Review: 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS
Story: Donovan Fourie
Ladies and gentlemen, Triumph Motorcycles is back in South Africa after a hiatus that has lasted since the last bike from KMSA was sold in November last year. This means that we have not yet seen any new Triumph models since June last year, and have some catching up to do, and so we dive in head first and jump aboard Triumph’s flagship model; the long standing king of streetfighters, the 2018 Speed Triple.
It was given the name “King of the Streetfighter” in 1994 when it joined the Ducati Monster in this beastly naked showdown. It was as stylish as the Italian and sported more in the way of power and vigour, earning its title wholeheartedly.
That was 1994, this is 2018, and the world has caught on to the big angry streetfighter in a massive way. We have KTM’s Super Duke sporting more power than anything else in its line up, Aprilia’s Tuono offering one of the most advanced electronics packages in the world, BMW’s S1000R throwing in German sophistication and performance, and Yamaha joining the battle with their stereotypically Japanese MT-10. Then there is the Speed Triple’s old adversary – the Ducati Monster, now available as a 1200S or a 1200R.
This new Speed Triple (available only in the RS version in South Africa) is mostly new with updates noticeable from every angle, and while Triumph has put in a concerted effort, we fear that the numbers don’t quite add up, or don’t quite add up to enough. Especially when the opposition is adding up to a helluva lot.
At this point a heated inner monologue ensues. There are two parts of me, both represented by two of my television voices – there’s the voice over one that acts much like a conscience, delivering what is right and just. Then there is my link voice. A link, in tv terms, is a part of the script that is spoken by the individual while addressing the camera. My link voice is my sulky, childish self. These two parts of me had a bit of a tiff:
Okay, before we get all teary eyed, let me just say that I have a strange relationship with this bike, and it starts when I first began motorcycle journalism nearly 20 years ago.
Is that the moment when we rode the Street Triple 675? It was light, nimble, perky, full of life and deeply loveable. Remember? It was a joyous introduction to motorcycle testing. Logic dictated that if the Street Triple was good, the Speed Triple should be epic!
Yes, and remember that we then rode one, and were not happy. The motor was meatier but certainly not much faster than the Street, and instead of being light and nimble, it was just massive and heavy and unwiedly. It was so big that you had to go full porn star to get your legs around the tank. What makes you think that this model will be any better?
Listen, Mr Pessimism, we won’t know until we give it a go. Look at the motor – a triple, of course, with 1050cc, as it has been since 2005, and for 2018 they have given it 105 new bits, such as a new cylinder head that increases the compression, newly profiled pistons that increase the cylinder pressure and improve gas flow, the fly wheel is light for easier revving and the rev limiter is up 1000rpm to 11,250. All this increases the horsepower to 148, ten more than its predecessor. Torque of also up from 112 to 117Nm.
Yeah yeah. That’s more than the previous Speed Triple, agreed, but it’s still less than just about every other big naked bike from Europe. And it has a dry weight of 189kg, the heaviest in its class. How is that good?
You can clearly see the division here. How is it that I have never been carried away in a straitjacket?
Hang on, this RS model now comes with a Continental IMU, offering top notch traction control and cornering ABS, plus there is cruise control and a good dollop of different riding modes. That’s good right?
Well, yeah, but this bike does not come standard with a quick shifter. There is nothing. Nadda. You have to use a clutch to change down. Do you know how exhausting that is?
Well, very few bikes come out with a quick shifter as standard. And most test bikes are fitted with the optional extra. Stop sulking because this one doesn’t have it. Quite frankly, you need the exercise. So, are we writing this machine off completely, then? Shall we tell our esteemed viewers to forget about it and tell Triumph to return to the moist island from whence they came?
You might have been tempted to call a special clinic at this stage and report some lunatic on the internet (granted, if the clinics got phone calls every time someone found a lunatic on the internet, I fear that their reception desks will be replaced by customer care call centres. Big ones. The size of India). However, I implore you to pause, because lunacy is sometimes just the process of genius.
No no no. Hang on. We haven’t finished yet. This dash, look at it. It’s full colour TFT and I think the designers went on a conference in Amsterdam when they came up with it. It is truly psychedelic, but at the same time, I just love it. The rider modes are signified by images portraying a rain cloud, a straight road, a twisty road, a race track and one showing a rider wearing a helmet signifying the custom mode section. They are good fun. More so, the dash offers three different design variations showing different versions of the speedometer and rev counter. It also switches automatically between day mode and night mode.
Ah, at last some positivity. Admit that there’s more to this bike, though.
Oh alright. I must admit that the seating position is perfect. The seat itself is both sporty and comfortable and I could happily spend a few hours in it without complaint – I hope KTM are paying attention. Then we get to some corners, and here is where the fun really starts.
Well, yeah. This, the RS model, is equipped with Ohlins NIX30 forks, an Ohlins TTX36 twin tube rear monoshock and Brembo monobloc callipers. You don’t really get better than that on a street bike.
Remember that model from twenty years that we didn’t like? Is this really the same model? Surely they should’ve just buried that whole range and started something new? Yes, this bike is called a Speed Triple, but it is nothing like that bike. It feels light and happy. Nippy even.
And that motor? Is it as bad as you thought?
Stop pressurising me, dammit! It definitely picks up revs quicker than its sluggish ancestor, and it pulls from pretty much anywhere on the rev range. More importantly, the sound. That sound! The big triple sound! It sounds manly. It sounds rugged. It sounds British. Not like Mat and Harry, but real British. Sit in a pub. Cheer for your football team. Go do a day’s work. Good rugged British. I quite like that.
Like in Step Brothers, when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly finally put their differences aside and go do karate in the garage, let’s leave those two alone for a while.
Spec sheets are good for many things, but as we have said many times before, they act merely as guidelines. Each bike has a personality that is just not conveyed in a spec sheet. Really good bikes have a personality and a soul. It’s true.
The Speed Triple has a character that makes it unique, gives it its own special identity. It talks to you, it sticks with you. It leaves an impression, one that keeps you entertained and keeps your heart strings thoroughly tugged.
This bike will probably be completely outperformed by most of its rivals, but it is just so loveable. Good heavens, I think I’m starting to catch the feelings.