I am Joe Roberts. The phrase kept popping into my head as I swung a leg over this motorcycle. I strode out of the grand prix garage in southern Spain, heat rippling off the asphalt as fans shouted my name from the stands. And by that, of course, I mean I closed the rattly gate in my yard and pushed the bike out to the street before I started it, so as not to disturb the neighbors.
This Triumph Daytona is an ode to the Moto2 World Championship, where all of the bikes are powered by a version of its 765 cc engine, and where my newest racing hero, Joe, competes. Hopefully you’ll forgive me for my daydreams of glory when given a chance to ride this bike, especially as you pore over the photos. It’s exquisite — a slender assembly of single-minded machinery, glistening here and there with anodized mechanical jewelry and a clear-coated carbon fiber candy shell. Up close, it’s hard to find a detail that doesn’t either make sense or make you want to look at it a little more. The striped and numbered wheels. The sleek stinger of a tail, unfettered by passenger pegs. The inexplicably simple muffler. Excellent, all of it.
If anything doesn’t feel totally awesome about this Daytona it’s probably that some of it is familiar. Much of this Daytona 765 Moto2 Limited Edition has, in fact, been taken from bikes that we already know. The engine is originally based on the powerplant we first saw in the Street Triple 765, an evolution of the previous-generation Daytona 675 (rather than the previous Street Triple), which was bored and stroked to add 90 cc. Ironically, the now-ride-by-wire mill has come home to roost in its ancestral home, inside the frame of a Daytona. The Öhlins fork and shock are technically the same models from the old 675R, too, so you’d be forgiven for thinking everything else is the same. It isn’t.
Brembo calipers have been upgraded to the slightly lighter and very much en vogue Stylema variety. The master cylinder is a needlessly opulent MCS 19.21 (also from Brembo), which allows the rider to tune the lever ratio of the front brake for different attitudes and reactions from the system. The same-old-same-old engine has been massaged as well, with a lot of the internals modified, titanium bits sprinkled in the valvetrain, and a higher compression ratio. Triumph says this bike’s engine has more in common with a Moto2 bike than a Street Triple; whether or not that’s pure PR spin doesn’t matter, because the lineage is clear. Then, of course, there’s that carbon bodywork I mentioned earlier, plus a handful of riding modes and adjustments buried in the full-color dash. And, let’s not forget, “Moto2” lettering splashed on the side, with Dorna’s blessing. That’s got to be worth a few horsepower.
It’s a little bit new and a little bit old, basically, but as usual what matters most is what it feels like to pull out of
pit lane and onto the circuit for the final round of qualifying the garage and hit your favorite roads on a Sunday morning. Yes, I pushed it to the end of my driveway before I thumbed the starter, but only because my neighbors are Philistines. Any educated member of society would obviously recognize the dulcet tones of a Triumph triple and simply bask in it like a warm spring breeze. It’s not particularly loud despite the skinny Arrow pipe jutting up from the catalyzer under the bike’s belly.
What with the use of the same frame and suspension, and a larger version of the same engine, the riding experience is certainly reminiscent of the old 675R. It’s an aggressive place to sit, with high footpegs and low handlebars. The motorcycle itself is compact, and that goes for the ergonomics as well, which means shorter riders won’t be too stretched out. At six feet, two inches tall, I was comfortable enough on the bike, but not as comfortable as I would have been on… well, you probably know where I’m going there. We’ll get to that later.
Functionally, just like so many Triumphs, this Daytona 765 is superb. The fueling is excellent, whether you’re in Road, Rain, Sport, Track, or the customizable Rider mode. Likewise, the brakes are terrific and navigating the fairly complicated dash is easy, with typical, state-of-the-art Triumph switchgear. I peeled up through the canyons of Malibu, California, on my usual sporting test loop, pretty damned certain that I was on the right bike, and sure enough my confidence was high. The Daytona is just so beautifully precise. It feels like every action I took as a rider was rewarded with exactly the right reaction from the machine, like there’s no sloppiness or play in the controls. To top it all off, there’s that Öhlins suspension, which if nothing else offers unambiguous feedback from the road. It’s firm, to the point of discomfort over potholes and choppy roads. On a smooth stretch of tarmac it’s lovely.
