MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2011 Triumph Speed Triple: MD First Ride

The best selling motorcycle of the new era of Triumph needed an update, and it received a very successful one. The 2011 Speed Triple is more modern, refined and a much better motorcycle, overall.

16 years ago the Triumph Speed Triple emerged from Hinckley, and has been the most charismatic bike, and the best seller of the reborn Triumph, captained by John Bloor. With three changes of displacement to date (855, 955 and 1050 cc), the look of the bike has not changed too much over the years . . . until now. The big naked from Hinckley is known for its great personality, particularly the double headlights that emerged several years ago, and of course, being propelled by the muscular, three-cylinder engine that is the house brand.

But now it is time for a fresh interpretation of this classic. In terms of looks, the two round headlights that were the signature of the speed triple in the past are replaced in favor of the more modern, asymmetric units that will undoubtedly disappoint some of the faithful. We also get a new look to the gas tank, which is black at the front(holding the battery in its new location) and new radiator side covers. The back of the bike has a fresh look, and the tail light is an LED.

The mufflers exit up high in the back, but are now oval in profile and 3 pounds lighter. Triumph is also offering a set of arrow mufflers for an additional 3 hp and even less weight. Finally, a single muffler that exits down low is available, and provides a 15 pound weight reduction.

The new chassis is more compact and narrower . . . resembling the smaller displacement Street Triple and Daytona. The slim profile helps you get your feet on the ground easier, and the riding position is slightly more upright and relaxed.

Steering geometry is changed somewhat, and the single-sided swingarm is now 18.5 mm longer, providing increased stability and traction. Moving weight to the front tire patch, Triumph relocated the battery from under the seat to in front of the tank.

Although the displacement has not changed, Triumph thoroughly revised the engine, and relocated it in the chassis. The result is further weight over the front, and an increase in peak power of 5 hp. More torque is available over a broader range, and the engine pulls harder earlier.

The weight of the 2011 Speed Triple is down by roughly 7 pounds. A contributor is lighter wheels, but earlier speculation and rumor had many enthusiasts expecting a much bigger weight drop.

The venue for the introduction of this new bike was the stunning Ascari circuit, a long and technical track ideal for testing both bikes and riders, and perfect for evaluation of the changes to the new Speed Triple.

The first thing you notice is the improved rider ergonomics. The narrower profile doesn’t spread your legs so much, and the closer handlebars allow you to assume a more relaxed position on the machine. This is clearly an entirely new feeling aboard the big triple, and a welcome one.

The first laps are taken gently, as it is cold and there is some moisture on the track. The pace gradually increases and we appreciate that Hinckley has drastically improved the chassis and the handling, which now feels much more accurate and less nervous. The big motor still makes the front end light when accelerating, but the bars don’t twitch in your hands nearly as much, and the front wheel feels much more firmly planted . . . placing the bike on its intended path and giving the rider more confidence. The bike might be a touch less quick to change direction, but the trade-off is worth it. The bike is still very agile, and the improved weight distribution and slightly reduced overall weight allows you to tip the bike over with relative ease.

After taking a break, we are back on the track for a second session, and then a third. We pick up the pace significantly, but the bike continues to behave itself and inspire confidence. The Speed Triple may not take to the track quite as adeptly as Ducati’s Streetfighter with its superbike motor, but the bike is plenty fast and has a friendlier nature that will really shine on the street, as we were about to learn. The improved traction in the rear comes not only from the longer swingarm, but from the increased tire size (from 180 to 190).

The Ascari circuit, filled with technical turns, leads you to concentrate on improving your line and your drive off the corners. We discovered that the Triumph, with its improved spread of torque, likes being short-shifted, and pulled out of the corner in a higher gear. The triple always responds well and exits with surprising thrust despite the lower RPMs. The lack of a slipper clutch leads to some choppy corner entrances, however.

In the afternoon, we take to the street and a mountain road that brings to light the character of the Speed Triple in the real world. Here, the new bike really shines and reminds us of its little brother, the Street Triple, but this big brother has a lot more torque and effortless acceleration. The handling is nearly perfect, agile but stable and with good feedback.

