2017 Triumph Street Cup first ride review

Jan 19, 2017

Nearly a year after I set out across the American South on a Triumph Street Twin, I found myself riding a Triumph Street Cup across the south of Spain. Maybe it was the jet lag or the nearly 24 hours of taxis, flights, layovers and customs checks, but I kept finding unexpected similarities.

Inside the city limits, Seville was similar to what I experienced in New Orleans. Life comes at a slower pace and people actually talk to one another at the cafés in town while avoiding their phones. Exiting the city, the farmlands of the Spanish countryside could have passed for Alabama or Tennessee. Stopping for coffee in the small Spanish villages, I was reminded of my Sunday morning rides to Topton, Pennsylvania, where I would stop for coffee at the Market Café. (The Spanish cafés just have more cured meats.)

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review Spurgeon Dunbar
The roads through the hills of Spain felt very familiar, as did the new Street Cup. Photography by Alessio Barbanti and Matteo Cavadini.

The similarities didn't stop with the landscape. Built on the Street Twin platform, the Street Cup's DNA is nearly identical to its slightly older sibling's, with a few key changes to styling and functionality to give it a sportier, sleeker image. Staring at the bikes side by side, it's easy to tell the two models apart based on their looks, but in order to determine the nuances that set the bikes apart, they definitely need to be ridden.  

Triumph Modern Classics come to a fork in the road

To understand Triumph’s new Street Cup, we need to understand the Street Twin. Introduced in 2016, the Street Twin was a gamble for Triumph. The company decided to drastically alter the family recipe of their extremely successful Modern Classic range of motorcycles. Prior to 2016, all the Modern Classic bikes were built on the same platform and shared multiple components, including the brakes, frame, and an air-cooled 865 cc parallel twin engine.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
The engine in this bike has character. Triumph photo.

Last year the family lineage forked in two different directions. Head down one branch and you'll find the Street Twin, a ground-up redesign, powered by an all-new, 270-degree, 900 cc parallel twin engine that cut peak horsepower in favor of more torque and ponies from around 3,000 rpm to 6,000 rpm. The gamble paid off. The new bike received many accolades, sold double that of any other bike in the Modern Classic lineup, and even old 865 cc diehards like myself were forced to admit that Triumph had built a better bike.

In the other direction is the new T120 Bonneville, with an equally new liquid-cooled, 1,200 cc twin. The Thruxton received a High Output version of the same, larger engine along with upgrades to its chassis, brakes, and suspension. This came as an answer to customers’ requests for a true performance machine with retro lines. But with that increased performance came a nearly $2,700 increase in price over the Thruxton's 2015 MSRP of $9,799 ($5,000 if you go with the R version). This jump in price placed it out of reach for a lot of riders previously enamored with its café racer-inspired lines for sub-$10K.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
The Street Cup captures the café racer style. Triumph photo.

What Triumph needed to fill the gap in their lineup was some type of “Thruxton Light.” A platform-based bike, much like the original machine, for riders who wanted a cool-looking, café-styled bike but who have no need for the bigger, pricier, older sibling. The Street Cup was born, built on the platform of the Street Twin, just as the original Thruxton followed the original Bonneville.

The Triumph Street Cup

Last year I spent nearly 5,000 miles testing the Street Twin, riding it the long way from Atlanta to Austin, then back to Philadelphia where we filmed a full-ride review.

Triumph’s all-new Street Cup shares its SOHC, liquid-cooled, 900 cc parallel twin engine. It also shares the same electronics package, featuring a throttle-by-wire setup as well as traction control, which can be disabled with the push of a button.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review Spurgeon Dunbar
The engine isn't one that will impress you by spec sheet alone. For that, you need to ride it down your favorite stretch of winding road. Photography by Alessio Barbanti and Matteo Cavadini.

The budget-minded KYB suspension found on the Street Twin remains relatively unchanged in the Street Cup. The Street Cup utilizes the same springs, damping rates, and 4.7 inches of travel in the front fork with minor changes to the rear suspenders. The shocks receive a slightly stiffer initial spring rate with a bit more compression and rebound damping. The only adjustment remains the five-position preload selector on the rear shocks.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
The rear suspension has been altered slightly over that of the Street Twin. Triumph photo.

Travel in the rear shocks remains the same at 4.7 inches but the length of the shock itself has increased. By lengthening the shocks eight mm, the engineers steepened the rake angle from 25.1 degrees on the Street Twin to 24.3 degrees on the Street Cup. Rake was shortened slightly to 3.9 inches, as well. Triumph argues that this gives the Street Cup a sportier feel and improved handling over the Street Twin.

The brakes remain unchanged over the Street Twin. Up front, riders get one two-piston Nissin caliper clamping down on a single 310 mm rotor paired with an additional two-piston caliper and 255 mm disc at the back wheel.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
The overall fit and finish of this bike allows it to stand apart from others in the Modern Classic line. Triumph photo.

The most substantial changes can be seen in the ergonomics and styling. The fit and finish on this bike has more in common with its bigger brother, the Thruxton, than with the Street Twin. Its dual-clock setup, featuring an analog-styled speedo and tach, looks like it was pulled right out of the Thruxton’s cockpit. The two-tone paint job looks brilliant and features hand-painted pinstriping or, as the Brits call it, “coachlining.” In line with Triumph’s history, the artist has signed the bottom of the tank. A color-matched fly screen and removable seat cowl complete the café image.

Where the Street Twin features an upright seating position, the Street Cup utilizes a clubman-style handlebar, pulling the rider into more of a crouched tuck. However, the position of the footpegs has remained the same position as on the Street Twin. Triumph said this was done because of feedback they received from customers surveyed from the original 865 cc Thruxton. Apparently, riders wanted the café look but without aggressively rearset footpegs. The problem is that this setup puts the rider in a rather cramped position.

