SuperBike - September 1999
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New Superbike of the Year
from the article "New Superbike of the Year" comparing the 1999 MV Augusta F4, Honda CBR600, Suzuki Hayabusa, Yamaha R6, Bimota SB8R, Aprilla RSV Mille, Yamaha YZF-R7 and the Triumph Sprint ST. The Sprint ST was included to "mark" eighth place but ended up in sixth. Below is the ST section of that review. Each bike had an "On the Road" section as well as an "On the Track" section followed by a "Second Opinion" by Sonic
**** Article reprinted with permission **** Copyright SuperBike 1999 - Unauthorized duplication prohibited
Triumph Sprint ST
SUPERBIKE SOFTIE WITH ATTITUDE
On the RoadBy Matt Durrans
From one end of the spectrum to the other. The Bimota is a cutting edge piece of sporting tackle that disappointed, the Triumph a sports-tourer that never failed to impress. On our trips to and from Blighty the Bim's seat was always the last to be taken and the Sprint's the first. This fact alone is testament to the bike's abilities. Thing is, it still only finished seventh [Eric's note - they need a better proofer - it finished 6th!], so something must have been wrong.
Well, no actually. The Triumph's ranking was affected by two things, the nature of the competition and us. The other test bikes were all of a more sporting character and we are SuperBike magazine, not SuperTourer. Tough-luck for the Sprint, but at least it wasn't down to any fault of its own. In fact, the only major criticism I can come up with concerns the brakes. They had an alarming amount of lever travel before anything happened and then when it did, the level of stopping power available was only barely adequate. As Dan will tell you this isn't typical of the Triumph's brakes though, so our test bike clearly had a problem.
Otherwise it was all plain sailing. 160mph sailing. The Sprint's motor is something of a peach, pulling strongly right from tickover all the way through to the limiter. Cobby hogged the Triumph as much as possible on the long trip out there, and despite him strapping a month's worth of luggage to the poor old dear, she still sat happily on the redline at an indicated one-sixty. It was by far the most relaxed cruiser, even at this speed. Sure the 'Busa has another 40 mph to go, but its engine doesn't feel any smoother at these speeds, and it just can't compete when it comes to comfort.
The Sprint's fairing doesn't look that big, but Tardis-like, its proportions seem to expand when you're on board. It helps that you sit in the bike, allowing even the taller among us to shelter behind Triumph's version of a barn door. The seat's got plenty of padding, the bars and pegs don't place any stress on your extremities and the clocks are easy to read. It's a nice place to be for extended periods.
Off the motorways and onto the tighter stuff and it's much the same. Although suspended softly enough to provide a plush ride the Triumph retains enough damping to keep the bike in control when the going gets hairier. There's plenty of suspension movement but it never gets out of control or twisted beyond its capabilities. It'll even lean far enough to scrape it's pegs easily on the road without feeling like it's about to bite back at any moment. Of all the accomplished, expensive sports-tackle we had with us , this was the one on which Paul achieved his first ever knee-down moment. See, easy to ride fast yet still soft and squishy in all the right places. Just like my missus really. However, unlike my dear wife she starts up with a single poke on the button and then gets warm by herself. Every time, too. It all sounds terribly sensible and grown up, but I suppose that's exactly how Triumph want it to feel.
As a purpose-built sports-tourer it must be regarded as a raging success. The bike fulfills both roles admirably well. There's hints of dual personality everywhere - a torque-laden motor that makes for relaxed yet rapid cruising but can still pull wheelies with the best of them and race through the gears to the redline, even in top. A chassis that wafts rider and baggage along on a magic carpet ride yet can clip apexes and scrape pegs just as easily. The looks too manage to straddle a fine line between the dutiful dullness of touring and the impractical beauty of sports riding.
It won a SuperBike group test against the likes of Ducati's ST4 and Honda's VFR800 shortly before I joined the mag last year, and it's easy to see why. Give me another ten years and I'd be happy with one of these, as it is I think my heart will stand something just a little more exciting for a while yet.
