2011 Triumph Street Triple R Comparison Review

Bart Madson | March 14, 2011
Most American riders are already familiar with the British-built Triumph Speed Triple R. Watch the Triumph Street Triple R video and see how the Inline Triple faired in this comparison.

The Street Triple was a hit as a 2008 debut model. The smaller-displacement version of Triumph’s iconic Speed Triple, the Street model delivered the British marque’s Supersport engine to the road via standard naked platform. Responding to requests for higher spec suspension and brakes, Triumph released the R version of the Street Triple a year later to wide acclaim – earning MCUSA’s Best Street Bike of 2009 honors. So what makes the STR so special?

Engine, engine, engine. Triumph’s liquid-cooled Inline Triple makes all the difference. A mechanical equivalent to Goldilocks’ too hot and too cold dilemma, the Street Triple R’s 675cc three-cylinder mill is just right. It combines the best of the Twin and Four into its own distinctive blend. But it’s not just the novelty of an unusual engine configuration that gets us all twitterpated, it’s the pulsing torque and on-road performance of the Triple.

Triumph Street Triple R
A familiar face on the American scene, the British-built Triumph Street Triple R earned Best Street Bike of 2009 honors from Motorcycle USA.

The dyno sheet contradicts our seat of the pant impressions, however, as the Triumph tallies the lowest peak torque reading at 44.3 lb-ft. Its 92.7 peak horsepower also falls short of class-leading, three shy of the FZ8. Yet the Triumph delivers the sportiest engine performance of this testing trio by far. The torque curve is the flattest of all three bikes, with a linear powerband pulling hard all the way up to its highest-revving redline just shy of 13K.

“The engine feels like it’s an extension of your heart. Pin the throttle and you can feel every power pulse of the engine and it delivers a very intimate riding experience that few motorcycles can mimic,” wooed Adam. “Although it is down a few ccs on the other bikes, get the engine revving and it delivers a good yet dead calm blast of power. Triumph might have engineered the most perfect engine. It vibrates minimally. Has a ton of character. The sound of the intake and the whirl of the valvetrain is absolute music to my ears.”

Crack the throttle in the lower gears with any sort of moxie and front end heads skyward, a trait which Mr. Waheed abused at almost every opportunity. While Triumph’s larger 1050 Triple may emit a more pleasing bark (particularly that

The Triumph’s Inline Triple features grin-inducing power at the right wrist, with the
radial-mount Nissin calipers up front and radial-pumper master cylinder delivering
fantastic bite and feel.

intoxicating burble on deceleration), we reckon the Street Triple’s powerplant to be one of the more playful engines currently in production.

The clutch pull feels heaviest of the test, though not fatiguing, and six-speed gearbox the most deliberate. The gearing requires a lot of upshifting too, as we kept the Triple singing in its delicious upper end, from 7500 rpm on. Pinning the revs high ensures ample grins, as the Street Triple flies. While the dyno may not display any class-leading peak numbers, the STR bests its Yamaha rival in power to weight ratio thanks to its sprite 421-pound curb weight, a full 45 pounds less than the FZ8.

The blistering pace of the Triumph is tamed by the best braking package, with one of the upshots from the R designation a pair of radial-mount Nissin four-piston calipers. Although touchy at first, the impressive bite up front ensures immediate halts. Once acclimated to the improved performance, precise feel from the radial-pump master cylinder (also Nissin) makes for one-finger stopping power.

The Street Triple makes for a nimble ride, its Supersport derrived chassis featuring a three-way adjustable suspension.

The shortest wheelbase (55.5 inches) and most aggressive rake (23.9 degrees) make for an agile machine. Like the engine and brakes, the handling of the Triumph outclasses its competitors. Much of the credit goes to the stiffer Kayaba suspension components. Yet another upgrade for the R model, the fork and shock both offer three-way adjustment, allowing riders to dial in preferences: stiffer for sporty applications and softened up for more subdued commuting duties or touring, though the Triple begs to get flogged everywhere.

The STR can be pressed harder when carving up the curvy backroads, confirming its Supersport lineage. The Street Triple chassis in not far removed from its Daytona 675 cousin. Thankfully, riders aren’t hunched over in full Supersport tuck, with the Street Triple offering a neutral upright riding position. Slimmer than the wider Yamaha, the pegs and handlebar position are well placed for our 6’1” dimensions. The 31.7-inch seat height didn’t bother us either.

In the looks department, the Street retains Triumph’s traditional bug eye headlamps. The styling of the lamps and naked lines are a personal favorite, though I’ll concur with Adam that it could use a touch up.

The STR isn’t perfect either, as the instrument cluster is a cluster… The analog tach and speedo work well enough, it’s the extra info where things get confusing. For example why can the bike tabulate current fuel consumption and average fuel consumption, yet not show an easy-to-read fuel gauge? Instead riders are left to wonder, with an idiot light warning when gas levels fall. Average MPH… who uses such information? The BMW display also falls into the same over-information trap. OEMs would do well to cover a basic checklist in instrumentation: easy-to-read analog tach and digital speedo, fuel and temperature gauges, digital clock, odometer and a couple tripmeters – that’s all riders need.

Still, we can’t find any true fault with the Street Triple. A fun all-rounder, it seems impossible that the Triumph could ever get boring. The Triple powerplant is too enticing and the brakes and suspension make for the best performing chassis in the test. Add in a $9599 MSRP and the Triumph recipe for success is clear.

Triumph Street Triple RTriumph Street Triple RTriumph Street Triple R
The Inline Triple continues to headline the Triumph package, with the Street Triple R sourcing uprated radial-mount Nissin caliper
and radial-pump master cylinder. We like the STR’s digital speedo and analog tach, but the rest of the instrument console is cluttered.

Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Articles | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.