2012 Triumph Speed Triple R First Ride Review

The Right Stuff: Öhlins, Brembo and PVM usher the Speed Triple into the world of up-spec wonder

A red powder coated subframe perfectly contrasts the Crystal White or Phantom Black body panels on either model. Triumph has a long list of accessories for the Speed Triple R. Whether or not you’ll have money left over for these goodies after purchasing the bike is another question.
The new five-spoke forged aluminum hoops are manufactured by Otto Fuchs and machined by PVM. Wall thickness goes from 4mm to 2.5mm and weight is dropped 3.7 pounds.
TTX36 shock features a stiffer spring (100N/mm versus 95N/mm) and damping rates. The shock was specially designed with a new reservoir that would allow easy fitment to the Speed Triple R’s linkage.
Four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers are identical to those found on the Daytona 675R and bite on large 320mm floating rotors. Initial bite is (thankfully) not overly aggressive. NIX30 fork features stiffer springs (9.5N/mm versus 9.0N/mm) and damping rates tailored to the Speed Triple R.
The numerous carbon fiber bits strewn throughout the R model are manufactured alongside parts for the Lamborghini Superleggera and Audi R8. They’re formed using an autoclave process and trimmed by CNC machines to be absolutely perfect.
Like ‘em or not, Triumph’s new headlights are here to stay. Wind protection is minimal in stock trim, but an accessory flyscreen and flyscreen visor are available through Triumph.
Triumph thankfully chose to leave the gauge cluster status quo. The unit is easy to read at a glance, and within the menu is the option to turn the ABS off. We never fiddled with it, although the system was disabled for our track sessions.

Somewhere deep within the binding of a Marketing For Dummies book, it must say that wordplay drives sales. There are few other explanations for why so many manufacturers and press members habitually use sayings like “R is for ready,” or the slightly different, but much the same, “R is for race.” We’re just as quick as the next guy to throw the phrase out there, we’ll admit. But as the sayings become more cliché, we swore off using it for every up-spec model to be released. Then just as we filed it in the do-not-use bin, Triumph announced the new Speed Triple R, which features the same high-dollar componentry as its class-leading sibling, the Daytona 675R. Ugh; this is going to be difficult.

The addition of an R to the end of a bike’s moniker is about more than just a marketing gimmick to Triumph though. The letter instead represents the manufacturer’s intentions to build the best handling, most charismatic motorcycles possible. And in the case of the Speed Triple R, the addition of the letter more specifically signifies the addition of Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and PVM wheels to an already impressive package.

The Gold, Black and Silver Ticket
The Öhlins NIX30 fork that replaces the standard Speed Triple's 43mm Showa unit is the first indication that things aren't status quo for 2012. The discernable gold fork uses the same technology as the Daytona 675R: compression (left leg) and rebound (right leg) adjusters are separate from each other providing more accurate settings, and 30mm cartridge pistons provide increased oil flow. The suspenders are specific to the Speed Triple R, with stiffer springs (9.5N/mm on the R versus 9.0N/mm on the standard model) and damping rates that better suit more aggressive riding. A more capable TTX36 shock replaces a standard Showa unit and better complements the NIX fork. Twin-tube technology is the name of the game here, which means reduced friction and risk of cavitation. Balance has been kept by using a stiffer spring (100N/mm versus 95N/mm) and firmer damping rates similar to the front.

What else separates the Speed Triple R from other Triumph R models? One word: wheels. Actually three words: absolutely bitchin’ wheels. Five-spoke forged aluminum wheels to be specific, which replace a set of cast aluminum examples. The new hoops are manufactured by Otto Fuchs (the same folks responsible for the Porsche 911 alloy wheels of the 1960s), and machined by PVM to have 1.5mm-thinner walls. Total weight savings is around 3.75 pounds, plus inertia has been reduced by 16 percent and 25 percent at the front and rear respectively.

Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires come fitted to the 3.5-inch front and 6.0-inch rear wheels and feature the same profile as the Supercorsa SC tires used in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup, with only the compound setting them apart. Top-tier Brembo monobloc calipers finish off the wheel/brake combo and clamp onto large 320mm floating discs, effectively replacing the standard Speed Triple’s two-piece units. ABS comes standard for 2012 on the U.S.-spec R, and remains an option on the standard model as well as those bikes sold in Europe. The good news for ABS-loathing riders is that the system can be turned off using Triumph’s dashboard controls. Unfortunately, the ABS system reverts back to the ON position when the key is cycled.

No traction control or other rider aids for 2012, partly because the engine is (mostly) identical. Sorry to those hoping for Triumph to squeeze some more power out of its 1050cc triple. The transmission is practically all-new however, with tighter tolerances, a 3.4-percent shorter sixth gear, a new selector drum and selector shafts. Ten of 12 gears are reworked, with a new five-dog design replacing the previous four-dog design. Triumph claims the additional and revised dogs improve shift action and the likelihood of catching a gear when the shift pedal is knocked. A quickshifter is noticeably absent, which is unfortunate considering the shifter found on the Daytona 675R works flawlessly.

