He’s one of John Bloor’s longest-serving executives, as a key member of the upper echelons of the British company’s management, currently with overall responsibility for its development of new models. Let’s hear him explain how the Tiger Sport and Trident 660 came about.
AC: Steve, what’s Triumph’s objective in introducing the new Trident and Tiger Sport 660 platform?
SS: The Trident and Tiger Sport 660 are the most accessible entry point into the Triumph range, not only with a competitive price, but also a very low cost of ownership. There are three key advantages to these models. Firstly, you’ve got that 660cc three-cylinder engine which gives a big benefit in delivering strong low down power and torque, but also top end performance. Secondly, you’ve got class leading technology and top level handling via high quality components from Showa, Nissin and Michelin, which together deliver a clear advantage over their competitors in the segment. And then finally you’ve got the low cost of ownership.
AC: How long have you been working on the 660 platform?
SS: We started looking at creating it five years ago, with the intention of getting a new entry point into the Triumph range, via a segment we weren’t currently competing in. So we started out by analysing the specifications of the bikes already in that segment, and also the style of motorcycles we wanted to deliver. There was a period of roughly six months where we were kicking some concepts around, talking to various stylists about coming up with some ideas for what the bike might look like, based on the direction that we gave them. Then roughly three and a half years before the Trident’s debut, we began initial development of the motorcycles, including testing our prototypes back to back with competitive bikes in the segment.
AC: The chosen styling for both models is quite appealing. Who did it?
SS: They’re both really fresh, distinctive designs from our team in Hinckley in the UK, with input from noted Italian designer Rodolfo Frascoli. What we were aiming for were super clean lines, and an overall Triumph look to the shape and style.
AC: Why choose to do a triple, not a twin, given the strength of the Bonneville name?
SS: We were really looking for something that was more of a contemporary model platform, rather than part of our Modern Classic family, since we’d certainly be competing against bikes with that kind of up-to-date character. Obviously, we’ve done a lot of development on triple engines, so that gave us a starting point.
AC: Was a vital element the fact that the key bikes you were going to be competing against were twins?
SS: Correct, so one of the things that we focused on early on is, we knew that the triple would give us an advantage over the twins in terms of having more top end, for example, but what we really wanted to do was to make sure that we matched the twin-cylinder competition at low rpm, and in the midrange, too.
AC: By adding the extra cylinder, have you given the bike a big weight penalty versus the twins?
SS: No – compared to any of them there’s no more than a 3-4kg weight disadvantage, which is more than compensated for by the extra power, and the broad spread of torque. So a lot of the engine development that we did was saying - OK, we know we’re going to have an advantage in one way over the twins, but let’s make sure that we also negate the areas where they score by being equally strong at the bottom end and in the midrange.
AC: To do this, did you start out with an existing engine and modify it, or did you go from ground zero?
SS: We started off by using the crankcases we already had for the Street Triple, so although we’ve changed the machining internally on them, the base platform is shared with that model. But the changes we made are really significant beyond that. So we’ve got a smaller bore/ longer stroke 74 x 51.1 mm engine than we have in the 76 x 48.5 mm 660cc Street Triple S, it’s got a different crankshaft, it’s obviously got different liners and different pistons with it being a different bore.
But the conrods are the same, and then in the top end of the engine we have camshafts machined differently with slightly different lift, and one point lower compression at 11.1:1 on the Trident, though the Tiger Sport is higher at 11.95:1. But again, it was all about getting that strong bottom end and midrange torque.
AC: Hence the longer stroke?
SS: Hence the longer stroke. Plus there are slightly different ratios in the gearbox, a different selector shaft, different radiator, and a completely different intake system. Also, we have just a single throttle body on the Trident and Tiger Sport rather than the three on all the rest of our triple engines. One reason for that is we wanted to create a really narrow waist on the bike, to make the stand-over as low as possible, so it’s really easy for people to get their feet on the ground.
AC: Thus making these bikes attractive to women?
SS: Yes, absolutely. Female riders are an important target group for these models.
AC: Why chose a 660cc capacity, given that with a new bore and stroke, you had full freedom of choice?
SS: 660cc really came out of a discussion between ourselves and the engine team in terms of where we wanted to compete in the marketplace in terms of power and torque, and what they thought would be the best bore/stroke ratio to deliver that. So that’s how we got to the 660cc capacity. We wanted to make it an accessible bike, so not too many cubes, or too much power or torque. So we’re offering a choice of riding modes, which none of our competitors currently do in comparable entry-level models. We’ve got a Rain and a Road riding mode, so each has a different throttle map, different traction control settings, and different ABS settings. We believe for new riders this will be a key element in the appeal of the Trident, since on this bike the rider assistance is there as a safety net, not as a performance enhancer – it’s there for people who find themselves in a situation where maybe they have to brake harder than they expected to, or they’re on a surface which doesn’t offer the grip that perhaps they were expecting it to. So all the electronic assistance is really there to make sure that any rider, especially inexperienced ones, doesn’t get into trouble.
AC: In terms of the brake package, you’ve got quite large twin front discs - is that not overkill?
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