Since its launch in 2007, the Triumph 675 Street Triple has been the lynchpin of the British manufacturer’s recession-busting performance, while the volume of many of its rivals has slumped. That’s resulted in Triumph’s market share skyrocketing in several key countries in spite of the global economic downturn, to which the company has remained essentially impervious. Triumph is now celebrating its 5,00,000th motorcycle since production recommenced in 1991 under John Bloor’s ownership, and the significance of the Street Triple’s contribution to that resurgence can’t be overestimated. Almost 10 per cent of the total number of bikes Triumph has made over the past 20 years were Street Triples, and that in just one-fifth of their entire time in business. It’s what you call a showroom success story.
But now, slightly unexpectedly, Triumph has waved the same refreshening wand over its middleweight roadster as it did at the end of last year to its Speed Triple big brother – John Lennon has been replaced by Howling Wolf in terms of the bike’s all-important face. So, gone are those hyper-distinctive round goggle-eye headlamps with chrome bezels, replaced by less retro, but still separate, twin pentagonal wolf-eye lights, part of a restyling package courtesy of Californian Tim Prentice, whom Triumph originally enlisted to create the Thunderbird cruiser. ‘Originally, we planned to keep the same lights as before on both models,’ admits Triumph’s product manager, Simon Warburton. ‘But once we had the complete Speed Triple prototype built up, they just didn’t look right. So we went the whole way and changed them on each model. Some will like them, others won’t – but it’s the bike underneath that counts.’Indeed so, and the chance to borrow one of the first born-again Street Triple Rs for a week underlined that. No getting away from it – this is one of the most practical yet performing real-world motorcycles in the marketplace today, with the extra dose of zest and fun you get from riding it, that makes it stand out from the pack. It’s hard not to play a three-cylinder symphony on that emotive exhaust note via the gearbox any time you ride the Street Triple – even when you’re running errands or commuting to work – quite apart from the exuberant performance the motor delivers when the road opens out and you can raise the tempo. And at the stage that the new-look naked bike’s price is unchanged, it makes the revamped Triumph even better value for money.
A low entry price is achieved on the base-model Street Triple partly via non-adjustable Kayaba suspension and two-piston Nissin front brakes, but the slightly more costly Street Triple R is uprated in handling terms via the same radial four-piston Nissin front brake calipers as the supersport Daytona, gripping the Street Triple’s identical twin
308 mm Sunstar discs via sintered pads and a radial master cylinder. Yet, thanks to the other major upgrade on the R-model, the extra bite these super brakes deliver doesn’t have the forks bottoming out under the extreme weight transfer they inevitably produce – for its Kayaba forks have been stiffened to a spring rate midway between the Daytona and stock Street Triple’s, and they’re fully adjustable for compression and rebound damping, just as the Daytona’s are. Same thing at the rear, where the fully-adjustable Kayaba shock is also a little longer, resulting in a 5 mm taller 805 mm seat height that gives a crucial bit of extra room to put your toes on the rearset footrests for cranking round turns, as the improved suspension will encourage you to do.
The Prentice visual makeover also sees both models ‘de-chromed’ for 2011, with brushed steel exhaust headers, heel guards and silencers replacing the previous polished items, while there are new handlebar clamps and end weights, and redesigned headstock infills, plus the aluminium taper-section Magura handlebar fitted to the Street Triple R is now standard on the base model. Both variants now also feature Triumph’s latest-spec instrumentation and all the info is now on one LCD screen. There’s also the new, more modern-looking, Triumph name logo on the fuel tank that recently debuted on the Daytona 675R.
Perhaps regrettably, Triumph’s makeover hasn’t included painting the 675cc engine something other than black, which reduces the visual impact in a naked bike of what is such a handsome, clean-looking motor. Triumph insists the new Street Triple duo are mechanically unchanged from before, with their punchy 675cc three-cylinder engine delivering 106 bhp at 11,700 rpm, with a fatter midrange and low-rpm performance compared to the 675 Daytona, thanks to the 3-1-2 Euro 3-compliant exhaust system with underseat twin cans, and a softer pair of camshafts, plus revised engine mapping.
