Published on December 28th, 2021 | by Boris0
2021 TRIUMPH SPEED TRIPLE 1200 RS REVIEW – “Stop it, Mr Bloor! You’re making me crazy!”
IMAGES AND SECOND OPINION BY NICK ‘MINE LOOKS BETTER’ EDARDS
I’m sure some of you have heard of Sasha Grey. For the uninitiated, Sasha made quite a name for herself in the adult movie business before moving into more mainstream stuff.
Her “thing”, such as it was, was loudly vocalising her intense pleasure each time her girl-cabbage was being occupied by a fellow actor. Magnificent does not do Sasha’s yelpings justice. It’s like she was talking to God.
Yeah, well, that’s the kinda the noises I was making when I got involved with Triumph’s latest Speed Triple incarnation, the 1200 RS. Grunting, yelping, terrible cuss-words, panting…the whole gamut of pleasure was being spat out against my visor.
It was to be expected. I have been a devotee of Triumph’s ground-breaking triple ever since John Bloor wheeled out the slab-sided single-headlight version a billion years ago. And I had been gagging to ride this new Speed Triple, because I knew it would be brilliant.
I have owned three of them. All of them had big, hard miles put on them, and all of them delighted me in ways only a torque-rich triple could. Sure, they ate alternators and sprag clutches, and one even caught fire on the side of the Monash (happily after I had just sold it), but when they were on song, my girl-cabbage was moister and saltier than the Arafura Sea.
They were invariably a bit special for me. They were naked, they had that twin-headlight brutalism going on, they sounded amazing, they handled kinda OK if you liked bikes you had to physically motivate, and they were relatively uncommon.
But they had, until the advent of this all-new iteration, been left behind in terms of bang and agility by the streetfighter offerings of Europe and Japan.
The Empire was, of course, aware of this. It had, quite pointedly, been addressing engine-supply to the Moto2 paddock – and much has flowed and will continue to flow from that collaboration. Never imagine racing does not improve the breed.
So after a few-year hiatus where the Speed Triple languished on the back-burner, the end of 2021 saw Triumph debut an all-new weapon.
And it is truly a weapon. It’s power-to-weight dynamic is twice what the original Speed Triple offered, and 17 per cent more than the previous model.
That pleasurable, lineal torque delivery the bike was famous for, has been fattened, engorged, and the redline has been upped by 650rpm over the previous model.
The entire package has been lightened, made more powerful, been given gronkingly awesome Brembos, and fitted with adjustable suspension that offers a firm ride from the factory, but which can easily be adjusted to offer you a plusher, less track-focussed experience, you weak girl, you.
It is a quantum leap forward for the model. It’s like Triumph has taken its razor-sharp handling Street Triple, and pumped it full of steroids and snake venom.
And in keeping with Triumph’s premium mindset, the level of finish and standard equipment is wondrous. You keep looking at it and you keep seeing things that make you go “Wow!”. This is quite obviously a top-shelf product in every detail.
The adjustable levers, the glorious quickshifter, LED everything, an adjustable-display dash, and a firm, manly seat with ergos which I found satisfyingly comfortable and designed for you to rat-mongrel out of sight of the Highway Patrol, are all there.
A brief look at the important numbers then. It weighs 198kg wet, produces 125Nm of torque at 9000rpm, and 180 horses at 10,750rpm. Is it any wonder I was barking and howling like Miss Sasha in that long, hard, and very musky scene from Slut Puppies 2?
Yea, verily, here, finally, was a Speed Triple for the red mist in your soul. In terms of handling, throttle response, braking and sheer bang, the RS gives bugger-all away to any of its competitors. There’s more than enough integrity and oomph here to counter any seeming number-advantage of its competitors.
On the road, it’s invariably down to you, not the bike you’re riding. Nothing else can explain why I can get on a big Japanese scooter and shame a whole bunch of try-hards on sportsbikes on Mother Putty.
So don’t go complaining about the Speed Triple lacking anything. It lacks nothing I can put a finger on. And it delivers its magic in a way that is truly satisfying and pleasurable. If I actually had a girl-cabbage, it would be spasming in joy.
I think it’s the feeling of…well, “rightness”. For me, at least. Yes, there are genetic links to its ancestors, some of which handled OK once you got used to their rather heavy steering and compensated for it by manhandling them like a bouncer heaving war-drunks onto the street. This new Speedy needs no such wrestling. Like I said, it’s got the razor-precision of the Street, with bigger and meatier balls.
It’s one of those bikes you’ll never get tired of. Its limits are so far beyond yours – and you’ll see that the first time you imagine you’ve overcooked a corner. You haven’t overcooked anything. You’re just in over your head. The Speed Triple is not. I love that in a bike. It makes me better than what I am, and faster than I should be. It also instils me with confidence. If I’m not working hard to go fast, then I can clearly go faster than I’m going.
I adored it. I adored it like Sasha Grey adored each of her co-stars, but my adoration transcended hers because it was genuine. I wasn’t being paid to yelp like a spanked hog. I yelped for free.
Mr Bloor needs to cut this shit out. Bastard keeps churning out brilliance upon brilliance. He’s not just filling gaps in the model range. He’s actually challenging for control of several herds. It’s making me kinda breathless, and I’m too old to be breathless.