The brakes are plenty powerful, but not brutal. Perhaps, we would like a little more initial bite, particularly at the race track, but this is not really a track bike as much as it is a street weapon. For the street, the brakes are just about perfect, and the lack of strong initial bite can be an asset on rough textured roads and unexpected surfaces.

We love the old Speed Triple. It is a bike filled with character, but the new one is much better. Improved in virtually every respect, and we even like the new look. The price shouldn’t change much, but buyers will get a more refined and rideable package, with all the fun and excitement of the old model.

61 Comments

  1. Poppinfresh says:

    I have an 06 Speed Triple and love it. The bike gets compliments everywhere I go. In some respects, it’s like trying to ride a bull . . . but I like that. The 2011 may be a better bike as far as handling goes. Big deal. There were always better handling bikes than the Speedie but they were never more fun. I was never all that crazy about the bug-eyed headlights but I could live with them. The 2011 has taken the bug eyed headlights to an extreme and, in conjunction with the antennae-like mirrors, made the bike look like a fly. I would chuck the mirrors for bar-end mirrors anyway. However, I’ll wait to see what the aftermarket can do with those headlights before I seriously decide to trade in my 06.

  2. Stefan says:

    Better??!! Who cares, who ever bought the speedy because of it being very good??!!! It is (sorry, was) a hooligans bike, fun and brute. To make it “better” is like trying to emulate honda… if I wanted a “good” bike, I would not be a speedy rider. I’ll hang on to my -09…..

  3. Nevada Mac says:

    I don’t know about the look of the new headlights yet. I’m going to have to see it in person before I trade up from my ’05 Speedie. Let see it with the bikini fairing!

  4. overtorqued says:

    There seem to be 2 camps here:
    1) The headlights are ugly
    2) I love every Speed Triple ever made

    Put me firmly in the latter. When it’s time to update my ’05, the headlights won’t play into the decision. I’d prefer as little plastic as possible, but if they’ve improved the suspension, ergos, and engine, and I can get it for a decent price? I’m sold.

  5. Stinky says:

    What a bunch of Paris Hiltons! Did you see what she was wearing! Those headlights! I’ve only had a short ride on one 2 years ago & really loved it. Sat on a Street Triple last year and liked the ergos better for my 6′ frame. Gotta love a little bike with big motor. Have to have a seat on one after I pay off the Buell. I’m afraid to sit on one before as I might have 2 bike payments.

  6. leroi says:

    I’m the kind of fellow that doesnt concern himself so much with the minimal weight reduction so long as the bike is still strong and mechanically verile for ages to come. Sometimes I think the relentless persuit of weight reduction means compromises eleswhere.

    The lights…They are different, and look good. I currently own a ’05 which I love and have made so many mods to that no matter what I simply cannot sell it on, but am still considering adding the 2011 to the stable. This is ‘my bike’, it’s near the most perfect and satisfying bike I’ve ever had.

    Have to admit that I was somewhat hoping for an all new next gen higher displacement engine tho. This as I understand is a re-worked existing mill so I like the feeling of “all new” when I get the new gen of something I already have had time with. Not a gripe tho, just a musing I suppose.

    I can live with the new lights quite easily truth be told, I always thought the S3 was “deliberately ugly” (the lights/bike from a side profile isnt the most picture-genic, which was sorta the point for me, and I’m talking about earlier models, not the 2011)

    Wish Moto-Daily had more pics from various angles and whatnot but I suspect nothing a trip to the local dealer wont rectify.

  7. THE NEW HEADLIGHTS ARE GORGEOUS! Way better than the old bug eyes! Triumph should have changed the headlights 3 or 4 years ago. Welcome to the modern world Triumph, we need you! Keep up the great work and forward thinking. I want to buy the new Speed Triple now.

  8. Lenny says:

    Riding under the midday sun isn’t going to be the same without the blinding reflective flash of the shiny shell of the lights adding adding to the challenge!

