Triumph Speed Triple

Triumph Speed Triple

Infobox Motorcycle
name = Triumph Speed Triple

aka =
manufacturer = Triumph
production = 1994-
predecessor =
successor =
parent_company =
class = Streetfighter
platform =
engine = 1050 cc Triple
129 hp (96 kW)
transmission =
suspension =
frame =
brakes =
rake =
trail =
wheelbase =
length =
width =
seat_height =
dry_weight =
wet_weight =
fuel_economy =
fuel_capacity =
related =
note = specifications for 2005 "1050" model
similar = Ducati Monster, Buell Lightning
The Speed Triple is a series of motorcycles produced by the Triumph Motorcycle Company. In 1994 the reborn Triumph became one of the earliest adopters of a new style of motorcycle referred to as a Streetfighter. This new class of bike was essentially a modern sportbike or race replica motorcycle but without the aerodynamic plastic fairing. As one of the pioneers of the factory produced Streetfighter and through continued production of quality machines, Triumph has maintained an advantage in this market.


Early bikes

The new bike was first released to the public in 1994, and in a nod to the historic Triumph Speed Twin was dubbed the "Speed Triple". The original 1938 Speed Twin was powered by a 498 cc vertical twin cylinder engine, and was considered a high performance machine in its day. The new Speed Triple was based on the new Triumph Triple series of modular engines, which also powered the standard Trident, Daytona sportbike, and the Thunderbird retro bike. This engine came in two displacements as a triple; 750 cc for some European markets, and 885 cc for all other markets. The Speed Triple originally was equipped only with the 885 cc engine, but just before significant changes to the bike were made in 1997 a very few 750 machines were produced using leftover Euro spec engines.

Early Speed Triples were all carbureted, and were designated T300 series bikes (Technically, T309). 1994/1995 models came with the standard 885 cc water cooled engine and a rugged five speed transmission. Subsequent Speed Triples all had the same engine with six speed transmissions, except for the brief run of 750 cc bikes. As with all the modular Triumphs, the T309 series Speed Triple had a very large single steel tube backbone frame, and used the engine as a stressed member. Front and rear suspension were fully adjustable, and were made by the well known company [ Showa] . At the rear was a single monoshock with a progressive linkage, and at the front were standard hydraulic forks fitted with dual disk brakes. Colour choices were limited to a basic black, the yellow used on the Daytona, or the iconic Fireball Orange.


Initial reviews of the Speed Triple were favourable, perhaps due to the still fresh memories of the troublesome Triumphs of the 1970s. At a claimed 98 horsepower (73 kW) at the crankshaft the Speed Triple did not possess the power of many of its contemporaries, but it did have a wide and forgiving torque curve. Although praised for its brutal appearance, reliable engine, and ease of operation, the new Triumph did have some drawbacks. Due to its steel backbone chassis the bike had a high center of mass. This contributed to its lacklustre handling, but also aided its stability. These factors contrasted to its competitors (notably the Ducati Monster) who favoured lightweight and agile chassis that could be a challenge for inexperienced riders. The new Triumph also quickly built a reputation for rock solid reliability that its competitors couldn't match.


In 1994 Triumph Motorcycles sponsored a racing series with the intention of spotlighting its new image. Dubbed "The Speed Triple Challenge", it was similar to IROC in that all the competitors rode identical Speed Triple motorcycles. This made up for the fact that in factory trim the Speed Triple wasn't a competitive machine in normal racing circles. On the other hand, a few privateers had some success on highly modified bikes based on the Triumph Triple engine, often using [ Spondon] chassis. Some modified Speed Triples also were observed racing in B.E.A.R.S. (British European American Racing Series, now part of AHMRA).


The final T309 Speed Triple was built in 1997, as were most of the T300 series of Triumphs. Only the various retro-bikes and the semi-off road bike the Tiger retained the carbureted 885 cc engine. However, with the new Fuel Injected engine being developed, Triumph had further plans for its hot selling naked sportbike. Rumours flew that rather than the Speed Triple being a stripped down Daytona, The Daytona would in fact be a fully faired Speed Triple. At this point it was clear that this bike would continue to be a part of the new Triumph lineup, although the rumours of the connection between Speed Triple and Daytona turned out to be untrue.



Following the end of the T309 run of Speed Triples, Triumph released the first of its new generation of fuel injected sportbikes, the T509 Speed Triple. The new bike was a total redesign of the basic concept, and did away with many of the shortcomings of the earlier series. While the all new engine still displaced 885 cc, it now produced a claimed 108 horsepower (81 kW) and was fitted with an engine management system by SAGEM, a French company that built fuel injection systems for automobiles. Surrounding the new engine was an all new aluminium perimeter chassis, and a single sided swingarm. These two new features combined with upgraded suspension components made the new Speed Triple a vast improvement over its older sibling in terms of handling.

