Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflections on the Triumph Sprint GT1050

“Is that the Batcycle?” asked Bonnie, looking out the cafĂ© window at Barnes and Noble to the location usually occupied by my Vespa. I’m on my Sunday morning ride and all smiles. Bonnie and her husband exchanged words, differentiating Adam West’s Batcycle from 1966 from the one Christian Bale rides in the latest motion picture. I could sort of see echoes of West’s futuristic motorcycle in the Triumph Sprint GT1050.

Rewind: three days.

I hate this motorcycle. I’ve barely left the parking lot at Kissell Motorsports when both hips twisted into painful knots, just from working to get my feet onto the pegs. I’m not used to the riding position of a sport bike, and maneuvering my body into position seems to trigger one cramp after another.

In front of Kissell’s, I pulled to the curb, 50 feet from the traffic light. I stretched, feet down, trying to act cool because I imagined everyone inside watching, wondering what ritual I was engaged in. The light changed and I raced across the road into a neighborhood, out of sight of motorcycle professionals, hips already cramped again. I stopped the bike, put down the kickstand, and struggled to get off the machine.

Pacing for a few minutes, I think I need to return the Triumph and get the pretty yellow BMW GS1200 I had my eye on. Conservative, comfortable, plush, with an upright riding position. No need to push the envelope. Then I’m telling myself it’s too early to quit and climb back on the Sprint. I can’t imagine any excuse that would disguise the fact that I’m a wimp and can’t handle this sport-touring offering from Triumph. I only have to stop three more times in the nine miles home to reset the muscles in my hips.

The next morning was cold enough to wear my Olympia winter riding suit. The bulk and insulation made it even harder to get my feet up on the pegs.

If it seems I’ve reduced this motorcycle to a riding position, you aren’t far from the truth. I’m 6’2” and my reach to the handlebars seemed extreme. I was leaning so far forward I had to crank my neck back just to see the road. For the first time, I really noticed the helmet on my head. My wrists ached from all the extra pressure. Traveling west on Route 45, I was cold, sore, aching and grumbling. I begin fantasizing about my Vespa.

A stop at Pennsylvania Furnace to survey the landscape allowed me to forget about the motorcycle. I’m certain the lone tree in the field has been photographed ten thousand times if it’s been photographed once. After a few stretches I feel limber and climb back on the Sprint.

To be fair, the Triumph does some things really well. The small windscreen and fairing do a good job keeping the sub-freezing air from making life miserable. And riding through turns and curves is a pleasure.

Moving out of Spruce Creek, about a half hour later, I notice I’m no longer having trouble with my hips and have adapted to the riding position. At speed, through winding roads, my body merges with the machine.

On the scooter and other motorcycles, I’m just sitting. On the Sprint, with my entire body so close to the machine, I become part of it.

Ice along the road reminds me of potential hazards this time of year. It’s the little stuff that gets you.

The Sprint has plenty of power. It’s fast, smooth, and ready to respond. After 30 miles on Interstate 99 I stop to make this picture and realize this bike performs as well on freeways as it does on winding state roads.

I think I’m starting to like this motorcycle. Or at least have a lot of respect for what it can deliver.

Ever the explorer, I take the Sprint off-road to arrive at this lovely view. Too much weight and too little strength. Maneuvering the motorcycle on uneven ground is a challenge. It’s not designed for excursions off the beaten track, at least for me.

I understand the attraction to this kind of machine. The riding position merges body with bike, and we move over the road like a gliding bird – smooth, fluid, responsive. Add an ample supply of torque and horsepower, and it’s easy to see why some riders flock in this direction.

In the end, I know this isn’t the bike for me. My desire to sit up, look at the world, and take pictures is seriously hampered with the Triumph Sprint. The size and weight make stops and starts, U-turns, and other maneuvers on the sides of roads a challenge. But for a rider looking to travel fast and chew up miles the Sprint could be ideal.

On my last night on the Triumph, we rode in a light rain. My body had adapted to the riding position, and I wished there were time for a few more trips.


Circle Blue said...

Great post. The comments about the riding position were most interesting to me. All of my riding experiences have been of the more upright sitting position and so to hear your reflections were most ponder-full.

Also, interesting to me was the way your body adapted and aligned itself to the bike.

Have a wonderful Holiday time.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

I once heard a guy, a former racer at that, look at a hot new Ducati and say, "With that gas tank, I felt like monkey humping a watermelon." I'm delighted you back and hips could stretch into the riding position. Mine no longer bend, but sort of crack.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Let me know when your order gets there!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Orin said...

