CycleOnline.com.au tests the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS.
Words: Steve Martin
The 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS still looks, sounds and rides like last year’s naked Speed Triple, but this latest version, the RS is lightyears ahead of its predecessor. It constantly amazes me how a manufacturer can shift a few things around, change some bits and pieces, and create something completely different. When you consider that the crankcases of this bike can be traced back to the very start when the 1994 Speed Triple had less than 100 horsepower, this is one case where evolution is a winner. A lot has changed over the years and an increase in capacity, quality, technology and an added 50 horsepower gives real worth to the latest bug-eyed monster.
Where we rode:
The Gold Coast seems to be a favourite destination now for launches, with many taking place in the area due to the warmer climate at this time of year. Spending two days getting to know and fall in love with a bike seems to be not long enough, but for me it was love after the first gear change. We were to head from the Goldy to Warwick for a 200-kilometre road squirt and then get plied with steak and wine overnight. Morgan Park, our destination, would allow us journalists to then throw caution to the wind and twist the Speed Triple RS’s ride-by-wire throttle to the stops.
Major, major work has been done to this bike for 2018 with some pretty neat tricks up its sleeve. It’s electronically evolved from a reasonable bike into a technological masterpiece with the help of some Tiger technology. Earlier this year we tested the Tiger Explorer 1200 and raved about its new brace of electronic aids and adjustability. That whole system has been transferred straight on to the RS and, just as it did on the Tiger, it’s lifted the game substantially here too. The new TFT dash is easy to read and is even adjustable in its appearance. The fly-by-wire maps are easily changed by the switch-block on the left-hand handlebar with the softest map (Rain) being capped at 100 horsepower to make it nice and easy to ride in slippery conditions. There’s also a dedicated Track mode this year that works exceptionally well, letting the bike move around while still giving the rider that feeling that there is control going on in the background, acting as a safety net and it’s quite confidence inspiring really. An inertia measurement unit is fitted this year for the first time, which lets the ABS and traction control work at different levels depending on the lean angle of the bike and that brings the RS to the forefront in motorcycle technology. Other niceties, like the Brembo Monobloc brakes, Ohlins forks and Pirelli Supercorsa tyres have always worked well together no matter what bike they are fitted to and round out a well put together package. A neat, adjustable ratio front master cylinder that allows the rider by the twist of a knob to effectively change the piston size without changing the master cylinder makes its way on to the RS, the first time I’ve seen this on a production bike. The adjustments are from 19mm to 21mm and it effects the feel of the lever rather than the braking force… very trick. Another notable mention is the genuine accessory quick-shifter fitted to the bikes we rode. They allowed us to up-change and down-change without the use of the clutch, whilst the fly-by-wire system even matched the revs on the down change, making this particular machine very MotoGP.
I’ve ridden a lot of different three-cylinder bikes and one advantage they have is their signature character, being little rough, but still smooth enough, emotion evoking, with a mixture of torque and top-end. It’s almost like making a cake with the perfect ingredients, in this case for thrill, excitement and liveability. This year’s RS retains all the thrill of the past, but once again the Triumph engineers have managed to eke out that bit more, whilst at the same time lightening the engine and improving the responsiveness. There’s 11 more horsepower on tap in 2018 due to a virtually complete new head, lumpier cams and stronger valve springs being fitted. New higher comp pistons slide up and down the nikasil bores, while the balance shafts have all been lightened to give the engine a zappier feel. The starter motor and alternator are also lighter and smaller, further making the overall package lighter. One weak point in the past has been the gearbox with a decidedly old school feel and notchiness, but that’s now disappeared completely with a lot of work being done to make this box one of the most positive in the business. All of the above has transformed the feel of the bike, because firstly, there’s plenty of torque and power on tap in any gear at any given time, but it’s also improved the manoeuvrability of the machine. There’s less inertia inside the motor now, giving less gyroscopic effect and that shines through. I rode the last version quite extensively at Mac Park a couple of years ago and it was fun on the track, but not a contender. Now, we have a contender on our hands.
I was quite surprised heading in to the test and I had wondered whether enough had been done to make this bike worth its $22,000-plus asking price. It didn’t take me long though to start thinking, who cares about the price. The RS is about the experience and what an experience it is. It’s easy to ride and comfortable with its sit up and beg riding position. There’s not a lot of weight on your wrists, making it a pleasure rather than heartache to ride around town. It’s quite manoeuvrable too and I found the low-speed balance to be very good. Get going on the freeway and it needs to be softened off a bit, which is easy to do by just softening the front and rear compression and rebound clickers. Then it’s just a matter of sitting back and turning on the excellent and easy to use cruise control. It’s speed adjustable by the touch of a button and works well. On the road, riding through the tight stuff, the engine and chassis work in unison with plenty of torque meaning you don’t have to use the box much. The handling is neutral and I’m sure a lot of the geometry settings have come from Triumph’s racing department. It holds its line under power and brakes flat, making it a confidence-inspiring ride. The accessory quick-shifter fitted is an awesome bit of kit working well at all speeds, however pity it’s not standard. Arriving at our overnight destination and with over 200 road kilometres in the bag I was smiling big time, day one done and now for a date with Morgan Park Raceway. The track was an area that the old Speed Triple suffered, not being as refined as some of the competition – it was fun, but just missed that special something. Forget the past though, because the extra torque and power added to the modern electronics has turned things on its head. I was able to ride this RS as fast as a sportsbike and it responds like one back. It was more comfortable and even easier to ride around the tightish Morgan Park track than most of the modern sportsbikes, giving this bike a broad spectrum of appeal. It has plenty of punch and gave me a feeling of keeping its line. If it’s got neutral handling on the road, it’s even better on the track with its specific feel. It took me about four corners on a two-degree track without tyre warmers to get my knee on the ground, such is the feel that the Speed Triple RS provides. I left the road’s softer settings in for my laps at Morgan Park and it handled perfectly. Its feedback was telling me that the RS is quite a forgiving bike too. One thing this bike loves to goad you in to is doing wheelies and playing up – it’s the most fun I’ve had on a track without trying to set a lap-time in a long time. Whether we like it or not, the electronics play a big part of motorcycles nowadays and the new Continental IMU fitted to the bike is key in making the bike enjoyable and controllable to use. The track map is closer to race-inspired than street and, although not race-ready, it’s great for the track day guy. Let’s face it though, nobody’s going to race one, but having fun on the track… well that’s another matter.
Looking at the RS at the end of my two days, it’s joined my growing list of bikes I would have in the shed if I had endless funds. It’s a multi-faceted bike that looks cool, rides with safety and can cut loose on a whim. It’s comfortable on the road and yet can cut the race track to shreds. $22,700 plus on road is what it’s going to cost you, making it on the high side of the nakedbike spectrum of cost, but you do get a lot of bike and kudos for your buck.
Engine type: Liquid cooled, 12 valve, DOHC, inline triple
Bore/stroke: 79 x 71.4mm
Seat height: 825mm
Weight: 189 kilograms
Fuel capacity: 15.5 litres
Price: $22,700 plus on roads
Additional details: www.triumphmotorcycles.com.au