2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS review: the Brits join the supernaked party
Triumph's new 180hp weapon is finally here
This might be a bit unfair, but the Triumph Speed Triple's always been that kid at school who never made a fool of themselves, but never really did anything truly amazing either. They never soiled themselves silly during PE, but their also never really pop up in your mind years later either.
The Speed Triple's always had a reasonable but not headline-grabbing amount of power (150hp at the last count), and has always been a bit more sophisticated and sensible than the troubled kids with 180-200hp at the head of the class. But school's back after summer holidays, and the British naked bike has returned with a mohawk, nipple rings and a tattoo of your mum on its bum. Lovely.
Find out how this all-new 180hp brute rides in the video below, or read on for more thoughts.
What is it?
It's the bike that drags the Speed Triple kicking and screaming from the average side of the ~1,000cc naked class into the full-on hairy chested Supernaked group, fighting for your cash with the Ducati Streetfighter V4, Aprilia Tuono V4 and KTM 1290 Super Duke R.
Unlike those bikes, however, the Triumph will set you back a mere £15,100 – that's about a grand less than the KTM, and £3,000 less than the Aprilia and Ducati in its most basic form. This is, then, the least expensive way to get 180hp in a brand-new naked bike.
How does it ride?
British bike… British weather. The Speed Triple's engine is predictable enough to enjoy a damp ride out
The heart of the 2021 Speed Triple is an all-new, 1,160cc three-cylinder engine, putting out 180hp (a whopping 30hp more than the old 1,050cc unit), and 125Nm of torque (8Nm more).
The engine's 7kg lighter than before, and the new cast aluminium frame is also lighter – resulting in a bike that's 10kg lighter than before. Add in the power increase and the new Speed Triple's power-to-weight ratio is 26% better than the old bike's.
And it bloody feels like it.
You sense the lightened engine internals from the first blip of the throttle – the 1200 RS spins up really quickly, and it powers to the 11,150rpm redline with real urgency. It feels flippin' fast, but it's not until you look down at the speedo that you realise how well this engine hides its speed – it's properly rapid. Stick the traction control in Track mode and it'll be lifting the front wheel through the first three gears too. If that's not your cup of tea then leave it in Sport mode and the Triumph's six-axis computer brain will let you go to full throttle in first gear without much wheelie action.
The new headlight design is decidedly more aggressive than the old bike's
Because it's a triple, the power's delivered in a linear, torquey fashion with loads of grunt on offer wherever you are in the revs. It sounds thrilling too, with its chesty roar racing to a bit of a wail at the top of the revs. But it never feels frantic – it's a measured, controlled way of going fast, without any unexpected jumps in power.
How does it handle?
Part of the reason the Triumph undercuts its rivals on price is because it uses manually adjustable suspension, rather than the fancy semi-active electronic stuff on the top-spec Aprilia Tuono and Ducati Streetfighter. But the British brute still uses quality Ohlins suspension front and back, and it always feels well damped and gives you a wonderful connection to the road that encourages you to corner faster at every opportunity.
Is it an M or a stretched-out T?
The 2021 Speed Trip' has caught a lot of flak for being too firm for the road – and this really wasn't our experience at all. We think Triumph's softened off the suspension settings a bit before doling out press bikes after the original UK track launch. While it's certainly sporty rather than wafty, we didn't find ourselves being kicked out of our seat. But you do get the sense this bike would be oh-so at home on a race track. It's definitely a young person's Triumph, put it that way.
Cue people asking Triumph for more interesting paint colours
Our bike flowed beautifully between corners, with a reasonably quick turn-in and an excellent sense of confidence in the corners. The previous-generation bike felt planted in corners by way of its mass soaking up bumps, but the new bike doesn't feel nervous as a result of its diet. It absolutely competes with bikes costing many thousands more.
What about the electronics?
There's no point bringing out a supernaked without a full suite of electronic safety and go-faster aids, and the Speed Triple 1200 RS is no different. You're always looked after by the aforementioned six-axis computer, which provides lean-sensitive traction control intervention – and you'll frequently see the light indicating it's working overtime as you accelerate in the first three gears. But you don't feel it spoiling the fun – unless your fun is big wheelies. As we've said, you'll want to switch TC off to hoist any mingers, which is annoying. We like bikes where you can keep traction control enabled and separately disable wheelie control.
The new screen is fantastic, with super sharp and interesting graphics
More relevant to most people is the superb five-inch display. Triumph's bonded the screen to the glass with the aim of reducing reflections – and it really does work. You can see the colourful screen even in bright sunlight or riding through dappled shade. Another nice touch is the backlit switchgear, which is more visible than on the previous bike and makes finding the cruise control button easier at night, for example. It's also easy to flick between rider modes and delve into the menus – as usual on a Triumph you can connect your phone directly to the bike, and also your GoPro should you wish. #content
Should I buy one?
The 2021 Speed Triple 1200 RS is a bit of a bargain – other than building it in Thailand, we don't know how Triumph's offering such an immense spec of bike for the money. We've not even spoken about the grippy-as-you-like Metzeler Racetec R tyres, the adjustable-ratio Brembo MCS front brake master cylinder, or the lightened rear cush drive… there are so, so many improvements over the previous bike that we'd just run out of time and send your eyeballs rolling back in their sockets with boredom.
At the end of the day, the new Speed Triple's a real contender in the supernaked class
All you need to know is that Triumph has pulled a blinder – the new Speed Triple is a real game-changer for the brand. It's no longer the sort of bike you'd be happy taking home to meet your mother – it's found a meaner, angrier new side. And we love it.