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Reivew: Four things I learnt about the Triumph Trident 660

What do you do when you're out of the loop and want to test a bike? Borrow a dealer demo... Thanks Norfolk Triumph

This is the new-for-2021 Triumph Trident 660. With a list price of £7395, it's the most affordable way to get a Triumph – but what's it actually like?

There was a time when, if I wanted to find out what a new bike was, I exercised the near-godlike power of the motorcycle magazine editor and picked up the phone: a few days later, it would appear as if by magic, rolled out of the back of a van. Not any more...

Old name, new bike...

I might not be working on bike mags any more, but I'm still curious about bikes – and having borrowed the Triumph Street Triple R courtesy bike while my pride and joy was in for its service reminded me how much I like just getting to grips with different machines. So as I had to go back to Lings Norfolk Triumph for tyres on the CrossTourer, I booked out their Trident demonstrator to satisfy my curiousity. Here's what I learnt about it.

1 It's not a cheap Street Triple

To be honest, it seemed obvious to me that never would be: Triumph would never undercut their own product; but apparently some owners have come in for a demo ride and been disappointed that the Trident 660 doesn't deliver the full Speed Triple or Street Triple experience for less money. Sorry lads: if you want the big-bike experience, you have to pay the big bucks for the real deal...

It's properly compact. Especially the pillion seat

I do think it's been very cleverly done. This is still a Triumph riding experience, but watered down from the more premium bikes. There's the low saddle – 805mm from the floor, but lower as the suspension compresses under the rider (quite a bit with my 16st on it). There are the wide bars (795mm) set just right to hunch your chin over the headstock. The pegs are a comfortable version of high-and-set-back – not full-on racy, but enough to bend the knee. A similar stance to the Street Triple.

When firing it up, it's immediately clear that this is a different beast: the engine humms rather than purrs; blip the throttle and it speaks up, rather than growling. Even before knocking it into gear, it's clear that this is not going to have the cojones of the Street Triple (never mind the new high-power Speed Triple).

2 The engine is... great

It's a gentle clunk down to first gear and the Trident slips smoothly away. It's as unintimidating as a 125, with a sensitive throttle, light clutch and decent back brake making for easy manoeuvring – it has a good lock for easy U-turns. I have to potter through some traffic, filtering up to the front of a set of lights at roadworks on the edge of town, but when they go green and I leave the speed limit, I finally get to find out what it's really about.

Nice, clear, easy to operate clocks

The engine is a liquid-cooled 12v, dohc 660cc inline triple that Triumph claim makes 80bhp with 64Nm of torque. To my eyes it looks remarkably like an early Daytona 675 engine, but the performance is very different. Open the throttle gently and the white segments of the rev counter creep slowly round the clock, seeming slightly hesitant between 4-5k. Things pick up from 6k on – as they do on the Street Triple, so there is that same sense of character engineered in. But where that turns into a real party animal, this is more of an outbreak of dad dancing.

That could be because I've started with the bike in Rain mode. It has only two: Rain and Road. Switching on the go is easy, just poking the mode switch, hitting the tick button on the left-hand instrument cluster, then shutting the throttle to confirm/activate. It does feel more positive – nowhere near the surge of controlled aggression the Street Trip delivers, but lively and engaging. It's really smooth, feeling better the more it revs – I find it's a bit too easy to blunder into the rev limiter, which sets all the white rev-counter segments flashing, but I suspect that's something I'd stop doing with another couple of hundred miles in the saddle.

Thankfully the gearbox is sweet. There's no quickshifter, but it'll make effortless clutchless upshifts. Adjust the ratio when catching traffic, so it's burbbling along at about 6-7k, and there's plenty of easy roll-on power when there's a whiff of an overtake. As I cover more miles, I come to enjoy using the engine, but it does need to be worked; potter along at lower revs and it's borderline dull; rev it and it comes to life.

3 The chassis is the best bit

You can tell that pennies have been saved in all the obvious places. The slightly-too-substantial mirrors look like they were leftover from a Nineties 955, the levers are generic with a cable (not hydraulic) clutch and simple two-pot, non-radial Nissin brakes. That is a good brand, as is Showa, which supplies the suspension... but it is basic: no adjustment at all on the 41mm upside-down forks and only preload adjustment on the rear monoshock (which could clearly do with a few lumps of adjustment for a big guy like me, but there's no remote adjuster and I don't think it's fair to take a spanner to a dealer demo).

Looks tidy, with LED headlight

The thing is, the Trident 660 still steers really sweetly. Bumps do unsettle it (ahem, not adjusted for the fat lump on top) and the front can feel unsettled by big patches of ripples, but it does really roll through the turns. The more I boss the bike, the better it feels – turn the head, positive pressure on the pegs, push the inside bar and get on the gas... lovely.

Again, this is a Street-Triple-Lite experience: it doesn't manage the bumps so well, it doesn't turn in with the same lazer-guided precision, doesn't hunt the line through the corner with the same eagerness... It doesn't feel so alive... But it definitely works and, given the power on tap, it works plenty well enough to stick a grin on my face.

I find I can confuse it easily enough – it really doesn't like it if you touch the brakes in a corner and it won't swap lines with anything like the agility of its more-expensive stablemate. But that is deliberately provoking it, trying to find out how it behaves in a bad situation – running into a corner too hot or misreading a bend that tightens up. The brakes are plenty poweful enough for emergency stops, too.

If I ride it properly, it flows along beautifully. It's light and agile, there's enough feedback from the forks and the front tyre to build confidence to turn hard or carry some corner speed, and the engine response (above 6k) is predictable and smooth. There's plenty of scope to roll on speed when it's needed but also to roll it off smoothly, without needing to keep grabbing at the brake all the time.

4 It's not built for me

And really it's probably not built for you, if you've been riding a while. I do like the Trident 660 – and I do like the price – but there's no way I'd take one over a Street Triple (never mind a Speed Triple). The difference in a monthly PCP payment is going to be negligible and, as an experienced rider, I have high expectations. I want the extra power and precision offered by the bikes that are higher up the Triumph model ladder. I know for many older riders, trading down to a lighter machine makes sense but I think you'd still stop one rung up, on the Street Triple, with the better suspension, stronger engine, more sophisticated electronics and higher-spec components and slightly better finish.

A great bike - for the right rider

If I was a young rider – either on an A2 licence (it can be restricted to make it compatible) or just coming off the A2 limit, things would be very different. The Trident 660 dellvers a proper Triumph riding experience – from the three-cylinder engine character to the agile handling to the occasional cheeky front-wheel-lifting-over-a-crest moment – without breaking the bank and without the sense that it might turn round and bite you, which the more powerful models might bring... You're always going to feel confident and in charge of the Trident 660, which is the best thing for building skills.

My pet hate in road testing is when the writer does the group test in the first ride: having just jumped off one bike, they tell you exactly how it compares with the other bikes in the competitive set which they haven't just ridden. Because I know that memory is unreliable and when you do ride things back-to-back, the differences you imagine/remember usually turn out to be much smaller (though sometimes they are greater). So I'm not going to do that... but I would say if I was looking for an A2 or post-A2 bike my shortlist would be the Trident 660, the Honda CB650F and the Yamaha MT07.

The four-cylinder Honda is the most expensive, slightly more powerful, slightly heavier and probably a little better finished; the parallel-twin Yamaha is less expensive, slightly less powerful but a little lighter and perhaps a little lairier. All three are great options... but I'd probably go for the Trident 660 and then work my way up to the Street and then Speed Triple.

Thanks to Norfolk Triumph for the loan of their demo bike

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