2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS First Ride Review

It was a sad day in southern Spain, not to mention a long way to travel, to be peering out from the garage as intensoning rain dashed any hopes of spinning another lap around the Circuito de Almeria. With only a single session under our belts, and that one merely a familiarization one at best, there was nothing left to do except get wet on the ride back to the hotel.

2017 Triumph Street Triple RS Review: First Ride

On the bright side of the dampening gloom was a first half of the day spent flogging the 2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS around a variety of delicious Spanish backroads, sampling its arsenal of upgrades, especially those of the electronic variety. Endowed with cornering ABS and cornering traction control thanks to a new Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), as well as a variety of riding modes and cruise control, all visible and selectable via an eye-pleasing full-color TFT display (first seen on the 2017 Street Triple), the new Speed Triple now stands on equal electronic footing with the likes of competitors such as Super Dukes, Tuonos and FZ/MT-10s.

A nicety found on both the S and RS models is backlit switchgear. From the left handlebar, accessing the bike’s menu of ride modes and individual settings for ABS, TC, etc., as well as cruise control is an intuitive process requiring little familiarization.

Fireball Brasfield wonderfully detailed the litany of upgrades and new features the 2018 Speed Triple enjoys in his preview article, so we’ll dispatch with pointless reiterations and move on how well the Speed Triple works in a street environment, and further lament the ill-fated weather that robbed us of our track impressions.

2016 Triumph Speed Triple R Review

In 2016 Triumph claimed 104 new engine parts when John Burns and gang last reviewed it during a multi-streetfighter shootout to and from the World Superbike races at Laguna Seca, where the S model placed second behind the Tuono V4 Factory. Two years later the British OEM has outdone its own amount of new engine bits and pieces by one, endowing the 2018 Speed Triple with 105 new engine components.

Outfitted with Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires, the Speed Triple delivers confident sticktivity during aggressive riding behavior.

The result is a claimed seven percent increase in horsepower and four percent increase in torque, which should result when dyno tested to a half-dozen more horsepower and a half-as-much increase in lb-ft of torque compared to the 2017 model. Triumph also claims a six pound lighter dry weight on the RS model (mostly due to the lighter Arrow exhaust cans), while the S model remains relatively the same weight as before at 423 pounds dry (MO measured wet weight of 478 pounds). More power and less weight are always welcome, but it’s not enough of a power increase/weight decrease to be conclusively noticeably without last year’s model on hand with which to make a direct comparison.

However, the engine does spin 1,000 rpm higher, and even being robbed of our track day, it’s no leap of faith to think that this won’t be anything but beneficial at the track or even during spirited street rides. “Some of us were wishing Triumph allowed it to rev out a little further than its 10,000-rpm rev limit,” John Burns commented in his multi-streetfighter shootout. You got your wish, Burnsie.

Only Rain mode reduces power output to a claimed 100 hp, the other settings change the throttle map’s aggressiveness of power delivery. Rider mode allows you to customize the settings according to your personal preferences.

What certainly remains, and improves, is the Triple’s broad spread of power throughout the rev range. From our 2016 Naked Sports Six-Way Shootout we know the Speed Triple already produced the second-most low-end torque next to Ducati’s Monster 1200S while being out-displaced by 148cc. It wasn’t the torquiest engine, but the Speed Triple delivers more torque where it counts compared to other nakeds. In the horsepower department, six more ponies will put the Speed Triple equal to that of the Monster 1200S and Kawasaki Z1000 at 130 hp, but well below the Tuono’s rear wheel measurement of 160 hp.

The variety of damp, dry and wet roads provided ample opportunity to use the rider modes for their specific situations. Engine response, TC and ABS settings – switching from Road to Sport to Rain – all seemed perfectly matched to the environment and riding style of the given situation. Considering the amount of wet we had to deal with, the Rain setting especially seemed perfectly designed for delivering the right amount of everything providing a rider the confidence needed for dealing with tricky weather/pavement conditions.

