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It wouldn’t be wrong to say Triumph’s Speed Triple is the original hooligan. At a time when motorcycle stunters were ripping plastic panels off their sportsbikes, Triumph came up with this beast to cater to those who didn’t spend their weekends scrubbing knee sliders at racetracks. It was clearly aimed at enthusiasts looking for the thrill of riding, be it on daily commutes or in the hills on weekends. It was always meant to be maniacal to ride. What’s life without a bit of fun, no? Without the midrange punch, for how long could you possibly hang on to the clip-ons of your supersport machine, waiting for the power to kick in?
So what’s this uber-cool Triumph that was famously ridden by Tom Cruise in the Hollywood blockbuster Mission Impossible 2 all about? Motorcycling madness at its best? Perhaps, I would have said before I rode it. Having ridden it now, I can vouch for the Speed Triple’s hooligan behaviour. It’s almost as if the motorcycle detests being ridden on two wheels. There are some lethal doses of poke at the bottom end of the rev range that makes pulling wheelies unimaginably easy, almost as if you don’t even need to try. The best bit though is that this is all friendly stuff – not the kind of scariness you would associate with the power wheelies that wet-your-pants quick 200bhp litre-class superbikes are known for.
If you do not believe me, you could search for Kevin Carmichael videos on YouTube, who swears by the Speed Triple. If there ever was a motorcycle that was born out of the need to ride on either wheel, this is it. But there’s a lot more to its character than just being a stunt-worthy 1000cc machine. Even if you aren’t the wheelie-fanatic that I am, the Speed endears itself to you with its friendliness. It is one of the most easy to ride motorcycles in its class, one that is dominated by far more powerful and modern motorcycles laden with electronic packages.
Bikes like the Aprilia Tuono V4, BMW S 1000 R and KTM 1290 Superduke R are derivatives of their faired siblings with some tinkering to make the power more usable, unlike the Speed which was born out of the need to thrill in the real world without scaring its rider. If motorcycles were a drug, the Speed Triple would be rated very high for its potency. It is easily the motorcycle Triumph as a brand is identified with, as its repertoire as an explosive yet affable streetfighter remains unchallenged.
The bike was updated in 2011, when it ditched the famous twinround headlamps in favour of the bug-eyed unit it sports now. Many found the design to be quirky, but I think they go well with the bike’s nature, along with the stubby design, minimal bodywork, tiny flyscreen and underseat exhausts. However, it is the single-sided swingarm that takes the cake, adding to the visual appeal, and is a prime differentiator between the Speed and the smaller Street Triple. The Speed Triple’s design is very different from the current edgy, futuristic design cues modern-day nakeds have, with a more favourable appearance as compared to the brutish, alien-esque looks of newer machines.
A simple motorcycle it is, without too many electronic packages spoiling the party. All the Speed gets in the name of electronics is an ABS unit that can be switched off when in the mood for stoppies. The bike was meant to be raw and to wheelie at will, which is why there’s no traction control either. But that also means you are out there on your own – the liquid-cooled inline triple displacing 1050cc produces 125bhp and 105Nm of torque, more than enough to have the front wheel pawing high up in the air or coax you into powering out of a corner sideways. It is by far one of the easiest 1000cc machines to wheelie, and does not intimidate you. The front end comes up gently on power, or you could use the clutch to get it up.
Should you choose to ride it sanely, the Speed will not disappoint either, enthralling with its crisp throttle response and linear acceleration. It is one of the sweetest handlers in its class with a front end light enough to allow quick directional changes and nimbleness comparable to smaller motorcycles. On the go the Speed belies being a large motorcycle, and with a kerb weight of 214kg it isn’t exactly light, but there was nary a moment when it felt heavy. The 190-section Metzeler at the back is more than happy to break traction at a twist of your wrist but it also provides loads of grip when needed, especially when leaned over.
For Rs. 10.7 lakh ex-showroom New Delhi, the Speed Triple is a lot of motorcycle, especially since it undercuts the Japanese and European options by over a lakh at least. The Japanese and European machines may be more powerful and boast cutting edge electronics, but the Speed Triple touches your heart and thrills you with its brisk performance, entertaining you throughout. In the right hands, this is perhaps one of the best 1000cc stunt machines, with a stonker of an inline triple engine and has more than earned its stripes in the books of stunters the world over. And for someone like me, I cannot think of a friendlier 1000cc motorcycle that will let me pamper the inner 16-year-old, who started stunting over a decade ago just for kicks.