Triumph has sold 100,000 of these naked hooligans since they were launched in 1994, and the sixth incarnation is the fastest and most powerful yet, with a glorious soundtrack, pinpoint handling and, er, rather firm suspension
Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS
The sound of a bike stirs your soul as much as the ride.
The soft phut-phut of a Royal Enfield Bullet 500, for example, has always felt like the hearbeat of India since I rode one from there back to the UK in 1998.
The syncopated beat of a Harley V-twin, like two flatulent hippos making love underwater, always brings me back to riding a Road King on Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles two years later.
And, rather strangely, the supersonic whoosh of a Harley LiveWire made me appreciate within about 20 minutes the surreal joy of whirring along in almost complete silence.
Triumph triples, meanwhile, remind me of riding a Tiger 955i from Chile to Alaska and a Tiger 1050 all the way around Oz, accompanied by the high-pitched whine of the engine which always made it sound like a giant sewing machine late for a sewing machine convention.
It was the only niggle on otherwise fabulous machines, which Triumph finally sorted out by changing the firing order on the Tiger 900 for a much more satisfying visceral snarl.
Thankfully, the boffins at Hinckley have retained it for the new Speed Triple RS, the sixth incarnation of the bike launched in 1994 and dubbed by Triumph as a naked hooligan. Yes, quite, but the world was obviously waiting for naked hooligans, since the company’s sold 100,000 since then.
Walking up to the bike, it looks like a large, angry insect just waiting to buzz off, with the narrowed eyes of its twin headlights, then the sculpted thorax of the fuel tank leading back to the narrow-waisted seat.
On board, the seating position is compact but comfortable, with nothing to block the view ahead but the fabulous bar-end mirrors and the dinky, stylish TFT screen with all you need to know, including which of the five riding modes you’re in – Rain, Road, Sport, Track or Rider, the last for bespoke tweaking.
As usual in these digital days, you can link the screen to your phone for navigation, calls and music.
With the engine up from 1050 to 1160cc, power up 30bhp, torque up 6 ft lb and weight down 10kg to a piffling 198kg, Triumph claims a 17% increase in the power-to-weight ratio, and it shows – acceleration is spectacular even in Road mode, but gloriously linear, accompanied by a deeply satisfying snarl from the exhaust.
Sport mode introduces a whole new level of aggression to progress, bringing out the angry wasp in the aforementioned insect, but thankfully with enough traction and wheelie control if desired to stop you being stung in the process.
Handling is surgically precise, a Triumph trademark, particularly with the wide and reasonably high bars which are now common on sporty bikes rather than the drop bars of old through which manufacturers made sure you suffered for their art.
I remember one gruelling day on a Yamaha R1 spent peering through the top of my visor after which I got off, stretched my neck and back with several crunching sounds, and swore never again. Or maybe just swore.
The six-speed gearbox is as slick as James Bond at the baccarat table, and the quickshifter generally flawless, although a few times it refused to play ball and I had to resurrect that old traditional skill of using the clutch.
Applying the Brembo brakes, with twin 320mm discs up front, is like hitting a wall, except without the insurance claim.
Even better, dealers on autotrader.co.uk have some with only a few hundred miles on the clock for £13,500, saving you two grand on the new price.
Which brings me to the elephant in the room. The suspension, obviously set up for track use, is so firm that on one rough stretch of road all my fillings fell out. You can soften it, but that may take away from the precise handling.
Thankfully, my dentist does a two-for-one special offer on Thursdays, but I’ll still be sending the bill to Triumph.
The verdict, then, is that it’s a superb track tool which would suit a sporty rider with perfect teeth.
Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS
Engine: 1160cc liquid-cooled inline triple
Power: 177bhp @ 10,750rpm
Torque: 92 ft lb @ 9,000rpm
Colours: Black; silver
* Bike supplied by Phillip McCallen phillipmccallen.com