  9. Zeus says:

    I’ve been a Kawasaki Z1000 rider for quite a while (still have an 06)… I just bought the Wife a Street Triple R as it was love at first test ride for her (5’8″ 130 lbs 33″ inseam). She says the bike was just “made for her” (former CBR girl). I have to admit that it’s a really, really nice ride, but way too small for my 6’1″ 260 lb/36″ waist gorilla frame. So nice is the bike that I’d decided to look at the 2011 Speed Triple instead of the 2011 Kawasaki Z1000 (which power to weight/fit is the cats ass for a big man’s naked bike here in the States) I found the 2010 and earlier S3′s just too underpowered for my size/weight. Now I’m left so disappointed that more was not done with either weight reduction or power in the new S3. Triumph almost had two bikes out of what would have been 4.5 in my garage… hell, could have let the others go if the S3 just had more balls!

    • Zeus says:

      Oh, and the headlights don’t matter if it delivers at the twist of the wrist and flick of the weight… well, still have one of those I guess.

  10. Jim says:

    Looks like WALL-E…

  11. Joebob says:

    Nice bike. Still prefer my Benelli Cafe Racer 1130. Best illumination of any in my experience.

  12. Tom says:

    All this jabber about the headlights.

    I actually chose another bike, because I couldn’t stand the bug-eyed look. I’ve seen some conversions to a single headlight that I preferred the most.

  13. Trpldog says:

    Perfectly said…
    HEADLIGHTS = FAIL

    • Trpldog says:

      The Triumph Product Manager answered an e-mail I sent via MCN (Motorcycle News)and said, that in regards to the iconic bug-eye headlight change on the Speed Triple, they did it “…beacuse we had to move on.”
      Well, in that case, why don’t we take the torch out of the hand of the Statue of Liberty and put in it’s place a LED maglight – we gotta move on.

  14. Skipper says:

    Ugly – Ugly – Ugly. What in the hell is wrong with the bike manufacturers? At least I got a good laugh for the day….

  15. Dave says:

    I like the headlights and view them as an improvement over the bug eyed look. Just hope the damn things aren’t projecter beams like my 1050 Tiger.

  16. GP says:

    Headlights, headlights, headlights. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever.
    How about a comment or two about the ease with which this bike lofts the front wheel? Easier than the “old” bike? Slightly tougher (with the new battery location)? How about two-up comfort? How about two-up wheelies?….
    Burnout/wheelie pics please….

  17. Ant says:

    When you buy a S3, you want a bit of british cool, right? Those lights are crap, really crap. (Even Ducati made the same mistake with the new Monster). Stylistically there are other elements that they have messed up too. But finally a decent looking set of wheels, the last flower wheels were girly.

    Triumph should understand, S3 had got to have a mix of Tough and British Cool. Simple. Unfortunately there’s more than a pair of headlights to change to make the bike look as sexy as the last one… which is a shame as now the Ducati Streetfighter (minus those mirrors) is more desirable to me, and I’d never thought I would be saying that.

    Speed Triple 2011 = FAIL

  18. Bob says:

    Very bad choice with the lights. It looks like its been wrecked and then you decided to ride it after you took off the broken fairings.

    • Tony says:

      Thats what the street fighter look is. I bought a Street Triple R over a Daytona for just that reason. Personally I like both bikes but there is just something about the naked look that appeals to some people and doesnt to others.

  19. T. Rollie says:

    Here’s an inexpensive way to improve the headlights. Rotate one headlight 90-degrees, so it’s more vertical.

  20. Just Joe says:

    I own an 06 Speed Triple, and love it’s I’m so ugly I’m good looking style. This is no different.
    The older model looks like an older Daytona with the bodywork crashed off, this looks like a late model Daytona with the bodywork crashed off. The bike has, by most accounts, improved dynamics without becoming over refined and losing it’s character. I suspect that a whole new generation of buyers will enjoy this machine. I know my next bike will be something different, not because I don’t love the Speed Triple, but because I want to experience and love something else.
    I’m having a hard time understanding how anyone can form a valid opinion not having seen the bike in the flesh,much less ridden it.

