By Dave Abrahams
When we rode the first-generation Triumph Daytona 675 in August 2006 we said it was the finest midweight sports machine of its time, and it remains the standard by which such things are measured.
But its time was seven years ago, and Supersports machines - the most competitive class in motorcycling - have hardly stood still since then. Today’s top 600cc fours from Japan will outrun the Daytona in a straight line and a new three-cylinder rival, the MV Agusta F3, brings Italian flair and superb handling to the genre, albeit at an eye-watering price.
So the 675 has had a total makeover for 2013, starting with a bigger bore and a shorter stroke, in an all-aluminium, separate cylinder block with ceramic-coated bores, titanium inlet valves fed by a bigger airbox and intake ducting through the headstock of the frame. That allows the engine to spin to a howling 14 400rpm, while peak power is up 2kW to 94kW at 12 600rpm and torque from72Nm at 11 750rpm to 74Nm at 11 900.
The frame is even slimmer and more compact, with a neat aluminium sub-frame supporting the seat, the exhaust system has been moved from under the seat to under the gearbox to help centralise mass, the seating position is 10mm lower and a new instrument pod solves the only failing of the original (the speedometer display was masked by the clutch cable) while adding a lap timer, gear position indicator and programmable shift lights to a sexy and commendably legible white-on-black liquid-crystal display.
Standard kit includes a slipper clutch and an electronic quick-shifter (the first we’ve tried on a streetbike) and ABS is an option.
The new engine, with dual fuel-injectors per cylinder, is superbly responsive, while retaining the astonishing spread of power of its predecessor. It’ll pull, smoothly and willing from just over 4000rpm, picks up the pace at 8000 to the accompaniment of a spine-chilling howl from the intake plumbing, and from 10 000rpm to the redline at fourteen-four goes absolutely barking mad.
With anything more than 10 000 on the clock there seems to be a direct connection between twistgrip and rear wheel, so instant - and so linear - is the response, while the mid-range is so strong that there is literally nothing in its class that will stay with it through traffic, helped not a little by its incredibly narrow chassis.
But traffic is not the Daytona’s natural habitat. The first time you get it out in the twisties you’ll discover that, as good as the engine is, the chassis is better.
Its steering is, if anything, even better than that of the original - quicker, even more accurate, more intuitive and more responsive thanks to the centralisation of mass; this thing, just like the best from Italy, quite literally goes where you look.
ON THE SPORTY SIDE OF FIRM
Yet it’s rock steady in a straight line and even better on poor surfaces; on the factory’s median settings the suspension is on the sporty side of firm even with my 106kg aboard, but it took the sting out of our bumpy twist section, simply refusing to patter even at a teeth-rattling 90km/h on the worst tar road in the Western Cape.
The brakes are just as good - totally immune to fade, their ferocious initial bite tempered by superbly linear action, so accurate that it’s possible to vary your line into a corner simply by varying your pressure on the brake lever, just as Grand Prix riders do. A neat quadrant switch enables the rider to adjust lever span on both brake and clutch ‘on the fly’, rather than by rotating a cylinder, which is almost impossible to do while wearing gloves.
The riding position is near perfect.
The new 675 is even narrower and more compact than is predecessor, the rider’s weight ideally balanced between seat, ‘bars and pegs, tucked in and stable, perfectly poised yet almost insanely responsive.
After all that, the gearbox was a bit of a disappointment; not that it was rough or clunky, it was just not up to the standard set by its predecessor which, considering it has a vertical shaft layout with the selector drum at the top - almost a guarantee of notchy shift action – is saying a lot.
Using the clutch, the shift action was quick and clean, and the lever throw commendably short, but its movement was perceptibly gritty, unlike the breaking-glass crispness of the first-generation 675.
By the same token, around town the quick-shifter was a no-no, its action so forceful each shift imparted a driveline jerk that could be felt throughout the entire fabric of the bike. To be honest, it felt as if it was damaging the transmission (now I understand why the latest generation of production-based Superbike racers are prone to gearbox problems) and I soon decided not to use it except for full-throttle upshifts.
But under the right circumstances it was an absolute marvel; the obligatory top-end runs were the most fun I’ve ever had on our six-kilometre straight. All I had to do was get the little Triumph rolling in second, pin the throttle and simply tap the lever each time the rev-counter reached 14.
It was the closest thing I’ve experienced to a jet-assisted take-off on wheels – an almost seamless rush of acceleration, punctuated by loud bangs from the airbox, pulling harder than anything I’ve ridden other than a pre-production Ducati 1098.
Which is why I felt a little let down by the results; the first-generation 675 pulled a genuine 254km/h on the same straight and, given that Triumph quotes 2kW more for the 2013 model, I was looking for at least 260, possibly 265km/h. But this one topped out with the speedometer display flickering between 243 and 244 and the rev-counter needle on 14 200, just 200rpm shy of the rev limiter.
Mr Garmin and his friends in the sky later revealed that its true top speed was 238km/h, which equates to a speedo error of only 2.5 percent. However, it got there incredibly quickly for a motorcycle of only 675cc and its mid-range torque is even more monumental than that of its predecessor.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the maker has deliberately geared this model a little shorter to boost acceleration and mid-range, knowing that few riders have access to a straight long enough to define accurately its terminal capability.
In truth, I never ran out of revs anywhere else than the Six-Kay Straight; I believe that with longer gearing the 675 could pull as much as 275km/h - but it would not be half as much fun to ride.
A lot of that fun comes from its sound track, a musical thrumming that becomes a howling three-cylinder song as the revs reach five figures, with just enough popping and crackling on the overrun to remind you that this a serious performance machine.
It was loud enough to make me wonder how this much fun could actually be legal - until I put Herself on the test bike and followed her to our breakfast stop, to discover that most of the beautiful noise comes from the airbox, not the tailpipe, and only the rider can hear it; to anybody else the 675 is inappropriately quiet.
The Triumph Daytona 675 is not yet perfect; the second-generation fairing is a distinct improvement on its predecessor but the styling is still too fragmented to be really pretty, the quick-shifter may be a necessity on the track but it makes fast road riding more, not less complicated, and I was going to make all sorts of cleverly sarcastic comments about the unforgiving nature of its seat padding - until I noticed a discreet label announcing that this plastic plank was a (very expensive) ‘Triumph Comfort’ aftermarket accessory.
Nevertheless, it is still the benchmark by which mid-sized sports motorcycles are measured and, just possibly, the finest sporting streetbike of its generation.
Price: R116 500.
Test bike from Mike Hopkins Motorcycles, Cape Town
Engine: 675cc liquid-cooled triple.
Bore x stroke: 76 x 49.6mm.
Compression ratio: 13.1:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 94kW at 12 600rpm.
Torque: 74Nm at 11 900rpm.
Induction: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel-injection with forced air induction and secondary air injection through three fly-by-wire 44mm throttle bodies.
Ignition: Digital electronic.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: KYB 41mm inverted cartridge forks with adjustable preload, low and high-speed compression damping, and rebound damping.
Rear Suspension: KYB gas-charged monoshock with piggy-back reservoir, adjustable for preload, low and high-speed compression damping, and rebound damping.
Front brakes: Dual 308mm floating discs with Nissin four-piston radial-mount monobloc callipers.
Rear brake: 220mm disc with Nissin single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 120/70 ZR 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 180/55 ZR 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 820mm.
Kerb weight (Measured): 189kg.
Fuel tank (measured): 16.06 litres.
Top speed (measured): 238km/h
Fuel consumption (measured): 6.4 litres per 100km
Price: R116 500.
Test bike from: Mike Hopkins Motorcycles, Cape Town.