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 accustomed. 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. *twist/snick/snick* 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 midnight. 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.