Triumph’s Hot Hooligan

The Triumph Speed Triple is the original hooligan motorcycle, born from street squids who wadded up their sportbikes and instead of fixing them proper, ditched the crashed plastic, bolted on handlebars and left the bug eye headlights dangling out in the wind.  Now, Triumph has done the unthinkable.  They have managed the opposite, bolting all those bits back on.

Triumph has taken the naked hooligan Speed Triple 1200 RS, added carbon fiber and plastic, bolted on ridiculously low clip ons and rearset pegs, a single round headlight, race quality brakes and electronically smart suspension.  Triumph calls the result the Speed Triple 1200 RR and it is one wicked sportbike.  Given the invitation to ride one, I flew down to the outskirts of Triumph America’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and took it for a spin.

If the exotic Italian MV Augusta Superveloce lowered its standards and had a love affair with the wild Triumph Speed Triple 1200RS, then the RR would be their offspring.

Riding position on the bikini faired 1200 RR is a huge departure from the naked 1200 RS.  Compared to the RS, the clip-ons on the RR are dropped down a massive 5.3 inches and about 2 inches forward.  Combine this with the higher rearset footpegs and 32.68 inch seat height and you can hear Triumph’s intentions screaming loudly: this bike has a narrow focus, comfort be damned.

Yet the faster you go, the more the riding position makes sense.  The bikini fairing allows a little wind to hit your chest and take weight off your wrists, the footpegs fall naturally underfoot in corners and the seat height ties the rider triangle together nicely.  While these dimensions did not please Road Dirt editor-in-chief Rob Brooks and his shorter stature (sorry Rob), they fit my 6’2” frame comfortably.

The RR has five ride modes: Rain, Road, Sport, Track and Rider Customizable.  All of them can be adjusted on the fly and typically when testing a bike I start with the most restrictive mode and work my way up.

The 1200 RR is perhaps the most racetrack-focused bike in Triumph’s lineup while retaining the addictive soul big triples are known for.  Of all the bikes I’ve tested, it is one of the few that I would permanently add to my garage, even at its MSRP of $20,950.

Not this time.

Maybe it was the heart attack serious riding position; maybe it was the sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa V3 tires; maybe it was the race spec Brembo Stylema calipers, the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 electronically adjustable Semi-Active suspension or maybe it was that sexy bullet nose fairing.  Every detail about this bike spoke to me, challenging me to ask it out, like asking the most beautiful girl in the room for a sexy tango even though you know she is a better dancer than you because in life, some opportunities arise only once. 

I started in Sport mode.

Sport mode gives instant, snappy access to 177 hp and 92 ft.lbs. of torque, so given the claimed weight of 438 lbs, scenery blur is just a minuscule throttle twist away.  Big pistons mean big torque, giving this engine a soul inline fours can’t touch and an exhaust note that gave me goosebumps.  The up-down quick shifter keeps the acceleration coming and is so smooth and refined it could be the best quick shifter in the business.  Full throttle upshifts, along with the power of the 1160cc triple, activates both traction control and the electronic front wheel lift mitigation.  Rapid, hard downshifts on corner entry are seamless without rear wheel hop.

Cornering on the RR is sublime, but some of the tight roads I tested the Triumph on kept cornering speeds down in slower corners and here, the nimbleness of the double-R can be misinterpreted for twitchy.  The double-R is meant for fast sweepers and devours them like I inhale Southern cooking.

Two fingers are all you need for stopping force from the Brembo Stylema calipers and twin 320mm front discs.  Get too aggressive on the front brake and ABS intervention gives a slight tap on the front lever giving you plenty of warning.

The more I rode the RR, the more it begged to be ridden harder.  It looked back at me, asking me when dear rider, when are you going to let me run free, when are you going to unleash all this power, all of this grip and all of this electronic suspension and really let me show you what I can do?  Unfortunately the Georgia thunderstorms, lighting and tornado warnings (!) restricted my riding time making this a quick two-day ride instead of a longer, multi-day test.  However, it didn’t take long for me to come to the obvious conclusion.

Georgia’s April thundershowers meant riding time was limited as EIC Rob Brooks and I rode the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR and Honda’s CB1000R Black Edition together.  Look for the CB1000R test elsewhere on Road Dirt.

This bike is a track day waiting to happen. 

Sticky tires, race quality brakes, electronically adjustable suspension, torquey engine, perfect quick shifter, focused ergonomics, all are built with track attack in mind.  Given the time (and weather window) I would have loved to have ridden the Triumph to Road Atlanta in stock form, made a few adjustments on the electronics, dropped the tire pressure, whipped it around the track for a day in group B, then rode to a local café just to stare at its gleaming paint and carbon fiber bits. 

It’s that good, and that seductive.

I suspect that only a rare few will take the Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR to a track day however, which is a shame.  This bike has the potential to embarrass those who look at it as just eye candy, or a dressed up hooligan bike.  Triumph has turned the hooligan-minded Speed Triple RS into a track weapon and flogging the RR around a racetrack and humiliating squids on Yamaha R1s just might be the best hooligan move of all.


*Check out our all-ride video of the RR, without ever leaving this page-

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