|Small, but perfectly formed
A centre stand, a clock, a rear grab rail, hazard flashers, fuel gauge and an LCD multifunction odometer (in my case an odour- meter would be more appropriate).
The first impression I had when I saw the ST was how compact it felt. The rumour is that this has the frame which will be used on the 600, and even though it's compact, I reckon it could be a little large for a 600 where minimal weight is king. Sitting on the bike continued this feeling of compactness. The seat height feels somewhat lower than the 595 which is great for short arses like me. You tend to sit in the bike rather than on it. Certainly the 595 feels a bit chunkier in comparison and a bit of a stretch for me. On the ST the rear subframe, bottom yoke & sidestand are steel with all the other bits aluminium as per the 595.
Starting took a few stabs at the button; I omitted to leave the throttle closed first time, then I forgot that the black box allowed the engine to turn over a few revs before letting the sparks fly.
The next impression I had was how incredibly delicate the throttle control was. Now my 595 isn't a problem, but the feeling on the ST is that at low speeds the control is as if the motor was only 100 cc's rather than 10 times the size. You could languish in a high gear all day if you wished or bimble along in heavy traffic without any hint of snatch (except for the one on the back), surging or flat spots. Triumph must have expended many man hours getting each and every point on the ignition and fuelling maps spot on to make the bike as smooth as this. No extrapolation here. I tried sticking the bike in top gear at 1300 rpm and it was quite happy to accelerate away without protest. The torque and acceleration built upon itself until at 3000 revs it was rock and roll with smooth forceful grunt, consistently puling all the way to the redline. In bike tests, dyno runs normally start at 3500 to 4000 rpm, but to do this bike justice, and to prove the trac(tor)bility for town point and shooting, you need to start way below that.
Triumph have negated all emissions of sound from the exhaust, but there is still a degree of triple whirr being directed up at the rider; nothing like the intake snarl of the 595, but certainly enough to constantly remind you that this ain't an inline four. I have a bit of a theory that the sound level tests monitor noise output horizontally relative to the bike, and that any sounds directed upwards are purely for the benefit of the rider. The triple whistle was omnipresent but not intrusive.
The brakes felt similar to the 595 but maybe not quite the initial bite. In fact at first (and I was riding through some medium strength drizzle), there seemed to be a curious delay between gently squeezing the lever and any retardation. The back brake was a revelation. It worked! My 595 rear brake has improved, but it's no match for the ST rear, which I locked up once as I'm used to standing on the pedal to provide any form of retardation, even in the wet.
Steering at low and high speeds felt fine, and the suspension felt well in control of the wheels, although there was a little dive on braking.
You could wax lyrical about the instant, always available on tap grunt that this motor doles out in any gear . You get the clear feeling that if you close your eyes, you could draw out the torque curve; one starting out at below 2000 rpm, building rapidly to 3000 and then pretty damn flat all the way to the 9500 rpm redline. The 595 goes another thousand revs, and definitely has more top end, but not that you'd get to worried about in 98 percent of road situations. On the motorway, the instant grunt gives brilliant motorway performance, I could liken it to riding a Honda Blackbird on the motorway in 4th. Praise indeed.
Turning off the motorway I had a couple of moments as I had some boy racer up my arse in some kind of GTI. It was a long sweeping bend and I retained my 90+ mph momentum around a fast sweeping bend with no worries. I don't normally like to commit myself like that in the wet on a new bike, but the GTI was soon a speck in the mirrors.
The build quality was up to the usual standards, frame welding neat and the clocks moulded into a neat cockpit so that they face in the general direction of the rider. The bars blend into the upright supports which in turn blend into the top of the yokes. The speedo is calibrated every 10 mph and also in kM. This means that on a dark wet night, you've got to guess your speed from the position of the needle. Hopefully Triumph will address this on the production bikes. Appearance wise, the bikes look fine in the flesh; Triumph's standard issue photos do little justice. One of the first things you notice is that the tank is scalloped on either side at the front, which is original and appealing. It's certainly not a bike you'd say Cor! Check that out, but it is very nicely proportioned, and the inoffensive looks grow on you. Certainly it's a complete beauty when compared to the pig ugly VFR
Criticisms? Only the gearbox which sometimes felt a bit stiff. If the 595 is anything to go by, it should loosen up once the bike has been run in, but certainly the 595 felt as sweet as a nut in comparison when I rode it afterwards.
I heard that fuel consumption is also exceptional which should add up to great range for continental blims and more money in your pocket to pay for all those extras which Triumph wish to unload on us unsuspecting punters.
All in all a pretty damn nice package. I rode the 595 today and don't think I'll rush out and chop it in for an ST just yet. I appreciate the gentler riding position, the grunt and the bells and whistles on the ST, but I still like my bikes to be a little more focused. The 595 has the top end rush I like, and the suspension setup for me is well nigh perfect. After the ST, you do notice the flattish spots more on the 595, but compared to other bikes I have it's the 595 which is the norm but that makes the ST the exception.
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