Speed Triple 1200 RR - Ballistic Affair

The picture of the RR’s cockpit is misleading. I fully anticipated this ending, but it happened by a totally different means to that which I expected. I thought it would be Vitesse, pure and simple. Here’s how …

Because this is the fastest ‘real World’ road bike I have ever ridden, PURE and simple. It is bonkers quick. But here’s the rub; it also may be the safest. How so? Brilliant dynamics, to me, beyond reproach. The balance of this bike is as near perfect as I have experienced on a road bike. Note; I didn’t say ‘perfect’ comfort – excellent for the type – but I couldn’t use this as my only motorcycle, an hour in and my wrists were aching enough to make me think it was cappuccino time. But … handling, grip, braking, traction, drive, direction changes … ? Perfect. Yes really. Maybe if I was a bike RACER, I would have a different perspective. I’m a car racer – but I do have nearly forty years on bikes to use as a datum.

Weirdly I tested, more or less, the same bike in it’s naked variant last year – and didn’t like it nearly as much. Actually I didn’t feel quite safe on it, felt flighty, didn’t get it. 180 PS in a naked felt too much, (hard to believe, I know …), but there it is. It wasn’t that pleasant, exciting but I felt no real connection. I remember writing that I thought the earlier 1050 naked was the better bike, enjoyed that much more.

But in the RR it makes perfect sense. The electric Ohlins are the best suspension kit front and rear I have ever used on a motorcycle, period. Combine that with a riding position that the chassis needs, absolutely, weight over the front wheel, a sublime front-rear balance. I concluded that 180 PS DEMANDS this riding position, it’s not an option. Probably why the naked disappoints.

First off, it’s an extremely pretty bike. I love the fact that it has shades of retro about the fairing and mono headlamp – even tho’ I think this makes it ‘difficult’ for the brand to sell. Why? Because, generally, retro’s are about 110 PS and have good, but not Moto GP, chassis. This, on the other hand, apart from having a less extreme riding position, has a true superbike chassis – and that confuses the market place – as to who its made for. I think the race bike chic boys want race bike wanabee looks – aka R1, GSX, Panigale, etc. – not a café racer style, armed with a cutting edge chassis. Dealers have told me as much.

This is a shame, as race bike look puts off old-timers like me – or people who ACTUALLY race – even cars, the last thing I want is to look like on my day off is a Rossi reject – away from track – I want to have something pretty to park on the harbour wall at Mousehole, something that doesn’t look like I’ve just survived the Suzuka 8 hrs. In short, this is a superbike for grown-ups – it is a rare thing, a retro vibe on top of the most superb piece of engineering. The fact that the market doesn’t ‘get it’ isn’t Triumph’s fault, it’s the market’s stupidity.

Because it is uniformly brilliant.

Detailing on the RR is routinely superb too – I noted when I put her away in my microgarage in lowlight, the controls on the bars all have ambient lighting around them for easy recognition – very nice touch, naturally the thing is infinitely programmable – it didn’t rain during my tenure, so the settings stayed the same – ‘Sport’. Triumph haven’t skimped on the aesthetics here either – when you look down into the fairing bubble, you can see two carbonfibre winglets – very swish. Plus I noted that the bike came with bespoke engine cylinder protectors from the factory, nicely engraved with the Triumph legend. Classy. Probably the biggest surprise comes in the pipe department – normally, on a hyper sport, this has to be replaced BEFORE you take delivery, with an Arrow system or similar. Here it’s a much trickier call – because this thing comes fitted with a pipe that is neither too ugly, nor, when the valves open, particularly too quiet. And its also quite nicely engineered, especially if you get a little mirror and look around the backside of it. More crucially, back pressure-wise, it just ‘works’, shut down the torque is utterly fluid, wide throttle openings plus enough gas speed and the second valve must open, because the exhaust note gains an immediate two descibles. The intake roar is now pronounced and the bike tears forward with a seamless, linear surge of torque. Trust me, this bike will have you holding it in a lower gear and doing roll-ons – just to experience the theatre of it. Very nice.

