A leisurely, layman review of Triumph Street Triple 2013
Spec: 675cc, 3 in-line, 170kg, 105bhp, ABS
Pros: Beautiful twin sportslight, fantastic ride, great bike for daily use and commuting
Cons: Fuel economy is modest, tiny passenger seat, no storage
In contrast to many friends, I use motorbike mainly for work, or, at least initially, purely for work. Later, the usage has extended a bit, and even more as the ‘home minister’ has decided to join the band. It is with this initial intent that I started my riding career with an entry level bike, KTM Duke 200. It indeed has served me well, and I still love it and think it is the best bike for short journeys in the city. As a naked bike it is small, light and sporty, quick and agile. However, as my interest in biking grow deeper (fueled by interaction with many riders in the ‘club’), I began to yearn for something bigger. The reason, I need a bike that can take me beyond work – eg attending outstation meetings, doing short leisure trips/convoys or occasional long journey when the need arise. It is not because the 200cc KTM Duke could not fulfil the need – I began to look for more, eg a more powerful engine, an ability to sprint to a higher speed beyond 130km/h (just around the top speed of Duke, 138km/h), and perhaps a new technology that offers smoother and more energetic ride in contrast to a single cylinder KTM Duke.
After a period of intense research, I finally narrowed down my choice to one of four – BMW F800 GT, Triumph Street Triple/R ABS, KTM Duke 690 or Kawasaki Z800. The first and last were excluded at the final round – the BMW was costly, no access to the BMW Motorrad (went to the showroom, no salesperson around – booked a test ride, no response). The Z800 which I test rode once, was a great bike, but too heavy, too tall and the bulky profile was less suitable for daily commuting in heavy traffic. As for KTM Duke 690/R I had studied it quite indepth, and impressed with its build quality and ride. An upgrade from a 200cc to 690cc from the same maker seems a natural choice, however, I found the bike (R) too tall – even with lowering kit it won’t change the height much. Further more, the exaggerated naked look, more of a hooligan, was a kind of deterrant. Then after some thought, plus family members indifference to my interest, I decided to move into a completely different world – beyond single cylinder technology. There comes the final choice, Triumph Street Triple. I thought I would go for the R version, however from short discussion with the Fastbike guys, I was convinced that the Street Triple is adequate, while its seat height shorter, and of course it is cheaper. One more important reason – I like the blue colour, sadly none of the R version came in blue.
I received the bike on 14 February 2014, after a 45 days waiting. This was unually long waiting period, thanks to Fastbike for their efficiency. There were delays in processing the loan, mistakes in registration, delays in signing the agreement, blah blah…I joked with them saying that it took one calendar year from booking before I got the bike! I reminded them in my faxed letter, that I placed the booking on 30 Dec last year, and only on 13 February did they confirm the bike ready – that, after receiving my inflammatory complaint letter. Even up to now, I have not received one of the accessories (tank bag) which was paid using the voucher. Maybe they need another complaint letter from me…sigh….despite all that they did deliver a great bike in pristine condition, and their service is friendly and professional.
Its a middleweight class with a modest dry weight of 170kg. At a glance, it didn’t have that ‘big’ look, it is not imposing nor too frightening to approach for a novice. What makes it look substantial is the large fuel tank, moderately sized belly and grille and the rear tyre that comes in standard 180. Nevertheless you would be a fool to think of it as a lightweight machine. Yes true I could push or drag it quite comfortably at rest, however, on the road, it doesn’t feel light, and this nicely balanced body gives you enough umph with accelerating, braking and manoeuvring bends etc. With such weight and profile, negotiating the gaps during heavy congestion is not a big task, in fact from the first day I instantly built my confidence riding the bike, even faced with heavy traffic from PJ right to Cheras. Unlike my brief test ride experience with the Z800 (bulky, too tall hardly suit my size), the Street Triple is a gem. It didn’t take long to be your best friend.
The spec indicated that the bike height is 800mm, which is slightly lower than my Duke200. I purposely requested for lowering kit to be fitted, and surprise as I handled the bike, it did feel too low at times, though the overall handling experience (eg when manoeuvring traffic) is more pleasant with such a height. In fact, they kept the factory fitted stand, which, due to the presence of the lowering kit, had caused the bike stands at complete upright when erect. I thought this was a bit dangerous, as I always have to find a slope when parking so that the stand will rest on the slope, keeping the bike slightly tilted to the left side.
