2020 Triumph Street Triple RS First Ride Review

More meat in the middle.

When Triumph revamped its Street Triple platform back in 2017, a significant aspect of the generational update included producing three variants of its popular middleweight sport naked. Sharing the same basic 765cc in-line three-cylinder engine and cast alloy frame, each model (designated S, R, and RS) featured variations of engine tune, electronic ride modes, suspension, tires, brakes, and styling cues offering distinct character, performance, and price points within the category.

Street Triple RS
The updated Triumph Street Triple RS will be sold for $12,550.Triumph Motorcycles

Over the past two years the Cycle World staff have voted the Street Triple Best Middleweight Streetbike in our annual Ten Best Bikes. It's been the middle-tier R model that has won our favor however, largely due to its road-focused engine tune offering greater midrange torque than that of its peak-power-centric track-tuned RS sibling.

765cc inline three-cylinder engine
Updates to the 765cc, inline three-cylinder claim to have increased midrange torque by 9 percent, while outright numbers remain a claimed 121 hp at 11,750 rpm and 58 pound-feet of torque at 9,350 rpm.Triumph Motorcycles

For 2020, Triumph has treated the Street Triple RS with fresh styling, updated TFT dash graphics and functionality, improved ride modes, and the addition of auto-blip downshift to the shift assist. Better still, the flagship Street Triple RS has a claimed 9-percent boost in midrange output while maintaining the top-end horsepower punch of its predecessor, all while also meeting the tighter Euro 5 exhaust emissions regulations.

I recently joined members of the motorcycle press in the Murcia region of Spain for a day in the saddle of the new Street Triple RS and have come away impressed, finding the new Triumph provides robust linear power delivery from basement revs to its 12,750-rpm rev limit. Triumph credits a combination of revised intake ducts, a shorter-duration exhaust cam profile providing less valve overlap, and improved flow of the new twin-catalyst exhaust system featuring a midrange-smoothing balance pipe adjoining the three head pipes. Removal of the scissors-style backlash gear for a reduction of rotational inertia results in snappier rev response. This was made possible by applying higher precision machining of the primary drive gears of the crank, clutch, and engine balancer along with reducing the pressure angle of the gear teeth, allowing a tighter tolerance for reduced lash.

2020 Street Triple RS receives redesigned bodywork
The 2020 Street Triple RS receives redesigned bodywork and new LED lighting, as well as a carbon fiber muffler.Triumph Motorcycles

The restyled TFT dash offers a choice of four display layout options, three of which provide variations of a large stylish bar graph tachometer, speedometer, and gear position indicator along with scrollable info providing trip computer, fuel economy, lap timer, and more. A fourth layout divides the display in half with a very small tachometer on the right side to allow room on the left for displaying turn-by-turn navigation, phone/music controls, and GoPro camera status via an accessory Bluetooth connectivity module. This feature was still in the final stage of development and wasn’t implemented on the bike I rode, but is said to allow rider switch gear control of connected devices with intuitive graphic icons presented on the TFT dash.

Cranking my assigned bike to life I was greeted with a more menacing exhaust note than that of its predecessor, and following a few responsive throttle blips I was revved and ready for the road ride. The first few leaves from stops felt a bit sudden and had me wondering if the engine’s reduced inertia had hampered ease of use. After noting that the engagement band of the light-action slipper/assist clutch is fairly narrow and located near the outermost range of lever travel, simply dialing the lever reach adjustment a bit closer to the grip delivered the engagement feel I was looking for. Problem solved.

2020 Street Triple RS
The 2020 Street Triple RS isn’t all new, yet it’s refined in all the right areas.Triumph Motorcycles

In fact, the engine’s lightened flywheel mass hasn’t posed any negative effect I could discern. A good demonstration of this was lugging the engine below 2,000 rpm in top gear while passing through a village at around 25 mph just to see how it would react. Smooth and steady she purred without a stumble or lurch to be felt. Gear changes up through the six-speed box are buttery slick as well, whether using the clutch or relying on the Triumph shift assist to achieve fluid clutchless shift action under light or heavy acceleration. The shift assist downshift feature provides silky smooth action as well, even when casually rolling up to a traffic signal.

As the pace picked up along a winding road through the coastal mountains to the Mediterranean Sea it became apparent why Triumph has left well enough alone with the RS chassis. Agile and surefooted best describes the Street Triple’s cornering prowess. Nailing my turn in and holding a chosen line throughout the corner doesn’t come easier than this. The tapered one-piece handlebar may well have been a scalpel in my hands as the RS carved flowing curves with surgical precision.

fully adjustable Öhlins STX 40 shock
Paired with a Showa Big Piston Fork (BPF) up front, the fully adjustable Öhlins STX 40 shock provided a striking balance between small-bump compliance and big-hit support. Win-win.Triumph Motorcycles

Bump compliance proved exceptionally good with the fully adjustable Showa BPF fork and Öhlins STX 40 shock dialed to baseline street settings. Small pavement bumps and ripples are soaked up with supple responsive action while there is also ample support when encountering sharp-edged hits with the chassis loaded midcorner or during braking over bumps on corner approach.

