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It is really hard to manufacture a per se bad motorcycle nowadays. As electronics encroach further and further in the mechanical land, it is going to become even more difficult to do so. That said and paradoxically so, it is equally difficult to make a per se good motorcycle. That is because motorcycling is something organic, something visceral and binaries have a hard time embodying that. So, with electronics being one of the focal points of the Speed Triple 1200 RS that we just tested, is it a good motorcycle? Let’s find out.
The Speed Triple has been around for a while and Triumph refers to it as the original hooligan- disputable but not wrong. Regardless, it was one of Triumph’s most successful motorcycles and that is why it is still alive and kicking. The latest and greatest in the series- Speed Triple 1200 RS is being touted as the best Speed Triple to date. And it easily is.
Modern technology, a comprehensive electronic suite, less weight, more displacement, more power, more torque, more refinement, more top-shelf components and so on… it was bound to be that way. They say the Speed Triple 1200 RS has a 26% higher power-to-weight ratio than its predecessor and nearly double that of the original Speed Triple. That is a staggering feat. And this motorcycle is full of those. Anyway, enough of the claims and praises. Let’s get down to business.
As always we start with the looks, despite not wanting to and removing this section altogether. But then again, there is no harm in sharing our personal opinion regardless of the subjective nature of this topic.
More than the design, we feel that the packing and the stance do the deed for Speed Triple 1200 RS. The design is good, do not get us wrong, but how it carries itself even on a standstill is what got us. The geometry and the ergonomics help the Speed Triple 1200 RS to have a stance that conveys Bring it On! It looks ready to rip its tyres to shreds and blow the rider’s mind. It can… and it does.
Then there’s the short, sharp and athletic physique. It does not look like a bodybuilder despite being propelled by 180 horses. It looks like a sprinter. Sit on it and you notice that it is quite narrow too. So much so that despite the 830mm seat height, it is pretty easy to have your feet flat on the ground.
The stretched bug-eyed headlamps along with the angry-brow DRLs lend the Speed Triple 1200 RS an aggressive front fascia. The muscular tank lined by the beams of the chassis at the bottom looks good too. The exhaust looks decent enough as it is and eliminates the need for an aftermarket one. The exhaust note? Even more so.
In the end, the tail is narrow and the taillight looks pretty cool too at night. Lighting is all-LED all around. The overall fit and finish are exceptional. The 5” screen is integrated very well despite the lack of bodywork to wrap around it. The only thing that we’d like to see is a windscreen like that of the previous Speed Triple. That would help both visually and ergonomically. More on that in a bit.
Now, to the juicy bits. Especially juicier since a Triumph Triple is in question here- the engine. The new one is a 1,160cc unit compared to the 1,050cc of the previous one. But the bump in displacement is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything about the engine is new; making it lighter and more compact, in addition to making it more powerful and still meeting the latest emission norms. 180 PS of power and 125 Nm of torque- those are the numbers. Now, let us talk about their implications.
This engine is not only the best Speed Triple 1200 RS engine so far but arguably one of the best Triumph Triples ever. That is a tall claim considering the one that powers the Rocket 3 R. And yet, we said that. Despite it being perhaps the best sounding engine of the lot, there is much more to it that makes it a stellar powerplant.
Inline-3 cylinder engines are a quirky lot, to say the least. They are able to bring together the good points of two of the most popular engine configurations and minimize their weak points. In that sense, they are a meeting point between the low and midrange grunt of an inline-twin and the top end ferociousness of an inline-4. That said, this balance is not easy to achieve and yet, Triumph always gets it right. The reason, In addition to their engineering prowess, is their faith in Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE which is the recommended engine oil for the Speed Triple 1200 RS. The Speed Triple 1200 RS is all about omnipresent power. The 1,160cc engine is rev-happy and willing to provide all the grunt one can ask for at the twist of a wrist. The smooth delivery of that power and consistent performance is ensured by Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE. With its 5-in-1 Formula and Full Synthetic technology, it ensures that neither the high revs nor the high compression ratio are able to limit the engine’s capabilities. Due to lowered temps, added protection, and smooth operation, the rider is able to enjoy the best of Speed Triple 1200 RS’ thrilling acceleration all day long.
First off, the power and torque. The numbers are up with the top guns of the category but more than that, it is the delivery that blows your mind. The new Speed Triple 1200 RS has a much more ballistic top end compared to the previous version. But that does not come at the expense of midrange and low-end grunt. That is one of the characteristics of a 3-cylinder engine but the new Speed Triple takes it to a whole nother level.
Right from the get-go, it feels strong but as the revs build up it gets even better. The shove is addictive when you crack open the throttle. The acceleration almost feels like it is trying to yank your hands off the handlebar. There is grunt nearly everywhere in the rev range and the Speed Triple 1200 RS simply keeps going and going till aerodynamics finally catch up to it.
