On leaving the Army several years ago I decided that, living in Greater London area, cars were no longer a practical solution to get around for a single man like myself. I lost count of the times I had sat on the M3 and watched bikes and scooters filter past, immune to the 6 mile tailbacks so prevalent in the Heathrow are. One day that would be me I swore to myself. And sure enough I passed my Direct Access test a few months later.
After fleeting affairs with a Honda CB500, a Kawasaki ZXR400 and then a 1999 ZX6R I bought my latest and greatest in January this year. I wasn't even thinking of changing my bike till I saw her stood in my local dealership.
I had always loved the outlandish looks of the Triumph Speed Triple; The purposeful stare of the headlights that gives such a great spread of light that night rides are full of confidence and much fun as daytime ones; Stood still the Triumph seems a big pussy cat which often means being asked by female friends for a quick spin round the block. True the "streetfighter" style isn't to everyone's taste but it is less threatening to a would-be passenger than, say, an R1 and a great deal more comfortable for the pillion too. It draws bemused looks from fellow riders but I always grin at the shocked sideways glances of drivers as the Triumph filters past. It may be due to the styling but more likely it's due to that outrageous Pink paint. Yes, love it or hate it the Triumph Speed Triple certainly does get a reaction.
With the introduction of the fuel injected 955 motor, all be it a detuned version of that in the Daytona, the Speed Triple gets a healthy new heart and even more soul. With bags of torque this baby can pull like a freight train away from the lights so that even short shifting below 5000 rpm will see very brisk performance. Until I got used to it's character, over enthusiastic acceleration from the lights lead to some quite unintentional wheelies because its when you rev that lovely motor that it's personality changes. Below 4000rpm it is a mild mannered "girl next door", the high level Triumph pipe is as unobtrusive as a noisy pipe can be, with the burbling of that big triple and the odd pop pop during engine breaking. But take it upto 7000-8500 and it's character changes; Now it is in your face, a hard as nails "rock chick", with that exhaust giving a sound like the takeoff of a WW2 fighter plane - amazing. Only one word can sum up the engine - Elemental.
The brakes come off the Triumph flagship Daytona as such they are phenomenal - some would say that the 2001 955i Speed Triple is overbraked but in the fast running commuter traffic of London there is no such thing! Because I spend so much time in this traffic I have change the original bars for a set of Renthals which are 1 inch higher and sweep back slightly more. These bars give a more upright stance and make the Speed Triple even more flickable than before, feeling more like a heavyweight motorcross bike than anything else. With fully adjustable suspension also lifted from the Daytona the handling is nothing short of excellent. There is a marked inprovement in the handling if the rider bothers to stray from the standard settings and tune the suspension to take into account his weight and riding style. If a quicker turn in is required then drop the front forks by about 4-6mm and raise the back by no more than 25mm. This will speed up the steering without any tank slapping over bumps. Despite what others will have you believe the Triumph will turn in as fast as the 2000 Fireblade but it tends to be harder to change direction once it is healed over. All in all though the chassis makes a stable and confidence inspiring set-up that is easy to live with.
The biggest downfall for the 2001 Triumph Speed Triple? I would say that it's the urge to make it even more different. With so many accessories available the owner can spend thousands of pounds on customisation; Even I have succumbed with the fitting of a belly pan, radiator cowls and a flyscreen too help shelter me from the windblast.
The Triumph has always been a bit of an outsider with that over-engineered three cylinder engine. But that is it's biggest asset; It behaves like no other machine on two wheels with arm wrenching torque and a noise that is magnificent. Whether on the car packed roads of London or sat outside a Chelsea coffee shop, the Speed Triple always draws a crowd of admirers. After 13000 miles in 8 months I can say that the overall package is a gem.
True the Speed Triple will never be to everyone's taste but in the GATSO peppered land known as London, the 2001 955i Speed Triple is not so odd ball as it would first seem.