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  • April 8, 2011
  • Gabe Ets-Hokin
  • Nelson & Riles
  • 38 Comments

2011 Triumph 675R: MD First Ride

Sometimes a motorcycle company deserves a hearty “well done,” a cheap cigar and a pat on the back. Triumph’s success with its 675 Daytona is one of these times. It was not so long ago that Triumph seemed to be floundering in the sportbike department. The 955 Daytona was never a huge success (although a very nice machine to ride, to be sure), and was quickly outclassed by its Japanese and Italian competition. Its middleweight cousins, the TT600, Speed Four and Daytona 650 were solid bikes, but again, it was tough for a small company like Triumph to compete in a class with two-year product life cycles, and the machines were outgunned before they entered the showrooms.

That all changed when the new Daytona 675 came out in 2006. Triumph’s product planners made a brilliant decision to build the best bike in its class—an all-new class of one, using Triumph’s signature inline-triple engine configuration. With down-low torque, a class-leading 110 horsepower at the back wheel and a feathery 410-pound wet weight, it was an instant hit with magazine testers and sportbikers alike. In fact, 96 percent of 675 owners call their bikes outstanding, and 97 percent recommend the bike to friends. Thanks to its dominance in the class-of-one, as well as a slowdown in new supersport model introductions from other brands, the 675 is still a strong contender in the middleweight market, despite just one minor update (aside from BNG) in five model years. So how do you make a good thing better? Ducati will tell you, if you care to ask—make an “R” model with premium suspension and brakes. That’s just what Triumph’s done for 2011 with the 675R.

I got to ride the 675R and the revamped Speed Triple (but that’s another story) for two days not too far from the MD headquarters. A day on the street, on the twisty roads leading to Idyllwild, California, and a day on the incredibly fun new Chuckwalla raceway. Before the ride, Triumph’s technical guru Chris Langlois told us what was different about the R.

Not only does the 675R get full Öhlins suspension, it’s just about the best you can buy if you don’t have a factory sponsorship patch on your leathers—or even if you do. In front is the NIX30 43mm inverted fork, available for the first time on a production model of any brand, according to Chris. It offers 2mm more slider diameter than the fork on the standard 675 (for better rigidity), but offers the same travel. As for adjustability, well, what do you think? Of course there is full adjustability—preload, compression and rebound damping, fore and aft, but more importantly, the adjusters actually do something when you turn them. Other brands (and I’ve been told this by at least one OEM rep) put the adjusters on there, but they often work about as well as the “PUSH TO CROSS” buttons mounted near crosswalks. You see, they don’t want you to adjust it wrong, hurt yourself, then sue them (what, you think that hasn’t happened?). So you’re paying for adjustable damping, but getting only “slightly” adjustable.

For even more racetrack credibility, Triumph has upgraded the brakes as well. Instead of the Nissin units on the standard 675, the R has monoblock Brembo racing calipers. The disc size is unchanged, but the master cylinder is also upgraded to an 18mm Brembo unit. Triumph promises a 10 percent increase in “braking performance.”

Now how much would you pay? But wait, there’s more. You also get a factory quickshifter (this interrupts ignition during clutch-less upshifts) and some carbon-fiber—a front fender, rear hugger and some trim pieces. All for the low, low price of $11,999, and I checked that price twice as I thought it was a typo. It’s just $1500 more than the standard 675, plus you get the cool red accents on the wheels and subframe (and no, even though I speculated about lighter wheels in our 675R first look story, the wheels are the same as the stocker). That doesn’t even cover the cost of the forks, much less the brakes, shock or quickshifter. How do they do it?

Who cares? I get to ride the bike on a very fun track, with smooth pavement, maddeningly challenging corners and a sweet banked bowl turn with no limits on how fast you can exit. And that’s where the 675R is really meant to be, although it makes a fine streetbike as well. The suspension is excellent (especially when there are two Öhlins USA techs on hand to set it up for you); compliant, controlled and very comfortable. One of the techs asked me how it was, and I, not being much of a suspension guy, said it felt so good I forgot about suspension completely—if we had been in Massachusetts or Vermont he might have asked me to marry him on the spot. The other journos—some of whom are top-level AMA guys who can truly utilize the capabilities of good suspension—were similarly impressed.

