2000 Triumph Sprint RS

It's amazing, but the reborn Triumph factory has only been around since 1990 (in the U.S., just since '95) and in that decade it's built a reputation for quality that some of the industry's oldest manufacturers haven't yet achieved. It's latest products are all no excuses, genuine contenders in their respective categories; competitively priced and highly refined. And, like the Triumphs of old, they have the good road manners that experienced riders appreciate.

The 2000 Sprint RS, aimed squarely at the Ducati 90OSS, Suzuki TL1000S and Honda VTRIOOO V-twins uses Triumph's latest chassis and its most popular engine. The Company's first machine to utilize its new aluminum twin-spar chassis, the Sprint ST sport-tourer (MCN, Aug. '99), has been its best seller ever. Hoping to build on that success, the Sprint RS uses the same basic package and wraps it in a shapely three-quarter fairing and supplies the requisite details to differentiate it as a dedicated sportbike.

Handlebars make a big difference to the feel of a bike, and the RS uses narrower, lower bars than the ST to put the rider into a more sporting position, but one that is still acceptably comfortable for hours in the saddle. Fixed to the top of the triple clamp, they share the same mounting arrangement as the ST's, and we noted that adequate fairing clearance is available to fit the taller bars, should an RS pilot so choose.

In addition, the narrower RS fairing has a small rounded windscreen that, from the saddle, reminds you of a racer. But, despite its slim profile, it is just as effective as the ST's at deflecting the wind with minimal buffeting. Unfortunately, the new fairing uses a different mirror arrangement that is significantly worse functionally. Not only do the mirrors vibrate more than the ST's, they reveal only elbows and blind spots.

The front fender is unique to the RS. Lighter and sleeker-looking, it's not so radically styled as the Speed Triple's or so aerodynamically enveloping as the Daytona's.

Departing from the ST's dashboard full of instruments, the RS simplifies the basics into a digital speedo on the left and an analog tach on the right. The speedo is easy to read, but, as we've seen, riders tend to be split 50/50 on whether they like them or find them distracting. No inner fairing is provided around the instruments, so the rider can study the interior bracework and wiring on the boring stretches. A clock and two trip meters can be accessed by pushing buttons. There is no fuel gauge.

Although the 5.6-gal. tank and seating arrangement are essentially the same as the ST's, the sportbike look is enhanced with a narrow cover over the passenger portion of the seat. In fact, even side-by-side, the two bikes look so different, that you have to double check that the gas tank is the same.

Ergonomically, the back of the tank is nice and narrow, and the seat is easy to move around on, making weight shifting back road gymnastics feel natural.

The engine is the same DOHC, three-cylinder 955cc unit that powers the Speed Triple and Sprint ST. That should put it at 89-100 hp at the rear wheel and 5963 lb. ft. of torque. An oil cooler is provided to keep the BTUs in check. Ignition coils are the latest individual stick type to save weight and make stronger sparks. The only significant difference between the Daytona and the RS/ST/Speed Triple motors, aside from the cam timing and remapped fuel injection that trade 20 hp off the top for a meatier torque spread are that conventional steel cylinder liners replace the Daytona's coated aluminum jobbies. Although this is a cost cutting move, it will facilitate cheaper overhauls down the road, as overbores will not require replating.

The upswept single-muffler exhaust system features stainless steel headers with crossovers designed to boost the midrange. A pretty new chromed cylindrical silencer, rather than the older black oval style, keeps the noise down.

Weight saving tricks on the RS include a polymer drive sprocket cover and a cable operated clutch. In addition, a new-generation Sagem MC1000 digital fuel injection also uses a smaller, lighter ECM module. We still think the Sagem's throttle response is the best in the business.

The lightweight aluminum twin-spar frame gets the matt black treatment. Because it uses the engine as a structural member to stiffen the package, there are no rubber engine mounts. However, Triumph's latest triples are very smooth running engines, nearly as smooth as a four.

Unlike the Daytona and Sprint ST, a single-sided swing arm is not used. In its place is a less-expensive, twin-sided type in extruded aluminum that should be equally stiff and saves approximately 9 lbs.

Suspension is by Showa. The forks are cartridge units with dual-rate springs but are preload-adjustable only. The rear suspension is a rising-rate monoshock that has a remote hydraulic preload adjuster and adjustable rebound. Spring rates felt slightly stiffer than the ST's (or perhaps this was a function of the RS's lighter weight), and the damping gave good road feel on fairly smooth surfaces, but tended to lose its composure a bit over the rougher stuff.

With a rake of 24.5' and a longish wheelbase of 57.9", the RS steers a little slower than the 90OSS Ducati, but has an unshakable stability that we found reassuring.

Brembo supplies the lightweight aluminum three-spoke rims in 3.5" and 5.5" sizes front and rear. Tires are 120/70ZR17, and 180/70ZR17 Bridgestone BT020s.

Brakes are Triumph's excellent Nissin four-pot units up front on 320mm floating rotors and include braided stainless brake lines. The brake pads are not the super-powerful units fitted to the Speed Triple, and give away a little power for better feel. A two-piston caliper working on a 255mm disc gives both good feel and adequate power at the back.

Available in three colors, Eclipse Blue, Racing Yellow and Lucifer Orange, the Sprint has a suggested retail of $9499, approximately $1000 less than the Sprint ST.

Although the weight difference is probably something on the order of 15 lbs., most testers agreed the difference between the two Sprints (ST and RS) feels more like 50 lbs.; the handling is so much sharper, and steering so much more precise on the RS.

After a full day of testing on the best back roads in Southern California, the overwhelming impression is that Triumph gets all the basics just right. The horsepower flows with an uncanny liquid quality that makes your riding smooth and fast, and the excellent six-speed gearbox and beautifully smooth clutch are never intrusive and seem to disappear to let you concentrate on the road. Likewise, are the powerful brakes that we've consistently rated among the very best.

If you've been searching for a competent, distinctive and top-quality liter-class sport bike, check out the 2000 Sprint RS.

--Dave Searle