Sub-zero temperatures and a tooth infection make for less than opportune conditions for testing this bike. But with gritted roads and teeth I sucked it up and set out. The first thing that struck me was just how much more enjoyable this ride would have been on sports touring tyres. While the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs are surely wonderful on a hot day or fresh out of tyre warmers, they did not inspire confidence in the slightest on the frosty, and later greasy British roads.
Aside from a few butt-clenching wiggles, the Street Triple RS was as enjoyable to ride as I remembered the previous iteration to be. The 765cc engine, introduced in 2017, has undergone serious revisions in the new version, in order to make it Euro5 compliant and even more performance focussed. The same team responsible for the Moto2 powerplant tweaked the internals for less rotational inertia and more power and torque – particularly in the mid-range, where both saw an increase of nine per cent. As a result, torque peaks at 9,350rpm, while max power comes later at 11,750rpm.
The ride-by-wire throttle is immediate, with instantaneous torque sent to the rear wheel and power climbing linearly. There’s a tangible abundance of everything in the mid-range, and wherever you find yourself in the revs, chances are the Street Triple can still accelerate. Riding in high revs in a low gear through town lends the exhaust-gargling, engine-braking streetfighter sensation, while there’s still ample tug at national limits in top gear. Switching through the slick box is an enjoyable task, with shift assist providing easy, clutchless flicks. The engine note is distinctively triple, starting with a low growl, and building up to a tuneful crescendo as you near the red line – be damned, otorhinolaryngologists, for this is a bike that demands to be ridden without earplugs, regardless of the consequences.
There are five riding modes of Road, Rain, Sport, Track and Ride, each of which can be configured according to ABS (road, track), engine map (rain, road, sport) and traction control (off, road, rain, sport, track). Of course, these options are limited in rain mode, which offers an ever-so-slightly meeker version of the potent triple. Despite the conditions perhaps calling for that, Sport, with its road-sport-sport set-up was too thrilling to refuse. Anti-wheelie traction control is there to help when the throttle catches you out, but can be completely deactivated if you prefer. What cannot be switched off, however, is the ABS, which comes only in the two aforementioned degrees of sensitivity. Road is overzealous, however the slippery nature of the Pirellis no doubt had something to do with that. Traction control intervened occasionally as the rear wheel threatened to step out on the mid-winter road muck, however the 17-inch-wheels were otherwise surefooted and achingly agile, allowing you to throw the well-balanced machine into bends tight or wide.
The small front wheel feeds back marvellously, however over pockmarked tarmac, the Showa 41mm upside down big piston forks felt a little on the firm side. However, a squeeze on the sharp front brake (Brembo M50 four-piston radial monobloc calipers on twin 310mm floating discs) was enough to force the forks into submission and plant the front wheel into the tarmac. The rear Öhlins STX40 shock felt far more forgiving, however both are fully-adjustable in terms of compression, rebound and preload, so can be finely fettled to suit the rider. The rear Brembo single piston calliper on a 220mm disc is nothing to write home about.