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2009 Triumph Sprint ST Comparison

Monday, November 9, 2009
2009 Triumph Sprint ST
2009 Triumph Sprint ST 1050 ABS
MSRP: $12,799 ($11,999 non-ABS)
Horsepower: 118.5 hp @ 9400 rpm
Torque: 72.1 lb-ft @ 7900 rpm
Weight: 578 lbs Range: 234 miles
“It’s basically a Sportbike with bags.”

At some point during our trip every test rider uttered this sentence, or some variation of it, about the Triumph Sprint ST. And it’s a fair summation, for both good and ill.

The brilliant star of the Sprint ST is the 1050cc three-cylinder engine. The British marquee has placed its future success, wisely in our estimation, on the novelty of its Inline-Triple and Parallel-Twin platforms. And we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: Triumph is onto something with its Triple. Anything but a compromise, its pleasing blend of a torquey Twin and high-revving Four showcases the strengths of both designs. And while the Beemer and Kawi motor proved the big brutes in our ST testing cadre, the Triumph’s scrappy Triple belts out a robust powerband too.

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 2009 Sport-Touring Shootout
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Fueling lacks the refined feel of some of its competitors, but the throttle delivers a playful pop and gleefully quick acceleration. Mate the real-world road performance with the grin-inducing intangibles of an exquisite rumbling backbeat from the exhaust note and, mwahh (we just made that French kissy face gesture). We like!

“This motor was smooth and the exhaust note the best. With a nice aftermarket pipe the sound would have been awesome,” deems Tom. “I just love the sound of the Triple.”

Having previously ridden a Sprint kitted with an accessory Arrow exhaust, we can vouch for Tom’s assumption. An aftermarket pipe could also help close the power gap on the dyno, with our test unit running 118 hp and 72.1 lb-ft power peaks at the rear wheel. Sure, the Sprint’s 1050cc are outclassed by double digits on the dyno by the Fours’ 200-plus extra cc. However, even in stock trim, nothing matches the English mill’s pure personality and character.
2009 Triumph Sprint ST
The Triumph Sprint ST's sportbike characteristics lend itself to quick cornering and one of the sportiest dispositions.

As the sole chain-driven bike in the test, the Sprint ST’s transfer of power to the rear wheel is one of the smoothest of the lot, too. The well-sorted six-speed gearbox also works fine, though shuffling through gears isn’t as slick as the Japanese units. We’ll also gripe about the absence of a gear position indicator – one of those hairs we split on comparisons like this.

The Triumph’s 578-lb curb weight mitigates, in part, the Triple’s displacement disadvantage as it pushes a full 86 fewer lbs than its closest competitor. The lighter weight manifests most dramatically during low speed maneuvers. Trust us, there’s a comedic difference between duckwalking it and the 689-lb Concours in a parking lot.

Twist the wrist and the Sprint’s heavy sportbike leanings manifest, literally, as one of the quickest and most aggressive corner carvers. No heavy input on the bars required, as the Triumph tips in without a second thought and changes directions lickety split. Credit the most assertive steering geometry, with a 2-degree steeper rake (24 degrees) and 2.6-inch shorter wheelbase (57.4 inches).
 2009 Sport-Touring steering geometry

The 43mm Showa fork and rear shock felt stiffer than all but the Concours, but the stock settings can be pushed hard and will suffice the majority of riders (including our testing crew). Some advanced riders will want more adjustment range, however, with the 43mm fork only offering changes to preload and the shock preload and rebound adjustment.

The Triumph’s brakes haul things down in fine enough fashion, but they rated at the bottom amongst its high-performance company. The 4-piston Nissin calipers up front transmit a more wooden feel to the lever when biting on the dual 320mm rotors, with more pronounced front end dive too. The optional $800 ABS system didn’t generate any
2009 Triumph Sprint ST
Viewed side by side, the Sprint's smaller screen and reduced rider protection in obvious.
particular notice, a good thing in ABS terms, lacking much pulsation at the lever and pedal.

The Sprint’s sportbike shortcomings build as the miles pile on. The sporty, forward pitch of the riding position aids in handling but places pressure on the wrists and lower back. Riders can still bear long-distance rides, particularly thanks to the cushy seat, but there’s no question the Sprint exhausts riders faster than its rivals.

