2009 Triumph Street Triple R | Review

Street Triple "R"

Last year’s Triumph Street Triple, based on the Daytona 675, was already a good motorcycle. Triumph have just made a good bike better and added an R in the name to emphasize. I had the opportunity to take it for a spin around the Isle of Man TT circuit. The Isle of Man is pretty much the best place in the world to test any motorcycle. We’re riding on public roads that are also a road racing circuit, a real-road racing circuit! After being introduced to the course in a coach guided by Manx madman Richard "Milky" Quayle, I can testify that this Island and its inhabitants truly live and breath motorcycle racing.

"The Street Triple has exceeded all our expectations," Triumph’s Simon Warburton said at the press conference. Simon went on and told us that Triumph has sold more than 7,500 Street Triples in the 12 months after its launch in 2007. "It’s only a few years ago that we didn’t sell more than 5,000 of anything," Warburton revealed. He also apologized to all that are still waiting for their Street Triples, and explained that the bottleneck lies at the manufacturing of cylinder heads and crankcases.

The Triumph Street Triple and Street Triple R, along with the Daytona 675, have enabled this record-breaking pace at the Hinckley Triumph factory. Almost as a celebration, the Triumph engineers were given the green light to optimize the Street Triple and the result is the Street Triple R. It’s very simple; Triumph has added the more powerful radial Nissin brake calipers (20% more power, 40% more bite!) from the Daytona 675, changed the stock suspension for fully adjustable (preload, rebound and compression) items not unlike the D675, and added a Magura tapered aluminum handlebar. The 41mm USD fork has more travel than the D675, but is pretty much identical apart from that. The 2009 Triumph Street Triple R rear monoshock comes straight from the D675 and have added another 5 mm to the seat height.

To distinguish the 2009 Triumph Street Triple R model from the standard Street Triple, Triumph has added a matte paint finish, available in two colors, grey and orange. The grey colors will be available straight away, whilst the orange you’ll have to wait until next year should you want one.

I’m firing up the 2009 Triumph Street Triple R in the Grandstand paddock in Douglas. I’ve picked one of the versions with the Arrow slip-ons, as I’ll be carrying an onboard camera for my lap. During all the photography, I used the standard model to compare. There’s not much in it–maybe a horse or two–but the Arrow mufflers allow some more of that triple noise to escape despite being road-homologated.

The lap record on the Island belongs to John McGuinness. He did a flying lap where he averaged 130.354 mph in the 2007 Senior race. Riding through places like Douglas, Crosby, Kirk Michael, and Ramsey, that time is mind blowing. Through those towns and villages, I’d rather be on today’s Street Triple R than on a highly tuned superbike. Unlike McGuinness, we have to cope with some car traffic and, as such, it suits our test purposes perfect. I ride the 675cc triple like I would at home and with the upright seat position and wide Magura bars. I’m very comfortable around slow moving traffic on the 2009 Triumph Street Triple R.

The Street Triple R is a lightweight and only weighs in at 368 pounds (claimed dry weight). I can easily feel how light the Street Triple is, and with the 2008 Speed Triple in mind, there’s quite a difference in weight. This immediately gives away the huge city and commuter potential. I have only got one small complaint in regards of the urban abilities, and that is that the steering lock is slightly on the sporty side. It’s a compromise, of course, between high-speed stability and slow speed maneuverability.

Farther on in my ride, I’m happy things are the way they are as I’m speeding up the mountain. There’s no speed limit even in peace times up on the mountain at Isle of Man. There simply isn’t any place like this in the whole wide world! Where else can you pass cars doing more than a 100 mph where it’s actually fun to ride legally? Nowhere, that’s the answer.

So I’m riding up the mountain as fast as the Street Triple R will go–123 mph, the instruments tell me a bit later and the places where you can really pin the throttle are all uphill. The 108-horsepower 675cc triple engine is good for more than that, but there’s no real desire in me to go any faster on a naked motorcycle. Despite damp patches here and there the Dunlop Qualifiers sticks to the tarmac in a way that would have allowed me to go faster pretty much anywhere on the TT course. But, I am keeping myself honest and at no point did I think that I should try to challenge this great circuit. Better men than I have died on this Island whilst pursuing road-racing glory.

Despite the damp patches, there are several places where I can really use the front brakes like they’re meant to. I never complained about the more budget brakes on the standard Street Triple, as they are good enough. However, the radial Nissin items do add stopping power and feel particularly at high speed. Triumph has somehow calculated that they are in fact 20% more powerful with pads that are 40% more eager to bite. Accompanied with the triple growl the whole bike bites better than the standard Street. The 2009 Triumph Street Triple R version has added more edge and zest and as such it’s a perfect motorcycle to ride the TT circuit for the first time. Unforgiving as this piece of tarmac can be, it’s good to be on such a forgiving motorcycle as the Street Triple R. The light chassis is very responsive, but still stable at high speed. Directional changes are very easy and it’s only a matter of placing the front wheel exactly where you want it, which in the Street Triple R’s case is often in the air.

Triumph has indeed made a good bike better. I can’t imagine a better proving ground for any motorcycle than the Isle of Man and it’s all top scores for the small Triumph. It’s such a good motorcycle that only the most fantastic liter-bikes tempt me more. Triumph has left me very little to criticize, and proven again that the 675 is one of the very finest mid-sized engines around. The Street Triple R is definitely worth the premium, as you get fully adjustable quality suspension and top-notch brakes in the bargain. The Street Triple R is a gem for a new motorcyclist and fresh for an experienced one. I have no doubts. Photos by: Jason Critchell & Paul Bryant