Head down, gut nestling the tank, needle canoodling the limiter at 145mph before braking for Catalunya’s turn one, I could well have been racing a pukka supersport weapon. But I wasn’t. I was riding the 2017 Triumph Street Triple RS, and it was dishing out some unbelievable tekkers.
Hinckley’s flagship model has sold over 50,000 units since its inception in 2007, and understandably so. By stripping the fairings and adding upright ‘bars to the Daytona’s incredible base, Triumph accidentally stumbled upon a future classic and created the world’s first middleweight supernaked. Just 10 years later, we’re welcoming the latest generation Street Triple into this world. Or should that be Street Triples?
Triumph has launched three bikes: the S, R and RS, all with varying states of tune and specs, although the only model present at the international press gig was the full-fat RS version. I wasn’t grumbling. When a manufacturer claims more power, less weight and a medley of go-faster electronics for a new model, that’s always a winner in my eyes. The already-lightest-in-class sheds 2kg and is powered by a 765cc triple with over 80 changes from the 675 lump (including a new crank, pistons, rods and a balancer shaft), managed by Triumph’s latest ride-by-wire trickery and consequent electronics. They reckon it’s a game-changer. Is it?
Our first challenge involved circumnavigating the snazzy TFT dash. I’m not completely sold on its design and functionality, often confusing, over complicated and the new 5-way joystick’s adjustability can be frustrating. I felt like an 80-year-old struggling to learn how to use a computer for the first time – maybe I just needed more time. With Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider modes, plus a feast of electronic adjustability at your disposal, there’s plenty to play with and personalise.
Spending the morning on damp roads around Barcelona, the first 2017 upgrade wasn’t the much talked about motor – it was the front-end and newfound agility. There’s a noticeable shift in weight over the nose, a sportier stance over the previous model that instantly exudes confidence to push. Aside from the nosier poise, slightly racier ‘bars and a slenderer midriff, the riding position is unmistakably Street Triple.
It’s still as smooth as ever, although not as seamless at low-rpm from closed to open throttle – I’m assuming because of ride-by-wire complexities. I couldn’t notice the shorter first and second gears as we escaped through the suburbs, although I could notice the slicker gearbox. In fact, the whole bike is another level of slick and intuitive; the clutch action is ridiculously light, as are the rest of the controls, which lends the RS a certain fluidity to its game.
The guff conditions were also a chance to test the new riders aids. With TC set to higher levels of intrusion, it provided a comforting safety blanket to abuse, intervening and foiling slip way before things get deathly – especially handy as we were trying to maintain heat in the OE Pirelli Supercorsa SPs. While toggling through Rain, Road and Sport modes can be done on the fly, having to bring the bike to a stop to select Track and Rider modes is a minor faff. Essentially, you can’t pull fat wheelies without engaging Rider mode, as the TC’s anti-wheelie function spoils the party.
Back to that new engine, there’s a scrumptious, thick, gloopy midrange to indulge in, not to mention the intrinsic eargasm courtesy of Triumph’s triple treat layout. I often found myself needlessly pinning the throttle and absorbing the whole-body experience. The ST’s new motor is far from hard-hitting and you’re often left waiting for the engine to catch up with throttle inputs, but what’s to come more than offsets this trivial shortfall and this is all you’ll ever need for the road. At just over 8,000rpm, it’s like a VTEC erupts as the 765’s top-end is unleashed – something that’s previously yet to be experienced on a Triumph. Hinckley’s three-pot execution has always seemed lethargic in comparison to Yamaha and MV’s efforts, although this howitzer 121bhp top-end changes things.
As the roads opened up and became drier, the Street Triple’s 2017 upgrades started to make sense. A rather spirited ride behind Triumph’s test rider, Phillipe Lopez – who was also development rider for the RS – demonstrated we could be looking at the perfect roadster. The 765 doesn’t brag the lighting-fast reactions and flickability of MV Agusta’s Brutale 800 but more than makes up for it with superior all-round handling, reading the roads with greater clarity. Another obvious middleweight rival is the MT-09, although the Triumph’s ability to carry corner speed rather than the Yamaha’s stop/start, point and shoot protocol is far more effective.
