Triumph Speed Triple RS: “Hooligan tool for the grown-up delinquent”
Story: Mat Durrans
The rebirth of Triumph motorcycles in 1983 and its subsequent story of successful expansion into a major player within the very competitive worldwide motorcycle market has a genuine feel-good factor. After the onslaught of Japanese bikes in the 1960’s and ’70’s had finally finished off the sleeping-on-the-job British bike industry, many of us thought that was the last we’d ever see of the once dominant Brit motorcycle.
Thankfully a multi-millionaire Englishman by the name of John Bloor, who’d made his money in the construction business, had other ideas. He revived the company and brought a small range of bikes back to the market, and as uninspiring as they were it was a solid start to reviving a famous marque.
Over the years the range was expanded, bit by bit, and gradually Triumph became a genuine contender with a series of class-leading bikes.
In the face of some serious obstacles, including the factory burning to the ground and the onset of a global recession, the company has continued to surge forwards. Unfortunately for South Africans there has been another, more recent blip in that progress. Last year the local distributor lost the right to sell Triumph, and in the aftermath a deluge of new bikes was dumped onto the market at bargain basement prices.
Although this might have been good news for those lucky few who managed to pick up one of those bargains, the knock-on effect was to devalue any bikes that were already in circulation. Existing Triumph owners, generally a proud and loyal bunch, felt betrayed. Their own bikes were now worth less and there was the worry about on-going support for the brand.
Those worries have now been solved with the establishment of a new distributor for South Africa with the full support of the factory, second-hand prices are recovering nicely and a comprehensive range of new models is now available once again.
It’s good news for us bike journalists as well because we have new models to test, and with many new bikes from which to choose I opted for one of my all-time favourite Triumph models.
I’m a naked bike fan, and that means I’ve always been a fan of the Speed Triple. Because of the South African shenanigans I’d never ridden the latest iteration of this bike, and luckily for me Triumph SA has decided to bring in the RS version, the top of the Speed Triple range.
The RS version has had its glorious 1050cc triple-cylinder modified with 100 new parts, and the result is a bump in power up to 112Kw. The result is a creamy smooth growling engine that has an unbelievably linear power delivery. That means the torque and power combine to generate a seamless rush of progress, no matter which part of the rev range you choose to use.
This RS version now brings the Speed Triple firmly into the 21st century with a beautiful colour TFT dash that can easily be navigated between some genuinely useful rider modes.
Sport, Road, Rain and a RS-mode that can be configured to your own preferences are the options. All modes adjust throttle response and power delivery, along with traction control levels. Road and sport use the full power, but restrict it in Rain mode while winding up TC to the max. Along with the change in mode comes a change in the presentation of the dash – all of which are fantastically pleasing to the eye.
On the handling front the ride, thankfully, represents an evolution of everything I’ve loved about the previous generations of Speed Triple. The chassis generates a lovely mix of agility without in any way compromising stability, and so going fast never generates any worrying wobbles or weaves.
On this RS version the suspension is top quality equipment from Ohlins, and the brakes are of equal sporting royalty coming from Brembo. Stopping power is exactly what you’d expect, and its ABS can be fine-tuned for track antics by disabling the system on the rear.
Naked bikes have always thrived on the ‘hooligan’ aspect of their characters, and though it easy to embrace this aspect with endless wheelies and pointless skids there’s a new level of sophistication to this Speed Triple. The electronics and the dash are obvious examples, but look closer and you’ll find a bike with beautiful build quality and some judicious use of some gorgeous carbon fibre parts.
This is a hooligan tool for the grown-up delinquent with a taste for the finer things in life, a bike indeed for someone like me. All I need now is a bit more money in my bank account and this R216 000 machine will take pride of place in my garage.