It Ticks All The Boxesby Harry Fisher, on LISTEN 10:59
With the release of the Trident 660, Triumph has hit the jackpot right out of the box and matched, if not beaten, all the competition in in one fell swoop. With a brilliant engine and chassis, stunning build quality and great looks, it may be small and compact and carry a competitive price tag, but has so much character and ability that you have to wonder how Triumph has done it.
Small Can Be Beautiful
Every now and again, a new motorbike comes along that reminds you why you fell in love with motorcycling in the first place. Many motorcyclists - or, rather, those of a certain generation - started riding when motorbikes were simpler than they are today; an engine, a carburettor, handlebars, brakes - all of varying levels of efficiency - wheels and a frame. You got on, started it and rode away, with no endless fiddling to set the thing up before you snicked it into gear and set off.
All you had to worry about was the riding itself, being as smooth and fast and safe as possible: no distractions, nothing to do but ride.
Motorcycles in the intervening years have become ever more complicated, with often bewildering levels of adjustability which, let’s face it, are pretty irrelevant to the vast majority of riders, who would not be able to detect any difference between one setting and another. I’m not saying that motorcycles have become less enjoyable because of over-complication, but some of the innocence has been lost. What has been added, however, is cost and new motorcycles stray ever further from being affordable.
Which is why it is so refreshing to come across a new motorcycle that is simple and honest and relatively inexpensive without sacrificing performance or dynamism, without losing any of its character and quality, or without having to resort to a small-capacity bike to fit your budget. It doesn’t need endless electronic adjustment because it doesn’t make enough power to need to reign it all in.
The New Triumph Trident 660
That new motorcycle is the Triumph Trident 660 and it is a revelation. I’ll stop short of saying it could be the perfect motorcycle, but it’s not far off. It’s a refreshingly simple bike that loses nothing because of its simplicity. It’s chock full of Triumph DNA, which means it has bags of character, a brilliant chassis and engine and promises to be inexpensive to buy and run.
At its heart is a new 660cc version of the Triumph triple-cylinder engine, derived from the Daytona 675 motor, producing 80bhp. While it is not a completely new engine, enough has changed inside that it might as well be; new pistons, crankshaft, cylinder head, engine cases, clutch, cylinder liners, camshafts and cooling system, to name just the major components that have been changed, have you asking, ‘what is the same?’
Is 80bhp Enough These Days?
Now, you might think that it must be boring with ‘only’ 80bhp, but it’s enough to keep experienced riders entertained while being so easy to ride that beginners will find it completely unintimidating. The gearing is perfect, with relatively short spaces between the fist four ratios allowing you to keep the engine on the boil, while fifth and sixth are a longer jump to enable more relaxed cruising on long stretches.
The chassis helps enormously. With Street Triple and Daytona DNA, the Trident 660 was always going to be a great handling bike; since when has Triumph made a bad-handling motorcycle? If the suspension - by Showa - is from their base-range as opposed to top-drawer and might show slight limitations when pushed hard, it is still more than enough for the vast majority of owners and contributes to the low purchase price. However, if this bike has been built down to a price, it is hard to recognise when the overall quality of components, fit and finish are examined closely.
While it may be a throwback to simpler times in terms of power and electronics, nothing in the bike’s behaviour suggests that it is anything other than a thoroughly modern motorcycle, incorporating everything that has been learned about chassis construction, braking, engine management, gearboxes and handling.
Gearbox: Go For The Quickshifter
Talking of the gearbox, there is an optional quick shifter/auto blipper gear change which, in my opinion, is the only way to go. In operation, it does have a slightly spongy feel at the lever, but it is so smooth in operation that it is a joy to use, even at low speeds; it’s right up there with the best systems I have used.
If anything, it is so good that it flatters the gearbox. When I tried the Trident without the quick shifter, I found the gearbox to be a little harsh in operation. Perhaps the extremely low mileage of the bike didn’t help; it would be interesting to try a 5,000 mile example for direct comparison. Having said, that, opt for the quick shifter and you won’t be disappointed.
Small But In Proportion
In appearance, the Trident 660 manages to be both aggressive and welcoming at the same time. If it looks physically small - which it is - this doesn’t translate to the riding experience. As a six-foot-plus tall rider, at no point did I feel cramped on the bike, nor did I look like I was several sizes too large for it when I caught sight of myself in a shop window. It is this compact size that makes it so much fun to ride; it is easy to feel that you are in control of the bike, that it is working for you, not against you.
