Asked to sum up the reasons for the Speed Triple’s continuing success, Ernie Vigil doesn’t hesitate.
For a guy whose global reputation depends upon split-second decision-making and instinct, it’s no surprise that his response
is reflex: “elegant simplicity”.
Both attributes have endured as the beating heart of the Speed Triple since it first rolled off the Hinckley line in 1994, a road racer and factory fighter in one.
Since its convention-challenging inception and game-changing second iteration in 1997 – when it became the first sports bike to be sold with fuel injection – the Speed Triple has challenged riders to try their luck. And it’s that mean streak that prompted Ride Icon star Ernie and partner Nick Brocha to ditch the old-school stunt bikes and ‘relight the flame in their act’.
He said: “In the shows, we try to speak to the audience through the bike. Its incredible torque and the sound of the pipes allows us to do that. On a Speed Triple, all the senses come together – the sound of the bike is the language of our sport.
“Once you ride it you realise it’s the complete hooligan bike, a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. The torque, the way the power comes through, is super linear, so it’s really friendly. Most people can get on it and be comfortable riding out of the gate, but at the other end of the scale, it makes a big difference to what we do as stunt riders.”
The ‘perfect package’ of brakes, suspension and torque has taken Ernie’s act to a new level: “It’s an evergreen, as much of a beast today as it was 21 years ago. It lets us express ourselves and gives us the edge over the competition,” he said.
But ‘rider-friendly’ is hardly an epithet you’d expect to see alongside the name Ernie Vigil, which is why the post-1999 models – when torque moved to the fore – are more his bag.
He said: “It’s made for drifting. Nick and I had never been on a Speed Triple before, but the first time we did, with zero miles on the clock, we felt instantly good on it. That says a tonne about the bike.
Naked bikes are getting really big now… it’s almost as if we have come full circleErnie Vigil
“Its sound just can’t be beaten, audiences are intrigued by it and go away thinking about that inline three-cylinder engine, which creates a sexy, mean, rugged noise different from any other bike.”
After 2002 and the 955i, the bike lost eight kilos and adopted a handful of subtle design tweaks, which turned it into an urban monster… as Ernie says “the meanest-looking bike you have ever seen”.
He said: “If you want to take it easy you can, but if you want your hooligan side to emerge, this is for you. It’s becoming the bike of choice in the cafe racer and custom scene.
He said: “Naked bikes are big now. My first instinct was to buy a stunt bike, but the temptation was always to rip the plastic off to get the Streetfighter look. You don’t have to with a Speed Triple.”
Ernie hails Triumph’s reluctance to ‘screw around with a successful formula’ for the marque’s continued success.
“They haven’t changed something that works. The styling, sleek timeless curves around a powerhouse engine and suspension make it a damn sexy package that’s cool as it is or as a base package to customise.”
They haven’t changed something that works. The styling, sleek timeless curves around a powerhouse engine and suspension make it a damn sexy package that’s cool as it is or as a base package to customise.Ernie Vigil