2020 Triumph Street Triple RS: Spanish Street and Track Test
In early 2017, the MotoGP paddock was chockablock full of rumors of a new powerplant that would lead the charge for the Moto2 class. The inline-four 600cc era seemed to be on its last leg, and the MotoGP circus was looking for a torquier, more powerful, hoop of fire for its feeder class to jump through.
The thought process was simple—Moto2 organizers wanted a new spec motor that would foster the riding techniques needed to thrive and survive in the saddle of a MotoGP machine, building a much sturdier bridge between the classes.
The GP scuttlebutt was in full swing with numerous teasers and leaks, showing the British marque Triumph deep in the development of the new engine in question. The stars aligned, and I found myself standing in the paddock of Circuito de Barcelona-Catalunya, staring at the 2017 Triumph Street Triple RS—a from-the-ground-up redesign of Triumph’s Street Triple platform, which featured a new 765cc displacement.
A naked hooligan machine of the people, the Street Triple bestows wheelies, sportiness, and practicality to all that sit behind her bars. It has always kept one foot in the street and the other in the track, gobbling as much track-focused influence from its cousin, the Daytona, without making it untenable for the average user.
When pressing Triumph staff as to whether this would be the base for the new Moto2 engine, I was met with lighting quick diversions in the conversation, “What is a Moto2? Oh, how was the flight? Let’s have a look at this shiny new bike, shall we? Do you like paella?”
Well, the rumors panned out. A few months later, after the blissful glow of Catalunya began to subside, Triumph officially announced that they’d be filling the role of Moto2 spec-engine manufacturer for the 2019 season and beyond. Race-spec, 140-horsepower three-cylinder engines would soon be heard ripping through tracks across the globe, and I couldn’t wait.
Now, just two short years after that adventure, I found myself standing in Circuito Cartagena, a legendary paddock in southeast Spain, face-to-face with one of my favorite autumn trysts—the 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS. Our time together in 2017 was brief but my, it left quite the impression to the point that the announcement of a revised 2020 model was both perplexing and compelling.
The RS is and was an incredibly impressive machine and brought some upper-crust refinement to the middleweight naked class that typically isn’t present. In a class with an MSRP commonly south of $10k, Triumph kicked it up a few grand for the RS edition—the more expensive of three flavors of Street Triple.
For the $12,550 price tag, the RS has a fully adjustable Showa/Öhlins one-two suspension punch, a fleshed-out electronics package jab, Brembo bobs and weaves, a top-tier fit-and-finish body shot, and a knockout punch of an engine. The RS put something of a bruising on a budget-conscious segment.
All of that is the same for 2020, as are all the hard parts and chassis figures. Now, the Striple 765 features a host of updates that make me want to have a very convincing conversation with a loan officer of my local bank, once again.
The updates for the 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS are where Triumph’s time in Moto2 start to factor in. Building an engine for the entire Moto2 paddock is a massive undertaking.
Consider it: Triumph engineers must build race engines capable of surviving practice sessions, qualifying, and races for an entire season—but here’s the kicker, for the entire paddock. Factory teams will usually field two machines and support a couple of satellite teams. However, they don’t have an entire grid full of their engines spinning laps for 19 Moto2 rounds.
To keep things impartial, Triumph only supplies the race-spec 765 engines. Once they’re delivered, ExternPro— a third-party contractor hired by MotoGP rights owners Dorna—has the job of servicing, maintaining, and distributing the motors throughout the paddock via the lottery. ExternPro also managed the Honda 600cc era motors.
No Moto2 team knows which particular engine they’re getting for each race weekend or test. Current points leader Alex Márquez could have shared an engine with Joe Roberts, the only American rider in the GP paddock, at some point.
Taking what is learned from its time in racing, and with the quickly advancing Euro 5 storm, the British firm, who has made its bones in lousy weather, physically and economically, set out to tackle stricter emissions challenges head-on.
The 2020 Street Triple RS delivers higher mid-range performance, improved carbon efficiency, an autoblipper, and even a bit of an ol’ nip-tuck around the eyes, among other places. She’s looking fit as ever, and what comes out her rear end is even cleaner, although you should still be in a well-ventilated area when she’s fired up as carbon monoxide is quite deadly.
The rigors of racing gave Triumph a wealth of data to study, and they’ve put that to use by building a fuel map that offers a claimed nine percent more horsepower and torque between 6-10k rpm. In short, you’re getting more power right where a street rider needs it; no pun intended.
Still, the RS claims to produce 121 horsepower at 11,750 rpm—the same as last year, but now provides 58 ft/lbs of torque—two points above the previous model. Importantly, the updated RS has more power in the midrange, while not sacrificing any of its top-end prowess. This is a win-win for riders who plan on ripping the canyons as well as the track.
