Bondo manages to get one last ride in before the season comes to a crashing end. Triumph offer up their new Sprint GT to do the job.
When I was a kid growing up in southern Ontario, mid-November usually meant that our backyard ice rink was already in pretty good shape.
Lately however, mid-November means getting in the last few rides of the season before the snow falls and the salt trucks leave crap all over the roads. If global warming means I get to ride a couple more months each year, then I’m all for it.
This year’s finalist for the “Freeze Yer Goolies Fall Wrap-Up Ride” was the 2011 Triumph Sprint GT – a heavily revised (and 60 pounds heavier) evolution of the ST.
I was originally scheduled to get the Sprint in September, but I was told that someone from a national motorcycle magazine (who shall remain nameless) blew the clutch out of it and it was hors de combat for a while.
The Sprint is powered by the latest version of Triumph’s trademark 1050 cc three cylinder engine. The new, side-mount muffler and revised internals result in more peak torque as well as boosting mid range oomph, which makes it better in the real world.
Maximum power is up to around 128 and the familiar three-cylinder guttural purr is still the sweetest sound this side of Michelle Pfeiffer whispering in your ear (1980s Pfeiffer? – ‘arris?).
I still kinda prefer the look of the old exhaust, which exited under the seat and had three separate tips. The new system is probably better, allowing a lower pillion seat and pegs, and a welcome reduction in heat to the posterior.
The motor is an absolute jewel. It’s smooth and tractable and the EFI is well-sorted. It doesn’t have the prodigious grunt off the bottom of an FJR or 1250 Bandit but once over 2,500 rpm or so, you won’t be disappointed.
Winding through the gears accompanied by that beautiful growl, you get the feeling that the Sprint has so much power in reserve that it’s bored with whatever it is you’re doing back there.
The six speed box was a bit stiff and on the notchy side – not the slick, “hot knife through butter” shifting action usually associated with Triumph trannys.
A SPORTY EDGE?
Through Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands’ best two-lane roads, it was rock solid and very confidence inspiring. The long 1457 mm wheelbase meant that the Sprint steered a bit like a truck, although with that comes rock-solid stability.
The traditional forks and single shock aren’t exactly ground-breaking or overly sophisticated but the spring and damping rates seem well matched to the bike and the suspension was supple enough to absorb the divots but responsive enough for sportiness as well.
The riding position is definitely on the sporty side and even my simian armspan found the reach to the bars a bit on the long side. There’s lots of leg room as the seat height is a manageable 815 mm (32.1 inches) and the seat itself is quite comfortable.
Unfortunately, the low screen took most of the wind off my chest and funneled it directly at my helmet. Those over six feet might opt for a taller screen.
I was disappointed that the GT didn’t have heated grips. They’re optional, but why every motorcycle imported into Canada doesn’t have hot grips installed at the factory is totally beyond me. What would it cost at that level – ten bucks a bike?
Both brake and clutch lever are four-position adjustable but, even when adjusted as close to the grip as possible, the brake lever is still WAAAAY out there. I could only reach with my fingertips and engagement happened after the lever had traveled only a millimeter or two.
Because of this, the brakes felt stiff and wooden with very little feel or feedback and were a major disappointment – Triumph has some work to do here.
DISTANCE TO EMPTY
The Sprint’s standard hard bags are spacious (each one holds 31 liters and will easily swallow a full-face helmet), waterproof and conveniently opened by the ignition key.
An optional topbox holds an additional 50 liters and comes with a 12V receptacle to charge all the electronic gizmos most people seem to surround themselves with these days.
Triumph use a slightly odd bag mounting system that includes a sliding rod that links the bags across the bike, allowing them to pivot slightly.
This is supposedly to prevent buffeting and turbulence from the fairing and bags being transferred to the chassis at speed, but it also makes the bags annoyingly rattly on their mounts every time you hit a bump.
The instruments are quite good, maintaining the triple theme with three round gauges – a tach, a speedo and an LCD display on the right for all the computer-generated info such as a stopwatch, average fuel economy, current fuel economy, distance remaining, clock etc.
Cycling through this means leaning forward and pushing a tiny, dash mounted button – not overly convenient when it’s mid-November and you are wearing bulky, insulated gloves.
For a sport touring motorcycle with such long legs, the 20-liter fuel tank seems a bit smallish. Average fuel consumption ranged from 5.7 – 6.1L/100km, which should give a range of around 350 km.
The “distance to empty” feature on the trip computer is a bit off too. Shortly after filling up, it showed 311 km to empty. After I’d done 80 klicks, it showed 332 km.
The Sprint GT is slimmer, trimmer and sportier than any of the “traditional” sport touring mounts such as the Concours 14, ST1300 and FJR1300 and, at $14,399 (including hard bags, centrestand, trip computer and ABS) it’s also thousands less Beaver Bucks.
Winding the Sprint down Highway 507 for the final time in 2010, I noted that when the leaves are off the trees, everything opens up. In summer, everything is just a blur of green, but now it’s flashes of glittering water, unseen cottages and distant hills.
It was such a fitting way to end the riding season, I almost lapsed into poetry – or worse, a country and western song.
|Triumph Sprint GT|
|four-stroke, dohc triple,|
|Power (crank)*||128 HP @ 9,200 rpm|
|80 ftlbs @ 6,300 rpm|
|Six speed, chain drive|
|120/70 ZR 17|
|180/55 ZR 17|
|Twin 320 mm disc with four-piston|
|Single 255 mm disc with dual-piston|
|815 mm (32.1″)|
|1537 mm (60.5 “)|
|265 kg (583 lb)|