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The day a Triumph Street Triple killed my Spada [review]

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by jekyll, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. On saturday I took the Triumph Street Triple for a test ride,
    followed by a much shorter run on the 2008 Honda Hornet 600. This
    is a summary of my initial impressions about the Triumph. Where
    relevant I'll include any contrasting impressions about the Hornet
    alongside the Triumph.

    NOTE: All of what follows should be read with the following in mind
    about me and my riding experience:

    * I'm a 5'10", lightly built, adult male

    * Essentially all I've ridden is a Honda Spada. It's a 250cc
    naked twin, with cramped legroom and an upright riding
    position, and clip-on style bars.

    * I've been riding about 18 months, clocked somewhere over
    20,000 km in that time, and done plenty of training and practice.
    I'm at a fairly advanced level of competence *given how long I've
    been riding*, but I'm no racer. While I am substantially comfortable
    with city traffic and tight, low-speed manouvers, I have little track or
    high-speed touring experience.

    * I'm after a bike which will be a commuter / tourer / primary mode of
    transport first, but can also be taken to the track and ridden as a
    sportsbike without causing frustration.

    So on to the Street Triple. The first thing worth mentioning is
    the engine sound. Blipping the throttle will inspire a stupid
    grin without even sitting on the bike. This seems to me the
    central, defining characteristic of the bike. More on this later.

    Next up, the ergonomics. I felt like I was sitting quite high up
    on a pleasantly substantial bike (see above: the Spada is lower
    in saddle than most bicycles), and there was nothing
    uncomfortable, cramped or negative I could say about the
    ergonomics other than that I'd adjust the position of the levers
    slightly, and the view from the stock mirrors has more elbow than I'd
    like - but I think this bike should have some nice bar-end
    replacements anyway.

    After a few alternate twists and squeezes with the right hand to
    get a sense of the beastie (brakes and throttle are both
    responsive but not violent - good) and I'm off. Slightly put off
    by the headlights remaining steadfastly forward while turning,
    but the weight feels eminently manageable at low speed even
    though there's more of it and I'm much higher up than I'm

    Forward visibility from the Street's saddle was very good; the
    ground (I'm 5'10) was the right distance away, and the upright,
    slightly forward position and wide handlebars inspired a sense of
    control over the machine. It felt both comfortably upright, and well
    forward - like you're perched just over the nose.

    It was an arrangement which begged to be manhandled, and made
    me want enough time with the bike to get comfortable throwing
    it around. Encouraging as it was, though, it was still a very new and
    different machine, and I didn't want to take any expensive liberties.

    I did feel some heat around my legs when stuck in city
    traffic (I was erring on the side of caution): probably enough
    to annoy slightly during summer. I'm not sure how much of
    this would be alleviated by the low 3->1 exhaust - but it wasn't
    unreasonable in any case, and is probably (?) par for the course.

    If any vibrations were felt through the bars or the footpegs, I
    was completely unaware of them - it felt far smoother and less
    tiring than the Hornet, where above perhaps 5-6,000 RPM (guessing
    here) I felt a noticeable buzz around the ankles. This, combined
    with a tank shape I just didn't quite agree with and narrower
    bars, made it clear in my mind the Hornet was a respectable
    second place in terms of rider comfort: I could probably have
    lived with it happily, but I felt it had few things over the
    Triumph and was distinguished mainly by the areas it failed to
    match up.

    Actually I should qualify that: the Hornet's mirrors were
    probably better than the Street's - the stock suspension too -
    but neither were really emphasised on the short trip I had on
    it. I had to put a foot down on both test rides: I stalled the
    Triumph early on, at an intersection, unused to the clutch feel;
    I found neutral instead of 2nd on the Hornet. In both instances,
    the good balance of the machines made it easy to simply drop a
    foot, mutter something about a test drive to passers-by, and set
    back off with excess intact. Both are well-weighted, very
    manageable bikes.

    Neither are beginners' bikes. Back to the Triumph, here's a short
    transcript of my internal dialogue:

    Ok, so this thing's got vastly more power than I'm used to. Let's have
    a very gentle feel of this throttle ... ah, ok, that's nice and crisp,
    but not crazy. Ok, red light, let's squeezum brakes a bit ... yep,
    they slow it down nicely.