It wasn’t just ECU fiddling that delivered the newfound mid-range power. It took some meaningful internal changes to achieve those results. A new exhaust cam and revised air-intake duct help optimize performance for the regular street rider. However, there is a little more to it than that.
Experience in the Moto2 paddock highlighted the benefits of tighter machining processes and allowed Triumph to rid a claimed seven percent in rotational inertia from internal components. The crankshaft, clutch, and counterbalancer shed weight, reducing their rotating mass.
Adding to that positive effect is the gearbox, which has done away with anti-backlash gearing through tighter machining processes and revised gear shapes. Also, the gears are weighed to make sure they are machined within specification. These processes aren’t typical for your average bike. This technique is pulled right out of the GP paddock.
Triumph states that these weight savings strategies make the 765cc even more peppery at the wrist, and that’s a tough claim to vindicate without a direct comparison because it’s such a nuanced change. What I can say with absolute certainty is that the 765cc is raring to go, and she’ll put you in the butt-stop without blinking an eye.
The last of the changes to the 765cc is at the exhaust. New headers with a cross-pipe help optimize gas exchange and allow for more refined tuning at any engine speed, with less restriction. A dual-catalyst solution is used. One catalyst resides before the muffler, and another has been placed inside of it, still achieving better airflow and lower carbon emissions.
The result is one of the most brilliantly smooth motors on the market that oozes personality from the moment you hit the starter. The raspy, F1-esque exhaust howl can be heard clearly, though not overbearingly.
From anything above 4k, the motor pulls through the rev range with more tractable power than any previous Street Triple. It picks up anywhere in that broad swath of power, giving you all the slap you could want in the 6-10k rpm range, making it a perfect accomplice in the twisting Spanish countryside’s canyons outside Cartagena.
Exploring the powerband of the Striple RS is an absolute joy, and only requires you to roll the throttle on and off, as more mid-range helps keep shifting to a minimum.
There isn’t a hiccup or flat spot in any of the predictable, succulent power delivery either. All you get is the good stuff, and it is quite possibly one of the most refined motors in the class.
Previously, the Street Triple RS was a bit biased toward top-end power. That was fine, as you’d twist the grip and let her rip to the heavens, but that didn’t necessarily mean that its power was welcoming to all.
Now, with more approachable mid-range power, the 2020 RS is suitable for the donkey work of urban life, an enjoyable outing in the canyons. If you want to see how fast this zebra can sprint, the track is an excellent environment to find the rev-limiter.
This is also an area where I have a direct point of reference. We recently had a 2019 Triumph Street Triple R at the office, which, if we recall the Street Triple lineup in its entirety, included S, R, and RS models. Each featured slightly different tunings, with the R being the most street-focused, giving it much more mid-range power at the cost of outright horsepower and top-end guff. The 2020 RS captures the R’s mid-range and doesn’t give up its top-end puff.
The different states of tune meant that duties between models were clearly defined. Now that the R and RS are stepping on each other’s toes, we don’t know what that will mean for the 2020 Striple S, R, and RS variants. Triumph was mum on the subject, letting us know that more information was on the way.
The quickshifter was always a sorted piece of kit that helped riders grab the next gear with ease and new for this year is the autoblipping feature. With the additional changes in the gearbox, everything has been tightened up to the nth degree. Shifting is precise, sporty, and the kill times vary at nearly every rpm, helping you get a positive shift.
There can be a bit of lurching if you use clutchless downshifting at extremely low rpm, not atypical across brands for the feature. If you’re trawling the parking lot, it’s best to give the feather-light clutch a slight pull and go down to the first gear. Outside of that one particular instance, the autoblipper works flawlessly.
What can alter the personality of the 765 motor to a significant degree is the various riding modes. Owners have four preset riding modes to choose from—Rain, Road, Sport, and Track. Each adjusts the throttle response, ABS, and traction control intervention. Also, a customizable Rider mode allows you to use any combination of throttle, ABS, or TC settings. One can also disable TC altogether, should your little hooligan heart desire it.
Rain cuts power to a subdued 99 horsepower and offers a slack throttle, which is welcome in adverse conditions. Road is the most casual of the package, and suitable for urban riding or freeway droning. Sport kicks things up a notch and lets the Striple RS’s hair down. Track is the least restrictive in terms of nannies, though still using the Sport throttle map. We’ll get to how the electronics behave later.
When it comes to handling, the Street Triple has always been a platform that combines the best of both worlds, just as a naked bike should. It has the sportiness, responsiveness, and track-oriented prowess of the Daytona, without any of the discomfort that comes from a supersport machine. Suddenly, the fact that Triumph has sold 90k of these things since its debut in 2007 makes a whole lot of sense.
