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Wed, 23 Oct 2019

Speed Triple RS - The Shape of Things to Come

The best tribute I can pay to Triumph’s Speed Triple RS is this: I feel like I have been riding it all my life.

This bike is not only the best Triumph I have ever ridden – it’s possibly the best motorcycle full-stop. Not necessarily my favourite, that honour goes to one of the Ducati’s, but the BEST motorcycle?

Yes, it really is that good.

Let’s look at the facts. Chassis, massive, forged aluminium structure, sharing the rigidity of a … well … a cannon ball. I cannot think of anything more rigid. Engine – 148 PS 1050 Triple driving through the slickest gearbox this side of a race bike. Arrow pipes with titanium end cans, tuned and tuneful. Brembo, four-pot radial brakes – one finger retardation – from any speed. Super sticky Pirelli rubber – and the plushest, best matched Ohlins damping front and rear.

 

Apart from a windshield – what are you going to add to this bike?

Premium fuel – that’s about it.

£13 600 gets you a naked Superbike – and I use the word Superbike advisedly.

How so?

Because it does pretty much everything BRILLIANTLY. OK, it’s not a grand tourer – and you’re not going to motocross on it. But scratch, trackday – commute, tool around – even – as I discovered – go to jobs on it, and you are going to be in heaven. You will never need more of anything, (except wind protection), than this bike has. You might need more driving licences than one, actually …

How fast is it? Shatteringly fast – in all situations. Winding on the throttle took me back, way back when, to that feeling I had when I first slung my leg over Suzuki’s bonkers RG500 - **** - hang on! – or again, when I first met Honda’s, then brand-new concept, the Fireblade, can’t find enough road to hold the throttle against the stop … the RS is HARDCORE. It appears to weigh very little, is as tiny as a 4-600 between your legs, and the power band is totally linear. Apart from the dying horribly in horrific circumstances connotation, I’d rename it the ‘Triumph Speed Titanic’, that’s how big that engine feels. Vast …

How do I feel about the looks of the ‘RS’? I admit to being conflicted here. I’ve NEVER liked the look of these naked streetfighter-type front ends – to me, the bug-eyes look ugly. Ducati, as they so often do, (I’ve just got back from Belgium where I was reunited with the supermodel 999), aced the looks-race in this segment with, first, the Monster, then the Streetfighter. No one else comes close for style – not even the ‘RS’. Look more closely, however, and the RS’s detail finish comes alive – Triumph have really gone to town on this bike, and I, for one, am very glad.

Twenty years ago, I bought a 748 SPS – I remember it costing about £13k then. It was stunning – and exquisite. But just over £13k in 2019 will buy you something that, whilst not nearly as ‘exotic’, would TEAR THE ASS out of the supermodel Ducati, despite it’s Ohlins, titanium conrods, lattice-work trellis frame - and WSBK ‘chops’. That, in my book, makes the ‘RS’ exceptional value for money. Funnily enough, the ‘RS’ shares a whole host of the SPS’s design cues. Massive single-sided swing arm, twin pipes out of the back of the seat plus that motorsport DNA, (RS engine is a cubed-version of Triumph’s MOTO2 mill), but there is a major differentiator – usability. Triumph’s Speed Triple ‘RS’ is fast all the time, and it is really easy to ride quickly. The 748 SPS was so focused, you had to be 100% on your game all the time, I still remember wheel-spinning as I shifted into fifth on a waterlogged, cambered, A5 curve, I remember being cranked hard over on the Towcester roundabout and picking up a truck wheel nut that lifted the tyre an inch off the deck – scary moments both. The ‘RS’ is, no doubt, bristling with rider aids, (I didn’t ask …), but in the three days I lived with it, she didn’t flinch – the correct terminology is ‘planted’

I picked up the ‘RS’ at close of play the night before a job in Cambridge. We recorded the opening piece inside the dealership, using a brand-new bike. Immediate observations were: ‘it’s tiny’ – although the 1050 makes superbike power, its proportions are more middleweight sportster. The triple engine is incredibly compact, and the riding position is on the comfort side of sporting. You can live with this motorcycle. Heading out in to the Northamptonshire rush hour traffic, I was struck by just how civilised she was. Admittedly I had just stepped off the Harley … 

I wound her open on the twelve-mile ride back to my place, controls superlight, fantastic exhaust note, perfect fuelling, (becoming apparent this is a Triumph speciality), and zero wind protection. At 100 mph my AGV AGO helmet was being slammed back so hard into my face, I could barely breathe – this thing needs some sort of screen urgently. Or maybe it doesn’t … ? I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for the helmet flattening my face, I would’ve been at 125. Or 145. Or, maybe, 165 … I’m glad I never found out. Perhaps that is the point of PURE naked, it holds down your speed … ?

A motorbike of this performance SHOULD be intimidating. It just isn’t. I realised, it’s all about its absolute rideability. It’s a pussycat. But so is a Tiger … after a fashion.