Unlike the lightweight Duke200, trying to steer the handle at rest requires conscious effort, the handle does feel heavy (how I wish a power-assisted handlebar!), however, during motion, there isn’t such feeling, in fact the heaviness does help to make you feel more stable and secure during riding.
I found the blue colour attractive, though the bike itself is not highly seductive or unique looking, unlike the Duke200, that has a more classy naked style drawing people’s attention at once. The most prominent appearance is the double sports light, one of the reason that made me strongly attracted to this bike. With colour coded fly screen added, seen from the front brings its unique presence.
Of note, some people say that a bike that is less than 1 litre is not a superbike…well there comes the term middleweight bike. Anyway, for simplicity in our biking community we refer all the big looking bike as superbike, and definitely those with engines bigger than 400cc. In any case, I feel upgrading to a middle range bike is the most reasonable path, as at the moment I am not in need of the rather less practical and oversized >1 litre superbike.
I like the engine and exhaust note, it brings this addictive beautiful aura. It’s smooth revving, at rest and during ride. During ride, it feels pleasant and powerful, though the exhaust is not very loud, which in some way maybe a disadvantage in trying to alert other vehicle’s of your presence. Riders do need to be seen and heard aloud, and I must admit the machine is too quiet even when revved hard. Its hums and growls is modest, perhaps a slip on silencer would amplify the noise, though I don’t plan to get this yet. So far, I am getting enough attention, and vehicles do move to give space, especially when I repeatedly rev the throttle. I do admit, that I get to press the horn more often compared to with the Duke 200.
Since I have read a few reviews previously, just on acquiring the machine, I had set my expectation high, and not surprisingly it gave me more than I wanted. The excellent smooth engine can be enjoyed at both low and high speed, ie whether you rev it low or high. This makes rolling slowly for instance during heavy traffic much more enjoyable task, you don’t feel the shake even down to 20km/h. At lower speed it is best to keep to 2nd to 3rd gear, while at 5th. gear can take you beyond 120km/h with no noticeable engin strain. Such an enticing ride gives you excitement whether going for a ‘santai ride’ at modest speed like when entering pedestrian zones, while high speed riding is its own specialty which you can attain painlessly. I like the flexibility of the gearing, as I could ride at 6th. gear with low speed eg manouvering heavy traffic, though its more convenient to be at 5th. as it gives more pickup when needed. However, I could also choose the lower gears like 3rd or more commonly 4th and this allow me to steer the bike at between 30 to 100km/h and enjoy the highly refined engine note.
Though at a glance the machine does look tame and rather ‘shy’ looking, you must not underestimate it. Rev it hard and you will be surprised at how powerful the thrust of the engine is. At first you feel the heave and steadiness at modest speed, but don’t be fool, just twist the throttle a little and there you will sprint from 90km/h to 130-140km/h in a split second. This sporty attribute can be dangerous for newbie, therefore, one is advised to get used to the powerful engine. For someone who were used to a high revving bike like Duke 200, must be acutely aware that despite the triumph’s cut off point at 12000rpm, you will need much less rpm to reach similar speed, and much faster too. It is this briskness that I like, allowing me to quickly regain speed after slowing down – a very useful manouver when you are riding in a busy traffic.
The sharp handling and brisk response, which combines quick acceleration with good breaking, is an essential component to safe and enjoyable riding. I would like to compare riding the bike with driving the BMW car. One thing that I like with the bimmer car is, it’s sporty and ‘punchy’. You can çharge your speed at an instant, allowing safe lane changing and overtaking with shorter distance from the vehicle immediately behind. Then, when needed I can snap right behind another vehicle after an overtaking manouver – this attribute is essential during overtaking in a two way road. I found with the triumph, this is possible and of course being a bike, requires much less space to sneak in and out between cars courtesy of its swfit pickup and precise braking. What is good about the bike, it feels like the tyres are glued to the road, giving me great confidence when riding.
