2014 Triumph Speed Triple R Test
The 2014 Triumph Speed Triple R ABS is like an old friend, and that’s no surprise for a model that’s been around since 1994. Twenty years of continuous production is no small feat in this fickle marketplace.
Riders, readers and writers alike have placed this Triumph on their perennial most-liked list. And throwing a leg over this purely analog machine is like coming home, but only better. By analog I simply mean that there is only an electronic dash and gauges, and other than the optional ABS, there is no trace of electronic rider aids to be found. This is not a bad thing especially since this machine is so well refined with a great balance of characteristics.
The R designation on the Speed Triple R incorporates some choice components, including Öhlins NIX30 forks and TTX36 shock, with separate rebound and compression damping, and Brembo Monobloc calipers; ABS was included on our test bike. The R is also enhanced with a fly screen, belly pan and seat cowl, and includes carbon-fiber radiator inner shrouds, mudguard and tank cover.
The chassis was updated in 2011, and its triple-cylinder engine remains unchanged at 1050cc with 133 horsepower and 81 lb.-ft. of torque in a 467- pound wet weight package (all claimed). Like fine wine, it has mellowed and improved with age.
These numbers add up to produce exemplary performance, and it is capable of more than many riders can utilize. However, in 2014 these figures pale in comparison to other entries in this category such as the Aprilia Tuono V4R, KTM Super Duke 1290 R, the brand new Ducati Monster 1200 and the soon-to-be-released BMW S1000R. Given this period of horsepower and technology escalation, this writer wonders what’s in store for the Speed Triple in coming years.
The Speed Trip’s instrumentation is, according to Triumph “all a rider needs.” That is, programmable gear change lights (with no gear position indicator), service interval reminder, lap timer, trip computer and fuel gauge. The bike is also protected by a coded key immobilizer system.
Let’s not forget that the new seat is the most comfortable in its class, and the ergonomics make this a well-proportioned, sit-up naked bike able to claim membership in the elusive Hooligan Club. This is all one needs, albeit sparse for 2014.
Riding the STR reminds us that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. It does everything well. The motor is easy-starting and settles into a high idle. It is smooth and even at low revs has the characteristic and charismatic staccato sound that can only come from a three-cylinder engine. At speed, high in the rev range, the sound is intoxicating.
The cable-actuated clutch is smooth, and though Triumph makes no claim to it being a slipper, it does feel and sound like there is some anti-back torque device installed, yielding very smooth downshifts. Transmission actuation is feather light and smooth. Neutral can almost be found by just a thought.
The ride over rough pavement can be a bit stiff, but that is to be expected with this suspension setup. The engine offers a comforting thrum and is strong at any rev range. It is especially docile at low revs – meaning you can putt around town in third or fourth gear or ride in sixth at 60 mph without any protests. These are all admirable attributes of a bike that a rider can really live with, but once the bike is turned loose one knows why this machine has such a good reputation.
Entering fast turns is drama-free. The chassis handles hard breaking forces with aplomb and leaves the rider set up for a lot of lean into the apex. Handling is neutral as it powers through corners and it digs in hard past the apex. Hard charging out of turns will slide the rear controllably (on Pirelli Super Corsa SP rubber) and reminds the pilot each time that traction control is all in the wrist.
As with many bikes in its class, it’s friendly until you gas it hard out of a turn. Apex around 6000 rpm, twist hard, keep leaning, and the Speed Triple will surely clean any plaque out of your aorta, although I make no medical claim as to its health benefits.
Riding the 2014 Triumph Speed Triple R is like coming home. It is always a pleasure, but with one irritating caveat: the bar across the fuel filler opening. Triumph is not the only perpetrator of this fiendish bit of engineering. I don’t know why it’s there or what sensitive equipment it may be protecting, but it is located almost flush with the fuel port and does not allow the nozzle any entry.
Here in California we have mandatory vapor recovery systems with a large rubber collar around every nozzle. Since one can’t insert the nozzle in the tank one must pull back on the stiff collar and hold the whole deal precisely to avoid spills, never able to use the handle lock. Care must be taken to allow only partial flow or the fueler will take a bath. Suffice it to say that I never had the patience or determination to completely fill the tank, and I always got fuel on my hands. Arrrrgh. Please Triumph, help us out here.
Whether you call that a deal-breaker or not, the rest of the Speed Triple R gets high marks and is a worthy consideration in the naked segment of motodom. We look forward to what must be the eventual evolution of this machine in the face of what the competition is offering. This could get even better.