Today’s Triumph Speed Triple is light years ahead of the original sport standard introduced in 1994, never mind the historic 1938 Triumph Speed Twin after which the Triple is named. The latest 2011-model styling revamp for the iconic streetfighter is sexy, too, except for the trademark bug-eye headlamps, the new shapes of which stray too far from the original round beams. No matter, the base Speed Triple is also lighter, more powerful (124 ponies at the rear wheel) and all-day comfortable now, and the new 2012 Speed Triple R version raises its desirability index to drooling mad.
In addition to the liberal use of carbon fiber panels and its red pinstriped wheels and seat subframe, the radical R is distinguished by fully adjustable Öhlins suspension front and rear that has internals designed specifically for the Triumph. It’s firm but compliant and easily adjusted, except for the ring-and-locknut rear spring preload. Serious-looking Brembo monobloc radial calipers in front have 5 percent more stopping power than the base model’s, and the bike’s lightweight, forged alloy wheels wear Pirelli Super Corsa SP tires that are as close as you can get to slicks for the street.
Although not quite as flickable as the Ducati or Aprilia in this section, the Speed Triple R carves an unwavering line in fast corners and is a joy on the highway. The engine’s powerband is so broad and smooth that most winding roads are conquered solely in third gear.
The seat is tall at a stop (but helps increase legroom underway), and our bike’s tire pressure monitoring system insisted that 41 psi was too high for the warm rear tire. But we really liked its combination of high-end components, comfort and high-performance, with practical features like a trip computer, metal tank that will hold a magnetic tankbag, toolkit and unlinked anti-lock brakes. Just don’t look at the headlights.
2012 Triumph Speed Triple R
Base Price: $15,999
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse in-line triple, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 79.0 x 71.4mm
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 56.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 22.8 degrees/3.6 in.
Seat Height: 32.5 in.
Wet Weight: 477 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.6 gals., last 0.9 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min. (avg) 37.6
(This Ridden and Rated Special was published in the October 2012 issue of Rider magazine.)