We ride Triumph’s all-new for ’22 ultimate hooligan bike
I first fell in love with Triumph’s Triple motorcycles when I owned a 1999 Sprint 955i ST some years back. The torque and pull in each gear, the howl of that three cylinder mill through the single right side pipe, and the sheer thrill of screaming around Road Atlanta, Talledega GP or down some lonesome country road at ungodly digits was addictive. That Sprint was my first true sportbike, having always been a cruiser or standard rider before, and it changed my life by opening up a whole new world to me of “Power, Performance and Handling”. I still enjoy cruisers, but my heart has turned. There’s no going back. I’m a “PPH” fan now. So it’s little wonder I salivated to get my hands on this latest iteration of Triumph’s Triple line.
Behold the Beast: The 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS, when we picked it up for a month of riding.
While Triumph Motorcycles is renowned worldwide for their legendary Bonneville bikes (I own one, love it), they are also highly respected and widely regarded for their history of producing high-performance triples. When the original Speed Triple 900 first debuted in 1994, it made a huge splash in the motorcycle sportbike pond, being among the first “streetfighter” or “naked sportbike” models to come factory without substantial fairings. Its stripped-down aggressive stance, more upright ergos, eventual (1997) dual bug-eyed headlights out front, sexy single-sided swingarm, then twin pipes tucked up and exiting underneath the tail, the constantly evolving Speed Triple singularly created a new genre in the motorcycling universe. Triumph even gave the Speedy a little sibling back in 2007 with the Street Triple, first a 675 and now a 765. Nowadays, nearly every motorcycle brand that builds sportbikes also builds and sells naked sports as well. And they sell quite well, often better than the brand’s race replica sports.
The Original: 1994 Triumph Speed Triple 900. It would grow a second headlight by 1997.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy this class of motorbikes all the more. With upright handlebars, somewhat lower footpegs, I find the rider triangle on these “nakeds” much more compliant for all-day riding. After a cervical spinal surgery some years back to fix old athletic injuries, I can’t ride those low clip-ons, rearset pegs sportbikes like I used to. Yet I still love the power, the roll-on, the handling, and the lean angle of them. Solution? The naked sport genre in general, and lately, this Speed Triple 1200 RS in particular. Along with my great affection for “modern classics”, for the “PPH” referenced above, my heart has found a home in this class.
Over its history, the Triumph Speed Triple has gone through numerous bumps in displacement, from the original 885 cc, a brief run as a smaller 750, the 955 mill I had in my Sprint, then the 1050 since 2005. This all-new Speed Triple gets a 1160 cc motor, up 110 cc but about a minibike short of its “1200” moniker. It pumps out a claimed 177 peak ponies, 92 ft lbs of peak torque, up 22 hp and 5 ft lbs respectively over the previous gen Speed Triple, yet weighs in 22 lbs lighter at 436.5 lbs wet. The electronics packages have all dramatically improved over the years and gens as well, and this newest Speed Triple RS is arguably the most technologically advanced and seamlessly integrated package in the Brit brand’s history.
Suited up, time to ride this bad boy.
After picking up this bike from our friends at Triumph Americas, my first impressions upon throwing a leg over and throttling out was how comfortably I settled into the big Triple. At 5’8” and 150 lbs (+-) wet weight, I thought the 32.7” seat height might have me up on my toes, but I compressed the top-tier adjustable Öhlins front and rear suspension easily and flat-footed at every stop. The Brembo Stylema brakes fore and aft are outstanding, with no fade nor too grabby, due to its super-tuned, 2-setting OC-ABS (with cornering ABS in Road mode). Speaking of ride modes, the 1200 RS sports 5 of them, in the form of Rain, Road, Sport, Track, and Rider (create your own). The ride-by-wire system means each mode has a distinctive throttle map, with Rain, Road and Sport all selectable on the fly, while Track and Rider have to be switched with the bike stopped. I spent most of my time in Road and occasionally in Sport, and discovered that in Road mode the braking system is also linked, providing some rear brake even if I’m only pinching the front Brembo lever. Very cool.
Superb componentry, in a perfected package.
