PH2 RIDDEN: TRIUMPH DAYTONA 675R
What difference does a bit of bling make?
Adding Ohlins suspension and uprated brakes to an existing model has long been the quick-fix path to creating a premium variant in the motorcycle world. The European manufacturers have always been particularly good at this with Ducati and Aprilia leading the way with their 'R', 'SP' or 'Factory' versions. Early this year Triumph followed suit with the 675R - its first 'R' model.
To add even more value, Triumph dipped into its official parts and accessories catalogue and added a quickshifter and some carbon bling, while the paint shop tarted up the bike's look with a unique paint scheme featuring a red sub-frame and a funky new 'Triumph' logo on the tank. And it worked; this year half of all Daytona 675 sales have been the R version, which is why for 2012 Triumph have created the Speed Triple R, essentially a Speed Triple with uprated suspension, wheels and brakes. So what's all the fuss about?
The level of feedback and assurance delivered by the Ohlins forks is very impressive with the front feeling incredibly planted, tracking over bumps and giving a feeling of total security. On a track like Portimao, which has some truly terrifying corners, front-end feel is essential and the 675 is right up there with the very best. The faster you ride, the better the feeling gets and even when you dive into a corner hard on the brakes the Pirelli seems glued to the track as the Ohlins forks glide over any undulations. And the feeling is the same from the shock.
With its lovely spread of torque, the 675 engine isn't the kind of engine that aggressively transfers its power to the rear, something that can upset a poor-quality shock, however that doesn't mean the effect of the TTX36 isn't noticeable. As with the forks, throughout the day the rear of the 675R felt incredibly responsive and delivered faultless damping, digging the rear tyre into the ground under acceleration and with a feeling of confidence that only encouraged me to push harder.
On track it wasn't too much of an issue, the shake never really threatens to go any further, however the gearbox only seems to respond well, and smoothly, to the quickshifter at very high rpm. To be fair to Triumph the bikes we rode on the launch were fairly new, so the gearboxes may need some bedding-in, but I have a feeling it's most likely down to a slightly clunky gearbox design. Another standard Triumph trait...
The stock Daytona 675 is an agile bike to ride on track or road and the R version retains all its sweet handling and glorious drive from the triple motor, but adds in a whole new dimension of sporting potential. To push the Ohlins suspension anywhere near its limits, you need to be a very handy national-level racer and for most riders it will instead offer an extremely responsive and accurate ride quality that can be fine-tuned to suit individual riding styles.
The only thorn in the 675R's side in 2012 looks likely to come from Europe in the shape of the new MV Agusta F3, which ironically also possesses a 675cc triple motor and £9999 price tag. The F3 carries far more advanced electronics and the exclusivity associated with an Italian bike. But there is always a slight question mark hanging over MV when it comes to the distribution network and spares back-up. Personally I can't see this being an issue, though some potential buyers may be swayed to stick with a 'known quantity' such as Triumph.
I can't fault that logic, but I can't wait to see what the F3 rides like and if it really can provide some serious competition for the wonderful Daytona 675R.
Pics: Paul Barshon