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Story by Dustin A. Woods, Photos by Dave Pratte and Dustin A. Woods
While I may have picked up the odd bad riding habit over the years, I have never forgotten the first thing my riding instructors told me; "Always get on a bike with the right attitude, it will determine how you ride". No matter how much some journalists may deny it, the context surrounding the pickup of a press bike can often skew a first impression.
A fight with the old lady, infuriating motorists, a rude receptionist; they can all have an impact on your mood as you swing your leg over the saddle. The evening I picked up the 2011 Triumph Street Triple R, I had worked a 10-hour day, it was five degrees, it was dark, I had battled rush-hour traffic for two hours, I was in a foreign neighborhood and it was drizzling rain.
Trying my best to ignore both the immediate circumstances as well as the ones that led up to them, I fired up the Triumph and was immediately calmed by its eager and distinctive idle. Popping my visor into place and kicking up the side stand, I set off into what was now a full-blown rain shower. Lovely. As if sensing my apprehension, the Triple R was the first thing that day which ran smoothly. With seamless gear changes and a torquey, yet manageable power band that growled more than it screamed, I found myself grinning from ear to ear as I headed for the warmth and solitude of home.
The LCD multi-functional instrument pack offers a digital odometer, a trip computer, an analog tach, a gear indicator, programmable gear change lights and even a lap timer. Strangely enough, what the cluster doesn't include is a gas gauge which left me guessing at how much range I had at my disposal with the 17.4L tank. While they may be programmable, the vibrant blue LED gear change lights shined directly at my visor that entire chilly inaugural ride.
Over the course of my week with this Intense Orange (a new colour for 2011) middleweight streetfighter, I encountered a variety of roads through starkly contrasting weather conditions. No matter where I took the Street Triple, it felt right at home and exuded confidence in the saddle. Tipping the scales at 189 kg (416 lbs), it isn't the sprightliest nor heftiest in the streetfighter arena, but it is an agile and well-balanced machine ready and willing to take on any contender.
The test of any motorcycle (and rider for that matter) is how it reacts to unpredictable or adverse situations. One morning as I headed up a moderately graded hill on equally cold pavement and tires, I rolled back the throttle a little too enthusiastically. This rookie error in judgment caused the rear tire to lose friction, sending the hind quarters of the bike to embark on a journey of its own. I have encountered similar situations on twitchy crotch rockets where it remained unclear for an undeterminable amount of time whether I would exit the ordeal unscathed.
Instinctively rolling off the throttle of this bright orange Brit ever so gently, I managed to hold a full-on drift before easing the bike back into a straight line and continuing on my merry way. Not something I would like to make a habit of, but it certainly proved how manageable and intuitive this mount really is.
I initially fell in love with riding years ago because it's such a visceral experience; the senses are overwhelmed with all of the sights, sounds and smells that one is secluded from when in a car. Pleasant and unobtrusive as it may be at idle, the 675cc inline triple is downright wicked as you approach higher rpms through the close ratio 6-speed gearbox, making the experience that much more stirring.
As if the readily available 105 hp and 50 ft-lbs of torque wasn't enough to coax my impetuous right hand into making bad decisions, the STR's twin high level pipes let out a freakish, otherworldly growl as the 1iquid-cooled, DOHC 3-cylinder approaches redline.
Reeling in all that velocity is no simple undertaking, but the STR does it miraculously well through the use of twin 308-mm floating front discs with Nissin 4-piston radial calipers in the front and a single 220-mm disc with a single piston caliper in the rear.
Adding to the potency of the R package is the fully-adjustable front and rear suspension. The front end features Kayaba 41-mm inverted forks with adjustable preload, rebound and compression damping while the setup in the rear includes a Kayaba monoshock with piggyback reservoir, adjustable for rebound and compression damping.
With an MSRP of $11,199, it's difficult to find a more well-rounded or entertaining mount in the streetfighter arena. Oftentimes describing a bike as unique or modern are euphemisms for ugly, but the STR somehow manages to look modern and chic, yet exude a classic, sophisticated style.
For those looking for a unique bike with an equally arousing exhaust note, look no further than the Triumph Street Triple R. It's been a long time since a bike consistently put that big of a smile on my face, regardless of its few shortcomings or how bad of a day I'd had.
~ Agile, intuitive handling characteristics
~ Exhaust note is intoxicating at all rpms
~ Unique, attractive styling
~ Delayed throttle roll-on
~ Small turning radius challenging in tight situations
~ Blue LED lighting on dash is distracting and annoying
~ Is a fuel gauge really too much to ask?