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Triumph calls the 2006 Speed Triple an Urban Sport Bike. While I’m sure the Brit would be equally at home on the winding country lanes of the UK or the roundabouts of London, I gave it a suburban workout on the highways and byways of Hampton Roads.
The Triumph Speed Triple is a fairly tall bike. The 32.1 inch seat height forces shorter riders such as myself up to their tip toes, but the bike is light and balanced enough that it doesn’t present problems standing at a stop light or kicking the stand down in the garage.
You sit on top of the Speed Triple, sort of like a dirt bike or the mechanical bull at a country bar, but the riding position is comfortable with an easy reach to the bars and pegs. The gauges are laid out well and easy to read, particularly the large digital speedometer display. I had a bit of trouble adjusting my shoulders out of the mirrors, but that is a gripe easily and inexpensively fixed in the aftermarket.
The 2006 Triumph Speed Triple is big on personality and has, in my opinion, one of the sweetest engines ever bolted to a motorcycle. The 1050cc triple is quiet, as you’d expect from a stock motorcycle, but not overly muffled, providing a pleasing tone that gets better as the revs rise. Throttle response and power delivery from the fuel injected motor is flawless. Around town the bike is gentle and forgiving, making good, even power on the low end of the tach.
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The real fun begins at six grand, though. Remember that friend you had as a kid who your mom made you stop hanging around with because he got you in trouble? Roll on the throttle and the Speed Triple becomes that buddy. Power wheelies are effortless in the lower half of the gearbox. Twist hard on the throttle and the power explodes, carrying the front tire just off the contact patch far past the speed limit, whether you like it or not. The large digital numbers on the speedometer climb steadily, reading clearly right under your nose, like your mother wagging a finger saying, “I told you that boy was going to get you into trouble!” You know it’s a bad idea, but you don’t want the Speed Triple to think you’re a sissy. The numbers keep climbing and now you’re guilty by association.
When you finally come to your senses, or realize you’re about to blow past your exit, dual four piston Nissin radial front calipers snatch the 320mm floating discs and haul you down to posted speeds as fast as you exceeded them. The bike turns in fast and predictably for the exit ramp, exactly where you point it. The 180/55ZR17 and 120/70ZR17 Michelin Pilot Power tires and fully adjustable suspension provide good rider feedback, and with smooth inputs the Triumph is fast and confident. That said, the Speed Triple is not a bike for the inexperienced or faint of heart. Chop the throttle – or grab too much – and you’re riding that mechanical bull. A certain amount of finesse is required when you’re putting 128 horsepower to the pavement through a couple inches of rubber.
A habitual modifier myself, I couldn’t help but notice how easy Triumph made it to strip down the already minimalist Speed Triple. The stock short stalk turn signals and stubby rear fender are nice pieces as they sit, but for those who prefer a super clean look, or are planning on riding track days those vestigial pieces are connected by just a handful of screws and wires.
The Triumph Speed Triple’s styling has a unique charm, but tends to be a love it or hate it affair. This incarnation of the triple is instantly recognizable retaining all of its trademark cues – twin bug eye headlights, single sided swingarm, and uniquely formed frame tubes. With this update the Triumph also received a bump in engine displacement from 955 to 1050cc, larger brakes, 43mm USD forks with dual spring rates and adjustable preload, rebound, and compression damping. The rear monoshock boasts the same adjustments. Twin high mount mufflers and five spoke alloy wheels round out the updates.
In a world of lookalike sport bikes the Triumph Speed Triple stands out. For a rider in search of a fast, fun bike with a different flavor, the Speed Triple delivers.
This article was originally written for Octane Magazine in 2006. The 2006 Triumph Speed Triple demo bike was provided by D&D Import Cycles in Norfolk, VA.