Road tests

Triumph Sprint RS

This is one of those bikes that has launched with the usual fanfare - but nothing exceptional. It's not a challenger for the fastest/lightest/most frightening gongs. Almost workmanlike, and we'll pick it as a quiet success story that will last for some time. Triumph Sprint RS

Triumph deliberately dropped publicising the modular concept of construction some time ago when it branched away from the steel-spine-framed long-stroke triples in favour of kit such as the T509, now the Daytona 955. From the latter bike, we saw the current Speed Triple develop. Then we got essentially the same powerplant in a new frame with the Sprint ST. Now we have the Sprint RS. The modular concept is back, though not adhered to as strictly.

Grab an ST (arguably the best sports tourer in the 750-1000cc class), drop the single-sided swingarm in favour of a more conventional two-sided (and lighter) item. Then pull the bodywork back to half-fairing, lower the handlebars, raise the ride height, and have a comprehensive fiddle with the ancillaries. M'lud, we have an RS.

By now the 955cc injected, four-valve, Triumph triple is a known quantity. The RS runs Speed Triple and ST tuning: which means power claimed to be 110ps at 9200rpm with torque said to be a healthy 9.7kg-m at 6200rpm. Nothing spectacular, but more than enough.

Starting: typical modern Triumph, which means you pull the clutch in to fire up (it can be released to warm up) and don't touch the throttle. The choke is auto.
Suspension: conventional in the extreme, with well-chosen spring and damping rates. You get adjustment for spring preload on the front, plus preload and rebound damping on the rear monoshock.
Brakes: the Daytona, Speed Triple, Sprint ST and Sprint RS all run the same package. The four-pot items on the front discs are among the best in the business with ample power and excellent feedback.
Stability/steering: the changed seating position puts the rider's weight a little more over the front wheel -- a good thing given the more sporty purpose. Otherwise the steering rates as medium and friendly. Stability is not an issue.
Cornering clearance: without taking the bike on to a race track, it seems ample. We note the official seat height has upped over the ST (and others), and suspect this was done in part to provide clearance for the bike's greater sporting expectations.
Performance: the RS, like the ST, has competitive urge from zilch through to the 220 mark, after which more hi-po machinery will take over. Oh dear, what a pity, never mind -- it's a good package.
Transmission: the six-speeder is accurate and requires more effort than usual to shift. This is typical Triumph and improves considerably as the miles roll by. The clutch pull was a little stiff on our bike and we think the lever shape could do with review, as a dog-leg (rather than the current almost straight item) would feel more familiar to most riders. An end tab designed to break off in a minor fall (used by BMW, Honda and others) would be nice.
Rider comfort: much will come down to personal taste, but we prefer the slightly more forward rider stance of the RS to the ST. Legroom is fine, even for tall people. Fairing coverage is minimal, but sufficient to take the worst of the wind pressure off the rider.
The seat height is noticeably up on other road-dedicated Trumpets -- 805mm claimed versus 800 for the Daytona and ST according to the specs. Sit on one and check it out for yourself if this might be a concern.
Pillion comfort: with the high tail-pipe, pillion legroom is limited. Think of the RS as a solo traveller and occasional pillion carrier.
Vibration/harshness: there's the typical triple growl and some vibes that are completely different to a four or twin.
Finish: overall the fit and finish is good. Some of the decals are protected under a clear coat, while the big RS items on the sides of the fairing aren't. The fairing subframe could be tidied up further, though at what cost?
Looks: basically clean lines, with the bonus of the pillion seat cowl thrown in. It's the best-looking machine out of the current 955 range. The colour choices are red, blue or orange, and we favour the latter -- the metallic finish of which changes hue with varying light.
Extras: like many other manufacturers looking for a weight saving, Triumph has opted for an integrated electronic speedo/tacho dash that features a digital readout for the speedo. Numerical speed readouts have been with us for nearly two decades on various bikes and they don't improve with age.
The factory has dropped the centrestand for this bike, which is no loss in our view. Sure they're convenient at times, but a simple workshop stand does the same job and doesn't dig into the tarmac when you least need it on that gnarly left-hander.
Points are scored by the factory for its range of gear for the machine, including dress-up bits, carbon-finish muffler and a combo of dedicated soft and hard luggage. The soft panniers have an accompanying set of removable rear bodywork ëskins', which is a terrific idea that theoretically negates the need for covering the toy in rolls of gaffer tape.
Value for money: at $14,990, it's priced well.

The packaging and pricing of the RS pitches it straight at Honda's justifiably successful VTR1000. When you're in the saddle, it feels and looks narrow like a big twin, while having equivalent performance. Out of the saddle, it looks a very different bag of ferrets.

Without running the two side-by-side, the Triumph feels taller in the saddle, has more fuel range, is better suspended and has more feel in the front brakes. It doesn't have the VTR's unique combo of big-twin thump and urge.

We suspect this will be one of those bikes that will be spoken of very fondly in ten years' time.

Guy Allen

Triumph Sprint RS Specifications

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