23 Feb 2013

Living with - Triumph Street Triple

Bike - 2011 Triumph Street Triple
Owner - Matt Hubbard


I'd crashed (a low speed high-side when turning right onto a slippery road) my mint 2000 Yamaha R1 in 2009 and it's replacement, a 2004 Suzuki Bandit 1200 just wasn't cutting the mustard.  It was too big and heavy and the carbs were forever going out of balance.  Having owned older bikes for some time I felt the time was right to buy a new bike.

I wanted something that would combine the speedy and agile nature of the R1 with the seating position of the Bandit.  My 41 year old wrists and ankles just can't cope with the seating position demanded by a sports bike any more.  After discounting all the Japanese machines on the grounds of ubiquity (and the fact I've owned most) the choice came down to two bikes - Ducati 796 Monster and Triumph Street Triple.

I read every report I could find on both bikes - reviews, stats, opinions were all absorbed and analysed. Then I booked a test ride on the Street Triple.  And that was it.  I negotiated a 0% finance offer, traded the Bandit in and bought myself a Triumph.  The Ducati didn't even get a look in.  Once I'd ridden the Street Triple I was hooked.  All the reviews I'd read said it's the best all round bike on the market.  My 20 mile test ride confirmed that.


The Street Triple is quite small, and light.  Very light.  It weighs in at 189kg whereas the Bandit weighed 214kg.  This difference was immediately apparent in the first ride, and all subsequent journeys.  The riding position is quite compact.  Your legs are bent more than on a Bandit, Hornet, Fazer or any other naked bike, and the bars are a bit of a stretch - but not so much as on a Monster.

It's a snug riding position but nothing like the extreme position of a sports bike.  In fact, it's the perfect compromise.  The fact it is quite compact is no surprise given the Street Triple is derived from the 675 Daytona - Triumph's middleweight sports bike.  This also means the Street Triple is built from the ground up as a quality bike rather than a budget machine made up from cheap components - as a lot of the competition are.

The frame and engine are pretty much the same as in the 675 and the Street Triple benefits hugely from this.  The engine is a 3 cylinder 675cc unit with 105bhp.  It's also the most eager, willing, fizzy little engine I've ever experienced.  Power is available from low down in the rev range up to the 12,500 rpm limit.  Aligned to a 6 speed gearbox with a reasonably tall top gear the Street Triple absolutely flies.  Delivery is not as brutal as in the R1 but it could easily catch out an inexperienced rider in the lower gears.  Power wheelies can and do happen with relative frequency.

As with all bikes the riding experience differs according to different situations.  The R1 only ever made sense when scything through the scenery at silly speeds.  The Triumph is an almost perfect urban bike, a perfect rural scratcher and a bit of a pain on the motorway, due to it's lack of fairing.

In the city - and I take it into London quite often (I suffer from publictransportitis, which brings me out in a fever whenever I'm forced to take a train or bus) - the bike is just brilliant.  Well balanced, light, easy clutch/throttle control.  It's only limitation is a hangover from it's 675 Daytona origins - the steering lock is limited.  More than once I've had to abandon a filtering move in Westminster or wherever as I couldn't quite make a tight move around the stationary traffic I'd just seen scooter make.

On the open highway the Street Triple is simply immense.  It's chassis and engine combination is perfect for threading through the hedgerows, flicking back and forth, reaching the limits of the rider but never the bike.

On the motorway is where the Triumph finds it's limits.  Simply, with no fairing the rider is buffeted at anything above 70ish mph.  I have an upcoming trip to Scotland this summer and may need to think about some kind of flyscreen, or else I'll be at the back of the pack on the motorway sections.

Further thoughts on riding the Street Triple can be found here.

General Ownership Experience

As it's a newish bike life with the Street Triple is pretty effortless.  It's also rewarding.  With no worries about reliability rides can simply be enjoyed and the three cylindered soundtrack savoured.  That's not to say there are areas of ownership that couldn't have been improved.

The battery has been a constant source of annoyance.  It's pretty small and ran faultlessly during the first few months but after six months gave up the ghost.  It let me down twice whilst way from home.  I learned that attempting to bump start the Triumph cannot be done without someone pushing the bike.  The rider cannot generate enough speed himself - someone has to help.  I eventually took the bike back to the dealer, Bulldog Triumph of Twyford who informed me it was just out of warranty so I had to buy a new one, which cost £80.  The new battery drained itself after a month in the garage over winter - not something I would have expected.  It now lives on a trickle charger when not in use.

I'm also missing the bike having a centre stand.  The 675 engine apparently uses a lot of oil and owners are advised to check the oil level frequently.  Mine hasn't used a drop but checking the oil level requires the bike to be upright, which means putting it on a paddock stand.  I usually want to check the oil level when the family are away and I have a ride planned, but can't do it properly because no-one is around to either hold it upright or put it on the paddock stand.

The only other niggles are that the engine makes quite a racket, the passenger seat is tiny and luggage is hard to attach.  The actual exhaust noise is great but the engine whines a lot.  Other owners say this is induction noise but I'm not so sure.  It's just a noisy engine but, hey, it's a bike so who cares.  The passenger seat is so small my wife refuses to ride pillion.  We've been for rides on previous bikes, but only on short journeys - never touring.  It's not a massive issue but it would have been nice to have a slightly larger rear seat.  The twin, high level exhausts look cool but, along with the small passenger seat, restrict the amount of luggage that can be strapped to the bike.  This hasn't been an issue to date but might when the Scottish trip comes up.

One final point - the Street Triple has no fuel gauge.  Hardcore bikers might say it doesn't need one.  But it does.

Servicing and Costs

The dealership experience, with the exception of the battery incident, has been phenomenal.  I took the bike back for it's first service and hung around whilst the work was done.  I knew the first annual service was coming up but didn't get round to booking it in as I couldn't find the time.  Out of the blue Bulldog called and reminded me the service was due.  I said I was busy and would struggle to get it in. Their response was to offer to pick it up, do the work, and drop it off.  The delivery was free.  The service cost was reasonable.  I paid over the phone.  Also, one of the headlights had developed a crack.  I didn't even mention this to Bulldog but when it came back from the service it had been replaced with a new one - replaced under warranty.  Brilliant.

Economy is OK.  35mpg on a rural run through the hedges, screaming up and down the gearbox and 45mpg on the motorway.  The trip computer is a bonus.  It shows economy, average speed, which gear you are in - but not how much fuel is left in the tank.

Would I buy another and would I recommend it to others?

I can't see myself getting rid of this bike.  As long as I can find a flyscreen for motorway miles it is the perfect bike.  It's fun, fast, reliable and easy to fall in love with.  Due to it's high regard amongst the press and owners depreciation is quite shallow.

Based on my ownership experience I'd recommend a Triumph Street Triple, either new or used, to anyone.