BARCELONA—Although I don’t know what the speedometer reads, the engine is nearing redline in fourth gear so I’m going pretty fast. The bike is still cranked way over to the right with the throttle pinned and my knee skimming the pavement, just past the apex of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya’s long, sweeping Turn 3.
The bike, which is rolling on sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP radials, is giving me pinpoint feedback, which prompts me to push it hard into the tighter corners, testing my trail-braking ability. I’m not riding a supersport machine; I’m throwing around Triumph’s new Street Triple RS, and I must say riding a naked bike at full tilt is so much more fun.
The Street Triple enters its 10th year of production in 2017, but Triumph has retooled the factory because this latest-generation bike is all new. That’s why we’re here in Spain to ride Triumph’s newest naked bike, where we took to the streets in the morning and the racetrack in the afternoon.
There are actually three variations of the new Street Triple, the S, R, and RS, each one getting progressively higher in performance. The base S model starts at $11,200, the higher-spec R starts at $12,600 and the top-of-the-line RS costs $14,000. This is up $1,200 for the S and $1,000 for the R— the RS is a new model for 2017. There’s also a lowered version of the R, which sits 30 mm lower than the standard bike, seat height at 780 mm, at no extra cost.
You’ll notice, however, that I mention the starting prices of the S and R models because that’s for each bike’s basic colour (red for the S and black for the R), with a $250 premium for alternate colours (black for the S and white or silver for the R). The RS is the same price whether you choose black or silver, and it’s the bike we’re riding in Spain.
All three bikes share the same basic 765 cc inline triple, though it is tuned differently in each. And that number is not a typo: for the last nine years, the Street Triple engine displaced 675 cc — it’s now bigger, boasting a larger bore and longer stroke, but to do so Triumph had to use the engine from the Daytona 675, which had different specs than the former Street Triple.
What engineers did was to increase the bore and stroke to 78 x 53.4 mm (from the Daytona’s 76 x 49.6 mm), which is the maximum attainable within the crankcase. Utilizing the Daytona cases allowed designers to use a larger-displacement engine without making the bike any bigger than the previous model, maintaining the same wheelbase and similar seat height (to within a few millimetres) as before. If you want to dive deeper into the details differentiating the three bikes, visit our Buyer’s Guide.
Of course, more displacement means more power, and the RS, which is the most powerful of the new Street Triples, claims 121 hp, compared to 111 hp and 116 hp for the S and R. Peak torque is also up by at least 3 lb.-ft. on all three bikes. Despite the added displacement, the Street Triple has lost 2 kg, at a claimed 186 kg wet.
All three bikes share the same frame, which is new, though suspension and brake components get upgraded with each successive trim level. The RS gets the latest in supersport suspension, with a Showa 41 mm big piston fork (BFF) and Ohlins shock, both fully adjustable. The other bikes’ suspension components are all Showa. Front calipers on the RS are also supersport-spec Brembo M50 four-piston radial-mount units.
Electronics have been ramped up for 2017, and the Street Triple now has adjustable ABS (non-adjustable on the S model), ride-by-wire throttle control, adjustable traction control, and selectable ride modes. The level of adjustability goes up with each model. The RS features the widest adjustability with five ride modes, two levels of ABS and four levels of traction control (ABS and TC can also be turned off), as well as an electric quick shifter (on upshifts). ABS and TC are factory preset in each ride mode (Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider), with Rider mode being programmable.
Also new is a TFT instrument panel on the R and RS that is configurable with six possible displays, and is angle-adjustable for riders of different heights. I’m not usually a fan of non-analogue gauges, but Triumph has really done a good job on this display, which shows all the necessary information (speed, tachometer, gear position, ride modes, etc.) in large, easy-to-read digits, and it’s done with style — the gear position indicator, for instance, rolls through each gear as if it were a drum.
Riding the RS
The Street Triple RS feels immediately familiar once seated, with a typical naked-bike riding position: a slightly raised handlebar placing you in an upright position with sport-bike-like footpegs, high and rearward.
To put it simply, once fired up the inline triple sounds fabulous. It has a rich, distinctive drone that gets considerably more pronounced when you get on the gas, especially from the intake — it’s so prominent you’d think designers put a speaker under the fuel tank that emits engine sound, but fortunately that’s a car thing.
Our morning ride through the mountains north of Barcelona was wet from the previous night’s rain, so I instinctively selected Rain mode, which maximizes ABS and TC intervention, while providing very soft throttle response. It was only after switching to Road mode, and then to Sport mode while it was still wet, that I realized Rain mode was really unnecessary. The throttle is so smooth that it’s novice-rider manageable in either of the dry modes.
In fact, the folks at Triumph could teach some other bike makers a few things about throttle response. It is smooth regardless of engine revs, which is a boon on tight roads, where some bikes that have an abrupt throttle demand more attention to ride, jerking at the on/off throttle threshold. Power comes on hard nonetheless, and the engine pulls in a very linear, yet forceful, manner right up to its indicated 12,500 rpm redline, where a soft limiter kicks in. And did I mention that luscious intake howl?
Unfortunately, the wet roads also revealed that while the bike’s abbreviated tail section looks supersport aggressive and stylish, the sliver of a rear fender hanging off the end is quite useless, emphasized by the wet stripes down everyone’s backs.
If you want to run really hard through the gears, as I did when we got to the racetrack, all you have to do is hold the throttle to its stop and lift on the shifter with your toe; the quick-shifter works very well, with no lag in throttle response between gear changes. Downshifts require clutch use, but you can hammer down a couple of cogs and let it out without wheels hop — the clutch is a mechanically-assisted slipper design. First and second gear are shorter than before for quicker launches.
The upright riding position is conducive to riding hard, especially when throwing the bike through a series of esses, and the RS rewards such behaviour by dropping to maximum lean quickly, with neutral steering, while carrying a tight, almost unwavering, line through fast sweepers. Cornering clearance is race-bike worthy, with the peg feelers touching only occasionally on the longer, sweeping turns.
You have the option to turn off ABS and TC, but I preferred to keep them on. This was not only for self-preservation, but also because even when riding at the limit, both systems were almost completely invisible, with only the ABS triggering minimally during some overly enthusiastic corner entries.
In Track mode, it was very gratifying to twist the throttle to its stop ever sooner at the exit of these fast turns with each successive lap. If the traction control did intervene, I never felt it; just smooth, hard acceleration while keeled way over.
Do you want one?
The previous generation Street Triple was a great all-around motorcycle, with just about equal parts sporting character and everyday manageability. It had great sound, a wide powerband, and distinctive styling, all at an affordable price.
The new Street Triple has more of everything (except weight), and even though its price has also increased, you’re getting more power, more electronics (and that’s a good thing), and aggressive new styling. The RS raises the performance level considerably, with the penchant swinging more toward the sporting side, but it’s still a much more street-friendly option than any supersport, more comfortable and, for me at least, more fun to ride.
The RS will be available in April, while the S and R will come to dealers in June.