Triumph Speed Triple Review
Words and Photos: Kenn Stamp. Rider: Carlos Barrera
Edited by webBikeWorld.com
Photos and Text Courtesy
Motorcycle Reviews Directory
Moto-journalists are all alike; we think we know it all when
it comes to bikes. Take me picking up the 2009 Triumph Speed
Triple that was used for this article.
Since I was swapping out the 2009 Triumph Bonneville SE that
I had just finished testing, Triumph Media Guru Jim Callahan
tried to give me some helpful advice. “Don't forget this isn't
a Bonneville”, he said. “It's got a LOT more power”, he added.
Good advice since I just spent a month on a bike that, while
completely enjoyable to ride, wouldn't wheelie (at least in
my hands) without a 500 pound passenger jumping up and down
on the rear seat -- and maybe not even then.
So how did I respond to this gem of information? I
should have said “hey thanks for the reminder Jim. I'll keep
that in mind and take it easy the first few miles”. That would
have been responsible.
What I did was laugh and said yeah, yeah got it covered.
No worries mate. Tally-ho. Jolly good and a bunch of other things
that we Yanks think all the British blokes say that sound so
cool. Sometimes I'm an idiot.
Luckily my moment of idiocy didn't result in any physical
damage to myself or the bike although parts of my psyche are
still warped and scarred.
My first taste of what the Speed Triple was about happened
at the first light I came to on A1A. Green light. Roll on the
throttle, roll on some more throttle...and suddenly my will
power and self control were trampled, crushed and left for dead
by a 130 horsepower freight train that will pull the front wheel
off the ground from about 1500 rpm to redline just on throttle
The 77 lbs ft of torque and short 56.2 in wheelbase contribute
to this lunacy as well. The Speed Triple begs, cajoles and almost
forces you into the kinds of raw, wanton acts of pure hooligan
silliness that your adult, responsible brain just isn't designed
to cope with.
Two lights later I was having some big worries about spending
time with the Speed Triple; I was going to get a huge ticket.
I was going to lose my license. I was going to go to jail and
be in a cell with Bubba. I was going to have to call my wife
to bail me out and pick me up. The last thought made me realize
that maybe Bubba wasn't such a bad option.
Nevertheless, I struggled (sometimes in vain) to be a good
law abiding citizen and eventually made it home without any
additional weight being taken out of my wallet (not that there
is much there to begin with). This was my first real introduction
to the Triumph Speed Triple. Welcome to Hooliganism 101.
Back in the day (1994 to be exact) Triumph sprang on unsuspecting
riders an 885cc, 3 cylinder whirlwind with enough attitude to
make every scofflaw on both sides of the pond drool with desire.
This was something new; a bike powered by a large displacement
motor, with decent suspension bits, and styling like nothing
else on the road.
Sure, Ducati had released the Monster the year before, but
the Monster was light and feathery where the Speed Triple was
brash and in your face. Fast-forward to 2009 and you'll find
the lightest most powerful Speed Triple built to date. This
is both a good and bad thing: Good because it is lighter and
has more power and bad because it is lighter and has more power.
I hadn't spent a lot of time on a Speed Triple until this
test so I was really looking forward to seeing what all the
fuss has been about over the years, especially as I think the
Street Triple is a neat piece of kit and possibly the best small
displacement naked bike out there. How would it's big brother
stack-up against it?
First thing that smacked me upside the head was that the
Speed Triple is NOT just a bigger, more powerful Street Triple.
Well maybe it is but in gaining size, weight, and most importantly
power, it gains in some places (expected) yet loses in others
(not expected). One thing was clear; “sledgehammer” describes
the Speed Triple better than “scalpel”.
Like all the liter-class triples from Triumph the Speed Triple
is a real ripper; HP up top with a broad torque spread across
the board. While I loved this motor in the Tiger I constantly
felt like it was almost too much, day to day, in the Speed Triple;
short wheelbase plus a strong, torquey motor can equal some
harrowing moments if not treated with respect.