It’s not a touring bike, but … I packed enough luggage and kit in my Givi waterproof roll bag to handle a couple of days away on the road, Samsung tablets, laptop, gym kit – you name it, it was in there. The bag was heavy, but honestly, bungeeing it down on the pillion pad was pretty much rock steady. So yes, you could head out on holiday on the ‘RS’ – hell, you could probably take a pillion at a push – and there is enough of everything for the bike to cope. But I don’t think that that is the point of this motorcycle. And that, for me, is the Speed Triple’s Achilles heel – I’m not quite sure where it fits in – especially not if you have a one bike garage … ? I’ve never bought one, despite loving that powerhouse of an engine so much. And here’s why: In the days when I wanted to go this fast, I wanted a race replica. And this isn’t that. By the time I’d passed that stage, I wanted – had to - to sit more upright, I was into my ‘Monster’ phase, 70 – 110 PS – and the beat of a twin. The nth degree of hardware was no longer a ‘deal-breaker’ for me – probably still isn’t. So, who will pick a 1050 RS … ? Anyone who wants the best value performance motorcycle on the planet, that’s who. Show me another motorcycle with such exquisite pedigree for anything like the price … ? But do leave enough money in the deal for a bikini screen …

Anyways, I set out on the road to Cambridge, fully loaded, and for the next couple of days had an absolute ball. Let’s be clear; when you sling your leg over the ‘RS’ you HAVE to be really disciplined. You WILL NOT do 70 mph – or anything like it – I defy you to stay below 100. You won’t, because this is a motorcycle that feels rock-stable at 120, it suckers you in. It was extremely tiresome on that vile stretch of the A14 where they are building something hideous, and there are twenty miles of 50 and 40 MPH average speed cameras – this is not a motorcycle that wants to crawl along – ever. It was just plain bored. And so was I. In fact, the traffic all the way into Cambridge was tiresome – and on this motorcycle – that feels like a waste. Eventually I arrived at the dealership where I was delivering the training, and dismounted. Everybody liked the ‘RS’ – in fact I was invited to park her INSIDE the dealership – which is where I took the picture next to the GT-R. In many ways the ‘RS’ is an excellent stablemate for the GT-R. Both are about as fast as you can go on two and four wheels respectively. Both probably need a racetrack to fully exploit – you’ll run out of road too quickly on/in either. And both have a full suite of programmable ‘pilot’ modes – all of which are various degrees of ‘fast’

 

I tried to max out the 1050 – I really did. When that charismatic triple passed 7500 rpm it was making so much thrust that I could barely shift the gears fast enough – despite the quick shifter – and I would be using up road at a rate that felt a little like I was in a video game. Intoxicating, but always in the back of my mind: ’there’s no reset button’ Can a bike be too fast for the road – after all, a throttle rolls both ways … ? I think maybe it can. When I rode the 765 version of the Triple, I remember getting off ‘ticking’ – not the bike, me. Well, the bike as well. It went – and sounded – like MOTO GP. The ‘RS’ is +35%.

Fortunately, Triumph have loaded the ‘survival’ dice in your favour; let’s look at why: Rubber first; the Pirelli Supercorsa, once warm, dig in and grip – and manage to harness the immense acceleration, braking and cornering ‘g’. Thank God. Brakes: The very latest four-piston radial Brembo’s – astonishingly these manage to generate enormous pressure with the lightest of touch – but somehow the first part of the ‘bite’ has sublime ‘feel’ – normally you have one or the other; here both. Probably a lot to do with the … Ohlins. Readers of earlier tests will know how I feel about this top quality kit – ride quality is off the scale, you will have so much confidence in the chassis, there is a real danger you will start to take the piss, and get yourself into substantial trouble – I’m talking from experience here … Gearbox, somehow, NEVER gives you a false neutral, and needs the lightest of pushes up or down, clutch is lighter than my Chinee minkey bike, and those aural titanium Arrow pipes will encourage you to exploit the extra 1000 rpm Triumph have given the 2019 bike – and warn other road users you’re coming too. The ‘RS’ is not an, overall, ‘noisy’ bike, but the sound it does make is, well, delicious. Reminds me of a piped Mazda rotary, an angry wail that builds and builds.

The single best thing about Triumph’s 1050 ‘RS’? It looks after it’s rider in every way, it doesn’t have an ounce of malevolence in it’s 189 kg, and ANYONE can ride it.

You’ll be thinking by this stage; ‘Deeks has gone mad; he’s in the employ of Triumph’. Far from it; I only agreed to write these tests for the ‘Pure’ group on the understanding they publish everything I write, regardless. I suggest you take the 1050 ‘RS’, and tell me I’m wrong.

I have to do a paragraph on stuff that I don’t like.

That was it.

No, actually, the look of the front end, that bug-eye ‘vibe’. It should come with a little smoked Perspex fly screen. The Arrow pipes could be louder.

That, actually, IS it.