The engine feels largely the same as it does in Street Triple trim. Smooth and satisfying all the way through the revs, if anything a little peakier than it is in the naked bike. I’ll admit that some of this is probably psychological rather than mechanical. Just being in the sport bike riding position always sets my expectations for a bike to be fast, faster than the naked machine associated with it. It’s quick enough to be fun, and a little bit thrilling to fire out of a corner, where it will lift the front wheel with some body English. For those accustomed to a liter-class machine or a hypernaked bike, it’s likely to feel slightly anemic. Essentially, it’s plenty fast unless you really want a bike that scares you. I don’t think you should, for what it’s worth.
When I rode Ducati’s Panigale V2 at Jerez last year, I was reminded how much fun it is to have less than the maximum amount of power. The Panigale V2 has 155 linear and reasonable horses on tap. This Daytona 765 takes that idea one step further — it is a world-class sport bike with 128 horsepower and no other compromises. Well, a few. Traction control is not independently adjustable, aside from switching ride modes (though you can shut it off). I’ve seen some complaints that the 310 mm front-brake rotors should be a bit larger, too, though I’m not sure I buy that. The quickshifter also isn’t perfect when going down through the gears, and considering how good the rest of the bike is I kind of expected it to be flawless. Aside from little irks like that, it’s a delicious recipe. Top-spec suspension, tires, brakes, and controls, all powered by a regal engine and wrapped in stately skin.
With a base price of $17,500, it’s about a grand less for the Ducati ($16,495), for reference. While we’re at it, a Suzuki GSX-R750 is $12,500. Neither one is a great comparison, I don’t think, especially the Gixxer, because the most important thing to remember is the engraving on the top triple clamp. This one reads number 446 of 765. That’s 765 units for the United States and Canada, with another 765 for the rest of the world. It has the same approximate horsepower and riding position as a GSX-R750 but in every other way it’s the opposite. It’s meant to be exquisite and rare, different from anything else. A nod to present-day prototype racing rather than the torch bearer of a 35-year lineage.
Cynics will say the Daytona 765 is a parts-bin project — a chassis, engine, and TFT dash lifted from other models, presented behind a veil of MotoGP branding and tasty details. If Triumph had any ambition for selling these things, there would be an aggressive price point and LED headlights, right? Fanboys and girls would be fair to counter with the fact that this bike delivers the most realistic taste of a GP paddock this side of a Honda RC213V-S. As of this article being written, there were about 100 left available in North America. It’s a piece of history, no question.
The biggest problem I see with this Daytona 765 Limited Edition isn’t the halogen headlights or the bespoke price point, it’s Triumph’s very own Street Triple RS. That naked usage of the 765 engine offers the same melodious tune from the exhaust, comparably stellar brakes and electronics, sweet handling, and more comfort, for nearly five grand less. It’s not as rare, or as pretty, but that’s about all it gives up. I’m a casual roadracer and a huge fan of world championship racing, so to me the Daytona 765 Moto2 Limited Edition is special. But, even as magnificent as this Daytona is — and it is magnificent — the Street Triple isn’t just where I’d rather be sitting on a Sunday ride, it’s where I belong. I am not Joe Roberts.
|2020 Triumph Daytona 765 Moto2 Limited Edition|
|Engine||765 cc, liquid-cooled, 12-valve, inline triple|
|Claimed horsepower||128 @ 12,250 rpm|
|Claimed torque||59 foot-pounds @ 9,750 rpm|
|Front suspension||Öhlins NIX30 43 mm fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.2 inches of travel|
|Rear suspension||Öhlins TTX36 shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.2 inches of travel|
|Front brake||Brembo Stylema four-piston calipers, 310 mm discs with ABS|
|Rear brake||Brembo single-piston caliper, 220 mm disc specify ABS|
|Rake, trail||23.2 degrees, 3.6 inches|
|Seat height||32.4 inches|
|Fuel capacity||4.6 gallons|
|Tires||Pirelli Supercorsa SP, 120/70-ZR17 front, 180/55-ZR17 rear|
|Measured weight||414 pounds|