Get carried away at the wrong moment and someone is going
to get hurt; quickly. This is one of those times when more doesn't
equal better. Sure for sheer hooligan fun, the Speed Triple
has the bases covered but for daily “save your license” type
riding you constantly feel like you have to reign the bike in;
at least the rest of the bike is up to the task of hanging with
…....Except for the transmission. I can't for the life of
me figure out why but every liter class triple I've tested has
the same issue; a slightly notchy transmission when up-shifting
below 5k RPM.
Above 5k RPM and the bike shifted fine, if a bit industrial.
Below 5k and you'd better make sure that you were firm on the
shifter or else you'd grind gears like no tomorrow. I actually
make this sound much worse than it is only because the transmissions
on the 675cc bikes are so good that it spoils you. However,
the transmission is the weak link in an otherwise great drivetrain.
Bikes like the Speed Triple aren't just about how far or
how easily you can wheelie, they are also about handling. While
some manufacturers are going with a 190 series rear tire, Triumph
is holding onto a 180/55/17 rear on the Speed Triple.
Mate that with the 120/70/17 front tire and finding a good
tire that fits your personal riding style is a non-issue. The
tires that were fitted to the press bike that I had were a set
of Mezteler Sportecs that I found to be decent although they
were more like sport-touring tires than out right sport tires
in the way they behaved. Good grip but not a lot of feedback.
An integral part of the handling quotient is the suspension,
which Triumph addresses by putting 43mm USD forks on the front
and a monoshock on the rear.
After fooling around with different settings I got the suspension
set where I was happy although when Carlos got on for the photo
shoot he thought the bike rode a little rough and choppy. He
normally rides a bike that has a little bit longer wheelbase
than the Speed Triple so that explained the choppy part and
I take full responsibility for the rough part.
See, I tend to get a bike set-up to handle the worst of the
bumps, both mid-corner and on the straights, then throw on my
gear and go ride. With all the usual adjustments for preload,
compression damping, and rebound, plus dual-rate springs, one
could easily tune away on the suspension until perfection was
reached; I just don't have that kind of patience.
One place where no adjustments are needed (which is good
as there are none available) are the brakes. Triumph found that
putting radial-mounted calipers on a bike without a radial master
cylinder (like some manufacturers do) didn't gain much over
traditionally mounted calipers with a standard offset master
cylinder. So the Speed Triple gets both; radial calipers and
radial master cylinder. And it shows.
Stopping the Speed Triple was a joy if only because the brakes
were so good. Literally one of the few true “two-finger” brake
set-ups on the market today; not only powerful enough but also
easy to modulate with only two fingers. Stoppies, were I inclined
to do them, could be accomplished with little drama (except
for me screaming like a little girl inside my helmet).
Triumph uses what I've come to call their standard sport
dash on the Speed Triple; with some minor variations this same
basic dash layout is found on the Speed Triple, Street Triple,
Daytona 675, and the Tiger 1050. Triumph uses it amongst all
those models because it is a good, concise layout. All the important
numbers are where you'd expect them to be and quite legible
The one downside of the layout on the Speed Triple is the
same downside as on the Street Triple; the buttons that need
to be pushed to reset the trip meters are hard to get to requiring
two fingers and a contortionists flexibility to reset the trip
meter after getting gas (or any other time).
The Speed Triple has never looked like anything else on the
road and the latest iteration of the bike follows suit. I just
know that in 50 years when we are all sitting in floatchairs
at the nursing home, our grandchildren are going to come visit
us (see you tell this is all a fantasy just by that statement)
on bikes that float above the ground yet look exactly like the
current Speed Triple.
Between the Blazing Orange paint, the styling and the full
3-2-1 Arrow exhaust that Triumph put on this press bike there
was no such thing as “sneaking around”. Everywhere I went the
Speed Triple drew attention like a naked supermodel walking
down the street. Unless you like attention, the Speed Triple
(especially in Blazing Orange with the Arrow exhaust) is not
Motorcycle Books, GPS, Electronics,
Training Videos, Clothing and More
At the wBW
The one question I got asked more than any other was; “Would
you rather have (as in buy) a Street Triple or a Speed Triple?”.
Unfortunately the answer isn't that cut and dry.
Making a comparison between the two bikes, while inevitable,
isn't really fair. It is sort of like asking which handgun is
better, a .22 Beretta or a .50 Desert Eagle. They don't compare.
