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Back to the Nineties

Our bikes – 1996 Triumph Speed Triple 900

(by Guy 'Guido' Allen, Jan 8 2022)

Triumph Speed Triple

Brutish good looks and solid engineering makes the original Speed Triple an appealing package, even today

You may be familiar with this idea: Having a mental list of motorcycles you'd like to own at some stage. And no I'm not talking of the impossible and unaffordable dreams, but machines you could actually buy with a bit of a tailwind behind your wallet. For me, the original Triumph Speed Triple 900 has long been one of them.

They've been very accessible over recent years (well under Au$10k), as the classic market hasn't really taken to the things and that situation, so far, is showing no sign of changing.

Triumph Speed Triple

Back in the early 1990s, when Hinckley HQ relaunched the Triumph marque with the T300 series, it developed a host of models based around a common frame with three and four-cylinder engine variants. (See our backgrounder, here.) Trident, Trophy and Daytona were the first group, then came the Sprint, Tiger and Speed Triple, followed by the Thunderbird and its variants.

Triumph Speed Triple

Of the machines to emerge over the coming years, it was the Speed Triple which was the visual stand-out. It had a certain brute appeal, with muscular lines and a sense of purpose. In addition, some nice touches such as a bespoke instrument cluster helped to give it a unique identity.

Triumph Speed Triple

It's a look that's been hard to match, let alone beat. However the latest Speed Triple, the 1200 RS, to my eye, pretty well nails it as a contemporary equivalent.

Triumph Speed Triple

While not cutting edge, the original Speed Triple 900 gained a fan base – even among reviewers. What it may have lacked in outright speed and handling finesse, it more than made up for with an overall packaging that offered loads of character and an amiable ride.

Back when they were new, I would have ridden half a dozen or so, in my then role as PR wallah for the national importer/distributor. Any day you spent on one of those things was a good one.

Triumph Speed Triple

Move along a quarter of a century and I've finally got one of my own. The catalyst was a mate of mine, Paul, decided to offload his Speed Trip after a 14-year relationship. He had done everything with it, including a fair bit of touring, and rates it as the best machine he owned. However the heavy cafe racer ride position was becoming a bit much as he's since switched to a more current Tiger.

With 71,000km showing it's in good overall shape. It's a 1996 model, which means it's running the six-speed rather than five-speed transmission in the first variant.

Triumph Speed Triple

The mufflers are looking a little beaten up, and I've just discovered a pristine set in the back of the shed – so they'll soon be fitted. You see I've owned several T300s over the years, and I think the 'new' pair came off a black Daytona 1200 I owned decades ago.

(And no, I'm not encouraging you to hoard motorcycle bits, but have to admit in this case it paid off...)

Triumph Speed Triple

Anyway, with the scone-grabbers on the Speed Triple, I set about giving it a bit of a cosmetic freshen-up and it seems to have responded. Triumph, to its credit, finished these machines well and they seem to last.

Triumph Speed Triple

Jumping on after all these years presented a very familiar ride position. I also have a Daytona 1200 and Super III in the shed, the set-up is near enough to identical: Long reach to the handlebars, with a bit of weight on the wrists, and a sense of a substantial bike underneath you.

Triumph Speed Triple

The highlight however is the engine. In this 98-horse tune, it has a hackle-raising growl and delivers what seems like an endless seam of low through to mid-range grunt. Terrific.

Triumph Speed Triple

Meanwhile the handling and braking are good rather than exceptional. The suspension is a few generations back yet has lots of adjustment and comes in a decent spec, while the four-piston front brakes (there was also an aftermarket set of Alcon six-spotters) work pretty much as you'd expect for the period.

Steering is a touch ponderous by modern standards, but you kind of expect that going in.

Triumph Speed Triple

With several other machines in the shed, I had no real need for this bike – it was simply bought as a feel-good Sunday toy, a role which I'm convinced it will fill admirably.

Triumph Speed Triple


Triumph Speed Triple backgrounder

Period road test from Classic Two Wheels

Triumph T300 series backgrounder

Our bikes – Triumph Daytona Super III

Our bikes – Triumph Trident T160

More features here

See the bikes in our shed


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