Not only does the front brake lever adjustable for distance from the handlebar via the dial at the end of the lever, but the barely visible dial on the inside of the lever adjusts the firmness of the action. For example, when it was wet I’d set the lever to be squishier for better feel at slower speeds when the front tire is more prone to washing out, while under dry conditions at higher speeds a firmer setting was preferable.

Triumph says the company improved the Speed Triple’s gearbox and slip assist clutch. More importantly is the addition of Triumph Shift Assist which provides the advantage of clutchless upshifts/downshifts we all love so much. At slower around-town speeds the action can be a little clunky but the same can be said about a lot of quickshifter systems. Once up to aggressive levels of speed the Triumph system seemed smooth and efficient, especially during our truncated stint at the track.

We all laughed a little when BMW’s S1000RR came stock with cruise control years ago but now nearly every sportbike above $10k comes so equipped. Considering the more comfortable nature of Speed Triple taking longer trips might be in the cards, but even during short stints of straight road riding, I find myself using cruise control just because it’s there. Like other units I’ve sampled, Triumph’s cruise control is easily adjusted up or down in one-mile-per-hour increments.

Brakes remain the same Brembo M4.34 units found on last year’s model. Rear brake is a single Nissin 2-piston caliper gripping a 255mm disc. Suspension units on the RS model consist of a fully adjustable Öhlins 43mm NIX30 fork and fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock, while the S model wears a fully adjustable Showa 43mm fork and Showa shock with rebound and compression adjustability.

While the rain robbed us of testing the RS’s track mode setting, its up/down quickshifter and all its bevy of other improvements at speeds and lean angles only a racetrack can deliver, it’s streetable qualities – where this OG hooligan will spend most of its time – have assuredly delivered a Speed Triple worthy of its heritage. Even in 2016 the lesser-powered naked managed to defeat newer, more powerful competitors by virtue of its user-friendliness and real-world streetability, and the 2018 version continues those strong points only now with the creature comforts of a modern electronics package.

Retail pricing for 2018 is $14,350 for the S model and $16,350 for the RS, an $850 and $1,450, respectively, price increase over 2017 Speed Triples. A reasonable increase considering all the improvements. For what you get upgrading to the RS from the S model (Öhlins suspension, keyless ignition, cornering ABS, advanced traction control), the $2,000 premium is hard to overlook as a great value.

Some of the figures on paper may seem inconsequential – a half-dozen less pounds here and a few more horsepower there – but it all adds up to further refinement of hooligan that’s been a part of the motorcycling spectrum for nearly a quarter-century. And its pricing certainly makes the Speed Triple attractive when compared to its Euro counterparts from KTM (SDR $18k) and Aprilia (Tuono RR $15.5k and Tuono Factory $18k). Triumph says the new models should be in dealerships by May, so you don’t have long to wait.

Our one session around a damp Almeria circuit provided me the opportunity to twice spin up the rear wheel and send it sliding out of alignment exiting corners, and that was with the bike in Road mode. Thankfully I can report that traction control did its job and kept me from hitting the deck.

2018 Triumph Speed Triple RS First Ride Review appeared first on Motorcycle.com.

Top 10 Features of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

When Kawasaki redesigned its smallest Ninja for 2018, the engineers went back to the drawing board and while the motorcycle on your screen may look like a revision in styling, the Ninja 400 has, quite literally, undergone changes from the ground up.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 First Ride Review

I was fortunate enough to ride the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 recently in Northern California. We spent a day winding our way through the emerald green, rolling hills of Sonoma County on (mostly) pristine backroads as we made our way through sleepy coastal towns en route to our ultimate destination: the race track. Day two was spent turning laps at the, equally as scenic, Sonoma Raceway.

There was so much to take in with all of the changes to the 2018 Ninja that we decided to reduce it down, in this article, to the top 10 features of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400.

1. Lightweight maneuverability

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

I really can’t stress enough how is easy to ride the Ninja 400 is. The slightest of input will have the motorcycle turning effortlessly wherever you point it. On our scales, the 2018 Ninja 400 weighs in 15 lbs less than its predecessor at 366 pounds soakin’ wet. Couple this with a more rigid chassis set up and you have a lightweight, stable motorcycle that is an absolute blast to ride.

