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Triumph's champ of play, not finery THROTTLE JOCKEY

The Street Triple will fill the need for speed and hard braking, but it's lacking a certain ease on commutes.

December 26, 2007|SUSAN CARPENTER

The 2008 Street Triple is Triumph's version of a rock music supergroup. The British manufacturer has taken two of its stars -- the Daytona 675 sport bike and the Speed Triple street fighter -- and put them on a single stage.

The result is something like Bono fronting the White Stripes. It's a bold and exciting concept on paper, but it doesn't entirely succeed.

Triumph's goal was to harness the best attributes of each bike and create the Velvet Revolver of pedal-to-the-metal motorcycles, but there's something off about this bike that I can't quite figure out. In its attempt to make an affordable and fierce middleweight naked bike, Triumph has made a motorcycle that's light, powerful -- and unrefined.

Looks-wise, the Street Triple takes much of its style from its hulking big brother, the 1,050 cc Speed Triple. It has the same Marty Feldman headlights, Miss Prim seating position and dirt bike handlebars.

But pop the hood and it's pure Daytona. The Street Triple uses the same aluminum twin spar frame, dual-sided swingarm, cast aluminum alloy 17-inch wheels and 3.8-gallon gas tank as its sport-oriented fraternal twin. The 675 cc, in-line three-cylinder power plant is also the same; it's just been retuned for more grunt off the bottom end and a smooth progression of power that will satisfy riders' need for speed well before they hit the red. What that means on the street is quick and brutish performance. The Street Triple is a Marlon Brando of a bike that comes off the line with its fists swinging. The throttle is unusually sensitive, which was great when I was accelerating but annoying when I was trying to hold it steady.

The throttle, which works with the same 44 mm throttle body and sequential electronic fuel injection as the Daytona, didn't just respond to my twisting of the grip but to whatever imperfections I happened to be rolling over on the road; it made for a frustratingly jerky ride on less than pristine pavement.

For straight-up sport riding, the throttle wasn't an issue because all you do is ride like a lunatic and brake hard, both of which the bike does well, even if the front brakes have been downgraded from the four-piston radial system on the Daytona to a less expensive and more conventional two-piston Nissin. But for casual riding and commuting on streets and freeways, the Street Triple wasn't as impressive as I wanted it to be.

There was something vaguely cheap feeling about it. The transmission felt a little clunky and the finish wasn't, well, finished. On a naked bike, it can be difficult to hide and/or route the cables in a way that's aesthetically appealing. I found the rat's nest of cables to be particularly unartful on the Street Triple -- especially the front brake cable, which ran over the top of the front fender.

Priced at a low $7,999 -- the same price as Triumph's carbureted, retro models -- the Street Triple seems to have cut corners with less-than-finessed engineering so Triumph could keep the price low and lure entry-level buyers of exotics away from Ducati and KTM, both of which offer steep competition.

If Triumph was hoping to have another rock with the Street Triple, I'm afraid it's ended up far afield of Billboard.




2008 Triumph Street Triple

Base price: $7,999

Powertrain: Liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, in-line three-cylinder, six-speed

Displacement: 675 cc

Bore by stroke: 74 mm by 52.3 mm

Maximum horsepower: 107 at 11,700 rpm

Maximum torque: 51 pound-feet at 9,100 rpm

Seat height: 31.6 inches

Dry weight: 367 pounds

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