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Triumph 900 Speed Triple take 2

(by Guy 'Guido' Allen, Oct 2022)

triumph speed triple


Several months down the ownership track, we've put a bit more time into the 1996 Speed Trip and have it pretty well sorted...we hope!

triumph speed triple 900

Somewhere near the start of this year, we revealed buying this gem, a 1996 Triumph Speed Triple from old mate Paul Newbold. You can see the story, along with a backgrounder on the model, here.

It had about 70,000km on the clock, was in good overall shape, and for years had been Paul's main touring bike. It looked like a well-used example should, with a few scuffs and marks. No problem.

triumph speed triple

However when I took the keys its role was about to change. I have about 18 bikes in the shed at the moment, at least three of which would qualify as tourers and two of them (a BMW K1200LT and Honda Valkyrie Interstate) as heavyweights. So the Speed Trip's role was changing from traveller-of-choice to Sunday morning toy.

To that end, I wanted to give it a bit of a cosmetic birthday. Paul, bless him, had included a freshly-painted fuel tank in the deal, which gave us a fantastic head start. The pillion seat cowl was looking shabby, so I sourced a new one online and sold off the old one to a restorer interstate who was very happy to get his hands on it.

triumph speed triple

Now what? This is a 26-year-old motorcycle and some parts were on the way out. Like the fork seals. I've tackled this job before on other bikes, but time was more important than money at that stage, so the job was farmed out to a workshop.

In the meantime, I got stuck into some of the little details like replacing aftermarket indicators with originals and dressing up other cosmetic details with paint and replacement fasteners. Oh, and I had a set of perfect mufflers in the shed, left over from another T300 – a Daytona 1200 owned years ago.

Before we go too far down this road, it's worth mentioning that I had no intention of turning this into a show bike. Far from it. In this case, I wanted it looking more or less stock and tidy. That's it. Go too far with the cosmetics and you end up in an awful situation where you're scared to ride it. So, tidy and functional will do.

triumph speed triple

And here's an example of how you can get trapped in the details. Paul rode with a single handlebar-end mirror, which was looking tired. I installed a nicely-crafted new pair, which looked the part (above) and were wildly impractical. While they offered an excellent view, they increased the width of the motorcycle to something resembling a Gold Wing and were therefore a pest in traffic if you wanted to lane-split.


In the end I opted for a stock pair of conventional mirrors (above), which reduces the handlebar width and sits low enough to look okay. Fortunately, I've forgotten what that whole exercise cost...

Okay, so lets get to the mechanicals. The chain and sprocket set was no more than 2000km old, ditto the engine oil. About 5000km earlier, the carburettors had been given a service and clean-out. So good news all round.

So guess what happens the day I take it out for a roadworthy check, to transfer the ownership? The moment the engine gets up to temp, the bike starts leaking fuel out of the carburettors. We're not talking subtle here – it was raining petrol and the only question was whether to call the fire brigade. What the hell? We'd only just fitted the restored fuel tank a day or two ago.

In previous years with previous motorcycles, leaks out of the float bowls suggest faulty needles and seats and seals.

The smart mechanics among you by now will probably start thinking vapour lock. Not me. Why? Every other time I've experienced vapour lock on a motorcycle, it's presented itself as fuel starvation caused by vacuum. Not flooding caused by pressure.

Maybe I should have looked at the clues provided by Triumph itself. Such as the extensive heat shielding under the fuel tank. Or the moment the Speed Triple hit operating temp, it started gushing fuel.

speed triple

Muggins assumed the worst and started ordering new carburettor parts. With shipping delays, I'd rather be armed with bits early than scratching for them later. On the list are new floats and needle sets (they come as a unit for the T300 series), float bowl O-rings and fuel hoses. That wasn't a complete waste of money.

While we're waiting for the parts, let's strip the Speed Trip and have a fossick around. Having checked the fuel tank cap and seals were okay, I delved further. The 25lt tank has a long metal breather pipe integrated into the structure that runs from the underside internally through to the tank cap chamber. There was some grunge in there, which I cleared with a piece of wire. That was actually the problem. And yes I'm a dill for not working it out sooner.

speed triple

The good news for a job like this is the Triumph is fairly straight-forward to strip, if you're patient. Sidepanels and tail come away as a single piece, with a handful of fasteners removed.

The fuel tank is a monster in size (hot tip: siphon out the fuel) with fasteners at the rear, an electrical connector and three hoses (two feeders and one vacuum) to disengage. It pays to take a good look at what you're disconnecting and how it's all placed. Plus there are carburettor overflow hoses in the same tight space, and relocating them correctly is important.

speed triple

Once we were in there, we made the discovery that some of the critical hoses were perished to the point where they were on the verge of failure. Because space is so tight under the tank, you need the correct fuel feed hoses which are shaped to the factory spec. The bends are extreme in couple of cases and need to be pre-formed, so normal fuel hose cut to length won't work. Fortunately, the parts are still available.


While we had the thing apart, it made sense to reef out the spark plugs and slip in new ones. Triumph probably deserved a bollocking on this front. For a start, the tunnels for access are too narrow and you need to have a very thin socket to get in there. Even then, I had to spray lubricant into the area for each cylinder.


Then there's access to the centre plug, which is truly awful. It's directly under the main frame member and access is too tight. After using a driver I resorted to a magnetic grabber to retrieve the socket and then spark plug.



And how were the plugs, after all that? Not great, and I've seen worse. In any case we replaced old for new and hope we don't have to go back in there for a while.

triumph t300 carburettors

The carburettors are flat-slide CVs, which at the time this bike was built was pretty sexy spec. The architecture is straight-forward enough, though access requires removing the long inlet trumpets on either side of the frame and then shuffling back the sealed airbox. It's a tight fit.


Swapping out the floats and needles is dead easy, as they come as a snap-in set. These carbs had been cleaned out about five years before, though I suspect the components were the originals.


We also switched over the float chamber O-rings. The difference between the old and new was subtle, but probably worth it.

triumph speed triple

Since we were on a mission, we changed the hydraulic fluids and tipped out the old battery for a new lithium unit.

triumph speed triple

So where did we end up? More or less where we started. If I had never touched the bike, it probably would have been fine. But changing the fuel tank steered us down a more involved path and I don't for a moment regret the wins and setbacks as we got the Speed Triple to where we wanted it.

As a ride, it's weird and wonderful. It sounds great, has enough grunt to be interesting and handles well enough so long as you're not looking for precision.

The rumble of the triple engine is addictive and I reckon it's a knockout in the looks department. And it cost well under Au$10k (US$6300, GB£5600). That'll do...

triumph speed triple

Back to the Nineties – part 1 of our Speed Triple 900 ownership

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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