  21. Kjazz says:

    The headlights stink. C’mon!!! That’s the iconic element of the S3, fer pete’s sake. And those little colored bits on the sides…….. Triumph screwed up here. No question. Yes, you may like it, but there’s a little issue with “heritage” and the fact that all of us S3 fans have been in love with the bike for years and that should count for something. The other changes are marginal ones, in which case evolution is just fine. But the headlights and those side panels are crapola. Here’s the acid test, think back about the first time you saw the “de-contructionist” Speed Triple for the very first time….. you prolly stopped in your tracks and said something like “holy F*&k!!” I know I did! And this bike (from the front) says, “hey I wanna be good looking like the Ducati” or something stupid like that. The bug eyes were absolute GENIUS and should be maintained through this model’s lifespan.

  22. Nick says:

    For all of those whining about the new headlights changing the iconic look of the speed triple need to learn a little history. The original first gen S3 from the 90′s just had a single round headlight. What hasn’t changed is the naked sportbike nature that makes the S3 so much fun.

  23. ziggy says:

    Cool. Now ditch those headlights and bring back the bugeyes.

    • Trpldog says:

      If Triumph puts together a Bug-eye kit, they will in my opinion, cover all the bases and sell more Speedy for sure.

      • Trpldog says:

        It may be a mute point for some, but I really don’t want to have to force myself to like the looks of something I would take pride in owning and being seen on. Bring me the kit.

  24. Justin says:

    to me it’s always been the perfect bike for those who dislike the aesthetic of sportbikes. it has the same advantages as a sportbike, in terms of dynamics, without the ‘me too’ styling. personally, i think windscreens are overrated anyhow. another way to think of it, it’s like a streetfighter that hasn’t been crashed. this year’s model just looks like one of the ones where the guy kept the headlight that was under his fairing before he tore it up.

    so, to me, it’s appropriate that the changes to the bike should be evolutionary in nature, shifting weight here and there, basically improving dynamic behavior or at least attempting to do so. that’s what this bike is about: functionality

    while we’re retrofitting, i’ll put a single round headlight bucket on mine. i like some nostalgia with my nostalgia

  25. Ed Chambers says:

    I hate the new headlights.I know this is shallow but it ruins it for me.

  26. jerrylee says:

    In the words of the iconic British band- Pink Floyd. “How can you have any pudding when you don’t eat your meat?” How can you have a Speed Triple when you don’t have two round headlights.

    I imagine John Bloor laughing about all the discussion surrounding “the headlights”. It’s not about the chassis. It’s not about the engine. It’s all about the “bloody headlights”! How interesting that something as simple as the most basic of functional components can create such a controvery. Just look at this thread. It speaks mountains to the original design concept- hate it or love it. It’s all about the bloody headlights!

    Round headlights. Square headlights. One headlight. Duck taped flashlight. No headlight. Speed Triples Still Rock and “It’s just another brick in the wall!”

  27. The says:

    I have been a fan of the Speed Triple for years. Its “back to basics” approach which other manufacturers have done with the UJM but adding top shelf suspension and brake components is where Triumph distances themselves from their Japanese counterparts. Ducati has a similar approach but tries to go for the “work of art” which I am not a fan of. This bike is the type that after dropping it, you shrug it off and climb back on it and drive off. with the Duc, I’d be sitting there waiting for the insurance adjuster feeling sick to my stomach. The only thing I do not like is the headlights… Hopefully there will be an aftermarket solution to bring the round headlights back.

  28. Steve says:

    I am not a Speed Triple aficionado, but everything about this bike looks the same except the headlights. That may be because the article lacks any still photos of the complete bike, or maybe because I am not a die hard fan. But in my eyes, Ducati did a much better job with the Monster line than Triumph has done here. After 16 years of production, the best changes they can come up with is different headlights? Triumph deserves and “F” for effort on this one. On the other hand, I give them an A+ on the new Tiger.

    • Steve says:

      Steve,

      Do yourself a favor and ride one before you give it an F for effort. Having owned (currently own a 06′) two of them in the past 10 years your doing yourself a disservice. They have something air cooled Ducs dont..balls! Real world riding is what this thing is about, not aesthetics. As a fellow Steve, quite frankly I’m dissapointed! You’ll do fine with the Monster though.