Riding the Street Cup

I’ll be the first to admit that this engine looks rather lackluster on paper, putting out a mere 54 horsepower and 59 foot-pounds of torque at 3,230 rpm. But motorcycles aren’t ridden on paper. They’re ridden on old country roads and hustled from stoplight to stoplight in scenes stolen from worn-out Bruce Springsteen records. Everyone has their favorite testing ground and for the Street Cup our testing ground was the Spanish countryside. Interestingly enough, those Spanish farmlands I mentioned earlier vaguely reminded me of Pennsylvania, where I cut my teeth learning to ride.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review Spurgeon Dunbar
The Street Cup is a fun, mid-sized machine that will feel at home on the backroads of America as well as Spain. RevZilla photo.

I’ll admit to smiling like a college kid again as I ran the Street Cup’s precise gearbox through all five of its gears. The fun, torquey engine is full of character. It provides enough power to bring a grin to your face while stopping short of ripping your arms out of their sockets.

Pushing it a bit through the winding roads, I immediately remembered the limitations of the KYB suspension, the same found on the Street Twin. The front fork holds fine when ridden at a modest pace but it began to buck and dive when we started chasing one another through the Spanish hills. The changes to the rear shocks did little to help the situation. It appears that even Triumph is acknowledging the limitations of the suspension because they have paired with FOX to develop a fully adjustable set of rear shocks for those looking for a bit more performance. I would make sure to couple those with a heavier set of front springs if you plan to upgrade.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
I found the brakes to work surprisingly well for a single-disc setup. Triumph photo.

I overheard some other riders talking about how they were disappointed with the brakes on this bike and I am going to respectfully disagree. While it’s not a dual-disc Brembo setup, it works quite impressively for a single-disc braking system. A solid, two-finger pull at the brake lever slows down the 440-pound (Triumph’s claimed dry weight, which, if you’re counting, is around 30 pounds lighter than the old 865 cc Thruxton) Street Cup down pretty damn quickly, with no concern for locking up the wheels, thanks to the ABS system, which engages smoothly without disrupting the rider.

While I understand that Triumph left rearsets off of this bike because they were trying to give customers what they were asking for, it’s important to remember that customers aren’t always right. With all due respect, if a rider doesn’t want rearsets on a production café racer, then let them put a clubman bar on a Street Twin.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review Spurgeon Dunbar
I would have liked to have seen the foot pegs set up a bit higher and further back. Photography by Alessio Barbanti and Matteo Cavadini.

Because of this, the seating position was a bit more awkward than I was expecting. I liked the positioning of my hands but my legs and feet felt awkwardly pushed forward. In addition to the discomfort, the footpegs hit the ground in the corners much sooner than I was expecting. Now, one could argue that at six feet, three inches I am an outlier and others might be fine with this position. But it just reminds me of the kid selling a Honda CB550 on Craigslist who put a clubman handlebar on his bike and is selling it as a “café racer.” I understand that Triumph is trying to give customers what they want, but I would have expected a bit more of a compromise in the way of a slight change of peg position as opposed to no change at all from the Street Twin. Perhaps we will see a rearset option pop up in their accessory catalog or in the world of aftermarket parts at some point.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
I was a huge fan of the mirrors on this bike for their fit and finish as well as their ability to let me see what was going on behind me. Triumph photo.

Riding back through the city, we attempted to lane split our way through Seville’s afternoon traffic, but the bar end mirrors hindered our advances, as they added a few inches of width to either side of the motorcycle. If you’re reading this in America, the only riders who will have a problem with this will be those of you residing in California. The rest of the country will appreciate mirrors that actually work. It is very rarely that any manufacturer includes factory mirrors that actually do the job, but Triumph deserves a thumbs up for the simple functionality of this often overlooked necessity. 

Final thoughts

Riding on the coattails of their own success, Triumph continues to expand their Modern Classic line moving into 2017. Built on the Street Twin platform, Triumph introduced the Street Cup alongside the new Street Scrambler, which replaces the last of the old 865 cc air-cooled bikes. These two new models come on the heels of the release of the Bobber and the T-100, which expands the Modern Classic family to seven different models — eight if you count the Thruxton separately from the R-spec version.

Triumph Street Cup First Ride Review
The Street Cup is available in two colors, either yellow with silver metal flake or black with silver metal flake. RevZilla photo.

After riding the Street Cup, it is clear that it does exactly what Triumph set out to accomplish and then some. It gives riders a sportier alternative to the Street Twin without changing the soul of what has made that bike so popular to begin with. While the bikes are very similar in nature regarding the characteristics of how they perform, the Street Cup goes above and beyond with its fit and finish, appealing to riders who want something a bit more polished.

With an MSRP of $10,500, the Street Cup fills a void in Triumph’s lineup. It’s aimed at riders looking for a sportier version of the Street Twin (whose base MSRP gets a bump to $9,000 for 2017) but who don’t want to jump to the Thruxton’s higher price, or perhaps they simply don’t want (or can’t fit) on the larger bike. Triumph did a great job of introducing a motorcycle that manages to look distinct in their lineup while retaining the classic lines for which the brand is universally recognized.

Sitting at a red light as we were heading back to our hotel, I felt a pat on my shoulder. I looked up to find an old man sitting next to me on a tired-looking scooter. As my Spanish is pretty much limited to “Uno mas cerveza por favor,” I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. Finally he just pointed to the Triumph tank badge and gave me a big thumbs up while smiling ear to ear.

It doesn’t get more universal than that.