Strangely, or, maybe not, the big triple engine has two distinct powerbands – despite having ample everything, everywhere. Jumping off a really fast cross-country run on the Diavel immediately before, I spent the first sixty miles changing gear at 6500 rpm – without realising it, honestly. I only fully realised that I was short-shifting when I was studying the DJI footage pointing forward, to be exact. The howl of power at 5-7000 rpm was such I was dumping gears in two-four time – not realising how far away I really was from the redline. An easy mistake-a-to-make-a … Trust me, when I am testing something that accelerates as quickly as this does, I am NEVER looking anywhere but well ahead of myself down the road. Second run I rectified this by, a couple of times, ‘rinsing’ it, but, if you are using 10 500 in every gear on the road … well, you ARE John McGuiness. Or dead. Or you will be …

Fuelling is absolutely spot-on – I was reminded about this as my next test bike was a new Monster 937 Testastretta – which everytime I grabbed a new gear fractionally ran weak enough to interrupt the flow of power, as I wound it on. None of that here – as the clutch bit the thrust was uninterrupted. Very impressive, given that every manufacturer is chasing emissions and mileage in set-up. Fuelling has become a Triumph staple – as has the ultraslick gearbox – I could even get neutral from first or second stationary at the lights – try that with a Diavel … I’ve lost count of the time I’ve treaded the grapes over and over with an increasingly sticky clutch, finding first – second – first – second, etc.etc. Something very trick about Triumph’s modern gearboxes – this one has the flat-shifter as standard – I’ve never used that – like using launch control in a GT-R – why would you? Back to Michael Dunlop …

People are going to think I am in Triumph’s back pocket, but I am really struggling to think what this bikes issues are. I’m not that fussed about the graphics on the instrument panel – they are brilliantly clear, but the tiny little displays that tell you ‘miles in reserve’ are impossible for this age demographic to read fast – but I am being picky … Looking down into the bubble reminded me of two bikes I have owned – my 748 SPS – because that is the view, tiny, focussed and beautiful. Here is the stupid thing – I’d take the analogue instruments of the 748 anyday – but – I can’t dispute SPEED is easier to read digitally. RPM was better read

on the 748. The other bike was my NC29 ‘Baby Blade’ – for the beautiful execution. Mirrors showed a good percentage of my arms – but are undoubtedly ‘aero’ in design, pedals are sited exactly right for my 5’ 10.5 – and shrinking – frame - and the tank, usefully, worked well as a surface on which to brace myself clenching what’s left of my torso muscles. Literally, at slow speeds I would squeeze my stomach tight, and take the weight of my wrists. Practical.

It was with some sadness I headed back to PURE to drop the RR back – and this is where she and I met our Valhalla - the boys from the Federation. A last summer’s day and I burbled up the road leading out of my village, warming her up at 20 MPH, foolishly clad only in lightweight t-shirt. As the video demonstrates, just out of the junction I started slowing as I saw in the distance … lights … skid marks … a car on it’s side with suspension torn off. 

Two cars had collided at the point a side road meets the B-road, a really heavy, nasty looking shunt, ambulances, three pandas, etc. I crept forward … big, burly ‘Neighbourhood Support’ officer waves me on – I go to go, roll on – then he’s all stop signs and agitation.
Damn … I pull over, engine ticking over roughly, still cold. Then he goes into the most theatrical rant, mainly for the benefit of the full-time crew watching, whom I guess he’s trying to impress. I can barely hear any of this nonsense, the sound of the irritable triple ticking over covering his noises. In the end, my patience snaps, I thumb the ‘off’ switch, and let fly. Interestingly this brings the entire wolf pack to surround the bubble, as you can see on the film. Little guy on the left is the concern here, not the big shouty fellow. Little weasel is ‘packing’, and, he tries initially to escalate the situation. Bad form boys. I’m not a juvenile or an ‘out of towner’ – and I do not tolerate – or back down from - bullying. Never have. Never will. As you can hear. In defence of the initial officer, he was man enough to apologise for the misunderstanding – that defused my anger. I even shook his hand. The shouty gunman, he is part of the UK Police reputational problem. Lucky I had my camera on, to capture road test footage. I never do that, except when testing. Made me think. I rarely get stopped, but as you will hear, it made them think twice about their behaviour. IF I had been young, or, ‘not from these parts’ – very quickly I might have found myself off the bike, and sitting in the back of the patrol car.

 Less than ideal. 

Final word on this – when they did release me, the little ferret released me straight into oncoming traffic. And also, when all FOUR mob-handed me, who was looking after the accident traffic? 

Handed the bike back, with a ‘a funny thing happened to me on the way to the dealership …’ Triumph’s Speed Triple 1200 RR


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