The quest for speed never slows down. And in the motorcycle world, no bike-maker defines unadulterated acceleration over the generations like Triumph. For nearly two decades, the Triumph Speed Triple has been hailed as the king of roadsters by motorcycle media worldwide.
When introduced in 1994, the Speed Triple was a modern-day reincarnation of the Triumph Speed Twin, a bike that goes all the way back to 1938, the year Marvel Comics introduced Superman.
Powered by a 498cc vertical twin-cylinder engine, the Speed Twin caused some eye-popping, hair-blowing, lip-flapping sensations during its early days. More than a half-century later, the Speed Triple was born as a result of the new Triumph Triple series of modular engines, which also powered the popular Trident, Daytona sport bike and Thunderbird retro bike.
The original three-cylinder Speed Triple boasted a powerful 885cc engine that was carbureted and water-cooled and had a rugged five-speed transmission. (There was a 750cc version for some European markets.) In 1998, Triumph released its first generation of fuel-injected bikes, including the new T509 Speed Triple. It still featured an 885cc engine but with a boost to 108hp. Surrounding the new engine was an all-aluminum perimeter chassis with a single-sided swingarm. Add these features to an upgraded suspension, and the result was a much-better-handling bike. But by far the most distinctive feature of the T509 was its unique, bug-eye headlights. This look was popular with the custom streetfighter bikes built in England and France in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and its addition here made the new Speed Triple the first true factory streetfighter.
At the turn of the century, the Speed Triple’s powerplant grew to 995cc, producing a whopping 130 hp. In 2005, the fourth-generation Speed Triple was introduced, sporting a new 1050cc engine. Since then, advancements have been made yearly, bringing the Speed Triple to the pinnacle among streetfighter or naked bikes – motorcycles built for speed and performance with no wasted add-ons. Motorcyclist Magazine named the heavily updated fifth-generation Speed Triple the “Naked” Bike of the Year in 2011 while Motorcycle.com named it top roadster, bar none, by calling it the “the best total package, with excellent brakes, a solid-performing chassis and of course that wonderful inline Triple. But as important as all that stuff is, when it came down to it, we just had the most fun with the Speed.”
The latest iteration of the Speed Triple, the Speed Triple R, is arriving in showrooms now. Check it out at your local dealer.