With top-shelf Showa forks and an Öhlins STX40 shock complimenting an innate chassis talent, the 765’s road holding is faultless; soft and pliable enough for soaking up bumps and shittery, yet beautifully damped and supported to provide sublime poise. There’s no skittishness, instead ultimate stability, and the front-end feels compact, stiff, and primed for abuse – very much like a race bike, and almost Tuono in some respects.
In order to fully exploit the 2017 Street Triple, Triumph only went and hired one of Europe’s greatest tracks, Catalunya. Not even an expansive GP circuit could unearth any shortcomings – in fact, a few sessions cemented an unconditional love for Hinckley’s latest offering.
Not once was I left wanting more power, even sucking up Catalunya’s lengthy start/finish straight. Whereas the old bike wheezed at the top-end and revs slowly dropped off, the 2017 ST continues to thrive until the redline at 12,750rpm – a sure-fire indication that we’ll see a Daytona coming soon. It took me several laps to instinctively sniff out when to shift, as the limiter suddenly creeps up on you, and revs don’t drop much after shifting such is its free-revving rampant nature. Anyway, it’ll sure look pretty in a Moto2 chassis in 2019…
Slamming on the brakes at 145mph, the RS responds with unwavering stability, stunning stopping power (Brembo M50s and a MCS19/20 master cylinder), and a slipper clutch that provides unrivalled corner entry. I was able to downshift two gears at peak revs whilst leant over, and the bike remained perfectly balanced. It’s so good to see switchable ABS on a bike like the Street. We’ve heard that the new Fireblade – with its non-switchable system – is difficult to ride fast on a track due to ABS intrusion.
The RS is one of very few naked bikes that conveys a supernatural fulcrum, unflustered mid-corner no matter what’s chucked at it. The swingarm pivot has been raised by 4mm (hence the sportier stance), offset by a slightly more relaxed steering head angle, which now means the Street Trip’ bosses corner exit and doesn’t go astray after the apex. The geometry changes also equate to more weight on its front-end, automatically installing conviction to chase lap times.
Granted, the shock felt a bit saggy towards the end of the session, but there’s sure to be a setting in there somewhere to thwart. And, to be fair, I was trying my cock off and racing some bloke called Carl Fogarty, who happens to be a Triumph brand ambassador. Given the RS’s immense spec’ and money-no-object ethos, the only glaring omission to its arsenal would be a blipper for clutchless downshifts. The rest of the package is utterly seamless, and this software would truly guarantee hero status for the 2017 model. Other than that, only the bar-end mirror occasionally interfered with cornering ergonomics.
There have been countless questions posed to us regarding its place in the market. Triumph reckons the RS is in a class of its own and, while we agree with that sentiment in terms of pace and performance, obvious rivals are the aforementioned MV Brutale 800, Yamaha’s MT-09 and Kawasaki’s new Z900, although the RS will absolutely blow the Kawasaki to smithereens.
But let’s stop pigeonholing bikes. This new wave of middleweights have been doing just that, disregarding cubic classes and chasing the perfect blend of power and precision – the 2017 Street Triple nails this mix. Bearing in mind its price at £9,990, there’s also the MT-10 to consider for identical money. Most have universally accepted the RS’s asking price as reasonable, although there are some who can’t comprehend the Triumph costing the same as the big MT. The Street Triple’s spec absolutely nukes the Yamaha’s.
And what of the other models? Cams, ECU tuning, exhausts and intake tweaks differentiate the three motors. Given the inherent class seeping through the core of the ST, we’d take a punt on the S and R being just as formidable in more modest form. The original bike was a belter. The subsequent updates have been palpable improvements, so 2017’s Street Triple was hardly going to be shabby. But this new RS is another level of awesome.
Triumph laid down bold claims during the unveiling. It might have been an unassuming game-changer back in 2007, but it would be sycophantic for us to label the latest evolution of the Street Triple with similar status given the lack of game-changing tech and features. However, that doesn’t prevent the RS from being the ultimate middleweight roadster, and one of the most versatile bikes ever. Form a queue.