Triumph has optimized the selectable ride modes labeled Track, Sport, Road, and Rain to better suit the engine’s improved performance. These modes offer factory preset levels for throttle response, traction control, and ABS, while an additional Rider mode allows full customization of the various parameters. Modes can be switched on-the-fly, however entering Track mode or turning TC off requires the bike to be stationary.

A quick sample of Rain mode in sunny Spain confirmed a rain check is in order to appreciate its relevance. While the Street Triple isn’t equipped with an inertial measurement unit, its TC behavior feels very connected to cornering lean. This was most apparent in the Road or Sport modes as the ride-by-wire keeps throttle opening in check at deep lean and I felt no sense of rear wheel slip; the system smoothly applies power as the bike is picked up out of the turn.

Circuito de Velocidad de Cartagena
Circulating Circuito de Velocidad de Cartagena the Street Triple RS proved its racetrack prowess, destroying apexes, conquering long-radius corners, and ripping straightaways. The ultimate middleweight streetbike capable of serious track entertainment, no doubt.Triumph Motorcycles

We wrapped up the afternoon with hot laps of Circuito de Velocidad de Cartagena, a technical 2.17-mile, 17-turn track providing an ideal venue to unleash the performance of the Street Triple RS Track mode and firmed suspension settings. Tucked behind the stubby fly screen of the screaming Triple, it devoured the 2,000-foot pit straight in a flurry of seamless high-rev shifts. My left boot needed to be staged and ready on the shifter when driving full boil off the second-gear final corner as midrange revs at the apex rapidly rose to meet the redline on exit. With peak power production (123 claimed) very near redline, I found getting into the rev limiter all too easy if not paying close attention to the tachometer shift cue.

With the combination of auto-blip shift assist, slipper clutch, and top-shelf Brembo M50 Monoblock binders, shedding 100 mph of excess speed for turn 1 came easy as finding paella in these parts. This wasn’t the case on a one startling occasion however, as front ABS intervened while braking from speed for a tricky second-gear left with a bit of turn-in required early in the braking zone. Getting a bit too aggressive with initial brake application tripped the antilock, which resulted in a profound sense of decreased deceleration. My instinctive reaction was to squeeze even harder yet on the lever to get the bike slowed, however doing so produced lever feel akin to gripping a brick. Even though the bike made the corner with room to spare, the prolonged lack of feedback through the lever was unnerving at best. After this happened again a few laps later, I would have gladly disabled ABS if that were an option; unfortunately 24/7 ABS for road-based bikes is a Euro mandate these days.

Brembo M50 calipers
Combined with a silky smooth auto-blip system and slipper clutch, these Brembo M50 calipers succeed in bringing the Street Triple RS to a halt. The only gripe? Too much aggression at the lever causes the ABS system to over-intervene.Triumph Motorcycles

The leverage afforded the wide handlebar made threading the track’s left-right third gear chicane a snap. I had no gripes regarding grip or cornering clearance around the circuit as full edge-to-edge use of the stock fitment Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V3 radials put the hurt on the peg feelers while preserving the pretty bits. Track mode TC allowed unadulterated exit drive with a more direct feeling between twist grip rotation and power channeled to the ground even at peg-scratching lean. For those seeking unhindered wheelie and acceleration excitement, toggling off TC is a viable choice as this triple is intuitively tractable by nature. There were a few corners that could be taken in either second or third gear, and having toyed with both I found the difference in peak speed approaching the following bend was negligible. A testament to the engine’s flexibility.

When asked of plans regarding the S and R models, Triumph representatives remained tight-lipped, expressing a desire to focus on the RS at hand, though alluding to the possibility of an announcement forthcoming. Whatever the case, with more meat in the midrange, the RS has evolved into what may well be the ultimate middleweight streetbike, bar none.

2020 Triumph Street Triple RS Specifications

MSRP $12,550
ENGINE 765cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder; 4 valves/cyl.
BORE x STROKE 77.99 x 53.4mm
FUEL SYSTEM Electronic fuel injection w/ ride by wire
CLUTCH Wet, multi-plate, slip-assisted
FRAME Aluminum beam twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 41mm inverted Big Piston Fork (BPF), adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.5-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Öhlins STX 40, fully adjustable; 5.2-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo M50 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, dual 310mm floating discs
REAR BRAKE Brembo 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc, switchable ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Cast aluminum alloy 5-spoke; 17 x 3.5 in. / 17 x 5.5 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR 120/70ZR-17 / 180/55ZR-17
RAKE/TRAIL 23.9°/3.9 in.
WHEELBASE 55.3 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
CONTACT triumphmotorcycles.com

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