I’m sure it’s part of a Sesame Street sing along – “R is for Race.” I’ve known this since I was a wee tike; I think we all have. The common train of thought behind the addition of an R to a motorcycle model’s moniker is that with that single letter comes a slew of parts to create a “race” version of its former soft-shelled and pudgy self. Always the R is more desirable to the hardcore moto-fiends, but usually with that all-important consonant and all it promises comes some trade-offs – a stiff ride, finicky engine performance and a significantly lighter wallet. But is it worth it? Absolutely, just about every time.
For Triumph Motorcycles the Speed Triple personifies the brand’s return to glory. As Triumph Project Manager Simon Warburton put it simply, “The Speed Triple is Triumph.” The goal of the R is simple for the English manufacturer – to create the ultimate Speed Triple. Using top shelf components Triumph is seeking to further intensify the appeal of the brand and the Speed Triple.
The very first question most riders will ask is how much more horsepower pumps out of the Speed Triple R over the standard model. Zero, nada, not one measly pony. It’s odd for a R-designation to not come with an extra dollop of power, but in all honestly the 1050cc inline three-cylinder mill is already one of the best in its class. Down low the torque is meatier than
Top-shelf components such as forged PVM wheels, Brembo Monoblocks and Ohlins suspension elevate the performance of the Speed Triple R.
anything this side of a Texas BBQ hoedown, and the revs pull strong all the way until the rev limiter kicks in with a machine gun ratta-tat-tat.
So where does the R come in here? Just about everywhere else. Triumph kicks off the Speed Triple with new gold springy bits at the front and rear. That’s right, Ohlins. Just saying the name of the Swedish suspension company makes you feel all warm inside doesn’t it? A NIX30 big piston cartridge front fork is sprung just slightly stiffer than the stock unit with a 9.5 N/mm spring versus a 9.0 N/mm. A TTX36 piggyback shock complements the golden goodness up front with a 100 N/mm spring rate over the stock 95 N/mm.
Not drawing the line at some very spendy suspension, Triumph upped the ante even further with a set of forged PVM wheels built exclusively for the Speed Triple R. These machined wheels are thinner everywhere it counts and drop 3.7 pounds from the reciprocating mass of the Triple R. That calculates to a 16% and 25% reduction of the front and rear wheel’s inertia respectively.
Attached to the beautiful black PVM front wheel are 320mm floating rotors from the standard Speed Triple, but R here means Brembo monoblocs replace the radial mounted standard units. Out back a Nissin twin-piston caliper squeezing a 255mm disc carries over from the non-R version. ABS is standard for the US model and can be switched off through the in-dash menu. Finishing off the round bits on the Speed Triple R are a set of Pirelli’s fantastic Supercorsa SP tires.
Triumph worked over the transmission, retooling 10 of the 12 gears, both shafts, the shift drum and fork rod in an effort to smooth out the shift action. Most of the gear tolerances have been tightened up, the friction on the shaft splines have been reduced, and the gear dogs have been increased from four to five for more solid engagement. Sixth gear has also been reduced to a 3.4% lower ratio. All of these gearbox changes will carry over into the standard model next year.
The fast and flowing layout of the Jerez MotoGP track was an excellent proving ground for the 2012 Speed Triple R.
Autoclave formed carbon fiber parts replace the front tank cover, radiator shrouds and mudguard side pods. Built in the same factory as Lamborghini body parts, the CF parts are highly polished and bring the total weight loss of the speed Triple R to 4.4 pounds. Finishing off the cosmetic changes are a red subframe and red wheel stripes.
Triumph chose to showcase the Speed Triple R at Circuito de Jerez, a fast and flowing MotoGP track. I was surprised by the choice for a streetfighter introduction, but it’s not often a manufacturer would choose a track that doesn’t suit its machine. Choosing Jerez shows that Triumph is confident that the R is race ready; maybe it deserves a Double R designation?
Throwing a leg over the Speed Triple R’s 32.5-inch high seat reveals a familiar seating position. If you didn’t see the tops of the Ohlins NIX30 forks or black handlebars embellished with an R you would not be able to tell the difference between this souped up model and the everyman’s version. The layout is roomy and comfortable with wide bars and sensibly placed footpegs. Tossing it side-to-side while sitting still on Jerez’s pitlane gives little evidence to the four-and-a-half-pound weight loss.
Once rolling however that loss becomes immediately apparent. Dipping into the first two right hand corners the Speed Triple R feels light and flickable, much more so than the non-R model. Turn-in effort at speed is surprisingly quick, and changing direction is a snap. This is where the lighter PVM wheels and their lower inertia shine. The R feels 15 to 20 pounds lighter when flying through the corners. It is truly amazing the difference a set of wheels can make.
The Triumph press team set our test machine’s Ohlins hardware between the Sport and Track suspension settings found in the Speed Triple R’s manual. At the front the level of feel from the NIX30 fork was phenomenal, almost telepathic. Out back the
The forged PVM wheels make the Speed Triple R feel like it is 15 pounds lighter than it really is. Ohlins suspension and Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires make it stick to the track like glue.
TTX36 was planted and stable no matter how sloppy I got with my body position or throttle application. The Ohlins combo was so dialed that not one journalist asked for a change, not even a click. That’s right, this is almost unheard of, especially for me. My plus 200-pound weight tends to tax a rear shock, inducing wallowing and bucking when pushed hard when leaned over. Not even a whimper from the golden goodies. The only complaint I had, and I’m really nit-picking here, was a bit of a front end wiggle when getting out of the gas after accelerating hard down the shorter chutes. I feel this had more to do with the wide bars and my body input than a suspension issue. It was just a reminder that you were hauling ass on a streetfighter.
Accelerating down the front straight after a second-gear left hander exposed my only other complaint about the Speed Triple R. Under heavy load with the throttle to the stop, shifting was difficult and almost down right stubborn especially between second and third. In order to not miss a shift, I had to chop the throttle more than would be expected while stabbing the clutch. Once I had the routine figured out, it was more an annoyance than a huge problem. Nowhere else on the track did I have any trouble with the gearbox, and I will say that it is improved over the standard Speed Triple.
At the end of the straights the Brembo Monoblocs hauled the Speed Triple R down to speed with the power and efficiency you would expect. The power was mighty but not grabby. Feel from the lever was exceptional and communicated with the front end like other brakes can’t. I found myself braking later and leaning over further before completely releasing pressure on the binders than I have ever had previously on the track.
Another reason for my new found bravado in the brakes and in the corners would have to be the Pirelli Supercorsa SP skins that come standard on the Speed Triple R. The level of grip and consistency of feel from the SPs is almost unbelievable; they really do feel like track-only race rubber.
The combination of the forged PVM wheels, rock solid Ohlins suspension, Brembo calipers and Supercorsa SP rubber definitely elevate this Triumph to R status. However, all the negatives that usually come along with that R are not present in the Speed Triple R. Raising the track prowess of this motorcycle really hasn’t changed the everyday comfort and usability that make the Speed Triple such a wonderful bike to live with day in and day out. At $15,999 your wallet will be four large lighter than if you went with the base model, but is it worth it? Of course it is; it has an R on it doesn’t it?