On The Trackby Dan Harris
Like the VFR800 last year the Triumph was included as the joker in pack; if you like, a bike that was supposed to define the bottom end of the performance spectrum. We expected it to come last but the reality is that overall it did somewhat better. Where we really anticipated that the Sprint would flop was on the track, not least of all because it really is a behemoth of a bike, but everyone who rode the Triple around Circuit Val de Vienne's tight and twisty topography was pleasantly surprised.
Even so, you can't get away from the fact that by the standards of the test the Sprint really is a huge bike. Mat reckoned the fairing reminded him of a barn door, I'd go further. To me it felt as though you were carrying the whole barn and not just the door, and although it would be inaccurate to say that once moving that feeling disappeared, underneath the expanse of plastic bodywork there is a much more nimble bike going absolutely berserk trying to break free.
Yeah so the motor's rev-limiter kicks in way too early and the de-tuned triple isn't quite as punchy as the 955i, but given the choice of the Triumph's delivery and that of the schizo' Bimota, I'd go for the Hinckley bike every time. The bottom line is that the Sprint's injected fueling is nigh on perfect. Driving flawlessly from stationary revs the Sprint builds into an impressive midrange which passes seamlessly into the top end before hitting a brick wall rev-limiter. As long as you timed your gear-changes properly (read short-shift) there wasn't a straight at Val de Vienne where the big Triumph peaked in any gear. The engine was also tractable enough to pull you through those corners where the Sprint fell between gears which was a huge advantage.
As Mat mentioned we had a few problems with the brakes. This was a surprise because we know from experience that the Triumph badged Alcon calipers are some of the best in the business. I think we probably wore the pads down too far because they pretty much faded to nothing which caused the odd moment of finger-crushing alarm. I have no doubt that a set of pads and a little bleeding (of the brakes not rider) would have cured the problem fairly easily, but it was a major piss-off all the same.
The most impressive Triumph feature though is the handling. This may be a big, fat porker (the bike, not Mat) but considering its excess poundage the Triumph was a revelation. Completely composed at every point of a corner the Sprint excels at carrying brake up to the apex; it remains stable on the transfer to power and steers with an amazing neutrality. Considering the budget-conscious nature of the hardware bolted to the Sprint it really is a slick handling act and one that put the Bimota and even the 'Busa to shame.
On the road as well as on the track, in the bloody shark-infested waters of a superbike test the Triumph does get a little mauled; amongst other less predatory competitors though (other sports tourers) it's a very strong contender.
Second OpinionEVERY TIME I ASKED GRANT why the Sprint was coming on our Superbike of the Year test he went into one of his Frank Spencer spluttering fits. "Yes well the VFR800 was in the test last year and that's not a sports-bike and the Sprint is the same as that and anyway this is a test to showcase all the latest models and they won't only be judged on how fast they are round a circuit and furthermore..."
Okay okay, the Sprint's going to France. And you know what? It fared really well. On the road the ride position's dead comfy, the brakes are dead crap (more a maintenance problem than anything else) and the motor is a 150mph chugger with heaps of torque. On the track it was incredibly good, mainly around the corners, but also out of them - not incredibly good in the sense that it kicked the R7's arse or anything but incredible that it would go around a track at all and not be the worst at it (the SB8R got the honours for that). Not a whole load of attitude in the mix but a fine pipe 'n' slippers way of seeing some pretty parts of France, which is what you're supposed to do with it and is what we did. - Sonic
[the conclusion covered all the entries - below is the ST part - Eric]
Excellent on the motorway, the bike we originally only included as 'the joker' in the pack (the bike that was supposed to define the bottom limit of the test) surprised everyone with it's competent track performance and was a top motor on the open A-roads and autoroute.
[the final finishing order was #1-Yamaha R7 #2-MV Augusta #3-Aprilla RSV Mille #4-Suzuki Hayabusa #5-Yamaha YZF-R6 #6-Triumph Sprint ST #7-Honda CBR600 #8-Bimota SB8R - Eric]