Just a week ago, Winter was very much with us. It was snowing in my little corner of Surrey, and had been for a fortnight. I’d had flu, and life was very much about not going anywhere beyond the warm and inherently stable confines of a motor car. Then, come Thursday morning, Spring arrived with a burst of bright and glowing sunshine — outside, the sparrows were coughing their way through the first dawn chorus of the year and inside, the cats were darkly muttering their desire to get outside of those same sparrows. And, to round out the signs and portents for this first day of Spring, Haslemere Motorcycles had also arranged to hand me the keys to their very shiny, very new Triumph Sprint ST demonstrator, for a test ride, which was definitely worth getting up for.
Now you’ll notice that was spelt T-r-i-u-m-p-h, not D-u-c-a-t-i. But if you’ve read other stuff on this site, you’ll also know that, despite being a hardened Ducatista, I’m just generally in favour of excellence in the form of good and characterful motorcycles. And it’s always been a toss-up for me between the V-twin and the in-line triple as the perfect engine format. That’s an opinion that hasn’t changed since my motorcycling adolescence of the 1970s and my formative exposure to two of the great biking icons of the day – the Ducati 900ss and the T160V Trident.
I’ve ridden most current Ducatis, and not a few of the Triumphs of the last several years, and been impressed with all of them. The difference however is that I can usually manage to look at a Ducati without wincing, which hasn’t always been true of the Trumpets. Worthy and thoroughly competent motorcycles certainly, but frequently with all the stylistic finesse of a lard blancmange and occasional lapses of finish that would shame a Trabant.
That’s all been changing in the last couple of years — Triumph appearing to have adopted the very un-British view that a bike that looks good as well as working well will, funnily enough, sell well. And the latest incarnation of that thinking is the new generation Sprint ST, Triumph’s sports tourer and a direct competitor to my own ST4s. So here we have the Triumph, resplendent in electric blue paintwork and triple-themed lights, clocks and pipes: matching tie, handkerchief and socks. Parts in fact seem slightly and contrivedly over-designed, giving parts like the clocks the impression of cosmetic plastic rather than alloyed engineering.
Overall though, this bike looks great – it has a spare elegance of design and line, with an aggressive and very non-lardy rearward-rising stance and a remarkable overall slimness to the package — it looks, and feels, light and lithe.