Triumph Speed Triple, a legacy of triple-cylinder speed

It is hard to pinpoint with any accuracy when the first streetfighter motorcycles appeared. As a motorcycle style, streetfighters were born of sportsbike riders, having crashed their full-fairing racing steeds, putting them back on the road sans bodywork and with taller handlebars, either through necessity or lack of finances for a proper repair.

Streetfighters started appearing on the city streets of London and France just after the mid-80s, and were much favoured of riders who loved indulging in wheelies, stoppies and stunts, all while tearing along the roads at breakneck speeds. The design style of the streetfighter was especially beloved of a particular tribe of hooligans, the “Bloodrunners”, riders responsible for delivering blood bags where required to hospitals.

Recognising this, Triumph, in their infinite wisdom, birthed the idea of the factory streetfighter, calling it the Speed Triple back in 1994. Not simply a superbike with the fairings removed and taller handlebars, the Triumph Speed Triple was designed for road right out of the box.

That stupidly illegal speeds and more time spent with the front wheel up in the air was its raison d’ĂȘtre meant that the Speed Triple rapidly became a serious contender in the naked sportsbike stakes. This put it toe-to-toe with the other naked sports of the time, the Ducati Monster.

Ahead of the launch of the 2021 Triumph Street Triple 1200 RS, scheduled for January 26, the boys from Hinckley took a little trip down memory lane. Posing in a rogues’ gallery of three-cylinder mayhem across the decades, here’s a look at how the Speed Triple has evolved since its introduction in 1994.

The first of the Speed Triples as we know it was the T509, which came with a 885 cc inline triple, producing 108 hp. The T509 was given a major update in 1999, when it received the 955 cc triple, with power now 110 hp and retaining the dual headlamps.

Moving away from the T509, the Speed Triple received a redesign by Gareth Davies in 2002, with the bodywork extensively revised. A change in engine casting saw a reduction in weight of 7.7 kg to 196 kg and the Speed Triple now carrying the designation ‘955i’.

The last of the 955i Speed Triples went to market in 2004, its place being taken by the Speed Triple 1050 in 2005. Designed by Frascoli Rodolfo, also responsible for designs such as the Triumph Tiger Tramontana, Moto Guzzi Griso and Norge as well as the Bordone Ferrari Dakar and modern day Suzuki Katana, the 1050 Speed Triple was now progenitor to the 675 Street Triple, the two naked sportsbikes sharing styling and design cues.

An update came in 2011, with the 1050 triple leaned on to produce 133 hp and 111 NM of torque. The design departure from twin round headlights to the “bug eye” units was a polarising feature of the updated 1050 Speed Triple, with opinions divided almost equally between like and loathe.

In 2016, the 1050 engine got its last major update, with ride-by-wire, five ride modes and switchable traction control and ABS for those riders with holing tendencies. Weight was now 212 kg and power claimed by Triumph to be 140 hp at 9,500 rpm and 112 Nm at 7,850 rpm.

With the bowing out of the 1050 Speed Triple, the 2021 Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS now takes centre stage. What is new is of course the displacement, though we can tell you improvements have been made in the area of power and weight.

Check in tomorrow for the official launch of the 2021 Speed Triple 1200 RS for all the details on England’s new streetfighter.

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