The larger 41mm Showa fork and the KYB shock do a good job of keeping this nimble motorcycle planted. Of course, if you are looking to build a race bike, you will likely want to stiffen things up in the suspension department.

2. New Chassis

Kawasaki has created an all-new chassis for the Ninja 400 utilizing the same trellis-type frame and concept that is used on its much bigger brother, the Ninja H2. This new frame is said to provide increased rigidity and uses the rigid-mounted engine as a stressed member.

Also new, is the aluminum swingarm mounting plate which bolts to the backside of the engine, also similar to the H2, and eliminates the need for cross members for stabilization. The pivot shaft goes through the mounting plate and bolts directly to the engine, again, for added stability.

3. Another Dimension

Other noteworthy changes in the chassis come from the dimensions section of the spec sheet. The wheelbase has been shortened from 55.3-inches to 53.9-inches and the steering head has been reduced by 2.3-degrees. The 1.4-inches lost in wheelbase and the new 24.7-degree rake angle both contribute to the motorcycle’s quick steering characteristics.

4. Bigger, without being bigger

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

Probably the most prominent detail of the new Ninja is the 103cc increase in engine size. It has been a bit polarizing. Some wonder when the displacement wars in the lightweight sportbike category will stop, some still say it’s too little, and another few think it’s too much. Although, regardless of your side of the fence on the subject, it’s good to see the new powerplant hasn’t gained hardly any overall size compared to last year’s model.

After riding the Ninja 400 through an average day of twisting backroads, a faster pace at the racetrack and now around town running errands, as said in my review, this is the sweet spot in engine size. The 399cc parallel-twin puts out easy to manage, usable power through the mid-range and it just gets to be more fun once the revs increase. A look at our exclusive dyno run of the Ninja 400 shows the steady increase in horsepower from 2500 rpm all the way to 10,000 rpm.

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400: Exclusive Dyno Run And Measured Weight!

With the way the engine is tuned, this motorcycle can be a great way to get into motorcycling without being worried about getting tired of it and wanting to sell it after a year or so. I won’t mention names, but more than one of the journalists on our ride were considering ways to get one of the little green meanies in the garage after our test.

5. More Powah!

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

The boost in cubic centimeters brings more power, but Kawasaki has done well with the tuning of that power, as seen in the chart above. The linear increase in horsepower from 2,500 rpm to 10,000 rpm yields a smooth 44 hp. Having 20 lb-ft of torque available just under 5,000 rpm also lends to the bikes usable mid-range while we see torque peak at 25 lb-ft at 8,200 rpm. Check out the side by side spec chart in our dyno run article to see how that stacks up to the current field of competitors.

6. Still a great entry-level street bike

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

The performance characteristics of the motor, lightweight handling, extremely light clutch pull, and relatively relaxed ergos of the Ninja 400 come together to create an optimal package for a new motorcyclist to get into sport riding without being overwhelming. The new bump in displacement also will keep riders satisfied as their skills progress. Top that all of with the same MSRP of last year’s model, you’ve got yourself a heck of a deal.

7. A potent track weapon?

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

You betcha! The Ninja 400 hits its 25 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 rpm and 44hp at 10,000 rpm, which means the engine gives its full potential higher in the rev range. This was evident during our spirited ride through the backroads of NorCal however, we were able to fully exploit these motorcycles at the track.

Putting down the kind of spec sheet that Kawasaki has with this motorcycle, it was certainly out for blood with the Ninja 400’s redesign. Kawasaki also mentioned during the technical presentation that the Ninja 400 is eligible for more than $531,000 in racing contingency in 20 different classes across 10 sanctioning bodies. This further shows, Kawi is serious about the racing potential of this lightweight class.

8. Slip and Assist Clutch

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

The Slip and Assist clutch make for easy gear changes without the risk of hopping the rear tire. While accelerating the assist function pulls the clutch hub and operating plate together to compress the clutch plates. This is likely the main contributor behind Kawasaki’s claim of a 20% lighter clutch pull. The slipper clutch comes into play when excessive engine braking occurs due to quick or accidental downshifts, forcing the clutch hub and operating plate apart relieving pressure on the clutch plates which reduces back-torque to prevent the rear tire from skidding.

