Five months since my time with the Bandit was cruelly cut short, and four months since a new 2013 Triumph Street Triple R took its place in my garage. My RoadTrip map tells the whole story – the bike has barely been more than 50 miles in any direction, but I’ve still managed to put more than 3,000 miles on a bike some owners only use on sunny weekends. So what’s it been like so far?
The obvious answer is…cold. My resolve to keep the Triumph as close to the concept of a minimalist motorcycle means that I couldn’t bring myself to cut off the standard grips and fit bulky heated ones, nor slice into the wiring harness on a brand-new machine. I’ve never had bar muffs that didn’t push back onto the brake and clutch levers above 50mph, and I can’t find any handguards that don’t spoil the look. But none of that is the bike’s fault.
The suspension took an age to set up – the one disappointing part of the purchase was that the dealer would sell me a high-spec bike with fully-adjustable race suspension, and yet had no-one in the shop who could help me set the preload and some starter settings to be getting on with. Getting home and checking everything myself showed that the left and right forks were set completely differently – one at it’s hardest setting, one at it’s softest. Not great.
Even with several weeks of commuting and tweaking I’m still left with a very firm ride that can get extremely bumpy over rough roads. I know a fair bit about suspension setup and think I’ve done the best I can, but I’m starting to suspect that I may be a teensy bit too light for this bike. Then again, forum reports show that this is a very stiff bike, and an extremely light one at that. I’ll see what it’s like on smoother roads once the weather improves!
The brakes are…incredible. They’re so sharp, and stop the bike so quickly that I’d have crashed on the first day without the ABS, I’m sure. You can feel the system engage with a slight pulsing vibration at the lever, and once you get used to it you can stop the bike dead with a single finger. Riding any other bike requires an adjustment period when going to or from the Triumph, and I’m intending to warn anyone I let ride the thing to be really, really gentle with the brakes.
The headlights were terrible – Osram Night Breakers went in there at the earliest opportunity, and contrary to some forum posts there was no special security tool required – a nice long allen key did the trick, and the dying glow-worms Triumph shipped the bike with have been banished for something that shines like a 21st century bulb should. I’d still like more, but HID kits are hard to find information on, and legally dubious.
The seat and riding position took some getting used to. In my first couple of weeks I was looking at handlebar risers, as I felt like I was on a supersport. But now I feel bolt upright, and Rosa’s CBF500 feels like a cruiser. If anything I’m tempted to lower the front to get more leverage mid-corner, but I’m going to wait until I’ve had a chance to try the bike on some dry, well-lit and above all visibly grippy roads.
What’s actually surprising is how little buffeting I get, even at motorway speeds. Sure, when you start to push it the wind pushes back, and you find yourself being pushed upright with fully extended arms – not great for maintaining control. But the clear airstream means that there is less helmet noise than on my Bandit. It seems that you either want a huge screen to hide behind a la Pan European, or nothing – the half-way house just makes for a very noisy ride.
One thing I’d love to be able to do something about is the amount of spray the bike flings up on to the rider in wet weather. My tail unit is filthy, and my favourite backpack looks like i’ve been using it to slide down a sandy beach. I’d love to see if it’s possible to build a BMW R1200GS-style rear bumper to fit the rear wheel, as that would probably stop some of the spray without resorting to an enormous late-90’s-style rear fender. Mounting the license plate to that would be an added bonus, so I may have to make some calls.
The engine…is an odd one. Triumph changed the design of the throttle wheel to an elliptical shape for 2013, meaning that twisting the grip through approximately two-thirds gives one-third worth of throttle opening, after which the throttle opens progressively faster. This has the effect of numbing the aggressive power output and actually makes riding the bike around town pretty easy for such a light, powerful bike. Couple this with a very tall first gear (70mph in first!) and it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that the bike’s not actually that powerful.
The Bandit was similarly misleading for a different reason – it just didn’t make that much torque or power at low RPM, and it wasn’t until you explored the upper reaches of the rev range and higher throttle openings that you realise there’s something of a monster lurking underneath the tank. The Triumph is very much the same. It’s so docile and easy to ride through the majority of the throttle travel that you forget that it has a power:weight ratio of 576 bhp/tonne.
I’ve spun up the rear wheel in third on wet pavement and the front goes light over bumps when pulling away from junctions if you’re not careful. I’m very much looking forward to drier, warmer weather with better visibility and less traffic (commuting is better on a bike, but it’s still commuting) to see just how much of the legendary Street Triple’s hooliganism has actually been lost, or if, as I suspect, it’s simply hiding under a veneer of convincing civility.
Especially as I’m still averaging 55mpg – 3mpg better than the bandit – in rush-hour stop-start commuting. Very impressive, Triumph…
Build quality so far has been pretty good. Triumph had to replace the rear reflector after one of the lugs snapped off, and the tank is scuffing pretty badly where my knees grip it, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve long been a firm believer that any bike will hold up just fine even through the saltiest winters if kept clean and oiled up with an anti-corrosion agent. So far the only corrosion has been some slight oxidisation on the front brake calliper bolts where the ACF50 couldn’t reach.