The fixed windscreen delivers less than optimal wind protection. An optional larger screen, which we’ve tested in the past, improves things, but an electronically adjustable screen is de rigueur for a sport-tourer. Same goes for hard saddlebags, which surprisingly didn’t come standard on the Sprint until 2008 (a concurrent touring-friendly upgrade being the switch to a metal tank to serve magnetic tank bags). The hard luggage on the Sprint works well enough, once you get its less-than-intuitive opening
2009 Triumph Sprint ST 2009 Triumph Sprint ST
While it's sportier ergos hinder touring comfort, the Triumph's uncompromising character will fit perfectly with some riders.
and release mechanisms. Storage felt the least spacious of the lot, though it can hold a full-face helmet like the rest. The appearance of the bags are also less integrated into the styling.

Speaking of which Sprint may have rated lowest in Appearance on our scorecard, but is by no means an ugly bike - the single-sided rear and integrated turn signals recieve uniform praise from test riders. The tall mirror stalks also provide one of the better rear views.

One rider liked the minimal sportbike-like instrumentation, but most found it hard to read and too Spartan. Fit and finish in general yielded the lowest marks with the Triumph, more a complement to the other bikes than a dig on the Trumpet. One quirk in our test unit contributed to the low score, with a sensitive fuel light tripping on and off, and a fuel gauge that on two occasions read empty when there was plenty of fuel on tap. We recall a similar fuel light glitch on the Speed Triple in our 2008 Streetfighter Shootout.

On a more positive note, the Triumph registered the best fuel efficiency at 45 mpg. Teamed with its 5.2-gallon tank, the Sprint gets a respectable 234-mile range. Not bad for a “sportbike with bags.”

The Sprint also slaughters its rivals in a price war. At $11,999 in base trim, with $12,799 for ABS, the MSRP beats its closest competitor, the Kawasaki, by a full $1500. With that extra scratch you could score some optional heated grips and maybe a good chunk of an aftermarket pipe.

Adding things up, the Sprint may finish fourth, but it sits only three measly points adrift of second-place overall. The Triumph took its biggest hit in the touring categories on the scoresheet. Tweak the Sprint’s riding position, add an adjustable screen, a hair more protection from the fairing, maybe rethink the instrument console… Those slim points separating it from fourth to second-place overall look quite manageable.

