Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 1st May 2018

Rain is rarely welcome when you’re testing a motorbike, but in the case of the Speed Triple RS a typically damp British spring day definitely has its advantages. Triumph’s three-cylinder streetfighter has been updated numerous times since snarling onto the scene in 1994. This update, which adds power and introduces advanced electronics to the upmarket RS version, is among the most significant – and the more tricky the conditions, the more obvious the benefits of its high-tech safety systems.

 

Triumph Speed Triple RS

 

Visually the Speed Triple is little changed from the model that was introduced two years ago, featuring a flyscreen above the twin headlights, and a stubby rear end with twin high-level silencers. But this higher-spec RS version has titanium-and-carbon Arrow cans that save some weight, plus carbon front mudguard and radiator cowls. Both the RS and standard S incorporate more than 100 new components in the shared 1050cc, 12-valve engine, including lighter cylinder liners, crankshaft gear, starter motor and alternator.

Many top-end parts are also new, including the cylinder head, which has reshaped ports and new cams, and redesigned pistons that increase compression ratio to almost 13:1. The airbox and exhaust system are new too, helping to allow the engine to rev 1000rpm higher, and boosting maximum output by a useful 10bhp, to 148bhp at 10,500rpm. That’s still not quite up to the level of the craziest super-nakeds but it’s serious horsepower for a bike with no fairing.

 

Triumph Speed Triple RS

 

The electronics upgrade sees both RS and S models get cruise control and illuminated switchgear, plus a large and colourful TFT display similar to that of last year’s smaller, 765cc, Street Triple R. As before, the ride-by-wire system allows multiple riding modes: four for the Speed Triple S and an extra Track setting for the RS. The upmarket model also features keyless ignition plus an Inertial Measurement Unit, which allows its more sophisticated traction control and cornering ABS.

Chassis layout is basically unchanged, including the tubular aluminium frame and the suspension, which in the RS model’s case combines Öhlins’ 43mm NIX30 forks with TTX36 rear shock (the S has Showa springs front and rear). Most of the braking hardware is also unchanged, and shared by both models, with Brembo’s radial Monobloc calipers up front and a twin-pot Nissin at the rear. The RS’ front brake lever is adjustable for span and lever ratio, while both models get new five-spoke wheels wearing Pirelli’s Diablo Supercorsa rubber.

The riding position is unchanged, with a gentle lean forward towards the slightly raised one-piece handlebar, and fairly generous legroom thanks to footrests that are only moderately high and rear set. With the remote key in your pocket (though it has to be brought out to open the fuel cap), a long press of the starter button brings to life the TFT display, which offers several choices of view, and a pleasantly intuitive method of toggling between the riding modes.

Triumph invited us along to Donington Park in Leicestershire to sample their new model on the surrounding roads, as well as taking in a few laps of the circuit, and we’ve barely left the paddock on the road ride before the first spits on my visor confirm that the forecast rain is on the way.  Even so, the Speed Triple’s addictive blend of easy power, involving character and sweet handling are immediately reminds me just why it has long been so popular. At 189kg dry the Speed is not outstandingly light, and you have to wonder if Triumph will one day revamp it with a lower and more compact exhaust system, as they did five years ago with the Street Triple.

 

Triumph Speed Triple RS

 

But maybe there’s no need, when the Speed handles as well as this. On the twisting minor roads west of Donington the Triumph flicks into turns with a nudge of those wide bars, and rides bumps nonchalantly thanks to its well-controlled Öhlins units. It also fires out again with the benefit of a gloriously direct and accurate throttle response, with either Road or the slightly more direct Sport selected – and with the experience heightened by an intoxicating burble, hardening to a full-blown howl, from the airbox and high-level Arrows.

The Triple is seriously quick too, those additional ten horses giving it some useful extra straight-line beans and raising its top speed well above 150mph. It’s certainly fast enough to be fun on a cold April day as we head northwards towards Ashbourne, charging forward at every opportunity with the help of its mile-wide power band and the slick gearbox and quick-shifter, which has a deliciously smooth action and won’t miss a change all day. Disappointingly, it’s a £300 extra – even on the RS.

Before long those first drops have turned into proper rain, the road is soaked and I’m already glad of the Triple’s traction control, which automatically adjusts to suit the selected engine mode. Less clever is the fact that, although the Triple RS has an IMU, it isn’t clever enough to allow wheelies with the traction control enabled, as you can on bikes that have a separate wheelie control setting.

Not that I’m contemplating stunts by the time we reach the Peak District National Park. Some of England’s best biking roads are round here but it’s seriously wet now. With so much grit, muck and water on the road, it’s good to know that the powerful and controllable Brembo front stopper is backed up by a cornering ABS system which, in theory, would let me grab a handful while swerving round a murderous tractor.

There’s plenty to keep the Triple’s rider happy in more everyday situations too. The RS comes with a so-called comfort seat that didn’t cause any aches. Fuel capacity is an unchanged 15.5 litres; good for a realistic 135 miles at a typical 45mpg average. The bar-end mirrors stay clear, the new back-lit switchgear and TFT screen add to the air of quality, and the lengthy accessory list includes heated grips that would have been appreciated on the test bike.

 

Triumph Speed Triple RS

 

By the time we’re back at Donington we’ve covered over 100 miles, most of them in the rain, and despite being wet and cold I’m hugely impressed by a Speed Triple RS that is a distinctly better road bike than its predecessors. It’s quicker and more responsive, looks and feels more sophisticated, and gains a valuable safety edge with its new electronics. That’s confirmed by a thrash round Donington, where the Triumph is huge fun, and its ABS and traction control make light of the famously slippery-when-wet circuit.

The only real downside is that the Triple RS’s extra features and refinement inevitably add to its price. At £13,250, in black or white paint, it’s almost £2000 more expensive than the S model (which is £11,350 in black or £11,475 in white), and costs only slightly less than some classy rivals including Aprilia’s Tuono V4 1100 RR, KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R and Yamaha’s MT-10 SP. But that’s fine, because the Speed Triple RS is a genuine super-naked too, and it won’t be intimidated by any of them.

 

Triumph Speed Triple RS
Engine type
Liquid-cooled, inline three-cylinder
Displacement
1050cc
Bore x stroke
79 x 71.4mm
Maximum power
148bhp @ 10,500rpm
Maximum torque
87lb-ft (117N.m) @ 7150rpm
Front suspension
43mm Öhlins USD telescopic forks, 120mm travel, fully adjustable
Rear suspension
Single Öhlins shock, 130mm wheel travel, fully adjustable
Seat height
825mm
Dry weight
189kg
Fuel tank
15.5 litres

Photos: Grant Evans

 

 

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