Since its inception in 1994, the Speed Triple has been revered as the pinnacle of naked sport bikes. It's this bike that coined the term "streetfighter" to describe fairing-less sport bikes. The Speed Triple has had the perfect formula from day one: massive amounts of torque, steep, flick-able steering, amazing brakes and bare knuckled looks. This recipe has made the SpeedTriple a great seller for Triumph the past fifteen plus years. So when news came that Triumph was going to be making an 'all new' Speed for 2011, everyone was excited, albeit nervous.
The current generation Speed has been with us since 2006. Sporting a gem of an engine in Triumph's 1050cc triple lump and mated to short wheelbase all aluminum frame and swingarm. How do you improve upon perfection? Typically when new bikes arrive, the sales pitch reads: "more power, more brakes, more suspension, more everything!". Typically this “everything” includes more price as well. This isnʼt the case with the new Speed. Instead Triumphʼs brilliant engineers have taken the already potent weapon, and sharpened the pointy end of it.
During our week off in August Jared (TTRNO tech) and I headed to the mountains of North Carolina. Jared is the owner of a brand new 2011 Speed, while I own a 2009. I had the chance to see for myself whether the differences between old and new were skin deep, or genuine progession. The frame, while looking similar to the outgoing model, is completely new, but only for the sake of better geometry. The fantastic 130hp engine remains the same, but cantered forward several degrees to make for more weight on the front wheel. World class brembo brakes carry over from the previous model, but now matched with a new brembo master cylinder aimed to give better feedback to your index finger. The fuel tank is shorter and with the battery mounted forward of it, also improving weight distribution. The wheelbase remains nearly the same, but the swingarm longer, aiding traction at the rear wheel. The wheels themselves are now lighter, and carry taller tires for ludicrous grip at
insane lean angles.
On paper the differences appear negligible. Riding them back to back was like comparing tuna in a can to fresh seared swordfish. Comparing both in the gorgeous Appalachian mountains further instilled my faith in my favorite group of british engineers. Winding the big triple up to tenthousand rpm confirms why Triumph kept the engine the same. However at the first bend, coming onto the brakes, I was blown away by their telepathic feel. It's almost as if youʼre not using them at all, you're just wishing yourself slower and the bike reacts via magic. The old brakes were great, but the smaller Nissin master cylinder was more of an on/off switch. You were either stopping in 25ft or not at all. Tipping into the first bend the steering is a touch heavier, but not so much that you have to muscle it about. The negligible numbers are now coming together. The additional weight on the front wheel means you get instantaneous data on what the tire is doing.
You feel every ounce of grip. Where there was once a blurred line as to the amount of grip
available just before you enter your crash site, there's now a giant backlit sign. You no longer have an excuse for missing an apex, which is a shame given my skill, or lack thereof. I liked my excuses. Where the old bike wiggled and jiggled in corners, the new bike is planted and surefooted. Where it once tried to kill you during mid corner bumps, it now sorts them out with you barely noticing them at all. Want to change your line midcorner while on the brakes? This was once russian roulette; not anymore. Sure, wheelies out of every second gear corner are a kick, but they're frightening as hell when you have to change direction again in thirty yards. Longer swingarm means the front stays planted and keeps you alive.
And don't think for a second you've given up comfort for this new found razor's edge
handling. More than one thousand miles ticked past in our three day holiday, and I actually found the new bike to be more comfortable than my own 2009 model. Triumph technician and proud owner of a new 2011, Jared, and I clocked upwards of six hundred miles in one day alone. I came back to the hotel cursing my bike while Jared was looking forward to an early rise to get back in the saddle of his new masterpiece. During this six hundred mile day, we got lost. Not a big issue, except for the return trip to the hotel in the dark... on twisty mountain roads I've only seen once...when it was daylight. The controversial headlights of the 2011 Speed Triple were very welcomed if not a necessity upon our return. Using Jared's bike's highbeams to illuminate what mine couldn't meant we could travel at the speed limit. Without them I could only hope the deer attempting to jump into me would be wearing a high visability jacket. Another point for the new machine.
No doubt then, the new 2011 Speed Triple is better, in every objective way.
Rob Evans in the service advisor at TTRNO and owner of a 2009 Triumph Speed Triple and 2007 Triumph Daytona 675 sport bike.