In 2005 we tested the then new Triumph Speed Triple. Chief Road Tester, Michael Neeves, sadi: "The bike that invented the super-naked streetfighter class over a decade ago is back – stronger than ever.
"It’s smoother, faster and easier to ride, better handling and hornier. It ticks all the right boxes. The new Speed Triple is as much fun as any road bike can ever be and it goes to prove you don’t need a 180mph track missile to get your kicks."
But what is the Speed Triple like now?
Triumph started the whole production streetfighter thing back in 1994 with the 885cc Speed Triple. Until then streetfighters tended to be home-brewed – old school superbikes fitted with straight bars and the crash-damaged fairings consigned to the bin.
The second-generation, fuel-injected 955cc bike arrived in 1997 and by the time the 1050cc Speed Triple burst onto the scene in 2005, super-nakeds had become a ‘thing’ and started to become a fun sportsbike alternative. The Speed Triple’s sharp-toothed, half-dressed rivals included Kawasaki’s Z1000, the Benelli TnT, Aprilia Tuono, KTM Super Duke and MV’s Brutale.
But Triumph never had to worry about the naked competition because with its rasping three-cylinder motor, solid handling and big appetite for skids and wheelies, the Triple won MCN super-naked shootouts year-after-year. It wasn’t until the V4 Tuono arrived in 2011 that Triumph’s front wheel finally dropped back to Earth with a thud.
Even by today’s standards the original 1050 is a cracker, and this £4499, 16,395-mile, 2008 model from Webbs in Peterborough is as much fun to ride today as it was when I rode one at its launch in France 11 years ago.
OK, by today’s super-naked standards – machines like the MT-10, Tuono V4 and S1000R – the Triumph won’t pull your arms out of their sockets under hard acceleration, and it’s a bit on the heavy side.
Unlike the latest super-nakeds there are no modern electronic rider aids on this eight-year-old bike, but it’s none the worse for not having fun-sapping ABS, anti-wheelie or traction control. In fact it’s quite refreshing being the only control module on the bike. The standard twin underseat exhaust system still sounds snarly, spits and burbles. Fabulous.
How has it held up?
This bike has been well looked after and looking at the ground-down footpegs it still handles well, even on its budget Maxxis sports-touring tyres. But it also shows signs of being used year-round in all weathers, with surface corrosion on the engine, mirrors, shock and suspension linkages. The fork seals have seen better days, too.
It wouldn’t take much to restore this Speed Triple to its former glory though, and Webbs will give it a service, MoT and deal with any mechanical issues. After that it’s just a case of a bit of elbow grease to restore the cosmetics. Fit some modern, premium sports tyres and the Trip’ will be exactly the same rascal it was when it was first launched.
Triumph sold a staggering 65,000 1050 Speed Triples from 1994 until 2011, when it got a makeover including a new chassis, engine tweaks and headlights – it was out with the round bug-eyes and in with the Dame Edna’s. It’s been updated again for 2016 with electronic rider aids and a reshaped fuel tank to move the rider more over the front wheel and a host of other mechanical and cosmetic tweaks. It might be more refined, but there’s something about the rawness and attitude of the original Speed Triple 1050 that I still prefer.
The mechanic's opinion
Laurie Smith, Senior technician at Webbs Motorcycles, Peterborough: ‘With everything so exposed, you’ve got to stay on top of cleaning’
I’m a big Speed Triple fan – I always have been. They’re excellent bikes. I love all the models, from the original carb’d version, through to the T509, T595, right the way through to the new 2016 bike. When I was working at Webbs Lincoln we had a team in the old race series, which we won. I had the old race bike to use and the handling on that was phenomenal.
When the fuel-injected 1050 version arrived in 2005 it was a big step up from the out-going model. Now that they’ve been around for a while it’s safe to say they’re pretty bulletproof as long as they’re regularly serviced. The motor is fantastic.
If they’re not looked after you can run into problems. You need to keep things like the rear suspension lubed, the head bearings in check and normal service items taken care of. Being a naked bike, where everything is so exposed, you’ve got to really stay on top of cleaning, especially lubing and looking after the brakes, if you’re going to take a Speed Triple through a winter.
The most common things people do to modify them is fit an aftermarket exhaust just to make the most of that awesome three-cylinder engine note. Then there’s the normal cosmetic stuff such as tail tidies, LED indicators and the like.
Service intervals are 6000 miles or annually, whichever one comes first. We change oil and filter on the smaller service, as well as balancing the throttle and checking the brakes.
We have the bike for a whole day for the major service and that includes checking valve clearances and changing the coolant and brake fluid.
The 1050 Speed Triples are great bikes, but Triumph being Triumph the newer ones are a step better again.