The brakes are just as sweet. The master cylinder provides great feel at the lever, the pads bite hard, and the power is fantastic, with a single-finger squeeze sufficient for my slow-ish pace. The Nissin calipers (and Brembo master) on the Speed Triple feel nice, too, but the top-shelf Brembos just feel…expensive. And the quickshifter is just a no-brainer. Once you get used to using it, you wonder how you ever managed without one, it makes banging though the Triple’s smooth gearbox and close ratios so easy.

Just as I remembered from the last time I rode a 675, the motor is the best part of the experience. Powerful on top, strong-pulling down low, and very smooth everywhere. Unlike some other middleweights, gear selection is not as important, which lets you focus on learning a new track, for instance. Or finding the perfect line thorough your favorite turn. Triumph calls the R the “ultimate trackday tool,” and while everybody has their own idea of what that is, I’d bet the 675R is close to what most of us want—competent, forgiving, controlled and very fast when it needs to be. It may be getting long in the tooth, but it’s still sharp enough to please the most discerning riders.

On the street the 675R can be very civil. I thought that while compact—with a 55-inch wheelbase and a width of just 28 inches it’s hard to find a narrower sportbike—the seating was humane, with a comfortable reach to the bars and pegs that felt naturally placed. The seat is hard, as you’d expect, but wind protection is surprisingly good. And that Triple makes for a much easier experience riding at low speeds, although I struggled a little with an abrupt off-idle throttle response. All is forgiven when you hear that three-cylinder exhaust note behind you, though.

Twelve grand is a lot for a middleweight sportbike, half again as much as you’d pay not very long ago. But what you get is at least half again compared to the 80-hp, 480-pound middleweights from the late ’90s, bikes with soggy suspenders, crummy tires and poor cornering clearance. So I’ll say it again—well done, Triumph and where do I send the box of Cohibas? Were I in the market for a middleweight trackbike, the 675R would be on the top of a very short list.

MotorcycleDaily attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report. 

38 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    I like in the UK and bought a 675R recently (you should feel lucky, it’s £10k or $16,000 US more or less over here! Subsidising Triumph’s purchase of market share I guess)… but anyway, I traded a 2009 675 for it and while I loved the 675 Daytona the R version is simply stunning. I’m 43, 5-9, 165 lbs and fit so the riding position doesn’t kill me (at least 70-90 minutes lol). The bike is confidence-inspiring and I am killing litre bikes left and right on it. Recommended!

  2. Gritboy says:

    Sweet bike. I’ve sat on a few at showrooms, but by the time I sign in at demo rides they’re all checked out.

  3. Hefner says:

    I just read somewhere else that the shiny new Ohlins parts lack externally adjustable Hi-Speed Compression… Can you confirm?

    I realise this is an adjuster best left alone for the most part, but it is handy to have when adjusting for track work in the rain…

  4. Dashui says:

    Watch out! My friend just paid $800 for a valve adjustment on his Speedmaster!

  5. Neil says:

    I remember sitting on the first 675R and the bars were just too low for me. I know this is fine on a twisty track but on the street I would be ready to get off within a half hour. I actually like the new CBR600F but we are not getting it here in the States. That being said, the 675R is an awesome machine and it’s nice if you want a track spec bike right out of the box. Suspension. Tranny. All the goodies right from the factory and a motor slipped between the Ducati and four cylinder rivals. Nicely done!

  6. Hefner says:

    Given that the last update was clearly aimed at improving the racing product, one has to assume that this update was no different. It’s a shame their 600WSS racing plans fell through, it would have been good to see them mixing it up with the big-4.

  7. jimbo says:

    Gabe’s articles have come a long way from his City Bike stories (admittedly fantasy, we hope/suppose) about LSD-crazed riders storming SF Bay Area streets. Good job! Sure beats the pants off the pathetic grammar school drivel passing for writing on other free sites and glossies!

  8. Tom Barber says:

    This is a very well-written article, and the bike is truly a beauty. It is very Ducati-esque, and not by coincidence. There can be no doubt as to what is going on with the trellis sub-frame frame painted brilliant red. Ducati purists might object, but there is no arguing that it is a beautiful bike, and no doubt an excellent bike to ride as well.

