2020 Triumph Street Triple RS review, test ride
15th Oct 2019 2:04 pm
Updated for 2020, the RS packs in a Euro 5 engine with a better mid-range punch
What is it?
Improvement is quite a difficult task, if you ask me. I cannot fathom how hard it must be to take what is already an incredibly impressive product and do something that'll raise it to the next level. This brings with it the challenge of not going overboard with the changes – or worse, spoiling the entire recipe.
The Triumph Street Triple RS is one such motorcycle; it simply blew our socks off when we tested it, back in 2017. For a usable street naked to offer nearly 600cc supersport-levels of precision handling and pure thrill at that price point was unseen and unfelt on a motorcycle in our country. It pretty much came in and laid the benchmark for easy-to-ride street-naked motorcycles, with a streak of wild performance in their repertoire. So when Triumph announced that they've updated the Street Triple RS for 2020, our anticipation about what they'd come up with shot through the roof. Is it still the Street Triple RS we know?
What does it look like?
When you look at the new RS you instantly recognise it as one of the bikes in the Triumph Street Triple family. I believe that has to do with those signature twin headlamps – which I personally like, because they lend the Street Triple RS an identity of its own. While I didn't mind the bug-eyed look of the outgoing model, the new motorcycle's sharper, angrier eyes makes it appear a lot more focused and ready to attack! Triumph has also restyled most of the body work – like the belly pan, tail section panels and the area around the radiator shroud – resulting in a sleeker-looking machine. And even though this Street Triple looks fresh and better than before, the fantastic quality of every component on the motorcycle has remained constant. From the glossy-silver paint job (previously matte silver) to the stitching on the seat and the carbon-fibre-tipped exhausts, everything looks and feels premium to the touch – and if you think about it, there aren't many motorcycles in the same price band that feel as worth the money as the Street Triple RS.
It's not just these factors alone that enhance the appeal of the new RS. The large TFT display features a new range of layouts (depending on the riding mode) and colour options to suit individual preferences. That said, the numbers on the RPM readout were particularly hard to read, especially while riding at a quick pace. Keeping this niggle aside, the screen does offer useful information and for the first time on a Triumph Street Triple, you can also pair your phone to the screen via Bluetooth. However, to do so, you'd need to buy an accessory module that'll connect with the phone. Once installed, you can see turn-by-turn navigation (via the My Triumph App) on the instrument panel; as well as operate the phone, music or even a GoPro via the five-way joystick on the left switch cube.
While the Go Pro bit is understandably fancy, in today's day and age, Triumph should have at least offered Bluetooth connectivity as standard. Nevertheless, when you fire-up that sweet, in-line triple motor, everything else is easily forgotten.
What’s the updated engine like?
The 765cc motor has always been a gem but the mad scientists in Triumph's Moto2 engine development team found that there's a lot they could do to optimise the RS' motor; and since the Euro 5 regulations were upon them, Triumph concentrated most of their efforts in the engine department.
The peak power, at 123hp is exactly the same as before but peak torque has gone up to 79Nm from the previous 77Nm, albeit at slightly lower RPMs. Triumph has also managed to enhance power and torque in the mid-range by 9 percent; and the results are noticeable.
While riding through the little coastal town of Cartagena, Spain, it was easy to stay in higher gears at low speeds and use all that mid range grunt to go past traffic without the need to shift. But besides the engine's tractable nature, the sweet midrange also helped in exiting corners quickly while blasting down some spectacular canyon roads in the region.
But that's not all, because, in the latter half of the day, we were taken to the Circuto Cartagena, a fast, smooth and technical racetrack to experience more of the RS' prowess. Those long development hours have also resulted in a new intake system and a 7 percent drop in rotational inertia achieved by machining a lighter crank, clutch and balancer; while eliminating the anti-backlash gears, which further reduces the mass and hence, inertia. There's also a new exhaust system that has twin catalytic converters for a smoother flow. In layman terms, this means you have an eager and even more responsive engine than before. This is apparent as you wring the throttle and fly down Cartagena's short start-finish straight, going past 200kph before braking hard for Turn 1. The swiftness with which the RS gathers pace is exhilarating and quite a rush, to be honest; and surprising, considering it's a Euro 5 engine. Even if you go a little overboard, the traction control system's got your back. In fact, Triumph has also refined the electronic rider modes (Road, Rain, Sport, Track and Custom) to suit the new character of the engine.
Speaking of electronics, what really helps add to the experience is the new up-and-down (previously only up) quickshifter that allows you to pin the throttle open and bang up and down the gearbox without using the slip-and-assist clutch. This system really helps the rider focus on the track (we were riding on it for the first time) rather than bothering about pulling the clutch lever and blipping the throttle before downshifting. The only gripe one could have is that the system could've been a little smoother during the downshifts, but that's not something that's bothersome; because you'll be too busy revelling in the bike's sweet handling. It's a pity to see that Triumph still hasn't gone for an IMU, because those systems really are a step ahead in terms of finesse and control.
What’s it like to ride?
Triumph thankfully refrained from doing anything with the twin-spar aluminium frame or the fully adjustable Showa fork and Öhlins STX40 monoshock – both of which have been carried forward from the previous model. They make the Street Triple RS such an involving motorcycle in the bends. For the road, Triumph had set up the suspension to offer a plush ride so that the trip around town was quite comfortable. Plus Spain's roads aren't anything like ours so I won't really comment about ride quality. If memory serves me right, though, the ride on the previous bike we rode in India was firm but never felt jarring. I suspect that will be the case with the 2020 RS as well.
On the racetrack, with the suspension dialled-in perfectly, the RS handled as if it were on rails, tipping in with little effort and staying true to the intended line. Cartagena's mixed bag of slow chicanes, fast corners and hairpin turns did little to upset the RS' rhythm as the bike flowed from corner to corner. To me, the RS' handling rewards the experienced with more confidence to push harder while remaining forgiving in the hands of the novice (many of who were new to the circuit) who end up correcting lines mid-corner in the quest of improvement.
Credit for this level of confidence is also due to the astounding grip of the third-generation Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP tyres that the RS' are shod with right from the factory. But there's nothing more assuring than a set of great brakes and Brembo's M50 Monoblocs on the RS deserve a separate ode for their ultra sharp performance.
Should you buy one?
The 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS cements itself as a fantastic all-round machine for those who simply expect their motorcycle to do it all. From tackling traffic-infested streets to cutting loose on a racetrack, the RS can handle everything you throw at it without compromising on comfort, build quality or equipment. Triumph India will launch the bike in January 2020 and is aiming to stick with the current prices. For its versatility and list of top-drawer equipment, the new RS is certainly better than ever – and not to forget, it looks nicer too!