2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

AnRchy from the UK: Triumph gives the Speed Triple the “R” treatment.

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Dancing with the Speed Triple is more akin to a night on the town with Sid Vicious than a boring and graceful glide around the parquet. If there was ever a bike that likes to mosh its way through urban areas and backroads alike, the “Trip” is it.

And yet, somehow, this always-imitated iconic motorcycle has managed to do what Triumph's original legacy bike, the Bonneville, did so well: be an amazing all-rounder.

For 2011, Triumph launched a redesigned version of the Speed Triple (“Eyecon,” April, 2011) and even dared to go so far as to change the bike’s instantly recognizable pair of round headlights, much to the dismay of hardcore Triumph purists everywhere.

And although that complaint was echoed amongst some of the guys around the Cycle World office, there wasn't a single staffer who could criticize the significant improvements made to one of our favorite bikes of all time. But Triumph wasn't finished just yet: This R version was developed alongside the standard model but takes the chassis to a whole other level of performance.

Following the company’s trend of offering higher-specification versions of its sportbikes (Street Triple R and Daytona 675R), the Speed Triple R is adorned with Öhlins suspension, Brembo Monobloc front calipers (ABS is standard) and carbon-fiber bits. But Triumph wanted to take it one step farther, also specifying forged aluminum wheels, a Hinckley first.

If you think Triumph simply took the easy route and fitted aftermarket off-the-shelf goodies, you would be wrong. According to project manager Simon Warburton, the suspension was developed in conjunction with Öhlins specifically for this model, and the two companies performed extensive joint testing prior to settling on final specs and building production units. The NIX30 fork features 30mm cartridge pistons for improved fluid flow. Compression (left leg) and rebound (right) adjustments are segregated so they don’t interfere with each other. Damping circuits on the model-specific TTX36 shock are also isolated by utilizing twin-tube construction, reducing the risk of cavitation and lowering internal friction.

With so much effort invested in the suspension, Triumph’s designers wanted the lightest wheels that were practical for road use; the standard bike’s cast-aluminum units weren’t going to cut it. German-sourced wheels were forged by Fuchs (think vintage Porsche 911) and then machined and finished by PVM. The five-spoke, 17-inch hoops measure 3.5-in. and 6.0-in. wide front and rear, and account for a 3.75-pound reduction in unsprung weight for improvement in every aspect of performance.

Brembo radial-mount, one-piece Monobloc front calipers replace the standard bike’s two-piece units and are mated to a pair of 320mm floating discs. The R model comes with ABS (an $800 option on the base Speed Triple) that can be switched off, which is great for track use.

As for the rest of the chassis, it shares improvements that were made to the ’11 model, including the new frame, swingarm and geometry.

Same goes for the liquid-cooled, dohc, 1050cc Triple, which is identical to the 117-horsepower/73 foot-pound (on the CW dyno) unit in the standard model in every way but one: the completely redesigned six-speed transmission. Ten of the R unit's 12 gears are brand-new and now use five shift dogs instead of four for improved engagement. All internal shafts and the selector drum are new, as well.

Initially, we wondered why Triumph chose a racetrack-only press launch for the R, but after sampling the bike at the most famous of Spain’s venues, the Circuito de Jerez, it all made sense. We already know what a great streetbike the Speed Triple is, but our day at Jerez showed us what a potent track-worthy motorcycle it can be, too. With its ultra-fast 90-degree corners and a pair of tight hairpins preceded by hard braking zones, the Spanish track demands front-end feel and grip

Within just a few laps, it was obvious that Triumph nailed the handling on the R model. Turn-in is quick and predictable—aided by the lightweight front wheel and wide, tapered-aluminum handlebar—while midcorner grip from the standard-fitment Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires was excellent. The front in particular felt absolutely Velcroed to the track, which provided the courage to trail brake very deep into a few of the tricky late-entry corners. Despite its snappy, 22.8-degree rake, the Triple was dead stable through Jerez’s wickedly fast Turns 4, 11 and 12, even while the rear meat was painting pretty black lines on their exits.

The Öhlins suspension was amazing; Triumph’s test rider, Felipe Lopez, settled on a track setup that fell between the Sport and Circuit settings recommended in the owner’s manual. The smooth surface allowed a softish setup that provided a plush ride yet kept hard parts off the pavement.

Braking performance was very good, too, the front Brembos providing linear feel, excellent power and zero fade. Because ABS is generally not optimal for threshold braking at the track, the fuse for the system was removed so that we wouldn’t forget to disable it prior to each track session.

Our only complaint is that the new tranny was a touch reluctant to perform clutchless upshifts between first, second and third gears, making a dab of clutch frequently necessary. Additional break-in miles may help the situation, an answer we’ll seek with stateside test miles.

While we didn’t get any street miles on the R, it would be hard to envision the bike being any less entertaining in the real world than its standard counterpart, which is a comfortable, practical and wonderfully mischievous street machine. But the R will have the extra edge, begging to eat apexes while moshing around a racetrack.

For the privilege of upgrading to R spec, you will have to pony up an additional $4000, which isn’t chump change. But when you take into consideration the premium components, the $15,999 Speed Triple R’s sticker price doesn’t sting quite as much; definitely a lot less than a Sid Vicious elbow to the nose.

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R - First Ride