2013 Triumph Street Triple R - First Ride

How does Triumph overhaul its best-selling bike? Very carefully...

Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #1

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #1

Almería, Spain–Leaving the hotel parking lot at walking speed, I stalled the Street Triple R and tumped it over on its right side, possibly a new record but at least a good way to end the suspense early. Not to worry; my lovely Dainese gear broke the bike's fall nicely, and the only injury was a light scrapage to its exhaust tip. The 13 pounds it's supposedly lost made the Triple appear to be easy to pick up as my attendants scrambled into action while I applied the verbal lash for allowing me to fall over in the first place.

The previous Street Triple weighed just 395 pounds, no gas, on our scales, so the new one should be right around 382. That’s really light—like 36 pounds lighter than the Ducati Streetfighter 848 that recently stole its place in my heart. Atop the same stubby 55.5-inch wheelbase as before (2.3 inches shorter than the Duc), your first impression is that this is one small motorcycle. Or maybe that’s your second impression. Your first one as you eyeball it in the hotel lobby is that it’s a nicely put-together, beautifully finished motorcycle you wouldn’t mind shelling out $9999 for. But Triumph’s cheating a little at this launch, because every bike on hand is wearing accessory parts you’ll pay extra for (and they’re all wearing neat little LED turnsignals that are illegal in the good old USA) .

Somebody must’ve noticed how much nicer the bike looks with the accessory flyscreen (it hides the headlights some find unattractive), and after that why not add the color-matched chin spoiler? My bike also had accessory ASV-style levers, billet brake fluid reservoirs, quickshifter, optional Arrow exhaust and crash protectors. The last item is the only one I really need.

Anyway, 50,000 units served in the five years since the Street Triple’s birth makes it the best-selling Triumph worldwide, and the new model tries not to mess with success too much. The biggest difference is replacing the underseat exhaust with the current low-slung GP-style unit, which took off about 8 of those 13 pounds, and while they were at it the engineers decided they could get the bike to handle better by shifting even more weight from the rear: Hence the new subframe, a lighter rear wheel and brake caliper, and a new swingarm that’s also about a pound lighter. All together, Triumph says the new bike has 52 percent of its weight on the front Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa contact patch, compared to 49 percent before.

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - right-side view

Street Triple R in Crystal White, with accessory flyscreen, belly pan, Arrow slip-on, crash protectors, passenger seat cowl.

The R model gets a three-way adjustable piggyback-reservoir shock. It’s about 10mm longer than the vanilla bike’s and provides 10mm more wheel travel (135mm), which is also why its seat is 0.8-inch higher and its rake a tad steeper. It’s also why Triumph gave all the Triples an adjustable swingarm pivot; the R’s pivot is 4mm lower.

Just like before, the R model gets the four-piston radial-mount brake calipers up front instead of the plain bike’s two-piston floaters, and just like before they’re almost too powerful in their initial bite when many times all you want is a tiny nibble. What’s new this year is standard ABS for both models in the U.S. market, controlled by a new Nissin regulator that weighs just 3.3 pounds. Full credit to Triumph for providing this important safety feature at only a $400 premium over last year’s R model (the regular Triple goes from $8899 to $9399).

There have been a few adjustments in the engine compartment: First gear is a bit taller, and Triumph says recalibrating the fuel injection has made the bike 30 percent less thirsty in urban use. (Our ’12 model got 41 mpg in mixed use.) The EFI tune also includes a “kicker” function for reduced engine braking that works well enough to make people assume the bike has a slipper clutch.

Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #2

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #2

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.

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - left-side view

The R also comes in Phantom Black and Matt Graphite.

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.

SPECIFICATIONS
Price:|$9999
Engine type:|dohc inline-Triple
Displacement:|675cc
Seat height:|32.3 in.
Fuel capacity:|4.6 gal.
Claimed curb weight:|403 lb.
Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #1

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #1

Triumph Street Triple R - action left 3/4 view

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action left 3/4 view

Triumph Street Triple R - action left-side view

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action left-side view

Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #2

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #2

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - studio right-side view

Your base model will be available in Caribbean Blue, Crystal White or Phantom Black.

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - studio 3/4 view

As delivered, no accessories. Still a sharp bike. Which requires the flyscreen...

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - right-side view

Street Triple R in Crystal White, with accessory flyscreen, belly pan, Arrow slip-on, crash protectors, passenger seat cowl.

Triumph Street Triple R - action 3/4 view #3

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action right 3/4 view #3

Triumph Street Triple R - action front view #1

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action front view #1

Triumph Street Triple R - action overhead view

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action overhead view

Triumph Street Triple R - action front view #2

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - action front view #2

2013 Triumph Street Triple R - left-side view

The R also comes in Phantom Black and Matt Graphite.