The fully adjustable Showa Big Piston Fork and Öhlins STX40 piggyback-reservoir shock do the difficult job of keeping a bike this sporty on the straight and narrow. In the canyons, when rolling over rough asphalt, the suspension can be tuned to hide nearly all of that from the rider, while still delivering all the feedback and confidence one desires on the road. From the moment you tip into your first decent bend, the stout front end of the Striple RS eggs you on to keep pushing.
Not as visually illustrious as Catalunya, Cartagena’s tight, multi-faceted 18-turn, 2.17-mile layout offers a bit of something for everyone. With blind sections, ascending radius corners, elevation changes, and more variety than a Las Vegas buffet, it is the perfect circuit to flex the prowess of a middleweight machine. Also, it is arguably one of the most technical tracks I’ve ever ridden. To me, this is a rider’s track and one ideally suited for lightweight and middleweight bikes—riding a superbike here would be tough work.
At the track, I cranked everything up a notch and was able to experience the Striple RS’ decent range of adjustment. It can go from a casual street machine to a beady-eyed track weapon in a few turns of the adjusters. At Cartagena, I was met with a more pointed tool and, yet, it was merely an expansion of what I experienced on the street.
Flying down the front straight and compressing the Showa fork, I was met with a motorcycle that did not wither under pressure. What is apparent in either setting is how much feel and confidence this chassis gives the rider, particularly in the front end. It doesn’t have light, waify steering. It is more relative to the confident feeling you’d get on a supersport, and wants the rider to give some direction. It isn’t physical, nor will it tire you out, as you have wide upright bars to control the beast.
The sporty wheelbase of 55.3 inches and steep 23.9-degree rake give the Striple 765 a decisive pep to its step, without making it uneasy or instigating any wallowing. When transitioning through the quick, tight, chicanes of Cartagena, the Street Triple RS had no issues flopping from side to side.
One of the standout chassis aspects is the rear end, where everything is communicated expertly. The RS is a svelte bike, and whatever happens underneath you is made quite apparent to the rider. With several hard-driving sections of Cartagena, such as the long right-hand curve into the hard-braking zone that is turn 6, you must have a ton of faith in what is under you to keep the throttle pinned.
While Triumph did not imbue the Street Triple RS with an IMU, Triumph isn’t relying on a rudimentary wheel-speed sensor solution for its electronics. Typically, if an IMU isn’t involved, wheel-speed sensors and preset limits are used to manage ABS and traction control. Triumph engineers were extremely guarded about how they’re managing their systems, but there are times where you might guess it had an IMU due to how sensitive it is to lean angle and where you are on the tire.
Testing the safety features on the street isn’t something you do generally do, mainly because you’re never riding hard enough to engage them; if you are, well, good luck. On track is where electronics can be sampled, as in corners such as turn 16—a blind turn that features a negative camber crest—can often be used to trigger TC systems easily. In Rain and Road, the TC light would flash furiously, not only giving me a visual cue that the bike was cutting power, but one felt at the wrist.
In Sport, the bike seemed to respond much better when I was able to get it on the meat of the tire, which is curious given that we don’t have an IMU. In track, I’d see the periodic flash on the dash, while feeling less intervention. All told, it is a sorted little TC solution.
Track pace triggers ABS if you’re not careful, and it is a direct result of Euro 5 compliance. Euro 5 has predetermined amounts of slip that manufacturers need to meet to gain certifications. Legislators, sadly, do not differentiate between average road riding and the much different riding that occurs on circuits.
Barreling into turn one can be an eye-opening experience, as ABS may be triggered if you hammer on the brakes too aggressively. It’s happening well before the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires are showing signs of losing grip. To be blunt, ABS is far too aggressive and cannot be disabled as part of Euro 5 guidelines.
The only way around it is to be exceedingly smooth with your inputs and make sure you aren’t upsetting the chassis. A significant factor in Euro 5 is rear-wheel slip. Also, lifting the rear end off the ground likely triggers the ABS. This isn’t necessarily a restricting factor, as Triumph hires lead riders directly out of the BSB and Isle of Mann TT paddocks—otherwise known as people way faster than me. If they can make it work at track paces, so can you. Their advice is also the same—be smooth.
Let’s be clear, these observations aren’t a criticism of Triumph. As we move into 2020, reviewers will come back with the same complaint—Euro 5 ABS standards can be too strict when on track.