One of my aim in upgrading is to allow me to ride at comfortable speed on a medium long journey, which mostly related to work, or as the case these days, for short trips/convoys. Thank God, speeding and chasing is what this bike is about. The bike with its nimble ride quality and powerful engine has given me just what I needed, cruising at a modest speed of 130-140km/h. At highway I probably keep steady ride at 120-130km/h and occasionally over 140 or max 150-160 rarely. This is just enough for now, and the bike happily cruise at these speeds stylishly with its fine acceleration. The great fun indeed starts when you ride 90km/h above, keep at 6th. gear, as from this speed it can take you to 150-160 willingly, as long as you are willing to take the risk…me, no! except when I really have to. When I had to, it did it happily with no sign of strain, and indeed it could offer more, as if challenging you ‘is that all?’ Yes I know, people are talking about 200, I will never reach that for now. Anyway the most important thing about riding is, it allows you to travel in a more predictable time, therefore there is no need for excessive speed, perhaps for the occasional fun and ‘racing’ other riders, which I rarely do!
When riding in the open, the wind blast can be felt and it can be very strong at times, though, you can bend slightly forward and this allow you to comfortably cruise up to 140km/h or more. Being a naked bike the wind blast when riding in the open seems to be the limit. Additional windshield and good riding gears will help to push the limit further.
Gearchange is something that I admit still requiring some learning. I found engaging the first gear a real chore. On day 1, I was almost clueless, as repeatedly striking the gear paddle with clutch fully applied failed to engage the first gear. So half of the time I either release and pull the clutch back followed by flicking the gear pedal, or else rev the throttle a bit then flick the pedal. Worse still, even flicking the pedal softly caused the gear to engage with a loud clunky sound. It could be a little embarassing at traffic light, when other riders are already sprinting away while you are struggling with the gear – this maybe an exxaggeration, as time goes by I have learned the trick, or at least I engage the gear early. Another anomaly is the rather staid gearchange indicator. Say I am moving at 3rd., when I drop to 2nd., the indicator will keep displaying the 3rd till I rev or move the bike further, its not a big bother though I would have liked the indicator to be more timely. Apart from this, the gearshift is otherwise smooth, and one thing I like about it, I rarely get false neutral, unlike the Duke200 (the Duke has no problem with engaging first gear, but it comes with plentiful of false neutral gear incidents!).
Any unpleasant experience? I have so far found that the bike is quite easy to master, for basic daily use, as to its full potential that has to wait to be explored as time goes by. One thing that surprised me is the occasional ‘bumpy’ ride quality, which I can feel it excessively when riding over uneven surface or bumpy roads. Sometimes, even when I don’t notice any irregularities on the road, there was this feel of ‘unsettled’ ride, as if there was slight ‘misfire’ or a startle from the tires, I wasn’t sure. I checked in the forum and they thought that this was due to the oversensitive throttle. The only cure is to slow down slightly and regain your speed a few seconds later. Its happening much less now, perhaps as I got more used to riding the bike.
Some friends have commented about riding position. With its large tank and well spaced handlebar to the seat, it automatically forces the rider to be incline forward. Therefore my riding position is forward leaning, not straight, unlike the Duke. I honestly like this new riding position, as it gives me more control at the handles and feel better at long journey. When riding at low speed or going around the village, this stooped position can be a little tiring, but I don’t think its a disadvantage for me.
SOLO RIDE vs riding with pillion
For all intent and purpose the bike is best ridden alone. There is a tiny back seat that won’t accommodate a passenger well, the bike doesnt come equipped with rear seat holder, therefore the only way pillion rides is by holding on to the rider. I have taken my wife on a few occassions. In fact I took her to join one of the short convoys (TTS). She seemed to enjoy the ride and indeed thought the bike copes well on bumpers, better than our Duke. Most of the time we went on short journeys, the longest perhaps was to and from Bagan Lalang, which took over an hour. My second son seems to give me the hardest challenge as he sits as pillion. He doesn’t hug me, instead tries to keep his hands free like a hero, and yet when I pull the brakes, he will be shifted forward, or tossed his hands on my shoulder, the movement which could be disturbing my concentration.
Apart from small seat, I find it a little harder to control the bike when riding with pillion, especially tackling a corner or manouvering traffic congestion. Increased load means your momentum to stop and start movement is increased, I would always needed to be more careful trying to reach my feet to the ground when the bikes slows down at traffic light. Another issue is, when riding with pillion, I would always make sure my top speed is lower than usual. I must admit that my experience riding with pillion is quite limited so I probably have yet to learn the trick of the trade.