This bike also was the introduction of the twin "Bug Eye" headlamps which are a Triumph trademark to this day. There was also a change away from the low mount clip-ons, and a standard handlebar was fitted. This improved rider comfort and low speed handling. With more power available and much improved handling the reborn bike once again became a serious competitor in the realms of Streetfighter culture.

Unfortunately the bike was not without its problems. The SAGEM fuel injection was difficult to modify for upgraded parts, requiring a trip to the dealership at least or expensive aftermarket equipment. A twitchy throttle and sometimes vague (though otherwise excellent) brakes also plagued the new Speed Triple. While it did have more peak power than the T309, it came at the expense of power at lower RPMs. Even with its new increase in power it still could not compete with most of its contemporaries, due mainly to the fact that they also had increased in performance.

In spite of these difficulties, the T509 Speed Triple sold well for its brief life span. However, in 1999 things were about to change.


When the 1997 T509 Speed Triple received the 885 cc Fuel Injection engine, the Daytona received an upgraded 955 cc engine producing 130 horsepower (97 kW) at the crankshaft. For 1999 the new Speed Triple was officially upgraded to T595 status and also received the bigger engine. Due to tuning differences it did not make as much power as its fully faired contemporary, but it did have a substantially broader torque curve than its T509 predecessor. This made it more forgiving to ride and began a trend back to the characteristics of the original T309 Speed Triple.

Cosmetically the T509 and the 1999 T595 Speed Triples were nearly identical, and they shared many of the same components. As such, they shared many of the same idiosyncrasies, as well as the dual headlamps and single sided swing arm. Small fairings referred to as "Bikini Fairings" were popular on these bikes, as well as other aftermarket accessories that wouldn't normally be of use to a fully faired Sportbike. From this point on, Speed Triple sales continue to improve.


For the years 2000 and 2001 the Speed Triple changed little other than cosmetically. Both the Speed Triple and the Daytona came to be referred to as 955i bikes, which ended some confusion from the earlier T500 series designations (Officially they were still called T595 series, but 955i was clearly displayed on the bodywork.) Due to its flexible engine, excellent brakes, and good handling the Speed Triple continued to impress reviewers.

In spite of this much of the motorcycling community considered it a niche bike because its peak power was not as great as the big four Japanese motorcycle companies, or even some of the exotic European manufactures. Another problem was weight. Although these bikes had acceptable power for their displacement and good torque curves, their power to weight ratio was lacking. At 432 pounds dry weight, it couldn't compete with sportbikes that made 20% more power and weighed 10% less. In the year 2002 there was a substantial change to the engine casings of the 955i engine that decreased weight by roughly 17 pounds and the power was slightly increased. In reality this was too little and too late to make the bikes competitive in the motorcycle power wars.

In late 2004 a small number of Special Edition Speed Triples (Speed Triple SE) were produced. [cite web|url=|title=2004 Speed Triple|publisher=Triumph] The primary difference with this new model was an all black paint scheme, including frame, wheels, bodywork, and most engine parts. It was a prelude to the new model due to arrive in 2005.

1050 and beyond

In 2005 Triumph released its fourth generation Speed Triple. While this was not a redesign of the scale of the T509, there were many changes to the bike. The engine was still the venerable and reliable fuel injected engine used since 1997, but it had been increased in capacity to 1050 cc's. This was accomplished by lengthening the stroke. Also fitted was an all new Fuel injection and engine management system made by the Japanese company [ Keihin] . Other engine modifications resulted in a claimed 129 horsepower (96 kW) and an even broader, flatter torque curve. Speed Triples had always been easy to ride, and favourites for the Stunt Riding community. With the new engine's increased performance this bike became one of the best choices for this kind of riding.

Other improvements included inverted forks, radial disc brake calipers and a redesigned electronic gauge cluster which included a trip computer. Handling was once again improved, and the brakes were considered excellent (See "Controversy" below.) With all these improvements, and the fact that the Streetfighter style of motorcycle was becoming quite popular, the Speed Triple once again rose to the top of its competitors. When compared to other bikes in its class such as the Ducati Monster, the Buell Lightning, the Benelli TNT, or any other contemporary, its performance was just as good or better. Combined with its lower price it immediately became a favourite with reviewers and enthusiasts alike.

Late in 2007 a few changes appeared in the Speed Triple, consisting of an updated engine management system and a revised exhaust containing a catalytic converter in a different location. The revised Electronic Control Unit (ECU) had more memory and provided a solution for some starting and low speed fueling issues. A revised metal tank also replaced the plastic unit that had been fitted. For the 2008 model year several changes were made to the bodywork and Italian made Brembo front brakes were supplied as standard, alleviating the biggest complaints from enthusiasts and the media alike. (See 'Controversy' below.)

