2002 Triumph Launch

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Words: Rob Harris Photos: Colin Fraser

Triumph Canada’s Chris Ellis and Co. wait nervously at the apex for Editor ‘arris during a photo shoot on those crappy California roads.

I was going to start this piece with the usual “life is pretty good when riding in California in February”, but I think I did that one with the BMW F650 CS, so I’ll avoid the temptation. Besides, I wouldn’t want to breed an atmosphere of annoyance amongst our valued readers.

So imagine my ‘despair’ at being invited down to ride a whole load of new Triumphs in crappy California (with its horrible climate and nasty twisty mountain roads), right before the BMW launch. I accepted. After all, this was the first time CMG has ever been invited on a Triumph launch. But let’s face it, I had nothing better to do and was all out of excuses.

I know, it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

But then to add insult to injury, there wasn’t just one bike to ride, but four! For fooks sake I thought, I’m not just going to have to ride the new generation triple motored Speed Triple, Sprint RS and ST, but the four cylindered TT600 as well.

My rubber arm was quickly twisted and before I could say “waiter, another Scotch please” I was riding out of Laguna Beach in search of canyon roads.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE TRIPLE

The new motor looks significantly different and somewhat sexier than the previous version.
Photo: Rob Harris

But enough bitching, before getting into how each of the bikes rode, it’s probably worth taking a gander at the third generation inline triple motor that graces all the models we had available, except of course the TT600 (c’mon people, pay attention).

Thankfully Triumph have come a long way since the original triple motors that graced such models as the Thunderbird (still around) and the rather bland Thunderbird Sport (dead and good riddance). Although they were not a bad start for a company that was effectively starting from scratch, I found them very reminiscent of an old Japanese four motor but with a bit less oomph (not exactly exciting).

The second generation triple that graced most of the line-up until last year was a vast improvement. It released the character of the triple; a lumpy power delivery similar to a twin but with the revability and howl of a four, and had the power of something you’d expect to be made in the nineties. The only problem was that it was quite an ugly mother, although you only really got to see the motor in the Tiger and Speed Triple models.

Last year they went back to work on the motor, utilising high pressure die-casting techniques to reduce weight and tighten up the tolerances. The compression ratio was upped from 11.2:1 to 12.0:1, larger inlet and smaller exhaust valves fitted and the alternator taken off from a separate drive and slapped onto the end of the crank. The end result was a cooler and quieter running motor, with a slicker shifting box and a whole load more potential power, thanks in part to revamped fuel injection and a larger air box.

Oh yes, and it’s 2.5 kg lighter, too.

Slap it into the Speed Triple chassis and you have sex on two wheels, and in pink too … err, I mean ‘Nuclear Red’

When Triumph launched the third generation version last year, they just slapped it in the Tiger and kept it in a low state of tune (maxing out at 104 bhp). Not wanting the motor to be labelled as a ‘minor improvement’, they quickly released the new Daytona 955i with a screaming 147 bhp version (claimed), that established the triple as a motor for the new century.

For 2002, they’ve also gone and slapped this motor in the Speed Triple, Sprint RS and ST, albeit it in a detuned form from the Daytona, claiming a maximum power output of 118 bhp for all three, along with a respectable torque knocking on 74 ftlb. Although the torque between these three and the Daytona is the same, there’s still a loss of almost thirty horses.

As devastating as that sounds, there’s also a significant drop in the rpms at where all this occurs. Whereas the Daytona needs to scream at 10,700 rpm and 8,200 rpm in order to realise its max power and torque respectively, the detuned versions produce their at a significantly lower 9,100 rpm and 5,100 rpm.

The result is a smirkenly fun gruntmeister motor, that pulls low down and across the entire rev range.

SPEED TRIPLE

It’s a Daytona sans plastic. Honest.

I’m going to give most space to this model as it’s the most significantly changed … and, well, it’s the most fun as well.

The Speed Triple is basically the new Daytona 955i without the fairing. Actually, it’s not quite that simple as it doesn’t have the same state of tune to the motor, it retains the single sided swingarm (the Daytona has switched to twin sided), has a fatter wheel & tire at the back and a different frame geometry for a longer wheelbase and softer rake angle. But apart from that, it’s a Daytona without the fairing, okay?

