First Ride: 2011 Triumph Sprint GT

A revised sport-tourer that’s better at both ‘touring’ and ‘sport.’

2011 Triumph Sprint GT - First Ride

2011 Triumph Sprint GT - First Ride

If you've been jonesing for a new sport-tourer, you might want to chill for a while. Like maybe until some time in September. That's when Triumph will release its new Sprint GT here in the U.S., and it's a motorcycle worth a serious look before you write a check or float a loan for another bike in the category.

I've spent four straight days carving up the beautiful twisty roads in the Scottish Highlands and down into the British Midlands on a new GT as part of Triumph's global launch of the bike, and it has left me thoroughly impressed. Our U.S. and Canadian contingent of moto-scribes wound up our ride at the Triumph factory in Hinckley, where we not only learned valuable insights about the planning and development of the GT but also got a thorough tour of a very efficient manufacturing operation.

Triumph management was quite pleased with the GT's predecessor, theSprint ST, but wanted to shift the bike's overall performance just a wee bit farther toward the "touring" side of the category. So, rather than undertaking a complete redesign of the ST, the designers made a number of substantial changes to the existing package and renamed it GT.

Internally, the inline-Three engine remains the same 1050cc powerplant as before but pumps out 5 more claimed peak horsepower (130) along with 5 more ft.-lb. of torque (80) delivered 1200 rpm lower in the rev range. Both increases are solely the result of improved engine-management and fuel-mapping programming and the switch from an underseat exhaust to a more conventional and efficient low-exit right-side muffler.

Chassis-wise, everything from the back of the gas tank rearward is completely new, while everything forward is largely the same, save for a few improvements that include a redesigned upper fairing and headlight array, and revised damping in the conventional right-side-up fork to reduce front-end dive when braking. Also, ABS is now standard, working with lighter brake rotors pinched by reformulated pads.

At the back end, a longer single-sided swingarm increases stability by extending the wheelbase more than 3 inches, from 57.4 to 60.5, and it mounts an all-new shock that features a remote spring-preload adjuster easily turned by hand. The rear wheel is 2.2 pounds lighter than the ST's, and both wheels are fitted with Bridgestone BT-021 dual-compound tires. The quick-detachable saddlebags now have a 31-liter capacity (enough to swallow any XXL full-face helmet), 9 more than the GT, and a sizable luggage rack is standard.

Out on the road, all these changes prove their mettle in convincing fashion. The GT's redesigned seat proved exceptionally comfortable, both on the mixed surfaces of Scotland's endless two-lane roads as well as on the smooth, fast motorways in England, and the ride is just firm enough to keep the chassis well under control at all times. Though the bike is heavier (Triumph had no official figure but one representative claimed the GT only weighs "about 11 pounds" more than the ST) and longer, it out-handles its predecessor, thanks to its better suspension, tires and weight distribution. And the torque output is especially impressive, providing a seamless, linear delivery of acceleration that pulls hard and easily from as low as 2000 rpm.

Though Triumph will offer a wide range of accessories for this machine, including heated grips and a 55-liter top box that even has a built-in 12-volt power socket, the GT is a basic no-frills sport-tourer (no adjustable windscreen, GPS option, tire-pressure monitor, etc.). And even though Triumph has indeed shifted the bike a little more toward the touring end of the category through increased comfort, stability and luggage capacity, the GT is still a very sporty motorcycle that generates tremendous rider confidence while chewing up a twisty ribbon of road like a raging, asphalt-devouring monster.

A full road test comparing this bike to its competition will be necessary to accurately position the GT against its staunch competition; but for now, know that even though the Sprint GT is not all-new, this $13,199 motorcycle nonetheless is a super-serious player in the sport-touring arena.

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