      Steve

  29. Brian says:

    I would be happy with the new bike, the low mount Arrow exhaust and a fender eliminator kit to clean up the look of the rear end once the stock cans are gone…

  30. LarryC says:

    Well, I’m 61 and have been riding since the 1960′s. Having been in the business, I’ve owned my share of bikes…now approaching a hundred…and I’ve never owned a street bike that’s as much fun as my ’10 Speed Triple SE. Charisma, as the author noted, is an excellent word for it. And here’s something most of you guys won’t give a rat’s ass about, but I find amazing. My 53 year old wife, who rarely has anything good to say about passenger accomodations on nearly anything else we ride, doesn’t mind one bit climbing on the back of this bike for a little hog hunting :-o ! We recently took a test ride on the new Sprint GT and she had nothing good to say about the seat and passenger peg ergos. Whether this new iteration lives up to Speed Triple legacy remains to be seen, but it lookin’ pretty good. I do like my round headlights better though…

    LC

    2010 Speed Triple
    2006 Tiger
    Assorted Guzzi LeMans

  31. Nick says:

    When I saw the first photos a few days ago, I was horrified to see the round headlights had been eliminated. After some time though, the new headlights are really starting to appeal to me. I wouldn’t say the ’11 looks better than a ’10, but both bikes are pretty cool in their own unique ways.

    Regardless of looks, I have not yet met an S3 that wasn’t total and complete wicked fun to ride.

  32. T. Rollie says:

    Ugly? Not at all. The point of the original Speed Triple was to “be ugly, like when you crash a sport bike and strip off the faring, add some duct tape, and keep riding it.” They continue to succeed!

  33. Dave Preston says:

    All terrific, but for the lights. Wow – that is a real hit of ugly

    • Tim says:

      I’m clearly in the minority here, but I don’t mind the new headlights. They give it a kind of sinister look from the front. From an angle they look a little odd, but it was time to try something else.

      I don’t like the big mufflers, but then most every bike has those now. It’s like the bike companies are in cahoots with the aftermarket manufacturers.

      • Michael says:

        I agree with you being in the minority which is a shame because I’m also there with ya. However the new look almost makes the fly screen a requirement where as the old head lights just made them an option.

        As for the large exhausts, it’s something they need to do with tighter and tighter emissions being put in place every year. To me it wouldn’t matter what size they were because for the sound alone I would replace them every time.

    • Tim says:

      I think the lights look much better with the accessory fly screen. Of course, I don’t make purchasing decisions based on the appearance of the headlights – they won’t bother me at all when I’m behind the handlebars.

  34. JC says:

    What kind of review is this without a picture of you cracking a nice wheelie? My old 2000 triple has logged a few miles on one wheel.

  35. automaticSlim says:

    I love Triumphs – currently own 2 and have lusted for a Speed Triple for a few years. Those headlights are fugly…

  36. El Profe says:

    I have a black ’00 Speed Triple with a few personal touches. The new looks of the ’11 version are not that bad specially in black with the fly screen, but I was hopping for a 1150cc engine or a drastical reduction in weight. Looks like I will have to continue waiting.

  37. GMan38 says:

    The new headlights are even uglier than the round ones. BTW….I WANT ONE!!!

  38. Brinskee says:

    Looks like not enough has changed to make that much of a difference for me. Looks like it’s time to unload the 950SM and get an ’10 model for a huge discount. Plus I’ll get the round headlights…

  39. KOTH says:

    Nice review. The headlight change reminds me of when Jeep went to square headlights. Jeep lovers started wearing shirts that said “Real Jeeps have round headlights”.

    I think it looks pretty good though. If they offered hard cases like the new Ninja 1000 is supposed to I think it would be a real winner.

  40. As a Buell guy for the last 10 years, I switched to a Street Triple R this Spring and have been having the time of my life on it!

    I never rode the Speed, but the Street fits me great. I hear people saying it’s too small for them, framewise. I dunno…I’m six foot and a 180 lbs. (give or take a donut).
    Longish (34″ inseam) legs too, and I am comfortable on mine for 500 mile days.

