2006 Triumph Daytona 675 - First Ride
By Neale Bayly
Photos by Gold & Goose
With the 2006 model launch season in full swing, it was most enlightening to learn that the new 2006 Daytona 675 actually started life way back in 2001 as a feasibility study. This lead to a decision in early 2002 that Triumph would build their own completely unique three-cylinder middleweight sportbike, one that would borrow nothing from any of their previous models.
It's no secret that Triumph has come up a few quid short with their four-cylinder sportbikes over the years while attempting to match their far-eastern counterparts. So, by staying with their now trademark three-cylinder engine configuration, essentially creating their own niche, Triumph set about building the sportiest machine to ever roll out of the Hinckley factory.
With engine development underway and the chassis being designed, by early 2003 styling sketches were appearing. In a departure from previous models, these were produced in-house by the Triumph staff and really show the depth of talent that exists within the company. Stuart Wood, the principal engineer in charge of engine and chassis development, told us they were looking for a design that had longevity. To this end, the frame follows the T595 series that began in 1997 by running over the top of the engine, and as a result is extremely narrow.
The all-new three-cylinder engine was up and running in May 2003, and by late 2004 a prototype bike was out making miles in the English countryside. Designed to be extremely compact, the 675cc capacity was deliberately chosen to give the new Daytona a distinct advantage over other middleweight sport bikes. Allowing for a much wider spread of torque and bigger midrange punch, it is also capable of kicking out some impressive power at the upper end of the rev range. Coupled with a light, agile chassis, world-class brakes and suspension, while featuring the most aggressive styling package from Triumph yet, it would seem on the surface that all the bikes goals have been met.
The all-new engine produces a claimed 123 horsepower at 12,500 rpm, with a peak torque figure of 53 foot pounds coming just 750 rpm lower at 11,750. What this doesn't show is the near flat torque curve across the range that comes before this final spike. Compared to the latest generation of super-fours, this rev ceiling is a tad lower, but the three-cylinder is a different animal and pulls from a lot lower down. The power doesn't tail off on top, and the engine has some useful over-rev if you need it up to the 14,000-rpm rev limiter.
Compression is reasonably high at 12.65:1 and the 74 mm pistons move through a 52.3mm bore. They use a top ring that has a low-friction finish and ride on weight saving nut-less connecting rods. Up top in the cylinder head, the valves use a single spring, and on the exhaust side they are made from a nickel-based material known as Nimonic, which allows them to better handle high heat.
To permit the world's press to sample the fruits of their labor, the MotoGP track at Sepang in Malaysia was picked by Triumph for the venue, with a road ride planned for the following day. This would give journalists an opportunity to mercilessly flog the new Triple on the long track and check it out on the street, giving me a chance to see how it stacks up to the Yamaha R6 that we tested recently in Saudi Arabia.
Arriving at the famous circuit under some very threatening skies, we were soon sorted into our respective groups, before a quick change into our leathers saw us circulating the track in the high temperatures and 100% humidity. With intermittent light rainfall, the word of the morning was caution as we made our first few laps.
Sepang International racetrack is a big circuit, with a wide variety of corners and two long, fast straights thrown in for top speed and ultra-hard braking. Making sure to stay as upright as possible while trying to get a feel for the surface and which way the track twisted and turned, the early laps didn't allow me much time to think about the new Daytona. Beneath me, the silky smooth Triple burbled away with a healthy rasp from the track-only tail can that had been fitted for the test. Super narrow and feather-light between my legs, by the time the lights came on to signal the end of the first session I felt right at home, and it was apparent there was enough grip to get serious.
Session number two was deemed dry, and with a little more circuit knowledge it was time to start getting rowdy.
During the press brief, Wood had gone into some detail to explain how Triumph wanted class-leading brakes on the 675, and with Nissin providing the four-piston calipers and radial master cylinder his wish was granted. These had their pistons treated for less friction and more feel, and they attack a pair of 308mm rotors.
At the end of the back straight, a wee peep at the small digital speedometer showed the bike hitting close to 150 mph before it was time to scrub speed for the tight 180 that led to the front straight. With just the lightest touch on the lever, I could wait comfortably until the 200-meter mark before feeling the near viscous bite of the brakes doing their stuff. Chasing a couple of Japanese journos all day, I was using the Nissin's amazing capabilities to overcome the distance I was losing as the bike hauled my lard arse down the straights: Much like trying to keep up with our 90-pound editor, Duke Danger, whenever we are on the track together.
What was really nice about the system was the early lever travel worked perfectly for trail braking and slower speed maneuvers, especially on the road the following day. This gave me no end of confidence braking from a-buck-fifty at the end of the front straight, as I could quickly and easily weight the front wheel before really using the all the power the eight pistons afford.
What this early track familiarity and high-speed braking did reveal was a suspension set up that was a little on the soft side for my 180 pounds, so a quick bit of cribbing off ex-GP Star Niall MacKenzie had me sounding very knowledgeable as I talked with Triumph's suspension tech. Basically, the bike was a little on the firm side of standard to start with, so moving to the 41mm fork we added an extra ring of preload, and two clicks of compression and rebound. In the rear, a half turn of preload was added with a little extra compression and rebound also. While this was going on, the featherweight Japanese journalist was actually backing off on the rear preload, as it was too stiff for him and reducing his front-end stability.
Back out on the Sepang circuit, the improvement was not only immediately noticeable under said braking, but the bike felt decidedly more stable through the very fast left, and made the following hard right transition more easily. My new Japanese friend obviously liked his changes because he was getting harder and harder to keep in sight, even as I picked up my pace.