Based on the seat design of the bike though, I must say that it was made for a single rider, with occasional pillion passenger for short ride. Go beyond this you will lose the enjoyment of riding.
DAY TO DAY RIDE
The original intent of upgrading to a middleweight bike is primarily for commuting to work. So how does this machine fare? I have had over a year experience of riding the Duke 200, a small cc bike with great muscle, an awesome street hero and a friendly bike for a beginner to the big bike world. Obviously with the 200cc single cyclinder, I was limited in two ways, the small capacity engine falls short of power when needed for swift overtaking and more so when traveling a long distance, the engine strain can be felt once you twist the throttle beyond 120km/h. However, for daily commuting, in my perspective the Duke is enough, it is easy to handle (light and small), cheap to maintain, quick enough to blast through city traffic, and it’s handsome. Furthermore, I have fitted the Duke with a Givi topbox, making it a handy traveller that secures my luggage and its content especially when it rains. The noisy Remus exhaust, though a nuisance at times does help alert nearby vehicles of my presence which is a useful additional safety feature. What it lacks is a big bike image, and as mentioned before I merely call this machine a ‘super kapchai’.
Therefore the question is, what more can a big naked bike like Street Triple can offer? Or, is it a better alternative to the Duke? What I mean better can be subjective. After having a wonderful experience riding the Duke for over a year, has my perspective changed? Does better mean more convenience, or more ‘potential’ inconvenience at the expense of fun, adventure and other intangible benefits? The Street triple, heavier, zero luggage/storage capacity, more costly maintenance – why should I go for it, when what I already have is enough? A tough question indeed, which I exactly was pondering about even till the day I got the bike. But once I rode the bike, all those worries were immediately consigned to the bottom pit, and I just wanted to ride it more and more, anywhere I go!
By now I have been riding the bike for more than a month. Right from the first day, I was impressed by its agility, smooth, nimble ride and indeed it has inspired confidence in blasting through tight traffic gaps. Though it’s heavier than the Duke, its fine three cylinder engine is a charm, its excellent gears, and with lower seat height does help compensate for its weight, in fact the weight help you feel more stable during ride, particularly at higher speed. Obviously the bigger profile needs more effort when steering at idle or very low speed. However the engine smoothness does entertain and with time I get more used to keeping the rev and clutch balance therefore it becomes highly manageable.
As said before the slightly stooped posture may cause a little strain during city ride, I didnt feel much bother, and as time goes by I feel like I was able to keep almost straight posture, or maybe my own imagination…certainly not a bother either way.
So where does it fare better than the Duke? For one, going at higher speed or acceleration is what it is good at, and I was mesmerised by the crystal fine 3 in-line engine. Responsive throttle, great stability, precise braking, all give me what I need for daily ride.
Alas, with no storage capacity, I have to suffer, and once I rode during heavy rain along MRR2, I was wearing full Alpinestar rainjacket, managed to keep myself half dry, pity though, my backpack was soaked in water. Though the laptop was secured in its sleeve, the charger which I kept in different compartment was wet, and became unusable. The next day I immediately paid a visit to Pertama Complex and bought a tankbag that comes with its own waterproof jacket. This was quite cheap, and handy as I can detach the actual bag to carry as a backpack, while the magnetic liner is left at the bike’s fuel tank.
You may wonder if I had cut down on travelling time? When I switched from car to motorbike (Duke) I reduced traveling time as much as 50%, but when I switched from Triumph to Duke, there was not noticeable difference, and I am prepared to accept this fact. Though with the Triumph I was able to ride faster, the net difference in time saved was almost negligible. Nevertheless, the Street Triple’s advantage excels when I have to cover longer journey beyond workplace, when the situation arise, and I could do this more stylishly. In essence, this is great, since the more bulky and heavier machine has not affected my performance, while it gives more fun and better handling for longer journey, hence the Triumph is an obvious winner.
