Urban use, of course, is one area where the close-coupled little Triumph excels, but we set off instead into the Spanish mountains behind the ancient port city of Almería. Battling strong headwinds at 8000 rpm and 90 mph on the motorway is not the bike’s forte, though if you pronate yourself behind the flyscreen and Rollie Free your legs, it’s doable and even worthwhile when you pass the exit for Rioja, home to one of my favorite grapes. I haven’t been to lots of places, but I’ve zipped past plenty of them. Sadly, Rioja looks a lot like Palmdale from the freeway.
Then we were into the tight two-lane stuff up in the pine trees and ancient farmhouses. The wind had died down and life was about as good as it gets; rain over the last couple of days had every plant happily oxygenating, but meant we had to keep a sharp eye out for wet spots in the shadows. The tighter the road, the better the ST likes it. Though rake is about half-a-degree steeper with the new frame, trail on the R is in fact 2.6mm longer, at 95mm. That’s still a quick steering number, and with its wide handlebar and light weight, this is a motorcycle an expert rider could really snap into corners. As for me, I have to remember to squeeze the tank with my thighs so as to not put too much input into the bars.
The little three-cylinder remains a favorite engine, with a more-or-less flat powerband devoid of spikes that begins making usefully sporty power as low as 5000 rpm and puts out a raspy, classic Jaguar burble the whole time. That absence of spikes is another reason the Triple R is such an easy bike to ride fast. Triumph’s claim of 106 horses translated to 94 rear wheel ones on our Dynojet last year, a low enough number that you get to give the thing a good workout as the road climbs above 6000 feet. (On the downslope, with its panoramic view of the next valley, it occurred to me I was actually tilting at windmills in Spain. Sorry.) The accessory Arrow stainless slip-on on my bike had its “sound deflector” removed from the end cap; even so, it was acceptably quiet while producing a couple hp more, according to Triumph. Since it only removes about a pound of weight, though, cheapskates could source an Arrow emblem to stick on the stock unit and be nearly as cool.
The quickshifter is another nice option for people who plan to do track days; on the street, I can take it or leave it: The six-speed box is short-throw, quick and precise enough without it. But really, we weren’t in town much, where Triumph says its “Intellishift” design, which is dependent on gear loading and speed, also works great. I wouldn’t spring for the ASV-style levers unless I had fingers about three inches longer than my current ones.
Was it an awesome ride and am I worthy? Yes and no. In my defense, I only crashed the one time. Can I say with authority that the new Street Triple is way better than the old one? Not really. But you’ll love the standard ABS the first time somebody turns left across your bow, and you’ll probably feel the better weight distribution and EFI throttle kicker if you do track days. Stylewise, I think the new exhaust is a big improvement. Undertail is so ’90s. The R is a lot of good, everyday-usable sportbike for the money, and most of us could be just as happy, $600 wealthier and an inch closer to the pavement with the regular model. It’s new, it’s improved, and it is what it was: one of Cycle World’s favorite motorcycles.
Both the Street Triple and Street Triple R should be in showrooms by January, says Triumph.
|Engine type:||dohc inline-Triple|
|Seat height:||32.3 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||4.6 gal.|
|Claimed curb weight:||403 lb.|