Modifications over the previous Speed Triple include a shorter wheelbase by 11 mm and a slightly sharper rake angle. This thanks to a reworked frame and jacking up the rear end which also increases ground clearance and makes it look meaner to boot (wouldn’t you if someone jacked up your rear end?). All in all, the bike manages to lose an additional 7 Kg in the redesign process.

Front stoppers are anchor like.

At this point I should declare that I love the Speed Triple. We tested one in late 2000 (see Larryfest 2000) and I loved just about everything except for the overly hard suspension and relatively high price. The 2002 version feels very similar except that the motor has an extra dollop of boost, making it even more hooligan than before. It also growls as you open it up, making it impossible to not drive with reckless abandon. Basically, if you like wheelies and/or stoppies then you’ve found your soul mate with Mr. Speedy T.

This inclination is not helped by the lack of bike in your peripheral vision when you’re on board. With wide bars and a relatively upright position, all you see is the new minimilistic console (digital speedo and dial revs) and the road ahead flowing beneath you. It’s like you’re flying on you’re own, only without the LSD and the crunch of bones as you finally hit ground zero. You also feel very much part of the bike, giving extra confidence when considering your next adolescent type move.

Should you get into a buttock clenching scenario, the front stoppers are super aggressive thanks to sintered pads, which make a huge difference over the same brakes, but different pads combo, found on the RS and ST. However, they are fierce. Grabbing a handful will put a lot of stress on the tire’s contact patch, and when it rained one day I tended to stick with the back for fear of a frontal lock-and-fall on the greasy asphalt.

Cornering is a breeze.

The suspension is still on the hard side, although the roads were too smooth to properly notice if it were still as hard as the previous model’s. However, combined with a good set of tires (Bridgestone Battleaxes), taught chassis and wide bars, cornering was a breeze and confidence inspiring. It also turns in quicker thanks to the new frame geometry.

However, it’s a bit of a shame that the seat was a thin plank, as otherwise the ergonomics work well. Even the tiny console works to deflect most of the wind off the torso, and the bit that does hit your head is non-turbulent and so okay up to speeds of 130 Km/h.

Looks-wise, I’m still not sure about that Nuclear Red paint (it’s pink I tell you, pink), but the cleaned up front end (with closer mated front googley lights) and the new motor make it the cat’s arse (that’s good). They’ve even gotten rid of those cheesy faux scoops at the back end, pulled the front indicators back and in a bit and pushed the tank further into that gorgeous flowing frame.

Unfortunately, the high price is still there at $14,499.00. The bike reminded me very much of Honda’s new 900F, which is $3,500.00 cheaper but also not as characterful. Overall Triumph has done a great update job on their sweetest bike, but then you have to ask yourself, what price are you willing to pay for exclusivity? Oh, and how can I give some money to those great CMG guys? (no you don’t, I just tried to slip that one in. I do that every now and then).

SPRINT RS & ST

The ST has a certain ‘remote’ quality.

I’ve never ridden an RS before. But then I’ve never really wanted to. I’m not sure why. I think it just looks bland, a bit like Lloyd Robertson. As a result it tends to go unnoticed, which is pretty much what Triumph are finding too (about the RS, not Lloyd).

That’s a shame really, because it’s quite a sweet bike, reminding me very much of Honda’s VFR800 but before the latest V-TECian makeover. It’s a relatively roomy bike and gives you a lot more feedback than the ST does. So much so, that I felt that I could really push it on the canyon roads, whereas the ST always felt a bit remote.

When we tested the ST last year I found the lack of rider feedback to be a real problem. The test bike came with badly worn tires, with a significant flat spot in the centre of the rear tread, which I put the vague feeling down to. Now I’m not so sure.

In fact, the ST was the first bike I rode during this trip and proved somewhat scary taking on the first canyon road with its gnarly bends, significant drop-offs to one side and a solid rock face to the other. It also didn’t help that I was trying to keep up with a bunch of … well, nutters – especially after an enforced ride vacation thanks to Old Man Winter.

Please give the RS the attention it deserves.

Although the fairing is significantly smaller on the RS than the ST, it works well and since it doesn’t come down and as far back as the ST’s, it doesn’t force you to splay your legs around it when at a stand still. Of course, it lacks the hard bags of the ST as well which does limit it’s tourability, but I guess Triumph are trying to give it some different characteristics to define it as a different model.

