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Riding The 2022 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RR: A (Super) Sportbike For The Street
Story by Michael Gougis
Video produced by Sandra Gougis
At a few new model intros, I’ve felt as though the company men are just going through the motions, and sometimes it’s hard to blame them. They may have been forced to design a bike to too low a price point, or the corporate office has demanded that the U.S. subsidiary offer a model that Americans likely won’t be interested in, or there’s just nothing exciting about the bike, or the lead project engineer would be just as happy designing dishwashers.
That was not the case at the international launch of Triumph’s 2022 Speed Triple 1200 RR, held in and around Malaga, Spain.
Chief Engineer Stuart Wood was positively bubbling over with pride in the new machine the entire time, and no wonder; one of his Triumph colleagues called him “the father, the godfather, and the best friend” of the model. He was so enthusiastic that, at the test track where part of the intro took place, he was holding an intake valve from the engine of the new machine, showing off its hollow stem like a proud parent, explaining to anybody who would listen how the engineers made the valve train lighter to get more rpm out of the new engine.
The new Speed Triple 1200 RR is, on one hand, a variation of the very capable Speed Triple 1200 RS that Triumph introduced earlier this year. On the other hand, the changes Triumph engineers made to morph it into the RR model give the new bike its own personality, its own set of capabilities, and allow it to deliver an entirely different and more satisfying riding experience.
In short, the bike hauls the mail, handles fabulously, is easy to ride, and is stunning to look at. No wonder Wood was so excited!
The basis core of the Speed Triple 1200 RR is the Speed Triple 1200 RS, new for the 2022 model year. A twin-spar/trellis aluminum-alloy frame wraps around a new 1160cc, three-cylinder, DOHC engine that spins to 11,150 rpm; when we put an RS test bike on a dyno in California, it kicked out 153.41 bhp and 81.73 lbs.-ft. of torque, and Triumph says the RR powerplant is identical to the RS engine.
The electronic aids are the same, with five riding modes as well as cornering traction control, cornering ABS, wheelie control, and clutchless up-and-down-shifting, all linked to a six-axis Continental IMU. Brembo Stylema radial-mount monobloc front calipers work with 320mm (12.6-inch) discs and an adjustable master cylinder; a single Brembo rear caliper and a Brembo master cylinder provide braking at the rear.
The biggest functional upgrade is the suspension. The Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 (S-EC 2.0) system provides semi-active, continually adjusting damping control in the 43mm inverted forks and in the RSU-model shock in the rear. There are three settings for the semi-active mode–Comfort, Normal and Dynamic. In each, the system monitors input from the throttle, the IMU, and brake-line pressure to operate four motors that adjust damping settings to provide optimal damping for that moment. Once it decides what it wants to do, the system completes its changes in 0.2-second. Or the rider can choose to turn off the semi-active function and use fixed damping settings. All the settings can be changed to suit rider preference, and one of the really nice features of this system is that with a push of a button, everything can be reset to factory default settings. I sometimes wish my life had that button…
The other major difference is ergonomic/stylistic. Along with a new frame-mounted half-fairing, there’s a new seating position. Compared to the RS, the bars are 5.3 inches lower and two inches further forward, and the pegs are 0.6-inch higher and one inch further back. It sounds like a huge difference, but Triumph’s Wood says the riding position is less extreme than the one on the company’s 765 Daytona model.
The bike also comes with Pirelli Supercorsa SP V3 tires; full connectivity to a smartphone; cruise control; and a 5-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) dash. The bikes I rode also had heated grips, and were all painted in the Red Hopper & Storm Grey finish, which comes at a premium pricing over the Crystal White & Storm Grey color scheme. All the changes add approximately one kilo (2.2 pounds) to the machine’s overall weight, which Triumph claims is 438.7 pounds wet.
Styling is inspired by–but not an imitation of–the classic café racer look. The fairing surrounds a single round headlight, and various panels are made of carbon-fiber, as is the front fender. The aesthetics are cohesive–the bike looks as if it was designed to be a modern café racer all along–and there are little touches like illuminated switch gear and an engraved upper triple clamp that add to the premium feel. Suggested retail pricing starts at $20,950.
Riding The Triumph
Three-cylinder motorcycles (a.k.a. Triples) always sound distinctive, and Triumph has done an excellent job of creating a pleasing exhaust note for the new Speed Triple. Climb on and the riding position is indeed less sporty than the current supersport machines, with some but not too much weight on the wrists and a comfortable, supportive saddle.
The slipper/assist clutch has a light pull, and the clutchless shifting is slick enough, although it feels as though the ignition cutout time for the upshifts is a tick too long, causing the chassis to pitch a bit when the suspension is in Comfort Mode.
Comfort Mode is a lot like a well set-up touring bike. Someone had dropped the word “plush” into my ear before the ride began, but cruising through the highway leading to the city of Ronda en route to the mountain road route, the bike just soaked up highway imperfections. This is particularly important when the seating position puts the rider into a more forward stance, where jolts through the forks are transmitted directly into the wrists.
On a twisty mountain road, Comfort Mode allows the bike to move around, although far less than would be expected from something with such a supple ride. A quick switch to Sport or Track Mode kicks the Öhlins system into the Normal or Dynamic setting, which delivers less comfort on the street but more mid-corner stability.
On the track at Circuito Ascari Resort, rain and cold temperatures left patches of water around the circuit for the entire time we were there, but I managed to find enough pavement that was dry enough for my comfort level to test some of the claims made by the Triumph team. There are a couple of long, banked corners at the track, and the Speed Triple RR railed through those with absolute stability; I could not detect when the suspension self-adjusted. Instead, it just continuously functioned like any high-quality system would. When I nailed the brakes approaching corners, the system detected the sharp braking input and kept the machine stable throughout that phase of corner entry. Braking is as powerful as I expected from a full Brembo system, and is sensitive enough at the lever that two fingers provided more power than I needed on the street.
The engine remains the same torquey beast, with redline coming in second and third gears more rapidly than I anticipated, the vibration interesting in its uniqueness but not annoying.
It’s remarkable how much of a difference a riding position can make. While the chassis, engine and brakes are shared with the RS, the RR’s sportier crouch made it much easier for me to feel inputs from the forks and to more accurately feed in throttle.
In the full day of riding, I felt most at home on the dry, warm run down from altitude toward the Mediterranean on A-397, the Road to Ronda–one of the best roads I’ve ever ridden. With my body weight supported by my chest on the tank, positioning my body for cornering was easy and effortless, and the bike flowed through the corners with confidence and speed. I shifted only infrequently, and traffic was typically quickly dispensed with by twisting the throttle–big torque just makes life better!
It’s perhaps not surprising that I enjoyed the rapid street ride most of all–it is the environment for which the Speed Triple RR is designed. Wood made it clear that the bike is street-focused, not track-oriented, even though it is track capable. It’s not competing against supersport machines, but it offers an alternative for riders who don’t want a track weapon. Within its design parameters, the bike does everything a street rider will reasonably want it to do, with precision and comfort, while delivering the experience that a sport rider is looking for.