First Ride: 2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS

CARTAGENA, Spain—If I were to choose just one bike to ride at track days, it would be the Triumph Daytona, not the Street Triple that’s the subject of this review. I don’t know if it would be the 675 or the upcoming 765, simply because I haven’t yet ridden the bigger bike. But I have ridden the 675 on several occasions, and it’s proven to be very well balanced, it has big midrange torque, it doesn’t overwhelm you with power the way a litre bike does, and it sounds great.

On the road, however, I classify the Daytona as I do any supersport: it’s simply unbearable for everyday riding or on longer trips, due to its extreme riding position.

But if I could only afford one motorcycle, and my riding included everyday use as well as regular track-day outings, my Number One choice would be the just-refreshed Triumph Street Triple 765 RS.

The same power but more torque, and a host of other little improvements, too.

What it’s about

I first rode the Street Triple 765 RS at its intro in 2017. That’s when it got a complete redesign, lost a few kilos, and bumped its displacement to 765 cc from 675 through a larger bore and longer stroke. Also, at the time, you could choose from three variations: the S, R and RS. For 2020, at least initially, only the highest-performance $14,040 RS is available, with its price unchanged from the previous model. There’s no news yet if the other models will follow.

Maximum output on this refreshed RS is 121 horsepower and 58.3 lb.-ft. of torque. While the horsepower number is the same as the previous bike, peak torque is up, and that increase is mostly from 6,000 to 10,000 rpm. The change comes via a new exhaust system, intake tract and cams, which enhances power delivery throughout the midrange on a bike that was pretty strong to begin with.

Those eyebrows on the top of the headlights are DRLs in most of the world, but in North America, they’re a kinda cool aesthetic touch.

Immediately noticeable from the front are the sleeker, more aggressive headlights. They incorporate LED eyebrows, which in other markets serve as daytime running lights; DRLs are not yet approved for motorcycles in North America, though, so our bikes will have the eyebrows lit in conjunction with the halogen headlights. They’ll serve more as ornamental lights, though they no doubt make the bike more visible.

The configurable TFT instrument panel has new display graphics, but I preferred the old display, mostly because without my reading spectacles, I just can’t see the smaller script. [We’re none of us getting any younger, Costa – Ed.] The tachometer is now primarily numeric, with additional symmetric bars extending from the centre as revs pick up, shown either at the top or bottom of the screen depending on the selected display layout. On the track, the lack of a large tachometer display is an unfortunate oversight.

Damn! Where’d I put my glasses? Costa had problems reading this TFT screen, and it’s too bad there’s not an option for a giant tachometer.

The tailpiece is modified to include airflow vents, which improve aerodynamics, and the tailpipe is now topped off with a carbon-fibre trim piece. There are two important changes to the electronics: one is the addition of a quick shifter that works in both directions, the other is that the ABS can no longer be turned off. Traction control has four levels of adjustment and it can be switched off, while the ABS has two levels. Ride modes include Rain, Road, Sport, Track, and Rider, which is configurable as you like it.

As before, Showa provides the big piston fork, and Ohlins the STX40 shock absorber; suspension is fully adjustable front and rear. Tires are Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3s.

What a ride!

Well, it didn’t take long for me to come sphincter-puckeringly close to binning a bike at the track.

After two sighting laps, we were let loose to ride at our own pace, which for me is as fast as I can go. After my first lap, while approaching the right-hander following Cartagena’s 610-metre front straight at around 210 km/h, I squeezed the brake lever late and hard, only to trip the ABS, which then continued to cycle as I watched the edge of the racetrack approach. I shaved off just enough speed to turn in before riding into the gravel trap, and into dumbass moto-journo history. I adjusted my braking markers after this to avoid a repeat, though it did repeat, two more times throughout the day at different locations on the track.

This is what Costa looks like when he’s “adjusting the brake markers.”

Triumph claims that new regulations prevent allowing a rider to shut off the ABS.  I’ve ridden several bikes on which ABS can be switched off, so I was somewhat sceptical. I searched and found the European regulation that states that “Disabling the antilock brake system function shall only be allowed when the vehicle is fitted with a ride mode selector that is in an “off-road” or “all-terrain” mode.” What a bummer.

This isn’t a Street Triple issue, it’s an ABS issue – I’ve ridden other bikes with various ABS modes on the track and have experienced similar situations. However, when they are in track-specific ride modes, the ABS is almost invisible. Although the RS was in Track mode, which places the ABS in the least intrusive mode, I feel that further tuning of the ABS is necessary to optimise it for track use. Either that or an owner can simply figure out how to cancel it, though if you do and crash, don’t go suing Triumph.

See that right knee skimming the asphalt? That’s why we pay Costa the big bucks.

Aside from that hiccup, the bike performed flawlessly on the track. It exhibited excellent stability on a few of the fast sweepers, snapped into turns even while trailing deep on the brakes, and its substantial midrange torque powered it out of turns with seat-foam-scrunching force.

It’s fast, the engine seemingly has power no matter what the hard-to-read tach reads, throttle modulation is easily manageable, and for me, the upright riding position is better suited for throwing a bike around a tight racecourse like Cartagena — or the majority of racetracks in Canada — than a supersport machine. The OEM tires also provided peg-scraping grip, though with more time I’d have cranked up the rear preload to handle my lardy ass and keep the peg feelers from sparking.

And Triumph does a quick shifter right. It worked flawlessly at the track for up- and downshifts, and it also worked well at lower speeds on the earlier street ride. It allows smooth clutch-less gear changes at low speeds while maintaining light shifter effort, something I cannot say about any other quick-shifter I’ve tried. I usually resort to clutch shifting on the road on other bikes, but not on this one.

On the street, the Street Triple RS is a gem. Its engine is smooth, the riding position is roomy, and the suspension is compliant, though the roads in the hills west of Cartagena were nearly flawless.

Some Spanish highways are little different from the nearby racetracks, at least in their road quality.

Should you?

If you want a bike with middleweight supersport performance and handling, but are a cranky old fart like me who complains that supersport machines suck on the street because of sore wrists, sore neck, aching back and yadda, yadda, yadda, the Street Triple 765 RS is an ideal alternative. It feels more refined and planted, and has more power, than the KTM 790 Duke (though that’s an awesome bike, too, and it costs less), exhibits an excellent level of fit and finish (look at one up close), and it has that unmistakable inline-triple drone that really tickles the ears.

It was a great bike before, and aside from one unavoidable hitch (the non-switchable ABS), and one that could have been avoided (the revised instrument display), it’s been mostly improved. And the $14,040 price didn’t budge, at least not in the wrong direction, which is always a good thing.

Is that Costa looking sexy and confident? We’ll never tell.

One thought on “First Ride: 2020 Triumph Street Triple 765 RS”

  1. Seat-peg relationship looks a bit tight for those of us who are a bit taller (6’2″ with 34″ inseam here). Probably not any worse (or possibly better) than other sporty bikes, though.

    Impressive power output and torque curve for the size of the engine. This is why I never understand the “retuning for torque” often done to open class bikes that leave them with rather paltry output. It’s not like open class bikes, even if tuned for power, are typically lacking in torque.

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