Until you know better, the all-new 2016 Triumph Street Twin 900 looks very like the 1200cc T120. But don’t be fooled. The 900 is 26kg lighter, 30mm shorter and 35mm lower at the seat. The fuel tank is 12 litres rather than 14.5, there’s only one disc, you get a solitary speedo and have to make do with five gears rather than six. In short, it’s the budget model, gunning for the same price point and emotional appeal as Kawasaki’s W800, Moto Guzzi’s V7 variants, and Ducati’s rather pricier Scramblers.
What the 2016 Triumph Street Twin 900 shares with the 1200 is the wondrous packaging: boring stuff tucked away, traditional bits on show (though it does without the bigger bike’s pseudo-carb). There’s the same ultra-clean frame design with its thick black paint; same superbly-finished tank and mudguards; same gleaming fasteners and general air of solid quality. ‘It reminds me of a roast dinner,’ says Our Friend. ‘You know where everything is. The tank is the beef. The engine is the roasties. The seat is the gravy. Next to it my Ducati Monster 900 looks like a big plate of Bolognaise spaghetti, with wires and cables spilling out everywhere.’
Other riders say the same thing, though without sounding like they’ve been eating magic mushrooms. ‘It’s everything the ’69 Bonnie isn’t,’ said my mate Dave, who owns a Triumph T140 and Suzuki DL650. ‘Oil tight, integrated design, easy to look after.’ And it’s true: the Triumph’s smooth surfaces make it easy to clean. It’s even got the bigger bike’s lopsided 270-degree firing interval. It sounds good on the standard stainless silencers, though it’s more V-twin than the regular-firing Meriden Bonnie’s growl.
So how does it go? You might think a 2016 Triumph Street Twin 900 would deliver great gobs of torque. A short spin would disabuse you of that notion. It’s certainly a sweet engine, as smooth and flexible as you could possibly want. But select first, rev the nuts off it, repeat four more times and you’ll find the speedo needle just about nudging 100. That’s pretty much all there is, or maybe 110 down a hill. I mention this not because it’s important to reach these speeds on a bike like this (it isn’t) but to show that the 900 is actually quite ordinary.
Triumph claim 60 lb.ft at 3200rpm, and a mere 54bhp at 5900rpm. My 1998 Ducati 900 twin, which has almost as much torque, makes 80bhp. OK, the Street Twin is about satisfying low-rpm performance, and it has plenty of that. But bikes are also about overtaking cars and having a blast. I just end up thrashing it everywhere like an LC.
The engine mapping is more of an issue. Most of the time, in the bottom two thirds of the rev range, there’s a harsh transition between wide open and shut. Say you’re approaching a bend. You roll off a bit, and instead of going neutral the engine lurches into overrun. It’s a classic emissions-related problem that affects dozens of bikes, but it’s particularly annoying on the Street Twin. On an older bike you could book it in for an ECU reflash at an establishment like BSD Performance. But Triumph’s Haydn Davies points out that Triumph ECUs already contain the EU-mandated anti-tamper function, and a remap will cause a shutdown that only the factory can reset. I suspect, or at least fervently hope, that Triumph can improve it by loading better software into the ECU at service time.
I think the suspension is disappointing for a seven grand bike. The 1200 steams over rough tarmac like an ocean liner, but the 2016 Triumph Street Twin 900 is more stiffly-sprung for its weight, and kicks off bumps rather than soaks them up. It doesn’t load up like the 1200 in corners either, so getting to a decent lean is a more nervy affair, particularly on poor roads. Neither Paul nor I can scrub the rear Pirelli all the way to the edge, or touch down the footrests, whereas on the T120 you’d be rude not to. I certainly never troubled the traction control, but with the soft power delivery it’s hard to see how you could.
The single disc is fine; there’s less feel than a twin setup, but still enough power. It has decent ABS too, stopping the bike without the kangarooing jerks that were often a hallmark of earlier systems. It’s pretty clear that the 2016 Triumph Street Twin 900 is aimed at peaceful souls: older folk returning to biking, perhaps, or just guys and girls who don’t feel the need for speed. That crowd won’t be disappointed. The exceptionally low seat, docile power delivery and handsome looks combine to produce the most unthreatening of motorbikes. And it’ll obviously last for decades if you look after it.
2016 Triumph Street Twin 900 Specs
Engine: DOHC 8-valve parallel twin
Bore x Stroke: 84.6 x 80.0mm
Transmission: Five speed, chain
Power (claimed): 54 bhp @ 5900 rpm
Torque (claimed): 59 lb.ft @ 3200 rpm
Frame: Steel tube cradle
Front Suspension: 41mm fork, no adjustment
Rear Suspension: Twin shocks, adjustable preload
Front Brakes: 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper
Rear Brakes: 255mm disc, 1-pot caliper
Weight (claimed): 198kg (dry)
Seat Height: 750mm
Tank Size: 12 litres
Economy: 60mpg/158 miles
Electronics: ABS, traction control, USB socket
Price: £7420 otr (£7300 in plain black)