Steve, the ergonomic issue is not confined to the Triumph. Of the three 250cc entry bikes on the market today, the only one that doesn't create the same kind of pain for me is the Suzuki TU250X, it being the only one that can be considered a "standard" motorcycle.

I'm not surprised the Triumph felt so good on the freeway. I get the impression from their marketing materials that's what they had in mind.

There is a Triumph dealer in Bellingham. It's next to a brewpub...

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Scootin' Old Skool

Steve Williams said...

Circle Blue: I am fortunate that I still have enough stretch to me that I can adapt to different body positions.

While the riding position isn't as severe as other sportbikes I have sat on it is still a stretch for me. At first it was sort of unsettling to be down so low but it didn't take long to appreciate why racers find it advantageous...

Steve Williams said...

Mr. Riepe: A monkey humping a watermelon... I can picture the passion but can't quite get the motorcycle into the picture. Now I have something to think about for the holidays...

The day isn't so far off for me that will make it difficult to mount something like the Sprint.

Unless I start yoga again. I can remember having a really flexible spine.

The order did arrive!

Steve Williams said...

Orin: I really had a love/hate relationship with the Sprint. Had the hate part not been involved I would have written about how good it sounds. Power without any obnoxious aftertaste. And the shifting was smooth and precise. Come to think about it all the Triumph bikes I've been on have had transmissions of perfection.

Mike said...

Just to sit on a sport bike for a few minutes at a dealer I can tell I wouldn't last long. But they sure look cool! I keep sitting on a BMW R1000SS. Now that's one you should try! Nice report - thank you.

Merry Christmas!

RichardM said...

Nice test report. I can sympathize with the early comments on riding position. I have never been attracted to the sport bikes though they do seem to be very popular. I'm just getting old and not very flexible.

I've heard lot of good things about the Triumphs but we don't have a local dealer. I tried sitting on one of the S1000RR bikes last summer but it just didn't feel very comfortable.

Merry Christmas!

Steve Williams said...

Mike: I have the feeling that sportbikes are for athletes or people who have the ability to be athletic. Counts me out for both reasons.

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: your comments have me realizing that there aren't any teenaged sportbike riders commenting here. In fact I can't remember even seeing a teenager pn a motorcycle.

Every kid wanted a motorcycle when I was growing up. That's not the case anymore.

Charlie6 said...

Thanks Steve for confirming for me what I've always suspected of the crotch rocket riding position.

Merry Christmas to you and yours....


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Orin said...

I've noticed riders of sportbikes tend not to be suburban white kids. But then, the parents of suburban white kids see terrorists and pedophiles around every corner, and schlep the kids around in their minivans or SUVs, to each appointment in their kids' over-scheduled lives. Probably not the kind of upbringing that would cause one to want a motorcycle.

I wonder if the industry has thought about this? Probably not...

Scootin' Old Skool

RichardM said...

You're right. Not many teenage riders. Even those who ride motocross seem to have no interest in riding on the street. Just about all of the riders I've seen have been over 30 with a significant percentage over 50. Could it be because a bike can't be your only vehicle in many parts of the country?


irondad said...

The Sprint would be on my short list of bikes. Maybe there is an advantage of being short ( 5'81/2" ), after all. I put a lot of miles on my son's Honda VFR and enjoy it.

Interesting to think of you being comfortable on the Vespa. I would naturally think that a tall guy on a scooter would feel more cramped on the Vespa than the Triumph.

Weird how we get these sometimes incorrect mental pictures.

slugsgomoo said...

I think part of it for the younger crowd is definitely cost, and insurance. Consider that most kids go out and buy a 600cc sportbike that they total within the first year (especially if they're unlicensed or haven't taken the MSF), and insurance rates can equal the cost of the bike in the first year. ;)

As far as the riding position, I can definitely see it being an issue on longer rides, but you can at least avoid one problem when you get on your next sporty type bike.

If you feel pressure on your wrists, try to flap your arms like a chicken. If your elbows can't flap around, it means you're leaning on your hands, which is a big no-no in sport biking. partly because it'll cause fatigue, numbness and sore wrists. Partly because it reduces the control you have. The weight of your upper body really needs to be held with your thighs/abs/lower back, and once you find out how that whole combo works for you, comfort shoots through the roof.

When I first started riding my 'busa a few years back I'd have shoulder pain in like 100 miles, but after getting things figured out I could ride all day. With the triumph (speed triple) now it's pretty great, though my knees complain at 650 mile days on a sportbike anymore. ;)

Touring Motorcycle exhausts said...

I just imagined a person of your height on that Triumph! I feel you when you say you had to actually stretch your neck to see the road and your hips pained! Its funny though!
But am glad you finally got used to it and found some positive components about the Triumph!