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Is the Triumph Street Triple R a Good First Motorcycle?

Buying a motorcycle is often as much about style as it is about performance or practicality. In terms of looks, Triumph does well on the retro front, with bikes like the Thruxton café racer. But the company also has sportier offerings, like the Triumph Street Triple R. I recently bought a 2012 model to serve as my first motorcycle. But does that necessarily make it a good beginner bike for everyone?

2012 Triumph Street Triple R specs and features

The current Triumph Street Triple R uses a 765cc three-cylinder engine first introduced in the 2017 model year. My 2012, though, has a 675cc three-cylinder engine.

Close-up of the 2012 Triumph Street Triple R's 675cc three-cylinder engine
2012 Triumph Street Triple R engine close-up | Matthew Skwarczek

But it’s not exactly begging for more performance. The 675cc engine is rated at 106 hp and 50 lb-ft, and is linked to a 6-speed manual transmission. The 765cc engine is only up 5 hp and 4 lb-ft, Cycle World reports.

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As a naked bike, the 2012 Triumph Street Triple R is mid-way between a standard motorcycle and a sportbike. And it comes with some suitably sporty features. It doesn’t have ABS, but it does have Nissin disc brakes. And the front brakes are dual-disc. It also has adjustable Kayaba rear suspension and front forks. Plus, for the 2012 model year, Triumph gave the bike Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa Pro tires. They’re stickier and lighter than the previous Dunlop ones.

Red 2012 Triumph Street Triple R
2012 Triumph Street Triple R | Matthew Skwarczek

The sports-focused features continue in the center gauges. Because knowing your RPMs is more important on-track than speed, there’s a large analog tachometer. The other relevant information is found in the configurable digital display. By default, it shows the speedometer, engine temperature, clock, gear indicator, and your choice of either a trip meter or average fuel-efficiency.

2012 Triumph Street Triple R digital display, showing tachometer and LCD display with trip odometer
2012 Triumph Street Triple R display | Matthew Skwarczek

It can also function as a lap timer, with a handlebar-mounted switch triggering the stopwatch. Plus, there are programmable shift lights built into the tachometer housing. Though, since I’ve ridden solely on city streets and the highway so far, I haven’t used those features yet.

Finally, the center display also houses the indicator and warning lights. These include lights for neutral, low fuel, engine malfunction, low oil pressure, and high coolant temperature.

What’s it like to ride?

At 417 pounds, the 2012 Triumph Street Triple R is a fairly light motorcycle. Which makes sense, given its stripped-down nature. Though that does cause some minor annoyances.

For one, there’s really no storage space. There is a little pocket underneath the seat, but it’s only big enough for some small tools and insurance cards. Secondly, the R came standard with no windscreen. My bike has an accessory flyscreen, which does block some wind. Especially if you lay low on top of the fuel tank, which also places the center display directly in front of you. But for extended highway rides, you’ll need a proper windscreen.

Overhead view from the rear of the 2012 Triumph Street Triple R
2012 Triumph Street Triple R overhead view | Matthew Skwarczek

But once I’m riding, most of these annoyances fade away. The Triumph Street Triple R really does strike a sweet-spot between a standard and a sportbike. The suspension is a bit stiff, but still compliant. The brakes are easy to modulate and very effective at slowing you down. And because the Street Triple has a handlebar, not clip-on bars, it’s easy to maneuver at low speeds.

The handlebar, combined with the mid-mounted footpegs, means you can ride upright. Not only is this more comfortable, but it also means the motorcycle handles like a big bicycle. Plus, the standard riding position makes it easy to put a stabilizing foot down. Added with the light curb weight means the Triumph Street Triple R isn’t really that intimidating. It’s just plain fun to ride.

The throttle, clutch, and transmission also help with that. The clutch is forgiving, and the shifter is very smooth. And even under light throttle, the three-cylinder never stutters. According to Motorcyclist, the bike has an application-based, rather than position-based, throttle. Meaning, it’s not how much you twist, but how quickly. It’s also quieter than you might think.

Is it a good first motorcycle?

With all these plus points, does that make the 2012 Triumph Street Triple R a good first motorcycle? Well, it depends.

Modified Indian Scout Sixty
Modified Indian Scout Sixty | Janelle Kaz via Instagram

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As bikes like the Bonneville and Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 show, large engines don’t necessarily make for fast bikes. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to put a beginner on a Suzuki Hayabusa. But even an Indian Scout Sixty, Motorcyclist reports, could make a good first motorcycle because it doesn’t make obscene power. It really depends on what kind of beginner you are.

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There is a reason why the majority of recommended first motorcycles generally have 500cc or smaller engines. And not just because they’re light, Motorcyclist explains. It’s also because these engines aren’t overwhelmingly powerful, nor do they deliver their output explosively.

1993 McLaren F1
1993 McLaren F1 | McLaren

True, the Street Triple R’s throttle can be manipulated gently. But with 106 hp moving 417 pounds, it has roughly the power-to-weight ratio of the McLaren F1. Even if you never rev it higher than 4000 RPM, an errant twist—like say, while riding over a road bump—could cause problems. So, if you’re fresh out of a motorcycle safety course, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.

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But, if you’ve taken the course and ridden a few bikes since, the 675cc Triumph Street Triple R makes a fine first motorcycle. It can handle commuting duty and weekend fun with aplomb. And if you need ABS, it became standard on the 2013 model, Cycle World reports.

Happy riding, and stay safe.

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