Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Ode to my Speed Triple

I always had the feeling that the time to write about my Triumph Speed Triple motorcycle would be just after coming back from a ride on it. This is finally that day.

The Triumph motorcycle company is a legendary brand that has been alive for over 100 years, a year longer than Harley-Davidson. Over the span of about 50 years, they gradually became one of the most well-known and well-respected brands of motorcycles in the world, especially loved in the US and Canada. Then, however, they were sold to BSA and the seeds of their near demise were sown. When the Japanese manufacturers began offering very competitive and more reliable bikes at a good price in the 1970s, the market share of British motorcycle manufacturers began plummeting. In the early 80s, Triumph's factory closed up shop – however, the brand was purchased by John Bloor and kept alive building small quantities of motorcycles while his R&D department began designing a new series. Their resurgence began in the early 90s and in 1994, they released several new models, including the Speed Triple. The Speed Triple ended up becoming their flagship and best selling model.

In other words, what we have here is a legendary company that messed up, earned a second chance at success on sheer grit and determination and did all this with the style and character at which the British excel. Imagine Rocky 2 crossed with James Bond written by someone with the mad writing skills of a Joss Whedon and you get the idea.

The Speed Triple well deserves its position at the head of Triumph’s product line. A style of bike that is variously described as “streetfighter”, “naked bike” or “power standard”, it’s appearance is that of a lean, compact and very imposing professional boxer; its trademark dual headlight front view tweaks that impression to the look of bugeyed and slightly mad street tough. This impression is not misleading in any sense. (Note embedded image of fiercely glowing dual headlights in the darkness.)

The Speed Triple’s 1050cc motor is also used in various states of tune by other Triumph bikes, from the Tiger adventure-tourer to the Sprint ST sport-tourer. But the tune of the Speed Triple contains its essence. It’s sound, a scream much like Bruce Lee preparing to kick 7 people in the jaw in one leap, is unmistakable. It has bucketloads of torque, offering eager acceleration in any gear. It offers ready power everywhere. This engine is bloody fantastic and has been cunningly designed to facilitate any type of ride you want to have: from “a sedate, restrained ride” to “a spirited adventure ride”, all the way to “a barking mad TAKE MY LICENSE IF YOU CAN CATCH ME BARNEY FIFE lunacy”.

When I ride the Speed Triple, I always come away feeling like either a discriminating rider with good taste or a bad person who runs with a wolf pack and howls at the moon. And in today’s namby pamby, risk-averse, mother-may-I society, that sure puts a smile on my face!

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