The Speed Triple R is much the same as its 675R counterpart in terms of styling, with a red powder coated subframe that perfectly contrasts the Crystal White or Phantom Black body panels on either model. And like the 675R, the Speed Triple R features carbon fiber pieces throughout (including a tank cover, radiator cowl, inner cowl and mudguard side pod) that look to have been pulled directly off a MotoGP bike; the pieces have that nice a finish. Credit the autoclave process and CNC machines used to build the carbon trickery here.

Pure Performer
Throw a leg over the Speed Triple R and recognize that the bike's feel is identical to its less-equipped brethren, which was updated in 2011. The palatable 32.5-inch seat height is retained, as is the footrest position and distance to the handlebar (a new one-piece riser cap holds down a new black handlebar). Overall feel at the helm is superb, especially for taller riders. Triumph opted to launch the new Speed Triple R at a racetrack, so no chance to see how the ergonomics would play in the bike's favor on an extended street ride. Multiple sessions on the Circuito de Jerez would, however, highlight the R model's track prowess.

One word adequately describes the Circuito de Jerez, Spain’s most popular circuit: fast. There are a total of thirteen corners, each seemingly faster than the next, with only five or six tight corners strewn throughout. And while the idea of hustling a 466-pound naked bike around a fast circuit sounds like a recipe for disaster, it’s actually not. So long as you’ve got a bike like the Speed Triple R beneath you; the bike is that good.

The NIX30 fork and TTX shock make the biggest difference and transform the R model into a composed machine — something the standard model isn’t on the racetrack. The feel from the front isn’t overly stiff (within the R model’s manual you’ll find three suggested suspension settings: a Circuit, Sport or Comfort setting. Triumph’s Test Rider Engineer, Felipe Lopez, set the suspenders somewhere between Circuit and Sport for track testing) and still works well to absorb larger bumps. The robust suspenders have another benefit: hard parts don’t go dragging across the ground the second lean angle increases. You’re able to trail brake into corners more, without losing the feel from the front; a benefit that will carry over to the street, where riders will be hard pressed to upset the R’s chassis. And the more composed front end allows the Triumph to hold its line well too, even in fast, sweeping corners like Circuito de Jerez’s left-hand turn four.

In hard-braking zones, the new Brembo monobloc brakes are a blessing. The initial feel from the lever is quite different than the feel from the Daytona 675R’s (which we’ve argued are too strong) despite the units being identical. Without the overly aggressive initial bite, you are able to forcefully grab the lever without fear of upsetting the chassis and lofting the rear wheel. The reason for the difference? Simple, the Speed Triple is 59 pounds heavier than the 675R. There’s zero brake fade from the R model’s Brembos, and the brakes are extremely linear, with incredible power all the way through the pull.

ABS does come standard, as mentioned, although Triumph feels the best option is to disable the system for track days (which they did for the track launch by pulling the bikes’ fuse). We’ll reserve any comment on the system until we get a bike stateside to test in real-world environments.

The Speed Triple R is roughly 4.5 pounds lighter than the standard model, although that’s hardly noticeable when maneuvering the bike at slow speeds. At track speeds, you’d guess the bike was 20 pounds lighter. Turn-in is exceptionally quick with the help of the wide handlebar, and the R model goes wherever you want it; envision the apex and you’re there. The primary reason for the bike’s newfound agility is the forged aluminum wheels, although the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires play a role. Grip is beyond superb with the race-developed rubber too, and it would be a challenge to find a better OE tire.

There are relatively no nits to pick when it comes to the Speed Triple R, although the racetrack did highlight some areas where improvements can be made. The transmission, albeit smoother than the 2011 model’s, is still a bit balky. The biggest concern is with near-full-throttle upshifts in the lower gears. The issue was most troublesome when coming up the track’s front straight, but after adapting our riding and using the clutch more for said shifts, the problem all but left our minds. Still, the Triumph quickshifter would be advantageous here. Small gripe aside, we’re happy with the new transmission and feel it will be a proper addition to the entire 1050cc lineup in 2013.

Wind protection is non-existent (this is a naked bike after all), and small inputs to the wide handlebar can upset the bike when barreling down the road at 120-plus mph. A few things to consider here though: if you’re going that fast on public roads you have other problems (cops). Plus, Triumph offers a selection of accessories, including a flyscreen and flyscreen visor that divert the wind and clean up the front end at the same time.

The Perfect Package?
At a time when motorcycle enthusiasts are looking for a bike that is versatile above all, Triumph has landed a knockout punch. Few — if any — naked bikes handle like the Speed Triple R. Couple that with the base model's already impressive engine and formidable ergonomics and you have a bike that will impress no matter where the ride takes you.

But (yes, there is a but) Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and PVM wheels don't come cheap. And if you're in the market for a Speed Triple R, prepare to empty your wallet to the tune of $15,999. That's right; this up-spec model comes in at $4000 more than its standard-model sibling. Worth it? Hell yeah. After all, R is for ready. Sorry, we had to! SR

Specifications

2012 Triumph Speed Triple R
MSRP: $15,999

ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline triple, 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement: 1050cc
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 71.4mm
Compression ratio: 12.0:1
Induction: Keihin EFI, 46mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.

CHASSIS
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Rake/trail: 22.8 degrees/3.6 in. (90.9mm)
Wheelbase: 56.5 in. (1435mm)
Seat height: 32.5 in. (825mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
Claimed wet weight: 466 lb. (212kg) full fuel, ready to ride