Once, not all that long ago, a man could make observations about certain Triumph models lacking something. I’m seeing that’s not the case anymore.
That Bloor fellow has taken to building bikes that take a man’s breath away.
And my sheets are utterly ruined.
Nick Edards, the wondrous talent who photographs my peregrinations, is a Speed Triple owner. Which I feel should be spelled “tragic”. When i called him to photograph this new one, he arrived with helmet and jacket as well as his camera gear.
“I’m so glad you brought your gear,” I said. “You have to ride this thing.”
“Less talking, more key-giving,” he said.
I handed the keys over.
He was gone before I could even walk him through the bike’s interesting bits.
I found him mid-way through the Ten-Mile, parked on the side of the road.
“You didn’t tell me it had a quickshifter,” he puffed.
“You didn’t seem to be in the mood for talking,” I shrugged.
Here are his thoughts…
As the owner of a 2010 Speed Triple 1050SE, which just happens to be the absolute last of the round-eyed models the new Speed Triple 1200RS was a bike I really wanted to air out a little.
Let’s get to the conclusion first. Is it better? Hell, yes. In every measurable way and most of the subjective ones as well. Except for looks. Mine’s better-looking.
With Speed Triples, everything starts with the engine. Triumph’s big-triple mill has always been a masterpiece, turbine smooth, with a torque curve so fat you only need to change gear if your left foot’s getting bored. On mine, you can play above 8000rpm if you feel like it, but there’s not much point, the meat is all in the mid-range. The 1200RS sacrifices absolutely nothing down low, but up top, the drive just never seems to stop. It’s as flexible in 5th as mine is in 4th. The engine is a fantastic evolution of what was already a magic three-pot symphony.
I need a little bit more time to get used to the quick-shifter on the 1200RS. The engine seemed to always cut out for just a fraction of a second longer than I was expecting it to. Having said that, the gearbox on my 1050 feels like it comes out of a tractor, so the new box is a massive improvement, although I can find neutral on mine much easier. Actually, I can find two or three different neutrals on mine some days, although that’s nothing to be proud of.
Riding position of the new bike is a huge improvement, the seat is wider and better padded, the ‘bar position is lower and flatter and I’m pretty sure there’s a bit more distance between the pegs and sea,t which means my legs, originally designed for use on a medium-sized giraffe, weren’t as cramped as they are on my old bus.
Now to the biggie. Suspension. It’s been a weak spot in Speed Triples for a while. Generally, they’re awesome on smooth roads, but as the surface degrades, so does the riding experience. On older bikes, and yes that includes mine, the problem was the damping system. It just wouldn’t cope with a long sequence of high-speed bumps and would end up calling it quits and feeling like the front-end was made out of rebar. That cost me a fair amount to fix. On later Speed Triples, the complaint was often that the suspension was overall too stiff.
Ride quality makes a huge difference to how much I enjoy a bike, so if I was paying as much coin as the RS would cost me, I’d expect that it would be bloody good out of the box.
Now bear in mind that I didn’t get enough seat-time to mess around with settings, but from the time I did spend in the seat, I give the 1200RS’s suspension a big thumbs up. Yes, it’s firm but that may have just been preload; the big thing for me is that there was none of the harshness mine was endowed with and, as a result, the suspension feel, feedback, and performance makes the 1200RS a much less tiring bike to ride. Riding mine for any distance feels like having a long physical argument and it is tiring, but based on the time I spent with the 1200RS, I just don’t think that’s going to be a factor. The whole package is easy to ride, lazy or crazy, both modes are fun and either way, you won’t feel beaten up at the end of a ride.
The brakes? They work. Of course they do. Modern Brembos are like that. But depending on your riding style, you won’t actually use them that much. If you keep that motor spinning (and did I mention that it’s a seriously awesome engine?), then backing off the throttle a touch approaching a corner will give you enough engine braking to wash off a little speed and set you up to crack open the throttle nice and early.
Tyres? Black, round, nice profile, nice stick.
My best experience on a Triumph Triple up until now wasn’t on a Speed, it was on a Street. Sarah and I hired one in New Caledonia and I got to spend an unhinged hour blasting solo through an abandoned zinc mine with almost perfect roads, excellent visibility, and stunning weather. That the road had no barriers and a 500m+ drop on one side just made it that little bit more exciting.
That Street, a 2015 R, was perfectly balanced and we both had a ball. It was the sort of ride that stays in your mind for a long, long time, but it would have been torrid on my Speed, as it needed real precision and the Speed has never been exactly the most precise bike on the planet. It would go close to where you want to go but you’d have to a allow a margin of error. The Street was always a scalpel in comparison to the Speed’s rusty Stanley knife. The 1200RS is razor sharp like that Street Triple. The handling is rock solid, it goes where you tell it to go and the whole package gives you huge confidence in its ability to stay with you no matter what you throw at it. And the BFM (Big Fucking Motor) delivers the sort of energy that a Street could only dream of.
Is the 1200RS a better Speed Triple? Yup. By a wide margin over mine in almost every aspect. Do I want one? Yup.
Mine looks better though.
HOW MUCH IS IT? $28,490 RIDE-AWAY.