As should only be done when considering a British bike, I test rode and then popped off to the “local” for a couple of pints with the mates. Or at least went off and had a drink with some friends in a more Canadian version of the vernacular. The Sprint ST 955i immediately appealed to me with its classic lines that go against the trend of hard angular plastic angst, as expressed in the fairings of so many modern bikes. That, and it was red. I’ve always had a soft spot for red bikes, especially the speeding ticket red variety, and the color makes the soft line of the Sprint work in a way the black or green doesn’t. In a collection of other sport-bikes it would be the quiet one…
Until it idles, all diesel-like. The Sprint ST’s idle was in complete contradiction to being one of the fastest colors available, but I’ve been fooled by at-idle performance before. The K1200RS, for example, sounded like a shaking bag of gravel at idle, but could really hike up its skirt when it came down to moving. I tugged the throttle…
“BWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH” Not just any version of the sound, deep base and throaty despite the stock pipes. This for me was the signature of the Sprint ST, classic style hiding hooligan upbringings. Once actually in motion I took the time to revel in the engine and its sound.
No anemic whir of the ST1300’s V4, the triple was like no engine I’ve met before. Torque, great gobs of the stuff and pull too, 70 lb. ft. according to the stats. The ’01 Sprint is 110hp and I have no reason to disbelieve. While this doesn’t put it at the top of the charts, in the real world the Sprint ST can hustle. And the engine note is pure joy. I admit to using every excuse possible to open the engine up under a hard pull of the heavy throttle just to hear the engine utter its baritone notes, in the name of reviewing… honest! That car didn’t hear me, “BWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”! I wonder if it can wheelie on throttle alone, “BWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”. Oh look a bird, “BWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”. Any excuse would do, and all of them left me grinning like an idiot. This engine is serious giggle factor. The Sprint ST may evoke a purely passionate response on style and engine alone, but it has a lot more to offer.
The ergos on the Sprint ST were comfy, maybe a bit more relaxed than the VFR. The bags are well integrated into the bike’s stylish flowing and soft lines. The handling was spot on: confident and almost predictive of my needs in the bends. Oh, you want to corner? — Great, fine, by the way “What do you take in your tea?” It’s all very relaxed and refined, even as you’re pulling the engine to revel in the torque and trumpet symphony.
There are lots of “litre” bikes out there, and I am sure this one will tow any three of them! And it will sound great doing it.
The overall package has relatively good fit and finish. No major issues, but a few distinct idiosyncrasies. The shifting was heavy, not clunky or difficult, just heavy. As is the throttle. It’s almost as if Triumph decided to overcompensate for a troubled past by overbuilding the bike. This is fine by me; the bike felt solid, planted and nigh bulletproof. Until I braked.
I have had bikes with nosedive before, the Bandit 600 and the ST1100. This put their demonstrations of downward mobility to shame. So, a brilliant bike except for the front forks, those would need to be sorted. This is good as I’m sure it drives (or dives) an entire aftermarket industry. Oh, and then there are the gauges.
The readouts are clear and easy to read, it’s just that my demo displayed some eccentricities. The fuel gauge failed to register the tank’s level for a good 3 minutes. It may have needed time to think things through. Neutral was hard to find, and the neutral light itself seemed periodically uncertain. And the order of the gauges was inverse of what my North American mind has come to expect. My eye naturally fell to the centrally displayed tach rather than the speedo to the left. Odd considering this engine gives good feedback; speed may not be the same concern as it was on the Blackbird, but one would do well to be aware of it.
Second to the engine my favorite bit of the bike was the “pass” button which throws on both high and low beam headlights – a great idea laid low by teaming masses of Canadian drivers who don’t know what this means. Instead I used it to optically stand out to drivers pulling out, and if you’re going to use the pass button you may as well “BWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”.
This bike is my passionate choice; it has quirks, faults and character. What it doesn’t have is good dealer support in Canada, if you have a breakdown in the interior of BC the chances of finding a Triumph dealer are well… none. This is my biggest deterrent from the bike and shall remain so, at least until I get to feel the engine pull again “BWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH”. That may overpower any rational choice.
Thank you to Western Powersports for providing their demo-Sprint ST for my test ride.