Thursday was going to be a busy day. A supplement to write for MCN, routes to do the next book, prep for the weekend... and getting the mighty Honda CrossTourer serviced.
Naturally, I'm not doing things in a logical way – but it is efficient. Lings Honda, the dealership that sold me the bike, is 30-odd miles away. But the same company's Triumph franchise is less than 15 miles away... and as part of the same group, can do the service. It was always a Honda dealer when I was growing up, anyway.
It does mean that the courtesy bike is off-brand, though. But that's fine by me because it's a while since I rode a Street Triple – the 765cc engine was launched while I was still on RiDE but I never got a chance to ride it before jacking the job in.
So what's it like? Small. Well, an elephant might feel compact after getting off the CrossTourer, but this really does feel like there's almost nothing there: knees up, head down, leaning forward, it's an even more compressed riding position than my Kawasaki Z1000SX.
It's also 75 miles short of its first service, so as soon as it approaches 4,000rpm, the dash is illuminated with blue shift lights like my own personal fun police. There have always been two schools of thought when it comes to running in: treat it gently, it'll grow up to be smooth and strong; cane it from the word go and it'll be fast (ahem, but may be fragile). Normally, I subscribe to the respectful/by-the-book school of running in, though there are exceptions...
When the Yamaha MT-10 was launched, I was desperate to ride one so found a flimsy excuse... helmet testing. I took it to Bruntingthorpe (with my eldest child in tow for a work-experience day) to do comparative laps in different lids, to compare noise level, stability, venting, comfort, peripheral vision – every feeble factor I could conceive of to pretend it was valid. I did learn a surprising amount about the lids, but really I just wanted to ride the bike.
And what a bike turned out to be: pin it out of the chicane, front wheel lifting, then when the white shift light lit at the top of the revs, tap the quickshifter... front dips then rises again... and again... Up to about 130 and then hard on the brakes. Awesome! It made even a muppet feel like a riding god.
After 70 miles of this foolishness, the dash started flashing to say it wanted a drink so I toddled off to fill up the 17L tank. When I went to reset the trip, I discovered... it wasn't the trip. It was the odometer... Its first 70 miles were full-throttle, off-the-limiter abuse. Ooops. Well, actually it was the first 130 miles by the end of the day's testing, but hey...
Anyway, I don't abuse the Street Triple R like that, but I do use a few more than the recommended 4000rpm. It's a great engine: willing, though there's a definite change in character from 6000rpm (frankly, on the open road, you'd never be below that). I play with the riding modes: Rain does feel nicely mild and safe; Road is relaxed; but I can't see why you'd ever have it out of Sport (okay, except on wet slippery roads perhaps). That's when the bike feels alive, responsive and engaging, encouraging you to rev it and bury the front end into every corner as it fills your senses with feedback. The quickshifter is slick, the brakes sensitive but power builds quickly and the steering is lightning fast. After cutting my way through these local lanes with the broadsword of an adventure bike, it's great to be reminded what a scapel feels like. Ride quality is a little harsh on rougher surfaces, but that'll mostly be because the suspension hasn't been set up for my weight and I daresay it could be improved with a bit of spanner-twidling if was my bike.
Not that I'm rushing to add it to the fleet. I really enjoy it, but my knees don't... But when I get back to my lock-up, the reason for that becomes clear: this is a low model. Great. I'd give you good odds that I was the tallest customer in Norfolk Triumph that day and I left on one of the shortest bikes in the range... Though to put it in persepctive, it still had more legroom than my old 08 Fireblade.
When I get the call that my bike is ready, I take the long way back – courteously adding the mileage needed so they can give the Street Triple R its first service (not just playing... I was helping). The more miles I do on the bike, the more I like it... though my knees tell a slightly different story. Bet the full-sized one's a peach.
Getting back on the CrossTourer confirms why I have this bike, though: it's a machine built on my scale. It's big, it's comfortable, it has a majestic view of the road ahead and stupidly powerful engine for devouring it. It laughs in the face of the bumps and ripples on the roads on the way home and pastes an entirely different kind of grin across my face to the compact little Triumph. There's a place for both bikes, but I'm glad this is the one that lives in my lock-up.
PS: I know that really is a little review of the Street Triple. I hadn't set out to write one... maybe next time I borrow a bike I'll do a proper job on it. What do you think?