In the front, we see the ratio adjustable Brembo MCS master cylinder returning, along with powerful Brembo M50 calipers, previously found on every superbike under the sun. Feel at the lever is as you’d like it, thanks to the three-setting adjustable ratio. If you prefer a softer initial bite or firmer one, you can quickly achieve that. Also, each lever’s reach is adjustable. With tons of stopping power on tap and massive amounts of feel on tap, there is nothing to complain about with the braking hardware.
Coupled with that, we have tasty 310mm floating rotors and, in the rear, a 220mm rotor with a Brembo single-piston caliper. When Euro 5 ABS isn’t spitting back at you, the all-Brembo braking package’s feel is stellar.
Ergonomics haven’t changed from year to year, and the 33-inch seat height is still comfortable as can be, thanks to the narrow chassis. Getting my 32-inch inseam on the ground isn’t an issue. When things need to get sporty, the neutral riding position allows enough room to drop your head and bang bars at the track. Better yet, you’ll be able to do it without the pangs of Supersport ownership afterward, too.
The 4.6-gallon fuel tank makes for an excellent anchoring point when cornering, and the padded seat has enough support, as well as cushion to keep things comfy all day.
Rounding out the bits of the 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS is the full-color TFT dash. It’s a returning feature with a software update and new themes. There are several themes to choose from; riders can pick what suits them best, and in a range of color options, all of which is perfectly visible in or out of direct light.
If you’d like a bit more, an accessory module can be purchased that enables Bluetooth, allowing GoPro connectivity, as well as turn-by-turn navigation, by pairing your phone. Speaking of phones, you can control your device and everything else via the left-hand joystick. In all, the dash and interfaces are superbly easy to navigate, and there’s a lot to it. Spend a bit of time in the garage and dial it in for you.
When you’re plinking down your cash on a new machine, you want to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. In the fit-and-finish department, Triumph has made significant strides, and it is a conscious decision. I believe it has paid off, as the company is a leader in the middleweight class with the 2020 Striple RS, not to mention giving big-ticket motorcycles a run for their money.
This year, designers went through the RS with a fine-toothed comb and made sure each bit has a beautiful finish on it, along with simple things like swingarm bolts featuring exquisite machining. LED lighting is used throughout the motorcycle, along with an even more ‘perturbed robot’ appearance, which I’ve grown to appreciate. The frame now shares the same coating as its big brother, the Speed Triple, and other fine details such as the Triumph logo on the triple-clamp and carbon-tipped muffler aren’t unnoticed, either.
When you boil it all down, sitting in the saddle of the RS casts a bit of a spell on the rider, making you want to rationalize the cost or purchase. After all, the age-old argument of “But it looks cool!” has always been an effective one, right? No? Whatever, I’m still using it.
The 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS seems like a minor update on paper. In terms of bullet points, it is. However, what Triumph has done here is refine one of the most potent packages on the market, bringing more practicality to an extremely competitive naked machine, which is a massive step in the right direction.
The engine is even more exciting and tractable. That, in of itself, is deserving of a small ticker-tape parade. Meanwhile, the handling and proven chassis recipe haven’t been upset in the least. Add that to the competent electronics package, along with drool-inducing fit-and-finish, and you have a bike that will satiate any sport rider with room in the garage for the 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS.
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Jacket: Alpinestars Missile Ignition Airflow
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro V3
- Jeans: Alpinestars Crank
- Boots: Alpinestars Faster 3
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Suit: Alpinestars NdS custom suit
- Baselayers: VnM Sport Compression Top and Pant
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro V3
- Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R Randy Mamola Legends Series
2020 Triumph Street Triple RS Specs
- Type: Inline-3
- Displacement: 765cc
- Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 53.4mm
- Maximum power: 121 horsepower @ 11,750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 58 ft/lbs @ 9350 rpm
- Compression ratio: 12.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 4vpc
- Fueling: EFI
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Slipper
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable 41mm inverted Showa Big Piston Front Fork (BPF); 4.5 inches
- Rear suspension: travel: Linkage-assisted, fully adjustable, Öhlins piggyback shock; 5.2 inches
- Wheels: 5-spoke cast aluminum alloy
- Front wheel: 17 x 3.5
- Rear wheel: 17 x 5.5
- Tires: Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP v3
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 310mm floating discs w/ Brembo M50 4-piston monoblock calipers
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ Brembo single-piston sliding caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 55.3 inches
- Rake: 23.9 degrees
- Trail: 3.9 inches
- Seat height: 33.1 inches
- Fuel tank capacity: 4.6 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 45 mpg
- Curb weight: N/A
- Matt Jet Black with Aluminum Silver and Yellow decals
- Silver Ice with Diablo Red and Aluminum Silver decals
2020 Triumph Street Triple RS Price:
- $12,550 MSRP