This results in a broader spread of power, with improbable punch for such a relatively small engine thanks to an ultra-flat torque curve producing more than 6.11 kgm of grunt all the way from just 3,500 rpm to 12,300 rpm, peaking at 9,200 revs with 6.93 kgm on tap. Triumph’s middleweight triple motor has almost the same sparkling acceleration in Street Triple form as it does in the Daytona – just that the spread of performance is that much wider. After pulling off idle, the torquey, tractable triple starts to gather engine speed around 4000 rpm, all the way to the 12,650 rpm limiter, although you soon realise its happy zone is from 5000-8000 rpm. This means that on country roads you can hold third gear for long stretches, working the throttle back and forth to surf that torque curve, occasionally dropping to second for drive out of tighter turns, or switching to fourth for a faster stretch. And in spite of the mile-wide powerband, there’s the constant temptation to work that smooth-shifting gearbox just a little harder than really necessary, only to revel in the glorious howl of the triple motor, expressed via those great-sounding twin cans.
But there’s a greater refinement in the Street Triple engine’s performance that was immediately apparent on the bike I rode, especially in the gearshift and engine mapping departments. The gearchange feels a significant step forward compared to before – smoother, slicker and more precise. Also, the engine mapping and the fuel calibration on the closed-loop Keihin EFI is absolutely flawless on the new bike. Clean, responsive and controllable, it's arguably the finest fuelling I've yet encountered on any volume production streetbike – call it a draw between this Triumph and the new Aprilia V4R Tuono. How come?
‘All our bikes are subject to continuous improvement, so any existing Triumph model you ride this year will be subtly different from last year’s,’ says Warburton. ‘During the development of the updated 675 Daytona, we developed a new EFI strategy which monitors the rate of opening of the throttle,’ replied Warburton. ‘A different ignition map is then applied depending on how fast you’re actually opening it, rather than on what the throttle position actually is. It’s like having separate Sport and Leisure riding maps that are applied automatically, depending on how aggressive you’re being with the throttle.’
As part of this process of making the best still better, Triumph changed the tyres fitted to the Street Triple from Dunlop Qualifiers to the World Supersport-developed dual-compound Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa Pros on the test bike, with a noticeable improvement in grip and handling. That the Pirellis warm up much faster from cold is also a big plus, especially on a bike like this where the temptation is always to light up the motor right from the get-go. You can crack the light-action throttle hard open while still cranked well over, feeling those sticky Pirellis grip hard to drive you out as you max out the Triumph’s seemingly limitless ground clearance, with footrests high enough to deliver a remarkable claimed 57° lean angle before you ground anything.
No, I didn’t get to do that!
I also thought the Nissin radial front brakes were even more stellar in response and effectiveness than before – they're still not grabby, but you can stand the bike on its nose very easily and quickly if you want to. And with the R-bike scaling the same 167 kg dry weight as the Street Triple base model – it’s the lightest bike in the middleweight streetfighter category – there’s not much to stop. The Street Triple R will make for a good bike for track days where, on a twisty circuit, I guarantee that riders of this specced-out streetfighter will embarrass many other more powerful but less torquey, less agile sportsbikes that don’t stop as well. Maximum speed is around 225 kph if you care to hold on tight enough, though there’s little protection without the optional deflector, which is a must-have accessory for any serious speedster.
Using lots of engine braking didn’t get the rear wheel hopping, in spite of the fact there’s no slipper clutch fitted. Yet you’d have a hard time figuring that when using lots of engine braking into a tight second gear turn without any instability or trace of rear wheel chatter. But for those who still think it desirable, there’s a slipper clutch available as an aftermarket Triumph item, as is a pair of Arrow slip-ons as part of its extensive list of aftermarket goodies for the Street Triple family, one Euro 3-compliant, and the other a 3-1 race exhaust just for track day use.
We already knew the Street Triple was a great bike – but this revamped version is subtly better. Manoeuvrable and agile, it’s an ideal tool for the urban jungle, with great leverage from that one-piece handlebar for carving corners in city streets, yet out in the country it’s ready to out-Monster anything else in the middleweight marketplace, with the performance from that glorious-sounding, torquey motor to back it up. Rather surprisingly, it fits riders of all statures and sexes, and the fresh restyling complete with delete option headlamps sees it retain the perky posture of the original bike, while suitably refreshing it. Triumph has indeed made the best better still, and yet again, it raises the bar for the rest of the class – and that’s not the Union Jack on my helmet waving, it’s a fact. Wait till you ride one and tell me I’m wrong!