Enjoying the Superbike Fun world
Since late last year I have joined the MyIkram bikers group, a small ‘exclusive’ group of bikers from our organisation, IKRAM. Due to the various background of the members, the group is not one of the most active one around. However there are a few notable things about it. For one, the members are mostly very experienced riders, none of them have owned less than two bikes, some have used to change bike almost yearly. They not only know about bikes, many of them are well versed with riders destinations including those adventurous or most dangerous riding spots around the country and beyond. Another thing, many of them belong to other, bigger riders groups, this give us useful input on the recent and future happenings in the superbike world. I always put my query to our wassap group and receive satisfactory answer. Indeed I got their help during that ‘weekend trauma’ as described in my other posting.
We had done some short trips and were involved in planning one of a national events that will involve bikers (later postponed due to circumstances). I always learn new tips, and exciting stories from veteran members on their years of riding experience. Because all of the members come from the same organisation (that works for the charity and social reform) we share similar understanding of life and worldview. Therefore every meeting will not be complete without discussing our organisation, IKRAM latest development and our own personal contribution in trying to change the society to a better one.
Our first trip was to Bagan Lalang, a short journey of around 90 minutes. I took the missus along, this was just the second day after I collected the Triumph, yeah, and I was still running in the engine. I warned the group earlier on, that I wont be able to match their speed as I was still running the engine in, my max would be 110km/hr. And I did just that, it was a wonderful ride to and fro, the ride at this relaxing speed was such a breezer, and at the same time gave me enough to learn how to tackle the twisty road. We had a delicious seafood dinner at the beach front, leisurely discussion, then performed the maghrib prayers at the surau before leaving to KL. The return journey was at night, which I was not so good at. However, the Triumph was a gem, with its refined and strong engine, good tyres I quickly forgot that I was riding at night. In fact, I nearly forgot that I was still running in the engine, there was time when I sprinted up to 140km/h, ouch…I quickly backed off and tried to keep below 5000rpm.
On our second trip I followed one of our seasoned rider friend along the MEX highway Putrajaya KL. He was building his speed fast, though I did not intend to keep close distance initially, at a later stage I was a little challenged and began chasing him. Not long before I realised that I hit 160km/h counter, it didn’t feel much at this stage, it was just up to my own bravity. Now I was getting too close, so I backed off and kept at 130-140km/h again. But the bike was such a loyal company that won’t let you down, in this case it did not have any difficulty keeping pace with that 2 in-line Versys of course, it was all my own hesitancy that kept me behind.
Fuel economy, maintenance, accessories
In short, it isn’t cheap. With full tank capacity of 17L, I found that on average I will get the refuel alert when I reached around 200km on city ride. For longer journeys, I estimate that a full tank will cover more than 250km conveniently. I think in general everyone knows that riding a motorbike is very economical indeed comparing to cars, but for us bikers, we are also concern with the bike full tank capacity. I would be happier if it can cover up to 300km, therefore reducing the frequency of refuelling. This may have an impact when you set for a long journey. Having to stop at every 200km is just about the ideal riding practice, since a rider may last just over an hour before having a ‘pit stop’. But I would worry, due to lack of R & R when you are traveling north, whether this refuelling distance is good enough, or I could end up refuelling at half tank somewhere, for the purpose of covering the possibility of not finding another refuelling station in the next 100km.
Since it is fully imported model, accessories are expensive, no doubt. But I am wary, here, at Fastbikes, whether they can get them fast enough, if not they should not deserve that name eh..? The encouraging development has it that they are opening another branch in Penang, it means they are serious enough in expanding their business and hence customer base. There is also a centre in Singapore so that people from the South may get their parts and services there.
A lasting friendship…2000km up with a smile and relief
The bike had been serviced at 800km, right a day after the unfortunate event of rear tyre double punctures, which ended with a brand new tyre required. And the serious aftermath of heavy rain that cost me almost RM300 to get a damaged MacAir charger replaced. Otherwise, no other complaints about the motor. Problems? Not really, I just could not stop thinking about it…and at the running in stage, there was a lot of difficulty trying to keep within the recommended engine speed, since it didn’t take a big deal before you realise that you have exceeded the limit…
This blue Street Triple Triumph is no doubt a capable bike with smooth, refined engine and charismatic ride, highly practical for daily use, and it suit itself as my travelling companion for short and medium distance journeys. My short experience of owning and riding this bike, had yielded plenty of thrill and excitement, the Triumph has taken me to a new phase of motorcycle riding.