    Ok, so we've got a clear run off these lights, let's make a nice gap behind us.


    Wahey, they're far enough back they can't see my chubby. They're
    sure further back than they usually are - what a lovely, nice big
    safe buffer. Ok, so, where's the speedo ... no ... f@*%, is *that* the
    speedo? Then where's the odometer?

    This was repeated numerous times throughout the ride. The throttle
    felt precise, responsive, even friendly; tractable at low speeds, but
    if you decide to let the tacho creep up towards the middle of the
    dial, the taut grumble from the motor changes ... sort of like a
    cute little puppy changing into a three-quarter-ton werewolf. The
    sound is intoxicating, the ergonomics encouraging, the whole machine
    suddenly paying attention and eager to go as fast as you like:
    certainly master, as quick as you please, don't be shy - I need to
    stretch my legs; here, my collar's a little tight, if you could
    just loosen it a little ... there, that's better, thank you master,
    I need to keep my teeth sharp too and now we can SMELL PREY -

    -hey f@*% is that REALLY the speed?

    I found myself doing 20-30 km/hr over the limit in between taking
    off from the lights and looking down at the speedo; rolling the
    throttle on and off gently on a quiet street, the speed limit seemed unattainably low. The high riding position and effortless steering
    certainly contributed to this, but it's mainly the way the engine
    responds, and the effect that sound has on a rider. There's
    something about the sound of a triple that's just it's own thing,
    and this one especially - It makes you want to find any excuse
    to hear it pick up.

    Gear changes aren't so much about necessity as they are about
    managing the psychology of the bike. Short-shift and keep it
    smooth, tidy and polite, and she purrs away quietly; let the
    needle climb though, and it's like you've fed the thing after

    Having witnessed both manifestations, I was impressed at how I
    never once lost that feeling of control and of the bike's
    willingness to do as I intended. This is not a beginner's bike: 6
    months ago I would not have been ready for it. There is *enough*
    power on tap here: enough that you don't need more unless you
    have fairly special needs; enough to get yourself into trouble if you're
    not up to the task. But it is very controllable power. In that respect,
    it might be the perfect second bike.

    I brought her back half an hour late, but it still felt like we'd
    only just met, and had so much more to get to know about each
    other. I bit my lip and thanked the salesman, took a brochure,
    and strode out of the dealership purposefully before I caved in
    and let my credit card have its way with their EFT swiper.

    Then, saddling back up on the Spada, it sank in: everything felt
    so much more different now, on my trusty old learner bike, than
    it ever had when I sat on the Street Triple. The levers, which
    once seemed to feel so precise, felt like pieces of flimsy
    plastic connected to a pulley system made of rubber bands and sea
    sponges. The throttle, once a source of such trepidation, held no
    more wonder for me, for it did not control the alien turbine I
    had grown to love. The low seat, the cramped legs, the knees bent
    comically even with my feet on the ground - this is no longer a
    motorcycle. It is a toy.

    And I want to ride a motorcycle again.


    EDIT (again): It's also worth mentioning I found the limits of the Street's steering lock while performing a U-turn, and there's noticeably less travel than the Spada (or than I'd like). Having ridden it fairly cautiously, I'm unsure whether this would be an issue in daily use; I suspect that at standard "road speeds" it'd never be noticed, but it would be somewhat irritating in car parks, etc and while filtering (I'm accustomed to going around the outside of the occasional car which is blocking the 'motorcycle lane' between the car lanes).

    More on the turning lock here: http://www.triumphrat.net/street-triple-forum/83897-watch-out-for-that-short-turning-radius.html

    Next up: Speed triple test ride.
  2. Great review, very enjoyable read. If I could have one more bike in my garage it would surely be this one.
  3. Top review, good read

    Street Triple looks like great fun - recently rode an Aprilia Shiver, and heaps of fun as well :cool:
  4. Great write up!!!