    The strikingly good looks also owe a lot to the under-seat placement of the pipes. Good for looks, but without question it leads to a significantly hotter seat. Lots of showroom appeal, but after owning the bike through a hot summer, most buyers would probably wish for a more conventional placement of the pipes.

    • Rem says:

      I have an ’09 D675 – and while the seat does get noticeably warm, it’s never gotten to the point of being unbearable, and I’ve taken 200+ mile trips in 100+ degree weather. And I’ve heard if you replace the seat with a gel seat you get almost no heat at all.
      I just wish I could justify adding a third Triumph to my collection, but the girlfriend is quick to point out I’ve already added a quickshifter to mine and just need the suspension and brakes to almost turn mine into an R lol

      • Roadrash1 says:

        Rem,
        I don’t know if I should congratulate you, or give my sympathy for having a GF so in-tune with your 2-wheeled World! I can replace any bike I ever owned, (or add one) without my wife noticing, as long as I don’t deviate too much from current color selection of my inventory! I know my wife wouldn’t be able to tell if I had an automatic transmission on a bike, let alone a quick-shifter! Good Luck!

  9. jimbo says:

    I can remember no mid-size race replica with really attractive cosmetics except for Ducati’s uber-costly 749 and 848 series twins. But this white 675 looks sharp as a pin, equal or better than the Duck.

  10. XLCR says:

    Buell is not dead, the new Buell 1190RS is going into production as we speak.

    • jimbo says:

      Confused verb tense: the bike is either in production or not. In what specific state of production is it, on what date and time, and what is the production location, and who/what is the info source?

      Barring that…”vapor ware.”

  11. MikeD says:

    Superb piece of equipment at a “reasonable” MSRP. Now where’s the “Made for FULL SIZE HUMANs” (6’+) 1200cc Triple Daytona ? Or the spied Super Tiger and “New” Trophy ?

    • Brinskee says:

      Actually – and this may only apply to the Street Triple – but at 6′ 6″ and 220 pounds, the street triple fit me fine. I can’t imagine the Daytona being that much different. Go demo one and let us know what you think! :-)

      • John says:

        You must be more flexible than me Brinskee. I bought a CB1000R a few years back after trying the Street Triple. I’m only 6’4″ but found the Triple really cramped. Fun as hell for about the first 15 mins tho if you fit on it – but I definitely wanted more room.

    • jimbo says:

      I’m over 6′ too, and I feel your pain. The thing is though, nobody needs 150hp. If there was just some way they could make a bike with physically larger ergonomics throughout, but with minimal weight penalty. That would be the ticket IMHO!

      • MikeD says:

        Allow me to be the first one to say it…I can’t probably properly use 25HP, much less 150 BUT is just nice to know they are “inside the stable” to call upon them at any given time (SMELLS like SQUID) LMAO. Thats why i don’t mind a 1200cc Triple. Is all on our right wrist…and not thinking with our one eye head or if ur a girl with your tubes…or w/e is the term. lol.

        I guess for lanky folks the big duals are our last resort…haaaaa ! and even them are falling for the whole “lower seat height for this year” B.S.
        I don’t mean to sound unconsiderated to shorter people, i was just venting.

    • Stinky says:

      Pretty slim market for giant bikes. I feel your pain (kinda) @6′, but, thankfully they do happen to have at least something for tall folks. That wasn’t the case even a decade ago (excluding GS BMW). Racer replicas unfortunately are for 5’8″ to 5’10’ short inseam long torso people. 1200’s are just too much to be really fun. The ZX10 goes 136 in second gear, most big bikes don’t get the exercise they deserve. I know I don’t have anyplace to run ‘em.

  12. eddie says:

    ducati always knew people were willing to pay extra for top shelf suspension parts. good job triumph for doing the same. whats with the 80s-look magenta wheel striping?

  13. the bottom pic riding on the street i’d really like to know: what brand and model are the pants? i really need to drop the jeans gig, and get some textile riding pants, for the additional protection & comfort… i must have 8 leather riding jackets and only 1 pair of leather pants that no longer fit… anybody know the brand of pants pictured?
    having installed ohlins on my bmw, i know for a fact these suspenders must transform the 675r… now if i could just find a demo ride… ;)

    • brinskee says:

      I think those are actually leather pants… but if you want some awesome textile pants, check out Rev’it. They make some GREAT gear. And I agree with the comment below, Triumph owners have great branded gear to choose from, just like us Ducati guys. Dainese branded leathers anyone? Yes, please! :-)

    • Gabe says:

      Those are Shift Havoc pants–I love them, they are my favorite and most comfy street pants I have. They are leather and textile, patterned after a motocross pant, and with CE armor in the knees. The sad news is that Fox is killing the Shift street brand. The good news is you’ll be able to find them on clearance at most motorcycle shops.