In spite of its touring hindrances, the Sprint’s lively Triple and reasonable MSRP make it an attractive sport-touring option. If shorter tours on more aggressive roads are your metier, the Triumph may be the perfect match.
Triumph Sprint ST Photo Gallery
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Triumph Sprint ST History
The eye-catching Tornado Red paint scheme for the Sprint ST returns  with new-for-2008 colors Pacific Blue and Graphite also available.
The Sprint ST debuted as a 955cc model in 1998. Like the rest of the large Triples in the Triumph line it bumped up displacement to 1050cc in 2005. Since then, a handful of touring-oriented upgrades have refined the Sprint package, like the standard saddlebags and a higher windscreen as an option seen on this test unit we rode in the Smoky Mountains during our 2008 Triumph Sprint ST First Ride.
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Comments
DeaconBlues   July 28, 2014 12:01 PM
I purchased the 2008 version of this bike used at 25K miles, and while it was running, it was an amazing bike. Just sporty enough to get your blood pumping, but still a very capable tourer. I rode it to work, I rode it to do my laundry, I rode it to the casinos in OK and the twisty roads in AR. Heck, I just rode it, period. The major problem with this bike (and apparently a 'flaw' in the 995 and early 1050 Triple motor design) is that, if the bike ever gets completely sideways, you may need to have the engine undergo a solid looking-over... because if the motor is left running on its side, oil will be forced into places it shouldn't, and ~1000-2000 miles later you'll have bottom-end problems. Mine is currently waiting for a new motor, after blowing out the connector rod bearings. This is a very expensive problem to fix, unless you've a donor bike with a motor you can swap over... we've been trying to arrange such a transplant for going on six months, but the supply of Triumph 1050's is rather slim in Texas. So... if you get a Trumpet 1050 new, install an engine failsafe if you should ever crash or even drop it. If you want a used one, ask a lot of questions on the history, especially if the sidecases show evidence of meeting pavement.
Paul -Sprint owner  May 12, 2010 02:59 PM
Having read all the above comments I generally agree with the points raised. I have a 2008 Sprint. The fuel gauge is apparently a common issue and mine has to go back under warranty for replacement. Every time I fill up form empty the gauge stays on empty for a few miles until a couple of harder "bumps' jiggle the sensor and get it to read full. I'm 51 with a bad back and yes, it is definitely more a sports than touring machine. After only an hr my wrists get sore and my hands start going numb. I think I'll be looking at the raised handle bars when I contemplate a long trip in the future. Yes, on a warm to hot day the heat from the engine becomes an annoyance - great when it's cool to cold though! No, my helmet doesn't fit into the panniers either - only way to solve that is buy a top box. I'm definitely in the market for an after market exhaust - the sound generated by the trident / arrow / IXIL units are pretty sweet and a "must have", although could be considered an extravagance 'cause it sounds poretty good with the standard units. New models on the market are now making the Sprint look a little dated(BMW K13 and Honda VFR1200)but it still can't be beaten on price! I like it and I'm keeping it.
wllrjstn -you CAN tour on it  February 26, 2010 09:09 AM
I have an '01 model, different than this one, but designed to fill the same role. They have similar ergonomics and capabilities. I wouldn't consider getting rid of it for any other bike I could think of but one of the newer Sprint ST's or perhaps the BMW F800ST. One thing I know for sure is that you CAN tour on the Sprint ST. I've done 900 mile days on mine, riding non-stop (except for gas) from the east coast to Houston. And my bike was almost completely stock last time I did that ride. Sure, a larger bike would be more comfortable for the long haul, but if you only get the opportunity to take such long trips and usually do 200-400 mile days, why spend the extra money on purchase, gas, and insurance? To each his own. But I do believe if one wants to do mostly spirited riding with occasional long rides on the superslab, the Sprint ST is better than any "sportbike with bags".
Brock -09 Sprint ABS  December 6, 2009 11:35 AM
I've got this bike, and I love it. Did 1200 miles on it in 2 days back in August. Only pain I really had was with my thighs getting sore, and gas stops fixed them. I made some changes though, I got the handlebar kit and some daytona bend bars on mine. Much better riding position, and all you need to change is the clutch cable with the one included in the kit on ABS models. ABS is pretty transparent, only got it to go off while doing the sportbike riders course, and even then it was just the back pedal. Hasn't kicked in ever in regular riding.
Pierre -ST Comparo 2009  November 24, 2009 04:03 PM
After reading the review, I see no reason to change my CBR1100XX for any of these bykes.
Imp -Sprint  November 21, 2009 05:51 AM
The rev. was for sport TOURING bikes. Saddlebags does not make a touring bike. To me the Sprint has on bussines in this category, since its only qualification where saddlebags. Maybe you could put some bags on an R1 and include that on the next review.
bakwheeltango -great bike not a couch.  November 16, 2009 02:44 PM
It's more far more sport then a sport tourer and in a class of its own so comparing it or finding something to compare it to is hard to do. I have the 06' sprint with 48000 kms on it. FYI the 07+ have a higher handle bar setup. it does have heat issues due to the under tail exhaust. I put a carbon fiber trident on mine and it was solved. sounds way better and adds about 6 ponies. Awesome bike it does it all. I have done 840km days on it (I have a full shoulder separation aka missing 5 ligaments) but after a long day you want off. with that said I have done 2400kms in 4 days and could have kept going. The bike turns, wheelies and tours. I have ridden a long list of bikes but every time I do I like my bike even more.I dare you sample that triple go and try and find something else that fills your appetite. Also, I know guys that are 6' 2" plus riding them all day and around 50yrs old. this is a grown up sport bike with some small hard bags... not a couch. so if you looking for a cup holder go look elsewhere.
Pete -Sprint owner  November 16, 2009 07:38 AM
After reading the review of the Sprint, I would like to offer my opinions and corrections. First, the Sprint saddle bags will NOT hold a full face helmet, unless they've been greatly redesigned from my 2007's, which I doubt. And I too have had the false "empty" reading from my gas gauge once in 3500 miles, but it was un-nerving. Did I spring a leak, etc....? Triumph advertises the Sprint at 530lbs wet. How could they be 48lbs off? The saddle bags don't weigh that much, and this bike doesn't feel much heavier than my 650 maxim. The riding position is a little too much sport bike for a sport-tourer, so yes, this bike is better for the East and West coast people. But my biggest gripe is the heat from the engine on my legs. Why didn't Triumph design it so the heat is diverted under the bike? Heated hand grips on this bike is a joke. Your legs will keep the rest of you warm. This bike is perfect for the country it was built in, but in the southern states of the US, I would suggest test driving all these bikes to see if the rest are just as bad. Bottom line of my review is if you're pushing 50 years old like me, get something else. If you're under 35 and slim, get this bike. Just remember to put tin foil around your legs and poke holes in it to let the steam out!