What knocks me out most on the 1200 RS Speedy is the new, more compact 6-speed gearbox paired with a killer up/down quickshifter and slip/assist clutch. Its such a fine-dialed and seamless integration that honestly, the only times I’ve engaged the clutch lever was to start the bike, clicking into 1st and rolling out, then pulling it in when coming to a stop. Up and down through every gear, once rolling I retrained my brain to match revs with shifts for seamless (I’m using that word again) gear changes. The system is so tuned that it truly functions better without engaging the clutch lever in each gear while riding, just toe-tapping up and down through the cogs. I love this. It felt like a paddle-shifter for my left foot, it’s so smooth an engagement. Clutchless upshifts are smoothest from 4K rpm and above, while downshifts felt smoothest around 2-2500 rpm each gear, with the throttle closed. Neutral was touchy to find at times, however. I generally had to tap down from 2nd to find “N” rather than tick up from 1st into it.
Out on open roads, the Speedy’s stout midrange-tuned 1160 mill pulls hard in each gear all the way to redline when you’re feeling froggy, which I did on a few too many occasions. The 1200 RS has clocked 0-60 mph in 3.1 secs, 60-ridiculous in just 2.5 secs more. Top speed has ticked at 155 mph. Not the beefiest of the “super-nakeds” in it’s class, but crazy fast nonetheless, and quite comfortable getting there. It’s a rev monster, egging you on in each gear to throttle hard to the next shift. I’m a bit too obliging there, I must admit. It’s just so much fun to ride.
Dang, this bike brings out the youthful hooligan in me, like no other bike I’ve ridden since my own Sprint ST some years ago. Shod with a pair of Metzeler Racetec RR K3 boots, the grip is incredible coupled with the cornering ABS and variable TC, meaning deep, confident lean angles are aplomb in curves. The caveat to super-grippy tires is of course, quicker wear. Jake at Flying Brothers Motorcycle Shop near me stated, “Guys who run these tires generally get about 3-4000 miles out of them before swapping.” Yikes. So if I bought a new RS, I’d go with a sport touring tire at first rubber swap. Maybe a pair of those Dunlop Roadsmarts?
Iconic stablemates: The newest iteration of Triumph’s legendary Triple, and the author’s 2017 modern classic Bonneville.
The TFT display above those angry bug-eyes fits nicely aesthetically, but I found it a bit more difficult to learn and navigate than other Triumph screens we’ve sampled. I fiddled around in the garage one night to figure it out, and eventually found its features and info easier to surf and customize. From the right grip “Home” button where the whole menu is accessible, to the left side “M” for instant access to the ride modes, everything has it’s purpose. The Speedy even has an electronic fork lock key-proximity button on the front side of the right grip. Nice feature. I also like how backlit all the buttons and toggles are on both sides, something else I discovered by accident rolling back in at dusk once.
The minimalist yet informative TFT display, and the buttons backlit after dark.
We had the chance to live with the Speed Triple 1200 RS for about a month, and I found myself really falling in love with this bike. It may be “the most powerful, highest torque, and fastest accelerating Speed Triple ever with a hair-raising new sound,” as Triumph’s press info on the bike states, yet I also felt very confident astride it, negotiating city traffic with as much ease as thrashing it was on empty, curvy country roads. The suspension was dialed a bit stiff for my weight upon first reception, but with an Allen key for the Öhlins front forks preload adjusters and a pair of compression and rebound dials for the single rear Öhlins shock, I was able to soften the ride enough to roll over uneven pavement with less jackhammering of my joints, both around town and out on open roads.
The two words that come to mind when I consider the 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS are seamless and sophisticated. Its electronics package is among the most advanced, sophisticated, fully interconnected and integrated in the history of the brand, not just the Speed Triple’s history. And the package operates seamlessly to provide one of the sweetest rides I’ve ever encountered on a motorcycle, at least in my experience. It’s truly outstanding.
Why yes, I think I will take it for another stroll down through the countryside again, thank you very much.
If I could suggest one element modification, it would be to give the Speedy longer legs. She’s a sprinter, not a marathoner. I averaged about 120 miles on a tank, which isn’t bad for the class, but most riders who buy this Speed Triple will use it to commute and travel as well as canyon carve. A bit more mileage somehow would be most welcome, especially considering fuel prices these days. Otherwise, once I fully familiarized myself with the TFT functions, I could totally see myself buying one of these at some point. We who ride and review motorcycles are often asked in private, “But would you purchase one of those for yourself?” That’s a fair question, and to be honest, although I’ve loved much about every bike I’ve ever reviewed (can’t speak for the rest of the Road Dirt crew), this is one of the rare bikes that I would absolutely love to own. I was that surprised and delighted by it.
For more on the 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS, click here:
For our ride and review, click on the video below and enjoy, without ever leaving this page: