Australian Mototcycle News.

Vol 49 No 15



With the success of its ST sportstourer, Triumph has taken the next step with the release of a close sibling - the Sprint RS half-faired sportsbike. Mark Fattore thinks it's a step in the right direction.

Imagine for the moment Triumph's all conquering sportstourer, the three cylinder Sprint ST, is a hamburger with the lot. After all, since the time it was launched in Australia in 1999 it's been universally regarded as near the top of the heap as far as sportstouring is concerned. Mission accomplished there.

Fast-forward to the present and Triumph's continued offensive in satisfying a number of product niches via its modular concept of production - the Sprint RS half-faired sportsbike.

Now if the ST is a hamburger with the lot, it's ditto with the RS - except that the latter is leaner and just a little easier to throw around when the going gets tough. On the surface, that's about the extent of the differences, with both bikes sharing a majority of the same componentry, including the 79mm x 65mm triple powerplant in ST guise, the Sagem engine management system with EFI and 43mm throttle bodies, the twin-spar aluminium chassis, the front wheels and brakes, the fuel tank, the 43mm conventional forks, and a pair of 320mm discs up front.

So, we all know that the ST has been kind to the RS with shared hardware, but what does this mean for the consumer? Well, try a fairly competitive price, for starters. The RS retails in Australia for $14,990 (the ST is $15,990), on a par with Suzuki's TL1000S and $100 more than Honda's VTR1000. The RS is also up against the BMW R1100 S ($18,900) and the Aprilia Falco in the race for market supremacy, the latter yet to lob Down Under.

"The price of the RS has been made possible through economics of scale," says Ross Clifford, the Export Sales Manager for Tiumph UK, who was present for the recent Australian launch of the RS at the Hunter Valley in NS.

"The factory operates with a certain level of fixed overheads, so the addition of another bike to the range doesn't add to manufacturing costs. That's part of the reason we were able to keep the price of the Sprint RS down."

Probably the biggest change from the ST to the RS is the change to the rear shock. While still only adjustable for rebound and preload, the RS's rear Showa unit is now 5mm longer than the ST, the effect of which is to steepen the head angle by 0.5 degrees to 24.5 degrees and reduce trail to 89mm (the ST is 92mm).

The changes have been made to sharpen the steering - and it works. On the launch, an ST tagged along for support duties and the difference between the two was very noticeable, particularly when changing direction and tipping it into a turn. My feeling is that this jigger is going to get a fair workout at a number of track days.

Besides the geometry changes, the high set handlebars on the ST have been replaced by lower-set clip-ons and pushed forward to increase the weight bias on the front wheel.

So, besides a recognition that you're settling in for a more sportsbike-orientated blast, it's not a great deal less comfortable than the ST. On the first day of the launch we covered around 250km, but the wear and tear on the body at the end of the day was negligible. Granted, that's not the longest day in the saddle you'll ever undertake, but we did track over a few rough roads on route, which always give the wrists and arse a torrid workout.

The second major difference between the two sprint siblings is weight -Triumph has shaved 8kg off the ST to produce the RS, which tops the scales at 199kg. Most of the weight has been saved with the addition of a twin-sided aluminium swingarm, which is less costly than the ST's single-sided unit.

As a result, unsprung weight has been reduced (helped too by a new lighter rear conventional wheel, which has been sourced form the new TT600 Supersport machine) which should lend a helping hand with suspension compliance. And it does. The suspension is not going to amaze you within its technology (there's only adjustable preload on the 43mm forks and preload and damping on the rear), but it does enough to get the better of most road conditions.

By the way, preload adjustment on the rear Showa is done hydraulically via a screwdriver inserted through the a hole in the rear of the frame.

The forks on the RS also fit into the nothing-too-flash-but-well-damped category. I found they were diving excessively - especially under brakes - in standard settings earlier on, but some remedial work with the preload (stiffening it up a turn-and-a-half) helped appreciably.

Wheelbase on the RS measures in at 1470mm - quite long, but its nimbleness on the road belies that.

As mentioned earlier, the RS shares the same state-of-tune 955cc triple engine as the ST, with identical mapping on the EFI and both sharing a single injector per cylinder. Claimed power is 110ps at 9200rpm and torque is 9.89kg-m at 6200rpm.

I think it's well recognised that the power delivery on Triumph's three-cylinder is very linear and strong throughout the rev range. More of the same user-friendliness on the RS.

The biggest change from the ST is the higher-set stainless-steel silencer fitted on the three-into-one exhaust, a function of fitting the double-sided swingarm (this also necessitated a raising of the rear footpegs by 20mm). Unsurprisingly, the evidence to date confirms that most owners have opted to fit a Triumph carbon wrap aftermarket unit, which costs $734.87. Definitely worth the expenditure in my books - for the note first and foremost!

The carbon silencer is claimed to deliver an extra 20 percent bottom-end and midrange compared to the standard pipe.

Acceleration on the Sprint RS is very clean and precise, with a strong urge from 2000rpm upwards. With an abundance of torque, the bike accepts all moods - from stay in top gear mode to working the gearbox. Digressing a little, I found a false neutral a few times on the launch between fourth and fifth, but part of that can be put down to the high-set gear lever. But other than that it's tops, with little or no transmission snatch to speak of. In top (sixth) gear at 100kmh, the RS motors along at 3600rpm - enough there to motor past traffic easily.

One blight with the engine though was its recalcitrant behaviour when starting from hot.

Standard rubber on the RS is Bridgestone BT020s, wrapped around 1 7-inch alloy, three-spoke wheels front and rear. The touring-orientated hoops were up to the task for the sort of terrain we encountered on the launch.

The RS is available in three colours: Racing Yellow, Lucifer Orange and Eclipse Blue. Personally, I think the orange is the clear winner in the battle of the looks - it takes a superb photo. One of the reasons I bolted for the bike when the launch began!

In addition to the aftermarket silencer, there's a number of other items in the genuine accessories basket, including an integrated alarm ($682.70), throwover panniers ($416.42), tank bag ($252.85), topbox ($960.75) and heated grips ($318.45).

Finally, the RS's instrumentation has been wilted down from ST sportstouring mode to befit its half-faired sportsbike guise, but the console still includes a digital speedometer and clock, two digital trip meters and an analogue tachometer.

Triumph was always going to produce a great motorcycle in RS mode - simply because it was basing the model on such a superb template as the ST. But it's damn well got the mumbo and appeal to step out on its own. And it's priced exceptionally well. Economies of scale - what a wonderful thing...

Mark Fattore
Photos: Thomas Wielecki