Triumph's Street Triple looks gorgeous but is no mere plaything says Tim Luckhurst

Specifications

Engine: 675cc liquid cooled, in-line three-cylinder, four-stroke

Maximum power: 107 bhp @ 11,700 rpm

Maximum torque: 69 Nm @ 9,100 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed gearbox, chain final drive

Brakes: front twin 308mm floating discs, rear single 220mm disc

Seat height: 800mm

Dry weight: 167kg

Price: £5,349

Occasionally, motorcycling transcends base thrills. Climbing Mount Bondone with sunlight dappling the Tarmac and resin perfuming the air was such an occasion. The Italian mountain landscape looked so charming that my concentration was only partially focused on the coil of tight hairpins between Trento and Padergnone. Then the bike saved me.

The right-hander was more acute than any of its predecessors, a car was entering in the opposite direction and I was on the wrong side of the road in the wrong gear. With compelling agility and heft this lightweight 675cc triple changed direction instantly and pulled hard in third gear.

There was no stutter before the crucial wedge of torque arrived. I was gone before the car got there and climbing fast towards the reciprocal left-hander. Concentrating now, I selected second and the appropriate road position before tipping in and blasting out. You don't have to work too hard to make this bike fun. The new Triumph Street Triple handles steep mountain switchbacks in second or third gear.

Since its launch last March, the British company's lightning-quick Daytona 675 model has won friends everywhere. The Street Triple is its accessible multi-purpose sibling. It retains the Daytona's agility and class-leading engine, but takes its looks from the company's big, brutal 1050cc Speed Triple.

The iconic, exposed dual front headlight is there. So is the sleek, street-brawler look. But while the aesthetics are sexy, this is no mere plaything. Here the Daytona's water-cooled 12-valve engine has a new cam profile and a slightly reduced red line. The arrangement delivers 106 bhp and formidable bottom-end punch that remains with you throughout the mid-range before climaxing in a succulent dragon's roar at the top end.

Tight mountain bends showcase this machine to perfection. Steering is light but never vague. Broad handlebars offer tremendous leverage. The close-ratio six-speed gearbox teases every ounce of power from the engine. A lightweight aluminium swingarm helps the suspension and augments wheel control, making handling sensitive and accurate. I felt confident within minutes and bold soon afterwards. The Street Triple is as nimble as a kitten, turning and darting with the same playful glee.

The power and agility which feel so charming in acute cornering remain thrilling when the road opens out. The Street Triple is designed to be thrashed. Its engine sounds sumptuous above 10,000 rpm and performance matches the noise. There are heavier, 800cc and 1,000cc machines that lack this middleweight's punch. It is not just quick for its size, but genuinely fast.

Accessibility matters at this level of the market and Triumph has built it in. The seat is narrow and low enough to make the Street Triple a real option for smaller riders. Power delivery remains civilised until you need it not to be, then – above 7,000rpm – it kicks in hard, giving ladlefuls of oomph to embarrass sports cars, tear past trucks and perform infantile stunts.

I do not enjoy riding on one wheel. I prefer to enjoy power with both wheels on terra firma. The Street Triple obliged me, keeping its front wheel firmly planted except when I ripped the throttle open in first gear on a steep upslope.

If you love to wheelie, this is an ideal bike. But this is emphatically not a thug motorcycle for louts. Treated sensibly it is docile enough for a rider who has just passed the test. It only misbehaves when expressly instructed to do so, but then reveals a wicked appetite for fun. Ridden hard it is at home on a race track.

The riding position is ideal and the low, slim seat is relaxing. Mirrors are good. The instrument panel includes a gear-position indicator as well as all the standard equipment. I would not choose the combination of large analogue rev counter with smaller digital speedometer, but it works and it is fashionable. The pillion seat is small for lengthy two-up travel. I am not convinced by the three-into-two twin exhausts. But these are tiny niggles.

In a crowded niche packed with excellent motorcycles the Street Triple looks gorgeous, sounds sumptuous and makes riding a joy. Charisma this potent requires rigorous design and development. Triumph has harnessed both to excellent effect. The Street Triple will be many reviewers' tip for motorcycle of the year.

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