If ease of handling, light weight, and flickability are the
things that make you drool then the Street Triple might be the
bike. However, if power, power, and downright brutally fun power
are the things that get you all excited then the Speed Triple
is right up your alley.
Just remember that absolute power corrupts absolutely so
don't call me to bail you out. Oh and tell Bubba I said hi.
Note: For those that like to know the MPG figures I found
that the Speed Triple averaged 35 MPG while in my care, control,
and custody. Not a great number by any stretch but one that
is understandable considering the pipe and the fact that you
almost literally cannot ride this bike in a sane, restrained
For more information visit the
Motorcycles website and also read the
Speed Triple Comic Strip on 2WF.com!
Publication Date: January 2010
Speed Triple - Specifications
||Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC,
||Bore/Stroke: 79 x 71.4mm
||Compression Ratio: 12.0:1
||Fuel System: Multipoint sequential
electronic fuel injection.
||Final Drive: X-ring chain
||Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
||Front Suspension: 43mm USD
forks with dual rate springs and adjustable preload,
rebound and compression damping.
||Rear Suspension: Monoshock
with adjustable preload, compression and rebound
||Front Brakes: Twin 320mm floating
discs, 4 piston radial calipers.
||Rear Brakes: Single 220mm
disc, 2 piston caliper.
||Frame: Tubular, fabricated
aluminum alloy perimeter.
||Swingarm: Single-sided, aluminum
alloy with eccentric chain adjuster.
||Front Wheel: Alloy 5-spoke,
17 x 3.5 in.
||Rear Wheel: Alloy 5-spoke,
17 x 5.5 in.
||Front Tire: 120/70 ZR 17
||Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR 17
Weights and Capacities
||Length: 83.3 in
||Width (Handlebars): 30.7in
||Seat Height: 32.1in
||Rake/Trail: 23.5 degree/84mm
||Wet Weight: 416lbs
||Fuel Tank Capacity: 4.6 gal
||Maximum Power: 130 bhp at
||Maximum Torque: 77 ft.lbf
at 7,550 rpm
||(Measured at crankshaft to
||Jet Black, Fusion White, Blazing
Orange, Matte Black
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From "J.W." (March 2012): "I
got a 2010 Speed Triple, matte black with stock pipes up high
against the tail. Bought it used last summer; I believe the
previous owner didn't like that it is always straining at the
leash and kept it less than a year. I, however, have a great
time on it.
Granted, it does push you to cut time off drives (this past
weekend I took it on a start-of-season ride up the interstate
in Colorado. A drive that usually takes an hour fifteen to an
hour and a half, on the Speed Triple was an hour flat).
I started riding a year ago on a 1986 Suzuki GS650GL that
I bought for under $800 and fixed up for a road trip around
the Midwest. By the end of the summer I knew motorcycles were
going to be a long-term activity and threw myself in with a
2010 Speed Triple.
Now I can listen to it happily growl down the highway at
85mph for hours on end, and if another sport bike catches my
eye I can catch up to them with the lightest turn of the throttle.
I couldn't be happier."
From "G.A.M' (1/10): "Great
review! I appreciate very much the author's efforts to make
it clear that this motorcycle will stand up and howl (and presumably
bust your butt) if not treated with utmost respect. I am not
that much interested in a bike that will run on one wheel for
more than a mile, but it's clear that the Speed Triple is a
great and unique motorcycle.
I am a sucker for that which is different and unique, and
better. Do you remember the '80's Audi with the 5 cylinder engine?
Do you also remember the commercial with the German engineers
all sitting around discussing the unique design? One engineer
said "Hans just smiled" when they suggested a five
cylinder engine. Hans, he has that dry German sense of irony.
That commercial ran about two weeks, shorter only than the "If
Teddy Kennedy drove a VW, he'd be president today" commercial
(better Snopes that one).
In my humble opinion, V4's and triples are the most interesting
motorcycle engines presently in production. Nothing against
some of the nicely balanced twins presently in production, but
V4's and triples seem to embody some of the best engine performance
characteristics currently available.
