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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 23 June 2008
It started life as the T595, then became the 955i, with a radical makeover for 2001 - yet the flagship Triumph sports triple remains what it was back in 1997; a brutally fast, typically British motorcycle, that oozes a rakish sort of style.
It might never win races in WSB, or humiliate all comers at Bruntingthorpe in one of those pointless magazine `top speed shoot-outs´ that bar-propping bikers love to quote. Yet despite a few imperfections the big Triumph triple has a strong following in the UK because it is so different from the Japanese four cylinder brigade, or the V-twin posse.
Now it is lighter, more powerful, better handling than ever, but still possessed of that howling three cylinder exhaust note.
The 955i is one Triumph that doesn´t need excuses - it´s right on the money.
Triumph is not showing any sign of holding back after the problems it had with the TT600, nor the alleged financial difficulties which are supposed to have been a problem almost since it started selling bikes a decade ago. Low rev fuelling troubles blighted the TT600 at the beginning, and even the current, improved version is still not perfect, while a report on the company in one publication focused on the fact it has lost several millions of pounds every year.
In fact, with the constant expansion of Triumph including the factory being built and the rate at which new models are coming, clearly these are just accounting losses and not real ones. And judging by the latest Daytona, the company’s confidence hasn’t been dented in the slightest - oddly enough, it’s one of the more minor details which underlines this.
Even with the standard, road legal silencers - we had Triumph’s aftermarket track-only (it says ’ere...) ones for the circuit element of the Portuguese Estoril press launch - the characteristic three-cylinder snarl is more clear than it’s ever been. It seems the Hinckley engineers spent considerable effort enhancing the sound of the bike at the same time as upping the power. The silencer for example is tuned to filter out the higher frequency notes, leaving increased room within the noise regulations for the aurally more attractive deeper tones. At the same time, the intake on the revised airbox (beneath the fuel tank) has been turned around to face the rider, so the intake roar is more obvious when you’re aboard.
Other changes to the motor include an end of crankshaft starter gear (rather than the train of gears used previously) plus a whole package of sound deadening measures which have almost banished the distinctive whistles and whines of Triumph’s engines.
Tuning in the musical sense is all very well, but without more power it would be wasted, so Triumph has convincingly addressed that too. Peak power is up by 19bhp to 147bhp (only just short of the Yamaha R1’s), while the torque is still spread widely across the rev band.
Much of the responsibility for this is due to the new cylinder head with its narrower valve angles and new thinking on the gas flow which has seen the inlet valve size increased by 1mm yet the exhaust valves 1mm smaller than before. The compression ratio is up, always a route to improved efficiency, while manufacturing consistency is enhanced by computer-controlled machining of the combustion chambers and cylinder ports and the use of die-cast crankcases. Cheaper but less accurate sand casting was used on the old Daytona, whose power output could vary significantly between individual examples.
Even so, at this level, where the performance is bigger than the majority of road riders’ ability or sense of self (or licence) preservation to exploit it, qualities come to the fore ahead of outright acceleration, top speed or lap time figures. There’s a growing sense that the performance of any number of supersports machines is more than enough thank you, so the reasons for choosing one bike over another migrate to other areas, such as style, character, history, image and so on. And for its three cylinders alone the Daytona has an immediate head start.
The amazing thing is, it isn’t exactly off the pace either, even in the big capacity supersport class. For a start, it feels more like it’s 30bhp up on the old model than the claimed increase, probably due to the 10kg overall weight that’s been shed. The power kicks in hard at 8000rpm, building forcefully until it starts to tail off just as the rev limiter chops in at 11,500rpm. At last the generic Triumph sensation of an artificially low rev ceiling has been banished, expanding the engine’s ability as a fine road unit into territory inhabited by the best track day machines.
The new gearbox swaps ratios more readily than the clunky old unit, but it did still baulk at the odd high rev, clutchless upchange. The fuel injection is also revised and it works superbly at high revs, although it seems to struggle mildly lower down when the throttle response is very slightly woolly, and on very small throttle openings while trickling through traffic the motor hunts a little, enough to induce a small amount of snatching in the transmission. I mention this because of those low rev injection problems on the TT600 and we were looking carefully for signs of the same on the Daytona. But where the 600 is unpleasant at low revs, on the Daytona you barely notice anything and it’s absolutely not a reason to put you off the bike.
On the contrary, the delicious ripping calico howl of the engine through the aftermarket exhaust is blood curdling, although too noisy for legal road use and too noisy anyway for many riders, I suspect. That’s a shame as although you probably won’t notice the 5bhp gain in top end horsepower, the big dip in torque between 3000rpm and 4000rpm is completely filled in with the replacement silencer fitted (and the alternative fuel injection map which is downloaded into the engine management computer at the same time). This makes the bike quite a bit punchier when tooling about at lower speeds.
Still, it’s simply a better, far more powerful engine than the previous Daytona’s (which wasn’t at all bad) and the chassis improvements have, if anything, leaped ahead by an even greater margin. Visually, the replacement of the old Daytona’s single-sided swingarm with a conventional two-sider is a loss, but the gains in stiffness and unsprung weight are considerable. With the new Showa rear shock and a little less wheel travel the feedback is noticeably better. The front forks’ damping is revised slightly but the bike’s front end geometry is sharpened and the rear end raised, while the lighter TT600’s wheels are fitted, completing a package which steers far more quickly, stops sooner and generally feels a whole generation ahead in its handling qualities.
The brakes felt less powerful at first than the old Daytona’s, even though they’re unchanged and have less weight to cope with, but this was purely due to the new bike travelling that much faster. With more lever pressure the limits of the impressive Bridgestone BT010 tyres could still be explored.
Despite this, looking at those on my machine at the end of the track sessions I wondered if I simply wasn’t trying hard enough, but even the tyres on the bike of Niall Mackenzie, former British Superbike champion and grand prix rider who was also at the test, weren’t unduly stressed by his breathtaking cornering speeds. It was a sure sign that the suspension was working extremely well, minimising the work the rubber was having to do, and as is so often the case, its excellence carried across to road riding, where the balance of control and comfort proved outstanding.
Comfort is also helped by a narrowing at the rear of the fuel tank, which no longer digs into your legs, and the handlebars are set in a more natural position for your wrists, although they’re now lower than before (or you have more weight on them because the back of the bike’s higher) and around town will induce a few aches.
The rest of the bodywork is new, the enlarged headlights having something of a Kawasaki air about them, and overall the styling is more assertive, if not liked by everyone - but it looks better in reality than pictures.
The new Daytona (so much is changed it’s not fair just to call it revised) is snapping at the heels of the big boys in the supersport class - it would need to shed another 15kg to really arrive, although the road-friendly stability would suffer - but it adds to the performance with its British badge, gorgeous sound and exceptional build quality, and only costs £100 more than the old bike. It will sell very well, and it will deserve to.
Get Triumph motorbike insurance for the triumph 955i.
Engine..............Water-cooled transverse triple, cc 955
Claimed power (bhp)..............147bhp
Front tyre..............120/70 x 17in
Rear tyre..............180/55 x 17in
Front suspension..............45mm telescopic Kayaba, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension..............One Kayaba damper, adjustments for preload and rebound damping
Front brake..............2, four-piston Nissin calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake..............Double-action Nissin caliper, 220mm disc
Top speed..............170 mph ( EST )
Fuel capacity..............21 litres
Current price..............£8500 ( est. average )