The new motor works well in the RS, but for some strange reason in the ST it didn’t seem to rev as cleanly or as strongly, although they’re essentially the same set-up. The RS also benefits from the new digital/dial compact console as found on the Speed Triple, which is sooo much better than the archaic mass of separate clocks that the ST still retains.

Where the RS could really do with some attention (and what might help get it noticed by potential buyers) is in the styling department. The small fairing is very rounded and disproportion and is totally massacred by the addition of an horrendous big chrome “RS” sticker on it’s sides. If Triumph could do to the RS what Honda did to the new VFR and make it look even a tad more aggressive, it might get the attention it deserves. Especially since they’re asking a $100 more to boot.

Actually, why not just redesign the fairing so it comes down a tad lower and looks a bit sharper, slap on some hard bags and call it an ST?

TT600

Who’s that lanky bastard?

Again, I’ve never ridden the TT until now, but I have been following the press reports on it and the total slamming it’s been getting thanks to problematic fuel injection mapping. Triumph reckon they’ve finally fixed it now, but then I seem to remember them claiming that before, only to be slammed again by the world press.

After a few hours in the saddle I can see why. This motor loves/needs to be spanked more than a Tory in a common bawdy house. It also reminds me so much of the old Honda CBR 600 F3. There’s very little happening below 7,000 rpm, after which it takes off … well, like a Tory during a police raid of a common bawdy house. But is the fuel injection finally fixed? Oh yes, it’s smooth but weak till that 7,000 mark and then smooth and strong all the way to the super high 14,000 rpm redline. Sweet.

Ergonomically, the bike feels quite small and at 170 kg with a wheelbase of 1,395 mm it’s in the same arena as the Japanese 600’s although down a notch on max horsepower figures. Where it really doesn’t do itself any favours (in my humble opinion) is styling. Those little round air scoops, passively shaped headlight and (once again) big chrome “TT” logo emblazoned on the side don’t do it any favours.

“My arse hurts”.

I found it to be a bit cramped too. But then I’m a lanky bastard, and I’d figure that anyone below the 6′ mark would find it very comfortable. Although the seat is pretty hard, and is the limiting factor when it comes to having to take a break.

Otherwise yet again, it’s an F3, with the easy, rider friendly ergonomics that Honda finally compromised in order to compete with the other Japanese super sporty (and well selling) 600s. And this is no accident. Triumph Canada’s Chris Ellis admits that they’re betting on the TT taking up the slack left behind by the Japanese quest for the super sport.

Since the TT has no choice but to compete with the other 600s, Triumph have pitched it at the same price as the CBR and GSXR 600s, and only $50.00 more than the R6.

I hope it works because the TT seems to the sporty 600 for the real time rider, and deserves to be considered.


Some additional shots …

Speed Triple clocks
SpeedT – front
SpeedT – Ride
SpeedT – Front Wheel
Sprint RS – Ride
And again

 

 

Bike

Speed Triple Sprint RS Sprint ST TT600

MSL

$14,499.00 $13,499.00 $14,699.00 $11,399.00

Displacement

955 cc 955 cc 955 cc 599 cc

Engine type

inline triple, liquid cooled inline triple, liquid cooled inline triple, liquid cooled inline four, liquid cooled

Carburetion

Fuel injection Fuel injection Fuel injection Fuel injection

Final drive

Six speed, chain drive Six speed, chain drive Six speed, chain drive Six speed, chain drive

Tires, front

120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17 120/70 ZR17

Tires, rear

190/50 ZR17 180/55 ZR17 180/55 ZR17 180/55 ZR17

Brakes, front

2 X 320 mm discs with four-piston calipers 2 X 320 mm discs with four-piston calipers 2 X 320 mm discs with four-piston calipers 2 X 310 mm discs with four-piston calipers

Brakes, rear

220 mm disc with two piston caliper 255 mm disc with two piston caliper 255 mm disc with two piston caliper 220 mm disc with single piston caliper

Seat height

800 mm (31.5″) 805 mm (31.7″) 800 mm (31.5″) 810 mm (31.9″)

Wheelbase

1440 mm (56.7″) 1470 mm (57.9″) 1470 mm (57.9″) 1395 mm (54.9″)

Dry weight

189 Kg (416 lbs) (claimed) 199 Kg (438 lbs) (claimed) 207 Kg (456 lbs) (claimed) 170 Kg (374 lbs) (claimed)

Canadian colours

Black, blue, nuclear red Black, yellow Red, blue, green Black, blue, yellow

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