I’m a mooch.
If Spurg is riding a bike for a review, I am always a greedy turd and ask him to borrow it. Part of this is selfish; I like to ride motorcycles. The larger part, though, is to simply stay up-to-date on what bikes are available to buyers. Spurg does the serious research, making calls and studying dyno charts; if you want a Triumph Street 2018 Triple RS review that was actually researched, go read his. I empty gas tanks, return bikes dirty, and change all the settings. I weaseled the Striple away for a couple hundred miles and burned up his fuel.
I inserted the key and ogled the TFT display. That’s a fancy name for “fancy dash,” which is the very first thing you notice on the Trumpy. The dash lends the bike an air of luxury one would not expect to find on a bike with the Street Triple’s mission or price tag. Bikes have lagged behind the automotive world for so long in terms of what is acceptable for dash panels. This TFT is ass-kickingly good. It’s a super-primo feature on a bike that is not super-primo-priced. And it's thoughtfully designed. In Street mode, it prioritizes the speedometer function of the dash. Switch to Sport, and it switches to a layout that maximizes tach visibility. Brilliant.
The dash is not the only item of noticeably high quality. One is compelled to adjust the MCS levers. (A brake lever adjustable for both reach and ratio? Nuts!) Your eye will also wander over the skeletonized triple-tree top clamp, exposing the black bars beneath. Very nice, Triumph. I am a sucker for finely crafted detail bits. Take my money. The fit and finish on this bike are incredible. Not “incredible for the money.” They are just incredible.
Whooo-eee. That triple is one potent son-of-a-gun. There is no way to ride this bike without thinking of the Yamaha trip-trip-triple, and the two really could not be more different. For starts, the Triumph is alarmingly smooth. The lack of vibration is really pleasing. Power builds very progressively, though. The bike behaves far more like an inline four than a twin. The Yamaha punches you in the mouth right off idle. The Triumph just keeps burning hotter and hotter until you’re at 12k and rising and the party’s in full swing. Bang it off the redline and repeat.
When I was riding it, I bounced between “Road” and “Sport” modes. Sport disappointed me. The throttle was vague and jerky, and the amount of driveline lash it caused upon deceleration or when adding maintenance throttle was a total buzzkill. Happily, I found Road mode. Road knocked all the sharp edges off the bike, and made it a real peach to ride. The throttle was just what I was looking for, and the smoothed input from my right wrist was glorious. It was akin to switching on a camera’s auto stabilization, for you photo nerds. And the transmission? That thing shifted crisper than a tube of Pringles.
The bike is powerful. I think it might be too powerful. The bike’s race character shines through — it’s one of those bikes that “wants” the revs. The problem is that the engine is so large and well tuned that it’s not very easy to have fun at rational speeds. I caught myself on a quiet 35 mph road blazing away at over 70 mph. I nailed the throttle in second gear, and the front came up. I pulled over and had to ask myself exactly what the hell I was doing. I can’t live my life like this, man.
Mostly, I just wanted to try out the R or the S with the different tunes. I imagine I'd like an S. Heck, the first-gen 675 cc engine in this chassis would make me a happy man. If you want a street bike you can take to the track, there are more streetable options. This bike does the job, but it’s not my favorite. Then again, if you want to take your track bike out every now and again on the road for a Sunday curve-carvin’ sesh, this is the hot ticket. Me? I’d prefer a tamer powerplant — but I’m not a roadracer.
Two minor things that drove me nuts
First, the traction control. In Sport mode, you don’t even get a GP wheelie. You get the barest of bunny hops and that’s it. I spent all of one whole shoot day trying to figure out what modes allow good wheelies. I got bad news for you, fellow cephalopods: It’s all or nothing. It's bunny hops all the way up until Track mode, where anything goes. The throttle was twitchy enough in Track mode I didn’t really want to keep bringing the front end up to find out if it would let me loop. (That seemed like a poor idea for a fat angry man on a borrowed bike.)
Also, the sidestand is super-shitty. The return spring works terribly, and there is no extension on the stand to kick down with your heel at stops, so expect to go toe fishing behind the controls fairly often. Spurg rode an S and tells me that has an extension. Go figure.
This chassis is a compelling package to hold that fire-breathin’ engine. The motorcycle is light, taut, and responds to inputs unbelievably well. The much-vaunted Öhlins suspension lives up to its reputation. Unscientifically, I used Spurgeon’s track settings on the street, because I am lazy. I felt every bump on the road. They weren’t quite teeth-clickers, but this ain’t Pappy’s Buick. I’m 275 or so, and I could live with the suspension on the street, though it’s clear this bike is meant for higher speeds and nicer pavement than I selected. This leads me to believe lighter riders are going to find this suspension pretty punishing. I wasn’t uncomfortable after 70 miles or so, but I am also willing to endure compressed vertebrae if it means I can chew up my favorite corners.
The Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa tires were part of that equation, too. Spurg left the front at 26 psi and the rear at 28 after his day at the track. Who am I to fiddle with a bike that he is empirically testing? (It was a long damn day. I cannot be bothered with hooking up the air pump, thank you.) It was like riding a tiger with claws. The bike simply would not give up dry grip; not at street speeds. It felt like the tires were gnawing on the pavement.
The brakes are sublime. Simply, they are the best brakes I have ever experienced on a motorcycle. There are lots of good brakes on the market today, but these offered so much feel from the pads to my fingers that it felt as though I was reaching down to grab the discs. I am madly in love with these calipers.
Most importantly for me, I was not pretzeled on this motorcycle. The bike is damn near a full-blown track bike, but make no mistake, the riding position is pure naked Striple: upright and neutral, with your chest in the wind. Happily, the cutouts in the tank are shaped perfectly to allow a rider to control the bike with his legs. Ergo research shines through on this bike.
Why I liked it, and why I didn’t
This is a track machine that doesn’t make me pack Aleve. I’m getting fatter and older with each passing year, and while I can still hustle a bike around and squish up into a weird riding position to do it, it hurts a little more every time I try. For that reason, I appreciate the Striple.
Ultimately, though, my riding is done on the street or the dirt — not the track. Therefore, I prefer either an engine with much more off-idle and midrange beans or, alternatively, a high-strung engine that craves a heavy throttle hand but has a bit less power, so I can spin it up and keep the bike “on the cam” at sane street speeds. The non-existent Striple 425 would be right up my alley.
I have trouble believing there were people who bought a sporty naked (generally, the street-going cousin to a race-rep) and were then disappointed that it wasn't "track-y" enough. In no way can that be a significant market. This bike is so very, very good, but it seems like an answer to a question no one asked. Having said that, if I was loaded and wanted to buy a track bike (rather than build one), this is hands-down the bike I would choose.
Still, though this bike ain’t for me personally, it was pretty hard to find flaws with it. I plan on attempting to continue riding it until Spurgeon hollers at me or I get ticketed. Maybe I can find a real lonely twisty mountain road. Maybe I can get Lance to pay my ticket fines out of the Common Tread kitty.
On second thought, maybe I better just give it back.