Sprint ST

Inside Motorcycles - October 1999

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By Ian Chadwick
The first time I saw Triumph's new bike, the Sprint ST,an alarm must have gone off somewhere. My wife immediately rushed over and took my arm, guiding me away from the bike. "You can't have one," she told me. "You already have a motorcycle".
Besides, I'm a cruiser kind of guy. I like low, slung-back bikes, with plenty of chrome and loud pipes. The Sprint is Sporty with a fairing, not my sort bike. It's, well, too young for me. Or so she said.
But when I was offered a chance to test ride the new Triumiph Sprint ST for a week, I jumped at the chance. I was actually pretty apprehensive. It looked like too much bike for me; too sporty, and too fast. I imagined I'd need a chiropractor to unbend me after a few minutes in the saddle.
Sportbikes seem to have a throttle that has about l/16th of an inch of twist between idle and light speed. I get nervous just standing beside one. They are twitchy, eager to rise up on one wheel and race away. Not the Sprint. My first reaction was pleasant surprise that gave way to face-splitting grins.
This is a remarkably well-behaved machine, a thorouhbred, not just a high-spirited racer. The throttle is smart and responsive, but Triumph tuned the Sprint to put the power in the middle, all at the low end. Within a few days I had put 500 kilometres on the ST and taken it to the limits of the local roads - and my riding abilities.
Triumph has completely rebuilt the Sprint for '99, starting with the same 955i engine used in the T955 Daytona and the Speed Triple. The fuel-injected triple is smooth and powerful. Although positioned as a sport-tourer - the emphasis is on sport - the tuning makes the ST a competent and comfortable street bike as well. Impressed ? I was knocked out by the confort level the ST offered, not to mention the sheer grunt. The seating position puts the rider forward, but not aggressively so. It's more forward than the Triumph Trophy and Honda ST1100, but less so than the Daytona and most spolrt bikes. I quickly got used to it and found it comfortable, even for long rides.
I never felt I had lost control of the bike when accelerating, even quickly. In passing, a twist of the wrist gave a whopping power surge, but it was delivered smoothly and without being choppy or twitchy. The tachometer redlined at 9,500. I reached l40 km/h in sixth gear at around 5,000 rpm. I'm not sure where I'd need the rest of the power. At every speed, the ST was agile and steady, and inspired confidence. I was able to ride it into corners on the back roads and never felt uncomfortable or unsure of the bike. Around town, even in wet weather, I made low-speed turns faster and at lower angles than I normally can.
It's such a competent bike that I always felt I was in the safe zone That doesn't mean the ST is a middle-of-the~road bike. There's a hooligan hiding inside that engine, but it waits for you to command it to come out. The EFI system provides a silky-smooth power flow that doesn't even need a choke to fire it up cold. Up front are twin-four-pot disc brakes that provide solid stopping power. The windscreen is small and gives partial protection, but unless you hunker right down on.the tank, it's really too low for most riders, directing the air up around the head level. The fairing provides adequate protection from the wind, but at street speeds, you'll notice the hot air from the engine is directed over your legs and the frame can get uncomfortably warm in summer.
The adjustable suspension was fine - the ST didn't Feel mushy and didn't bottom out. Triumph rebuilt the tubular Daytona frame, reverting to a more conventional beam cross-section. It looks serious, but stylish. For a'cruiser guy, the ST is very quiet. When riding there were times when I couldn't judge the need to shift by the engine sound. I'd opt for the add-on pipe that gives a heartier sound. Finish and looks are beautiful. The bike came with hard-shell bags large enough to store a full-face helmet. The fairing is clean, and twin headlights make a pleasant face. The sidestand folds neatly away, with the kicker between the left footpeg and the shifter. There's a snap-on peg on the left to provide leverage if you want to add a centre stand.
The ST gets appreciative glances from the younger crowd.. Older riders turned back to look only when they realized the tank says Triumph. Then it got nods of approval. I was thoroughly impressed by all aspects of the ST. The saddest day of the year was when I returned it to J&R. But it left a lasting impression on me.
My thanks to Triumph of Canada and J&R Cycle of Wasaga Beach for providing tbe Sprint ST for this test ride.
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