The new Speed Triple shared its engine with the new Sprint ST and later the 2007 Triumph Tiger, but 2006 was to be the last year of the 955i Daytona. In its place was a new bike, the Daytona 675 . The new Daytona 675 had an all new smaller displacement engine and a completely new modern chassis. It garnered excellent reviews. In November 2007 the same platform was used for the new "Street Triple," which has received excellent reviews such as TWO magazine's choice as Bike of the Year. The general consensus has been the "Street Triple" is nearly as good as the contemporary "Speed Triple", in a lighter weight and more economical package. The two bikes share many of the same styling cues as well as the three cylinder engine configuration and fuel injection. Performance numbers are not too dissimilar, with the Street Triple only falling short in the shape and height of its torque curve.


Brake caliper

There was some controversy surrounding the 1050 cc models of the 2005 model year. These models were fitted with new radial brake calipers by the Japanese company [ Nissin] . Although the brakes initially performed well, many developed problems with time. In some cases after only a few days, the brake lever would develop increased travel and develop a soft feel (described as "mushiness"). The characteristic was often compared to the feel of brakes with air trapped within its hydraulic system. The initial response from Triumph was that this was "normal", and designed to be this way. Triumph called this characteristic "progressive feel" brakes.

Many riders refused to accept Triumph's explanation, and after continued complaints several remedies ("fixes") were developed. The original, official Triumph fix, was to replace the piston seals inside the brake calipers. Very quickly this was found to be temporary at best, and enterprising riders and mechanics developed other temporary fixes for the problem. Bleeding the brakes was one such temporary fix, as was a technique of compressing the caliper pistons and then pumping them back full of fluid. However, all the temporary fixes were just that, "temporary".

In 2006 with the release of the Daytona 675 — equipped with the same brakes — Triumph released a second official fix for the problem, still without admitting that there "was" a problem. This fix was the installation of specially coated brake caliper pistons. It turns out that the brake pistons from the Daytona 675 are also slightly different in shape. The early 1050 Speed Triple pistons were dished on the top, yet the Daytona pistons were flat. The new shape and coating is now standard on all 1050 Speed Triples. Reports are that this has at least partially solved the issue. An additional change to the brake master cylinder from the Daytona has also improved brake performance according to some reports.

In spite of any complaints, the 1050 Speed Triple has shown itself to be one of the best braking motorcycles in existence. Motorcycle Consumer News reported the shortest braking distance of any bike they had ever tested. [cite web|url=|title=1050 Speed Triple review|publisher=Motorcycle Consumer News|date=February 2006] Ironically, the motorcycle with the previous shortest stopping distance was also a Speed Triple: a 1999 T595 model.

By the summer of 2007 this situation has largely become a non-issue, however much of the media and Triumph community continue to discuss the problem. The release of the new 675 Street Triple only complicates the issue, because it has returned to a traditional and very different style of caliper.

As of 2008, the Speed Triple comes equipped with high-spec, twin Brembo radial front caliper four pad, four piston units.


Another controversial issue with newer Speed Triples is the confusion over which Keihin ECU is fitted to 2007 model-year units. The 2005-2006 ECU was noted as being quirky, requiring several seconds to start the bike and having abrupt throttle response. According to numerous Triumph press releases, website materials, and a published interview with Simon Warburton, Triumph's Head Product Manager [cite journal|date=November 2006|publisher=Cycle World|title=Simon Warburton interview] , 2007 versions of the Speed Triple were to be fitted with Triumph's "second generation" Keihin ECU used in the Daytona 675. This change was purported to fix starting issues, along with improved fuel economy, emissions and general driveability.

Soon after customers began receiving 2007 Speed Triples, it was noted that many did not feature 2007 model year changes, such as a metal tank, changed midpipe with heat shield, stainless steel canister shields, and the much anticipated 2nd generation Keihin ECU. Triumph has not admitted any fault in the matter, and claims that all 2007 models received the new ECU, despite discrepancies in ECU part numbers and tune codes in different 2007 models.

Popular Culture

A "Jet Black" Speed Triple can be seen in the 1999 movie The Matrix; it is the bike used by Trinity as she witnesses Neo's arrest by agents outside of his office building.

IMF Agent Ethan Hunt rides a Speed Triple near the end of .


External links

* [ Triumph Web Site]
* [ T509 review]
* [ T309 comparison]
* [ 1050 Speed Triple review]
* [ Triumph Speed Triple 1050 review] Road test of the Triumph Speed Triple 1050

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