More on point, I have been enamored of Triumph Triples since
my riding buddy in college rode a Triumph Trident. I was always
intrigued at the triple format. I was riding my Honda 750 Super
Sport at the time. I once tried to ride his "Trumpet"
down the street, but being on my fourth Honda with the shifter
on the left and brake on the right, I looked like a drunken
cripple trying to drive his '72 right hand shifting Trident
down the road. I was braking when I wanted to shift, trying
to shift by hitting the brake, and so I walked the bike back
to Tom and assured him I had done no real damage, to anything
but my pride.
But ever since then, I have had a yearning for a triple.
I didn't even know at that time that a triple is perhaps the
perfect compromise between the torque of a twin (without the
vibration inherent in vertical twins), and the engine speed
and high RPM power of a 4 cylinder engine. After thirty years
off from motorcycling, I came within a hair's breadth of buying
a Triumph Sprint (riding position nixed that one at age 55)
or a used Thunderbird (couldn't agree on a price). I think the
Sport (discontinued) would have been about perfect, but
couldn't find one. I ended up with a Honda V4, and I love the
But in my heart of hearts, I would really like to try a triple
next. The Street/Speed Triples seem the best of what is presently
available as a new bike. Or maybe the Tiger. So many great bikes,
so little time. Thanks again for a great and insightful review."
From "R.C." (1/10): "Another
great review. Thanks, webBikeWorld!
And a BIG thanks to Triumph for building the Speed Triple
and bringing it to us here in the States. It is truly in a class
by itself on so many levels.
I have always been a big fan of Japanese bikes and have owned
over 40 of them. I have pretty much run the gamut from mid-1960s
models to the mid 00s. My current bike, an '06 Honda 650cc dual
sport, is starting to bore me (they all do after a while, it
is my biggest weakness with bikes) and I am thinking of getting
another big street bike.
As usual, I headed on down to my local Japanese Big 4 "Mega-dealer"
to see the 2010 line-up. It has been a while and I wasn't sure
what was being offered.
HOLY SMOKE!!! I must have missed it! When did
the Power Rangers and the Boozefighters take over motorcycle
design in Asia? I swear, unless some drastic changes happen
in Japan, I'll never own another Big 4 bike. They just do not
seem to get it any more. I didn't see 1 street bike of any kind
that inspired me. As a matter of fact, the vast majority were
absolutely disgusting; either WAAAY over-styled and racy (almost
'space-aged'), or big, fat, heavy, low, and s l o w. The Universal
Japanese Motorcycle - un-revolutionary but stunning, practical
but fun, simple but functional, and comfortable but respectable
- currently does not exist except in Europe!
I have always drooled over the Speed Triple and several other
Triumphs, but I couldn't quite justify deserting on my Japanese
roots. Thanks to reviews like this one, and Triumph's wonderful
dedication to 'the fine art of motorcycles', I am now entirely
convinced that a beautiful, British racing green, Triumph Speed
Triple will be the 1st European bike to reside in my garage.
And it won't be the last if Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha
can't pull out of this styling 'black hole' that is currently
dragging them down.
Could Triumph be engineering the beginning of the end for
Big 4 dominance? In my eyes, the answer is a resounding YES!"
From "C.J." (1/10): "The
Triumph Triples are nice bikes but I don't like the high placement
of the stock exhaust pipes. In my opinion both bikes look much
better with the low mounted, Arrow exhaust. Lower mounting keeps
heat away from the rider and passenger and provides more options
for soft luggage.
I wish Triumph would change the design of the stock exhaust
system to be mounted like the Arrow pipe in your review. I would
be more inclined to purchase one if that were the case. Great
website. Keep up the good work!"
From "K.M." (1/10): "I
just finished reading the Speed Triple Review. Great review!
I'm a HUGE fan of nakeds (Street Triple owner here!).
Triumph triples are simply amazing engines VERY well suited
for street use. They pull like an ox down low yet still have
enough zing on top to satisfy most speed junkies. They also
seem just as happy putting around as they are winding it out.
The Speed Triple and it's sibling Street Triple seem to have
wrapped up that agility, power, and fun character in a seemingly
perfect package. I've found, as you have, that the Speed is
more scary serious, while the Street is more outlandishly fun.
Yet BOTH have each quality in them.
I wish more U.S. riders would let go of their "race
replica" clip-on bikes and give these (and similar nakeds)
a try. They are SO much more fun on the street! And after all...isn't
THAT what riding is all about? :-)"