Torque Where You Need It
The engine is a peach. 90% of torque is made between 3,600rpm and 9,750rpm, with a rev limit north of 10,000rpm. It imbues the Trident with so much character and a lot of that is down to the exhaust note as much as the smooth and relentless urge it gives, not something you necessarily associate with this capacity. Being more familiar with 600cc in-line four Japanese engines that can sound pretty weedy at tick-over and lower revs before reaching a screaming redline - which needs to be visited to unleash the performance - the Trident’s engine has a tick-over sound full of bass and that endearing triple-cylinder off-beat. As the revs rise on a wave of torque, it turns into a full-blooded howl that is so intoxicating that you find yourself holding lower gears longer than absolutely necessary just to hear the engine sing.
It might not be blisteringly fast - although it is certainly not slow, by any means - but it is at once clear that the chassis could handle more power; it never feels anything other than composed and confidence-inspiring. Yes, pushed to the absolute limits by someone with the talent, the suspension might be found wanting but that is not the focus for this bike. 99.9% of people who buy this bike, for whatever reason, will discover a bike that will handle everything that can be thrown at it. It will be at home pottering around town, on a Sunday morning country blast or even at a track day, where I am sure it will excel without scaring the living daylights out of the rider. ‘User-friendly’ is a much-maligned phrase but that is exactly what the Trident is.
From The Saddle
As mentioned, comfort is good, the riding position near perfect for me, at least and the rider’s eye view is attractive, with a single round instrument housing a TFT display. This is something that Triumph has perfected over the years and it is clear and easy on the eye, being devoid of gimmicky graphics.
The Trident 660 is a throwback to the simple elegance of the original Street Triple of 2008. Over the years, that model has become ever sharper, less compromising and more expensive. The Trident 660 has therefore become the perfect introduction to modern Triumph (as opposed to the ‘modern classic’ range of models, based on the Bonneville).
The Trident is the complete and perfect antidote to the ever-increasing complication of motorcycles. Its simplicity allows you to enjoy the sensation of riding it and that is fine by me as it has so much natural charm that you don’t want anything getting in the way of that sensation.
There are three obvious rivals for the Trident 660 in the form of the Yamaha MT-07, Honda CB650R and Kawasaki Z650. All of them are very good but somehow lack the charm and personality of the Trident. There’s a bit of disparity in price, with the Honda coming in at $9,199, the Triumph at $8,095, the Yamaha at $7,699 and the Kawasaki at R7,249. They all give roughly similar power outputs and have similar specification.
Then there is the recently launched Aprilia RS660, also parallel-twin powered but a much sharper proposition than any of the others, not to mention much more expensive; expect to pay up to $11,499.
One could perhaps say that the main challenge to the Trident comes from within Triumph itself. The Street Triple is quite a bit more expensive ($10,500) and is dynamically brilliant, but still small and can be docile enough to make buyers think twice. Triumph could have tied themselves in knots by introducing the Trident in the face of its own model line-up but, in reality, the Trident is so different to the Street that they compliment each other.
Verdict - Is This The Best Bike in its Class?
The Trident 660 is one of those motorcycles that puts a smile on your face the moment you pull away. Rarely has a motorcycle combined rose-tinted spectacles with thoroughly modern engineering and road manners so well. It’s good, honest, simple fun with a hint of retro that is missing from the Yamaha, Kawasaki and Honda and the build quality loses nothing to any of those. Because the engine is comparatively unstressed compared to its Daytona 675 origins, servicing intervals have been lengthened to 10,000 miles which will be easier on the wallet. Subjectively, the looks might not do much for you, especially next to the ultra-modern Yamaha MT-07; some might have wished Triumph had gone a bit further with the styling but, understated as it is, it will attract a lot of riders for whom shouting about what they have bought isn’t a big thing.
In recent years, the 600cc class has been dominated by the supersports models from the Japanese and Triumph themselves. These are completely different concepts to the easy-going naked sports bikes that are now dominating the capacity class that are so much more accessible to more people more of the time. The Triumph is the perfect mixture of looks, performance, handling, quality and price and deserves a serious look if you’re in the market for a modern, middleweight motorcycle.