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.