      Bike bandit has them for $130:

      http://www.bikebandit.com/shift-havoc-motorcycle-pants?WT.mc_id=1484958&CAWELAID=549989470

      • thank you, Gabe…. greatly appreciate the help…. off shopping i go… ;) the rev’it products are nice, with top quality materials, but you need to sell a kidney to afford some of there stuff…. decisions-decisions

    • Philip says:

      Those look like my Shift Havoc pants. They are a mix leather/textile. Good pants, run small, you can find in close-out now. Not for hot weather.

  14. kpaul says:

    Nice review. Gabe you have the best job in the world but you are a great writer so I guess it’s OK. :) The 675R thing is a brilliant concept by Triumph. For a few dollars more than the stock bike you get an awesome bike for a very reasonable price. Of course Ducati has been doing the same thing for years but this bike is in the budget of almost everyone unlike the Ducatis. Test road a Daytona a couple years before I bought my heavily discounted carryover 2007 ZX-6R. At the time I loved performance and sound of the Triple. But I was little concerned about the ergos at the time because I had a very comfortable 01 Ninja. I think my 07 Ninja probably has the same ergos as this Triumph oh well.

  15. Roadrash1 says:

    One of these would sure look nice parked in my garage, next to my Street Triple R.

    I’m having as much fun being a Triumph guy, as I used to have being a Buell guy…

    • kpaul says:

      I hate you… I agree having a Street Triple and this bike would be motorcycle nirvana :) Triumphs have cool T Shirts, Leathers, etc like Buell used to as well :)

    • Stinky says:

      I’m REALLY envious. Triumph is the one bike I really regret not having in the garage. Hopefully I’ll remedy that this year. I’d really love to see this suspension package on the Street & Speed Triple also. I’m gonna have to get more than a sit on the 675s. Buells have their place but, RIP. Mine are here for good but time to move on and get a Triumph!

  16. Vinny says:

    I was Manager of a dealership that had just picked up Triumph about 8 mths. before the owner decided to close the store…it was in the middle of “the recession” when most brands sales figures were off, Triumph was holding their own…..now they have all these great bikes !! being out of work for over a yr. , I sold most of my bikes to pay the mortgage, ending up with 2 Triumphs ( Sprint and Thruxton ) and my vintage Ducati. I could’nt live without mt Trumpets !!

  17. Jack says:

    Man…would I ever like to see that bike in my garage..well done!

  18. brinskee says:

    What a sexy machine. I would love to rip around the track on one of these! Nice review.

  19. paulysr says:

    same MSRP as the new GSX-R 750. I think a compairson test is in order, anyone seccond?

    • dazoz says:

      I’ve recently acquired a GSX-R750 2004, though the Trumpy 675 was my first thought to replace my venerable 1999 ZZR/Ninja 1100 the insurance company considered uneconomic to repair after a manic dog headbutted the lower right fairing, also causing damage to the lower left fairing. But the 2nd hand Trumpy 675s I checked out online were above what I could afford. That’s even after accessing enough funds to more than double the paltry payout from the insurance company. I’m still becoming acquainted with the Gixxer, have done several 80+ miles rides, only problem being numbness of the hands but that’s happened when I’ve been riding the previous XJ900 and the Ninja1100. Being 5’2″/140lbs I have no problem fitting into the Gixxer’s riding position with the seat lowered as far as it can be. The 2004 GSX-R750 is a rorty little machine with great acceleration on tap in the lower gears at even urban speeds. From the little I’ve seen of the 2011 model, it’s even more awesome, a bit more weight that’s more than offset by the increase in power. A GSX-R750 was my 2nd choice after a Triumph 675 when casting around for a replacement bike but now I think it was the better alternative – the 2004 may have been surpassed by a generation or two but it rocks!

  20. Bagadonitz says:

    It sure is pretty.