2011 Triumph Sprint GT

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(From the Archives)

Time marches on and life, inevitably, changes.  Not so many years ago, your cherished ride might have been a race-replica, something like a Suzuki GSX-R1000, that you gleefully flogged on ‘track days’.  Today, your priorities have changed and the prospect of contorting yourself on a supersport bike has all the appeal of downing a raw oyster shooter when you’re hung over.

To help you make the move from track day gladiator to road-going warrior, enter the 2011 Sprint GT, Triumph’s all-new sport-tourer, with emphasis on SPORT.

Triumph unveiled the 2011 Sprint GT to Canadians on October 2nd, and a few days later, we tested the new model for 450 kilometres through Central Alberta farm country.  And we came away very impressed.

The 2011 Sprint GT is a new interpretation of last year’s ST, but for this rendition, Triumph has massaged the 1050-c.c. engine slightly (squeezing out an additional 5 horsepower and 4 lb-ft of torque more than the ST), stretched the wheelbase 80mm, tossed in adjustable front and rear suspension, and fitted hard-sided luggage and ABS as standard equipment.

The Sprint GT’s ergonomics are definitely on the sporting side of the sport-touring spectrum.  The handlebars have about a 4-in. rise and angle the rider’s torso down and forward into the airstream.  Footpegs are slightly rear set and higher than those on most ‘standards.’

An easy-to-read instrument panel comprises three round dials (speedometer on left, tachometer centre, and a large LCD readout for onboard computer/tripmeter/time functions resides on the right.)  A three-way rocker switch for the optional heated grips is on the left side of the fairing and a locking compartment resides on the right.

Starting the Sprint GT requires waiting for the tach/speedo needles to complete their ceremonial sweep of the gauge faces (presumably allowing time for the ECU to do a self-diagnosis and fuel pump to pressure up) before the starter will engage.

On the road, the Sprint GT fulfills its sport-touring mission with aplomb.  Our tester’s optional ‘bubble’ touring windscreen was perfect, providing a clean, turbulence-free air stream to helmet level, and for $145, worth every penny.  The GT’s saddle is firm, broad and with a very slight downward slope that allows the rider to easily shift their riding position fore or aft.  The mirrors give a good view and remain crystal clear at highway speeds.

While the GT’s long list of standard features is impressive, the motorcycle’s powertrain is spectacular.  Suffice to say, the Sprint’s clutch and transmission is the match for any Honda I’ve ever ridden, and that’s high praise indeed.

The in-line triple is rated at 128 horsepower, but on the road, this engine is perfection – it’s a marvel of tractability and torque.  Drop the revs down to 1800 rpm, and the engine’s flexibility and the absence of driveline slop allows accelerating without fuss.  The engine pulls solidly above 4,000 rpm and fiercely from 6500 rpm up.  At highway speed, rolling on the throttle quickly dispatches slower traffic.  The engine doesn’t transmit any noticeable vibration, yet it communicates a pleasing mechanical feel that gives the Triumph more ‘character’ than the typical in-line four-cylinder engine.  Purists will be happy to know the Sprint is equipped with non-linked ABS brakes.  The front brakes are powerful with good feel, but the rear brake feels wooden.

The Sprint GT accomplishes its sport-touring mission with excellent panniers (they’re large enough to hold a full-face helmet, and open and detach easier than anything else on the market) and has a reasonable touring range (we managed 322 kilometers before the reserve light came on and the on-board computer indicated 77 kilometers of range remaining.)

Our day riding the Sprint GT revealed two complaints.  Although the overall build quality of the motorcycle is very good, the inside of the fairing is poorly finished, with some white primer visible.  Admittedly, you have to look hard to see it, but it’s there.  Second, the bike doesn’t have much steering lock, so don’t count on easy U-turns in narrow spaces.

But overall, the 2011 Triumph Sprint GT is superb motorcycle and exemplifies the expression ‘grace with speed’.  Out of the box, it’s a near-perfect, turnkey sport-tourer – its engine is one of the best (and most entertaining) in motorcycling and it has more character than anything in its price class.  Add to that an MSRP of $14,399 and the new Sprint GT is easily one of the best bang-for-buck motorcycles for 2011.

Vehicle: 2011 Triumph Sprint GT Transmission:  6-speed
Engine: 1050-c.c. liquid-cooled DOHC three-cylinder MSRP:  $14,399As-tested:  $14,773 (heated grips, $229; high windscreen, $145)
Power:  128bhp @ at 9200 r.p.m.80 lb-ft at 6300 r.p.m. Typical fuel range:  320 km (with 4.0-litre reserve remaining)

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