9. Ergos

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

Kawi modified the ergonomics of the Ninja 400 as well. Handlebars are now 15mm closer to the rider while the footpegs have been moved back 9mm. The seat height hasn’t changed at 30.9-inches however, Kawasaki claims a 30mm narrower seat with padding that is twice as thick as the previous model. The seat does have a tendency to keep you close to the tank with the scooped angle it sits at. At 5-foot 8-inches with a 30-inch inseam I had absolutely no issues feeling confident and planted with my feet down.

10. Stylish

2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

The 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 is a great looking motorcycle with styling reminiscent of larger bikes with larger price points. Styling cues have been borrowed, such as the “chin spoilers” and triple-peak motif tail section, from the Ninja H2. The sharp bodywork is undeniably Ninja and with the KRT graphics option you won’t soon forget Kawasaki’s racing heritage. The Ninja 400 also uses LED lighting throughout to give a more premium aesthetic.

The user interface also offers a quality experience with wires and cables routed neatly out of the way and a good-looking dash offers plenty of information to the rider. As mentioned in my first ride review though, the dash is difficult to read in direct sunlight.

Top 10 Features of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 appeared first on Motorcycle.com.

Tech3 and Yamaha Ending MotoGP Partnership

One of MotoGP‘s longstanding partnerships is coming to an end, as Tech3 announced it will stop being Yamaha‘s satellite racing team at the end of the 2018 season.

It was Tech3 that made the decision to end its 20-year-old partnership with Yamaha (including what will be 18 years in the premier class), after receiving an offer from another manufacturer. Tech3 chief Hervé Poncharal wouldn’t name the other party at this point, possibly because a deal hasn’t been fully finalized yet, but the decision to end its deal to lease two of Yamaha’s YZR-M1 racebikes suggests it’s only a matter of time before it becomes official and the new partner is announced.

“Tech3 is a small company, which has to think about the future and has to weigh the different options,” says Poncharal. “We’ve been offered a deal, that includes something we’ve been waiting for almost since we started with Tech3 and I couldn’t say no.”

The announcement comes days after the team named Hafizh Syahrin as its replacement for Jonas Folger for the 2018 season to race alongside Johann Zarco. Though their partnership will soon coming to an end, both Tech3 and Yamaha say they will be fully committed to each other for this season.

The Tech3-Yamaha split opens up some questions that will need to be addressed going forward. For Yamaha, the question is whether it will continue to support a satellite team in 2019. Given how successful Tech3 has been, often finishing as the top satellite squad in the premier class since joining with Yamaha, there will likely be many teams interested in leasing an M1.

“The end of such a successful partnership is always a bit sad, as it also marks the end of a long-term relationship. We are very grateful for Hervé’s loyalty and support to the Yamaha brand and for the excellent results obtained throughout that time,” says Kouichi Tsuji, president of Yamaha Motor Racing. “We will continue to provide our full support to the Tech3 team and their riders throughout the 2018 season, while we simultaneously evaluate our options for an alternative team in the MotoGP World Championship class for 2019 and beyond.”

For Tech3, the lingering question is who its new partner will be. There are currently eight Ducatis, and six Hondas on the MotoGP grid while Aprilia, KTM and Suzuki each have two factory bikes. The latter three are relatively new to the series, joining the circuit in recent years, and may be ready to expand with a satellite team. A squad like Tech3 would offer a proven track record of finding success with notable riders such as Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards, Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Zarco.

Tech3 and Yamaha Ending MotoGP Partnership appeared first on Motorcycle.com.

Upcoming Motorcycle Events: Feb 20 Mar 20

Upcoming Motorcycle Events: Feb 20 – Mar 20

Here’s our weekly guide to the upcoming motorcycle events and rides that are happening within the next month. Don’t see an event that’s happening in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment to let us know.

Upcoming Motorcycle Events: Feb 20 – Mar 20 appeared first on Motorcycle.com.

(Write Your Own) First Ride Review

(Write Your Own) First Ride Review appeared first on Motorcycle.com.