Back in 1992, a team of young, passionate and dedicated Triumph engineers were bristling with energy to push the limits. Some things never change.
Their vision, to capture the epitome of raw aggression on two wheels, was fueled by an obsession with sports bikes and the designer’s eternal quest for lighter, faster, shorter and sharper.
The team’s dream, to create the ultimate high-performance naked bike hewn from the rough edges of the Trident roadster, was built with one recurring question in mind – what bike would they want to ride? The result, two years later, was the first rugged T309 iteration of the bike, whose descendants continue to thrill and which saw ‘fun to ride’ merge seamlessly with the all-out devilment of the Daytona.
“Back then we had three models in the range – the Trident, the Daytona and the Trophy. Each shared the same frame but were differentiated by engines, suspension and styling,” said one of the original engineers, Stuart Wood.
“We ended up with the Tridents because of their positioning, as the lower-spec models in the range. Great bikes, they were a blast to ride with their sensation of speed and the exhaust note, but they weren’t the top sports spec.”
Stuart, still with Triumph today, said the decision to combine the full Daytona spec and components with the roadster values of the Trident was an ‘obvious solution’.
He said: “No one can lay claim to being the person who sat down and said ‘let’s build a Speed Triple’, but everyone in the factory felt it was there for the taking. That vision burned away inside us all.
“We were all enthusiastic young engineers, passionate about how we wanted to take the Trident to the next level. Collaboration across all departments made sure we ended up with all the best of two bikes in one.”
The result, two years later in 1994, was an aggressive-looking production bike that saw mean meet fun, hooligan bump into sophisticated style and naked confront minimalist beauty. And 21 years on their vision is as relevant as ever.
Stuart recalled his first sight of the first Speed Triple off the line: “It was fantastic. It had all the Daytona suspension and brakes, the bars were off the first Trophy, so they weren’t ultra-low clip-ons but low aluminum bars. It had a great stance and attitude.
“It wasn’t a Daytona with the bodywork off – that was the point. It was a roadster first, with round headlight, and we didn’t change the bodywork. It was about making the roadster really work.”
By the time Triumph unveiled the Speed Triple in 1994, it had been developed to the point of a stand-alone model with its own identity and backed by that iconic Rottweiler ad campaign.
If the dog felt threatened by the aggressive ‘come on then’ attitude of the nasty-looking new dog on the block, it had every right to be..
Motorcycle writer Simon Hargreaves said the Speed Triple marked a watershed for the original high-performance naked bike: “It looked damned cool and it’s got better with age. Its looks are still striking and it shouts classic simplicity, with curves that don’t date. It’s imposing and it suits the changing face of modern biking to a tee.”
“It doesn’t have a flag of St George on the seat, but it makes you think of Spitfires and Lancasters because there’s such an English solidity to it – it has a kudos and cachet, and isn’t plasticky like many of its imitators.”
The scene has come full circle now to meet the modern Speed Triple, with fuel prices and congestion prompting riders to get naked. Hargreaves added: “The build quality has gone through the roof. It’s lovely to own or just to look at, but it’s fun and cool too,” Hargreaves said.
“There have been changes in 21 years, but nothing that has changed the fundamental philosophy of the bike. The riding dynamic is the same, the feeling is the same, and the reason the bike is loved and enjoyed is the same.”
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