    I do like my old round headlights! -michael

    • Trpldog says:

      Yeah Michael, I also went from (two) Buells to the 1050 triple motor. I rode the Street Triple first when I was trying out to see if I even wanted a Triumph. Loved the Street triple, but having just stepped off a 1200cc torque monster Buell, the 675 didn’t have the down low grunt I was used to. The bike was excellent in every other way! I would certainly have a Street in my garage if I could afford to have two Trumpets. Pip Pip!

      • Trpldog says:

        …its tough to get the Buell out of your system once you have owned one. It’s a weird bird, but I still would like to have one just to have.

        • michael says:

          Trpldog,
          I hear ya about being tough to get the Buell out of your system. I had an M2, 2 XB9SX’s and an 1125R. (Never more than two at a time.) I used to love everything about Buell. The cool little prizes they gave you for test-rides, the fun website, the idea that a guy could build a bike, and have his darn name on the tank!

          I just felt so bad when HD pulled the pin on Buell last year, I felt like for me, it was time to move on.

          I feel some of the same positives about having a Triumph. While not RARE, they certainly are not common.

          I felt like I had done the right thing, after a weekend of riding in the SD Black Hills this Fall. My Street Triple R delivered me back to my home in Sioux Falls. When I stopped for gas, about a mile from my house, I checked my voicemail and found that my friend with the 1125R only made it two of the six hours towards Denver, and now sat in a small town in NE with a toasted stator.

          -michael

  41. Robbo says:

    Great bike.

    But…I think Triumph is trying too hard with those headlights. Triumph, to me, is about looking sort of retro-conventional but being relatively technically up-to-date with reasonable to good performance.

    Those lights seem to be trying to keep up with the Hornets, FZ-1′s, etc. of the world. Triumph-lovers aren’t in to that and I think it would work best for the Triumph image if they stayed away from that look.

    Just my 2 cents worth. Otherwise, great bike.

  42. Gary says:

    I am sorry, but the street triple has always looked like a sportbike that has been badly crashed. This new one is no different. I guess it’s just my age showing. Never really “got” the streetfighter look. I’m sure the engine/chassis are stellar. Love my Sprint. The three-cylinder Triumph motor is the best in the business, for my money.

    • cory says:

      You have gotten streetfighters perfectly. They originated from badly crashed sportbikes because it was too expensive to replace damaged bodywork that had no bearing on the street performance of the bike.

  43. ohio says:

    I’m still a bit disappointed it didn’t get more of a diet, but it sounds like the handling disguises the weight pretty well. It does reconfirm that (especially at my height of 5’8″) the svelte street triple is a better bike for me. But I will always lust after that single sided swingarm…

  44. markF says:

    I love the new headlights, both on this bike and the new 800. Not a fan of the dual high pipes. Funny, I was when they were common aftermarket. The single low shorty sounds way cool.

  45. Trpldog says:

    I guess it’s now called the new Semi-Iconic Speed Triple. I’ll stick with my Green Bug-eyed 2007 until further notice. You have to really want a Speedy to buy one – just like my old Buell XB9 and 12. These kind of “off the main-stream” bikes just seem to get under your skin and nothing else will do until you throw a leg over one. Started riding in 1974, and my Speed Triple is without a doubt the most enjoyable bike I’ve ever owned. Not the fastest or the best handling bike on the planet, but the howl of the triple and the dirt bike on steriods feel puts a grin on your face that takes a long time to go away. Trpldog dwaws more attention than a boat-load of plastic repli-racers, and even a flock of Italian red Ducs lined up in a row. But PLEASE PLEASE DON’T buy one. I’m the only one on the block. Ride safe!

  46. BoxerFanatic says:

    Sounds like a nice bike, there.

    I would probably retro-fit the round headlights, though.

    BTW, Triumph… where is the Big-Daytona? Why isn’t there an option to clothe this bike in a fairing… even just a slick half fairing and a belly pan?

    I wonder if T595 Bodywork could fit this new bike…