Coming in at the end of my second session, I was still riding the bike like a four-cylinder, and in retrospect I was revving it too high. This was losing me drive, and also making for some hard full-throttle upshifts. Re-adjusting my brain some during my next session, shifting right on or before the programmable shift lights at 13,500 rpm greatly improved my shifting errors, and not revving the engine so high transformed my whole experience. A light went on and I was transported to Triumph Daytona 675 Nirvana.
Where I had been manically shifting up and down through the box looking for every ounce of power, I left the bike in third gear for a series of corners that started right after the tight uphill left hairpin Turn 9 if you are counting, a classic first-gear corner that I quickly realized could be taken in second gear.
Eliminating a downshift, and an immediate upshift after the exit, the corner is quickly followed by a hard right. Shortly before the apex of this next corner, I would short shift into third. By this time I was on my knee and had plenty enough drive as I held this gear up to the two tight rights that are actually taken as one. Ignoring my impulse to drop a gear and rail in, I left the Triple in third, got my braking done and arced smoothly through the corner concentrating on my corner speed.
This brought me onto the short downhill straight that necessitated braking for Turn 12. Coming off the brakes and pitching the bike on its side hard gave no protest from the front end, and exiting the turn I railed through 13 heading for Turn 14. Again resisting the urge to shift, I just held the gear and bumped the limiter as I aimed for my mark that would necessitate dropping to second to get a good drive onto the back straight.
Once I had this section figured out, I used the same trick from Turn 5 to Turn 8, and was just getting off on the flexibility of the three-cylinder engine, not to mention the extra concentration this allowed me without so many shifts. And this is where I think the 675 is going to score big with the regular track day punter, because as road riders we don't tend to rev engines so high. This can be a big detriment on a bike like the new R6, where exiting a corner with anything under 10K showing on the tach means the other guy is going to get you. While racers will want the hard edge focus the new generation of super-sixes give, the more casual rider is going to eat up the 675's long gears and highly forgiving, flexible three-cylinder motor.
Spooned onto the ultra light wheels were a set of Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa PROs. Talking with the Pirelli man, he told me these are the sportiest of the street tires in the Pirelli range, and he didn't feel we needed race compounds for our test. Besides, the front was designed for the Daytona and this is what the bikes will come with from the showroom. I have no complaints as they performed their job admirably, and apart from a slide in a fast right-hander where I got over too far without hanging off, they did a superb job and inspired a lot of confidence pushing hard in the turns.
Its riding position is pure sport, and the seat angles down which pushes the rider toward the tank. This wasn't noticeable on the track as I was moving around all the time, and it's not a major gripe. Wind protection is very good for such a small fairing, and holding steady 90-100 mph speeds on the Malaysian highway was about as mellow as it gets for a sportbike. The wind hits square in the helmet area with little to no buffeting. If extended road riding is your bag, a set of Heli bars are going to be needed, but for shortish road trips like we took around Kuala Lumpar, the ride position worked just fine.
The view from the hot seat is clean and sparse. Typical Triumph switchgear sits on clip-on bars that live under the neat, minimalist triple clamp, and the small instrument panel, features a black analog tachometer with white numbers and a small digital speedometer. This is identical to the new Speed Triple except for the black backing plate on the tach, and it includes an easy-to-use lap timer. The computer also records highest top speed and average miles per gallon, as well as having the usual trip counters. To use the lap timer you use the scroll button on the left, and then every time you cross the start/finish line, just hit the starter button. This is easier than it sounds, as it is a simple task to slip your thumb down while holding the throttle wide open. On returning to the pits, the middle button pulls up your last time with the far right button toggling through the other laps. It will actually hold 99 laps if you really need it.
As with all new Triumphs, turning the ignition key sends the tach needle round the dial while the computer does its thing, so there is no need to be antsy on pit lane when you hit the starter. Firing straight to life, the new Daytona uses Keihin closed-loop fuel injection and gets the good stuff into the cylinders through a trio of 44mm throttle bodies. The air intake snout sits in between the headlights for a straight shot to the airbox, and single 12-point injectors fire the juice into the cylinders. Quizzing Mr. Wood during the press brief, he told us Triumph decided a single injector would be adequate, and from the way the bike fuels it certainly doesn't cause any problems. During the track part of the test, I was very happy with the way the throttle came back on so smoothly exiting the turns, no matter how ham fisted I was in my search for a better drive.
If there was any area of complaint I could muster, it was as I mentioned earlier with a few difficult upshifts. And noting the throttle had a fair bit of play made me think maybe I wasn't rolling off enough for the real high-rpm shifts. Comparing big toe blisters and skin loss with other journos at the end of the day told me I wasn't the only one. I was also thinking that Triumph gearboxes are typically a little firm till they get some miles on them, but during the street ride I never had a moment's problem. This might be the lightest shifting Triumph yet.
At the end of our test there was one more treat in store for us, with a final session on board the Arrow-equipped machine. The addition of this race exhaust is said to drop close to 20 pounds and gain 5 horsepower, and it should be mandatory for the rider who is going to do a lot of track time. Allowing me to cut an average of three seconds a lap from my earlier times on the stock bike, the loss of weight and increased power work wonders on the already solid platform. It was also interesting to note the consistency of my laps, which were all within a second of each other on the Arrow-equipped machine.
Leaving Malaysia for the return airline-marathon home, I believed a lot of Triumph's positive feeling for the new Daytona 675. The bike definitely has absolutely no apologizing to do in the performance and handling department, nor loses any of that good old British character. With a choice of a fantastic howl from the track-only pipe, or one of the most intoxicating intake roars with the stock pipe, not to mention a host of carbon fiber accessories already available to bolt on, it is no surprise the bike is sold out until June in the UK.
Here in the U.S., it seems the deposit-taking business is in full swing, with Triumph finally having a serious contender in the hottest class in motorcycling. It's a fantastic alternative for the rider who is looking for something other than a totally dedicated track tool.