First ride: Triumph Speed Triple RS is the 'best of both worlds'

Published: 19 February 2018

Triumph’s revamped Speed Triple RS excels whether you’re riding fast or taking your time.

Given the phenomenal sales success of Triumph’s modern classics it’s easy to forget that the Speed Triple has been a central pillar of every Hinckley model line-up since 1994.

Not before time Triumph have seen fit to give this most enduring of nakeds a well-earned revamp with no fewer than 105 engine mods resulting in 7% more peak power from a higher-revving three-cylinder engine. There are new electronics, which include a track riding mode on this the higher spec RS, and a new TFT dash.

While peak power is up from 138bhp at 9500rpm to 148bhp at 10,500rpm, Triumph haven’t sacrificed driveability in search of peak power; they’ve also managed to increase peak torque by 4% up -- from 82.6ftlb at 7850 to 86.3ftlb at 7150rpm – and move that peak 700rpm down the rev range, and make the torque curve much flatter too.

The new engine bits include a lighter crankshaft with a revised profile, a new cylinder head and pistons, a lighter balance shaft and a new sump while revised fuelling and a new free flowing exhaust and lighter high-level Arrow silencers (on the RS only) complete the headline tweaks.

In contrast the chassis is fundamentally unchanged from last year -- there are new pads in the Brembo stoppers and a new quoted weight of 189kg dry, three kilos lighter than the old model – but the technology lurking within it is. For the first time the Speed Triple comes with an IMU, which allows both ABS and traction control to be lean sensitive, while a 5-inch TFT colour dash makes its debut alongside a choice of five different riding modes.

All-new backlit switchgear featuring a five-way joystick helps you navigate the new technology while other welcome additions include cruise control as standard, three-level heated grips and keyless ignition.

Out on the roads of southern Spain, the fuelling at town speeds is sublime -- faultless -- and acoustically supported by a pleasingly throaty sound track, while Rain mode caps and softens the power, turning the aggressive looking triple into a docile and obedient pooch.

On the motorway I was pleasantly surprised by the naked bike’s appetite for miles. The riding positon is natural and, although the ride is firm it’s never harsh like a dedicated sportsbike. With the cruise control set to 80mph I was utterly content, my only issues being with the bar end mirrors, which are too small to give a proper picture of what’s happening behind.

But it was on the fast switchback mountain passes around Almeria that the Speed Triple excelled. It didn’t just deliver, it walked to the front of the class and got a gold star, and proved, once again, to be a brilliant road bike.

The Triumph’s wonderful spread of torque makes it an effortless ride. You don’t have to chase the revs; you’re always in control. If you want to dance on the (optional up-and-down quickshifter with auto-blipper) and exploit those new extra revs in pursuit of some serious fun, that’s fine. But so too is just letting that torque do the work and letting it pull you along in fifth and sixth gear. Both riding styles are rewarding.

I love the easy steering and undemanding nature of the chassis, but when you do want to push on the Triple is stable, predictable and confidence inspiring. The Triple gives great feedback through its plush suspension, you can feel precisely what the Pirelli Supercorsa rubber is doing. This is a bike that flatters your riding – that is so simple and easy to ride, no matter the speed.

Make no mistake the new Speed Triple is a quick bike. If the mood should take you, it will loft the front in the first three gears (with the TC deactivated, which has to be done at standstill) and happily carve up a mountain pass. Nothing appears to upsets the handling, it really is a joy to ride, fast or slow – engine and chassis are truly the best of both worlds.

That said, the 2017 bike is excellent, too, and has essentially the same chassis and suspension. The new Triple is a little faster, smoother and more responsive – and has the added back up of cornering ABS – but is only a step rather than a leap forward. 

The Speed Triple on track

The new Triple has a specific ‘Track’ riding mode (on the RS model only), which deploys conventional ABS only and not the new cornering ABS -- and allows the rear to slow down to 50% of the front, but not fully lock. Obviously you can choose to ride on track in the normal Road mode, which allows full cornering ABS. Equally you can turn everything off, but only at a standstill. On track settings at track speeds, aggressive riding doesn’t faze the Speed Triple; it remains stable and compliant, yet the steering is precise and accurate. That ease-of-use shines through again. Even at a fast trackday pace ground clearance isn’t an issue, the strong Brembo stoppers are consistent and offer excellent feedback. It’s that simple to ride briskly without it being manic or too intimidating, but so was the old bike.

S vs. RS

We’ve mentioned it throughout but there are two Speed Triple models available in the new range: the standard S model and the full fat RS model. As well as the features mentioned above, the RS model gets a higher spec finish including fancy details such a carbon fibre front mudguard and body panels. It also comes with a colour-coded belly pad, releasable pillion seat cowl and a new matt aluminium sub frame (rather than the classic red). Both models are available in two colour scheme as follows:

• Speed Triple S – Jet Black or Crystal White, both with a titanium rear subframe, graphite wheel pinstripes, silver seat stitching and graphite decals

• Speed Triple RS – Crystal White or Matt Jet Black, both with a matt aluminium rear subframe, red wheel pinstripes, red seat stitching, and more premium RS decals.

Facts & Figures

The Speed Triple base price is £13,250 and will be available in the UK from late March. 

Triumph Speed Triple S RS
Engine 1050cc triple 1050cc triple
Power 148bhp @ 10,500rpm 148bhp @ 10,500rpm
Torque 86 ftlb @ 7150rpm 86ftlb @ 7150rpm
Weight (dry) 192kg 189kg
Seat Height 825mm 825mm
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