The new Speed Triple 1200 RS also revs more freely and quickly. The gearbox, equipped with an up-down quickshifter, more than keeps up with confident upshifts and downshifts that are accompanied by a glorious soundtrack. All of these combined with the light weight mean that the Speed Triple 1200 RS lives up to its hooligan tag. And then the sound- a muted rumble low in the rev-range, a raspy growl in the mid-range, and an intoxicating howl at the top.
Now, there are a few slight naggings here. First, there’s this little shove-pause-go moment when you get going. Engage the first and release the clutch and you get going as the motorcycle lurches forward but then when you twist the throttle, there’s an ever so slight pause before it starts to go at the same rate it started off. It is not noticeable unless you’re riding in traffic and find an opening to get out of there.
Then, there’s the gearbox. It is precise, sure, and a joy to go through but for some reason, it is pretty difficult to put it in neutral. A bit too eager to… perhaps. Not wanting the wringing to stop… perhaps. Then, the clutch lever which is slightly stiff so a long time in stop-and-go traffic will be felt.
Apart from these small issues which may be about getting used to the bike or about the bike being new, the Speed Triple 1200 RS is an absolute joy. Now, we did ask in the beginning if the Speed Triple 1200 RS is a good motorcycle. It is loaded with electronics so it is not bad but just because of the fine-tuning of those very electronics, it is one of the best motorcycles we have ridden in the recent past.
Courtesy of the electronic throttle control and fuel injection, you not only get precise fueling but also, 5 riding modes; Rain, Road, Sport, Track, and Rider, with the last one being user-configurable. All of these modes are very well calibrated in terms of the available power. More than anything though, it is the subtlety with which the Traction Control works. With varying intervention levels in each mode, it never really feels intrusive. And it gets even better in Sport and Track modes.
A great example of the wonderful implementation of electronics is wheelie control. Inevitably, the Speed Triple 1200 RS is one of those motorcycles that are not at all shy of sending the front wheel skywards with a handful of throttle. But it does not and you don’t even feel the power being cut off abruptly or anything of that sort. One quirk though is that if you do want the front hoop in the air, you have to disable the traction control as well since it is tied to wheelie control. Never has a motorcycle compelled a rider to consider the risk to reward ratio more!
Next up, we have handling and ergonomics to talk about. But let’s talk about the hardware responsible for that first. Aluminium twin-spar frame, a beautiful aluminium single-sided swingarm, and cast aluminium wheels shod with grippy Metzeler Racetec RR tyres.
Suspension duties are handled by fully-adjustable Öhlins 43mm NIX30 USD forks at the front and fully-adjustable Öhlins TTX36 monoshock. The braking department is similarly well-endowed with twin 320mm discs up front with Brembo Stylema callipers and a single 220mm disc at the rear with a Brembo twin-piston calliper.
All of that is befitting of an ‘RS’ branded motorcycle from Triumph. Because of the top-shelf components, the Speed Triple 1200 RS is in possession of some serious handling chops. The motorcycle turns on a dime and flicks from one side to the other like a pro. From the corner entry to the exit and throughout the corner, the Speed Triple 1200 RS remains composed.
The stock suspension settings are more biased towards sporty riding and can make do for track days too. Exiting the corners, the rear does not squat too hard and under braking and the front doesn’t dip too much. This inspires a whole lot of confidence and makes the rider want to keep pushing the limits… of themselves. The motorcycle’s limits are too far to fetch for mere mortals.
That said, this does come with a slight caveat. The rear suspension in its stock setting feels a tad stiff for normal roads. The Speed Triple 1200’s is not a jarring ride by a long shot but it is not supremely plush either. But then again, that is what the adjustable suspension is for and if you’re not on the racetrack, the softer setting will work just fine for both riding at a leisurely pace and some spirited riding.
The brakes though are stellar and the Speed Triple 1200 RS sheds speeds as eagerly as it is capable of gaining it. We did not get to test it on a racetrack so it’ll be hard to gauge the fade characteristics but we are quite sure that they can hold their own. In normal riding, they are about the best you can get your hands on.
Ergonomically, the Speed Triple 1200 RS is spot on. The riding position is committed enough for you to get your head down and go for it. But it is comfortable enough for taking in the vistas too. The windblast though is one of the flies in the ointment. That is why we’d have liked a windscreen that would have offered some semblance of wind protection. The second thing is the heat in stop-and-go traffic. But if you whine for more power, you should not be crying about that.
So, it is all out there for you to read and gauge the Speed Triple 1200 RS. Regardless, we are sure that your takeaway is not going to be too different from ours which is; the Speed Triple 1200 RS is a good bike. It is an excellent motorcycle that offers you loads of power, loads of handling goodness, loads of electronics, loads of features and yet, it is pretty easy to live with. More than anything, it is an example of how far Triumph has come in terms of tuning their electronics in just the right way so that they can make not only a per se good motorcycle but a motorcycle that is just as good at being a motorcycle.