    I could definately see myself riding one of these in a few more months. Purely based on the engine sound =P~
  5. Removed: me daftly quoting my original post in its entirety ... :?:

    Addendum: In the past week I've found it almost impossible to think of anything other than this bike. I'm about ready to make arrangements ...
  6. Great review. Thanks.

    A quick question, I'm coming off restrictions (also on a Spada which makes your review so much more relevant to my situation) in Jan next year and I'm starting to look at what my upgrade is going to be. You mention its not a beginner bike, something you wouldn't have gone to 6 months ago (when you got off restrictions?). I consider myself a competant rider although still in the beginner category technically although I did have a 125 license many years back in South Africa so I have done my time on bikes but there's been a reasonable gap.

    Anyway, I what about it would you say isn't beginner friendly? Power, handling? Bear in mind the other bikes I have been eyeing are the CBR600RR (probably going to be too sporty and uncomfortable riding for long stretches) and F6SN amongst others.

  7. Great review, well written. :grin:
  8. I was mainly thinking of the *acceleration* available, and the fact it's just not something I'd like to drop. Everything about it inspired confidence in me - it says a lot that my Spada felt wrong to me when I switched back - but it's in a completely different league to a LAMs bike.


    I'd been riding for ages, throwing the Spada around like a toy, and thought I was well and truly over doing stupid things like dropping my bike - when about a month ago ...

    Travelling in bus lane from Anzac bridge into city, and there are 3 buses waiting at the lights. This was Pope Week, circa 8 am and there looked to be exactly one bike parking space left in all of Sydney about to be taken when the lights changed for a scooter ahead.

    So i snuck down the side of the 3 buses, did a really tight 90' turn left up a narrow, wheelchair-friendly bit of kerb - and the rear caught on the not-so-friendly bit and over she went.

    3 buses full of people, about 5 riders dismounting all looking on, and some guy calls out to ask me if I was ok. I nodded, he sympathized "always happens with an audience, eh?" - and I realized it was the riding instructor I did my P's test with. F*ck I felt stupid.

    I think it takes a while, even when you feel like you're awesome 98% of the time, for that awesomeness to really sink into your bones and become really reliable, unshakeable awesomeness that won't let you down. Same as with playing an instrument, or any other complex real-time skill I suppose.


    Here's a thread dedicated to your question:


    And here's the bit where I type a lengthy reply (best read in the context of the OP or I may sound like a bit of a tosser):


    Anyway, in summary, you should totally 100% buy the Street 675 because it f*cking rocks. I'm sure you'll be cautious enough not to ride into anything really fast or drop it while you're getting used to it ... I'll be leaving the dealership with some oggy knobs on mine just in case.

    Hopefully THIS FRICKIN WEEK if I can get a certain invoice paid ... brb - gotta go post a horse's head, express.
  9. I've just upgraded straight off a VTR to a Triple. I can relate to your query, cause that is exactly what I was thinking. Have to say now that I am absolutely stoked with the bike and find it actually easier to ride than the VTR (which is saying something, as that was a relatively 'easy' bike to get around on - slow or fast riding). Better handling, better braking, still light and nimble at slow speeds and has taken my riding to a whole new level. Go for it. It's a really confidence inspiring bike IMHO.
  10. Excellent. Thanks for the input!

    Based on the long wait times to get these and I would probably want to go for the 'R' version (cause it looks awesome) I should pre-order for next year - problem is I would like to test ride before committing but technically won't be able to do that till I'm off restrictions! Catch-22 :\
  11. That's gold! :LOL:

    I really like the look of the Speed and Street triples. If only I weren't such a lanky fellow - it'd be great to own one.

    Still, I'm loving my giant mechanical British cat. :)

    Triumphs as a whole do seem to handle well - nice flat torque curves, "confident" handling... I'm curious about whether the Speed/Street triples would be any more 'raucous' than the Tiger, actually - The Tiger can be very tame if you want/need it to be, particularly around town.
  12. The recent models are all quite tame unless provoked (which is easy :wink: ). Unlike the old (pre '02) ones - no manners, those. Just mean and nasty from the off. I believe it was due to a reduction in throttle body diameter or something. Or was it butterfly angle? I dunno.