’t feel like it was helping my lap times very much. It was also stopping me doing wheelies, so I turned it off. There’s no separate anti-wheelie function, so if you want to hoist some wheelies, the TC needs disabling.
And it does wheelie, but not as well as the RS. I think the adjusted riding position, and the added wristy-ness must put just enough extra weight on the front of the bike to make it feel a bit heavier to wheely. But it’s definitely do-able.
And it’s the riding position that made the RR what it was on track; which is like an RS, but slightly better. As per the road section of our ride, the fact that you were in a sportier position, meant it felt less awkward when pulling and pushing round fast (and slow) corners, at speed.
But it still wasn’t the consummate track bike. It worked well up to a certain pack, but the more you pushed it, the less comfortable it became. Ground clearance isn’t fantastic and it’s not the lightest thing in the world. that meant there were a few occasions where I ran a bit wide with stuff scraping on the ground, convinced I was about to roll the thing into a ball. Luckily, It never happened.
Any good, then?
The Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR is a good bike, I don’t think anyone can deny that. It does everything it’s supposed to do, in a smooth, comfortable and refined way. But not an exciting way. It has a reasonable amount of power, but it delivers it in such a docile way that it doesn’t feel as energetic as you sometimes want it to. I feel as though it’s occupying a new area of the market, and not necessarily one that there’s a lot of demand in. It’s somewhere between a superbike and a super-naked; but it doesn’t have the edge or the excitement of a superbike; or the big handlebars, low pegs and ‘accessibility’ of a naked.
If you want a Triumph with the speed and aggression of a superbike, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Do you want something that looks a tiny bit like a superbike (from certain angles, and with a bit of imagination), but is still as calm and collected as a Speed Triple? And do you want it to have electronic suspension? If so, this would be a great choice as long as you’ve got £17,950.
I had a blast on the new Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR, but I probably won’t be putting my name down for one.