Triumph TT600: Love Her Madly

The following is a re-edit of a piece posted by MotorMartin on DriveTribe under the I Love Motorbikes banner run by Tony Yates, perhaps better known as @Xinterceptor.

I think it’s fair to say that on launch the all new Triumph 2000 TT600 was not universally adored, in fact, despite the handling and brakes being praised through the roof the engine, more specifically the gaping chasm below 4000rpm where traditional midrange power usually lurks, was slated by all of the professional reviewers. 

Perhaps Triumph had bitten off more than they could chew? After all, this was their first attempt at a class of motorcycle that the big four Japanese manufacturers had already got sewn up. 

Development wise, the Honda CBR600, Suzuki GSXR600, Kawasaki ZX6R and Yamaha R6 were at the top of their game, with each offering focusing on different aspects of the SuperSport handbook. You wanted an all rounder, you bought a Honda, a back road scratcher, the Yamaha, induction roar and screaming top end, a Kawasaki and something a little hard core, well that would be the Suzuki. For Triumph to break the monopoly they would have to had come up with something truly phenomenal. And let us not forget that, although the company had started way back in 1902 with their first motorcycle, powered by a 2.2hp Minerva engine and subsequently known as No. 1, the more modern Triumph was a company that had relaunched in 1990 when their new models were unveiled at the Cologne Show: The unfaired Trident 750 and 900 Triples, the touring Trophy 900 Triple and 1200 Four and the sports-oriented Daytona 750 Triple and 1000 Four. Was it really going to be a fair fight? 

The problem for Triumph was all down to the timing. It’s frankly inconceivable that a company as professional as Triumph would have misjudged their own ability to design, engineer and produce a bike to take on the established order it’s just that the pace of development back in the late nineties and early noughties in the battle for SuperSport supremacy was absolutely white hot. It was clear that Triumph knew from the beginning of the TT600 project that it needed a world class engine which is why they had already decided to turn their back on the modular designs which had been necessary to get the firm up and running back in 1990 and instead design an all new, no-compromise 4 cylinder powerplant to make the best 600 engine around. 

Further decisions made early on in the design process also meant that Triumph committed to using a first for the class, the French made Sagem multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection to work alongside the more conventional four stroke, transverse four cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, engine. 

Chassis wise, Triumph were at the top of their game, the TT600 being dressed with a state of the art twin spar aluminium chassis and top quality suspension. Front forks are Kayaba 43mm cartridge units with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping. The Kayaba rising rate monoshock rear suspension is adjustable with spring preload, compression and rebound damping. 

The result is a bike that has won praise for its stunning blend of quick-steering agility and remarkable high-speed stability. Specially designed, ultra-lightweight cast aluminium wheels also contribute to superb cornering ability, while twin front disc brakes and four-piston calipers lifted from the Daytona 955i provide fierce yet supremely controllable stopping power. 

So what went wrong? Specifically, the fuel injected motor suffered from flat-spots at low revs. A fact which, like a dog with a bone, the magazines and newspapers just couldn’t get over. The top end of the rev range was never in doubt, providing the rider with a seamless journey up to 14000 revs and 108bhp, how much the low rev performance affected road progress by the consumer was debatable but for some, the damage to the Triumph’s reputation was already done. Triumph tried to cure the problem by re-mapping the computer on a number of occasions, but never really cured the problem to everybody’s satisfaction. 

Fast forward through two more years and we can finally see what Was originally planned. Through many more updates to the Sagem fuel injection system, 13 or so and a number of updated engine components fans of the TT finally had the power plant that Triumph had envisaged from day one. Sporting 108bhp at 12750rpm and 50 ft/lb torque at 11000rpm the TT was up there with the best that Japan had to offer. The erratic behaviour that had unfortunately typified the TT600 previously, had finally been banished into history and a new chapter for Triumph’s SuperSport contender was about to be written. 

Trying out the 2002 Triumph TT600 today is a real treat, I even think it’s originally controversial looks have aged superbly as the yellow bike on test stands out amongst the hordes of angular 600 Sports bikes and increasingly space age 700 twins. The curves of the Triumph fairing work well, especially in the single yellow, blue, silver or black colour schemes, and provide the rider with a level of protection and comfort unheard of to riders of the latest R6, ZX6R or GSXR600. Combined with clip ons mounted above the top yoke rather than below, a supportive seat and pegs set high, but not ridiculously so, and you have a riding position that works for both short or longer journeys. Whether scratching through the lanes, moving from side to side, using your body weight and the subtlest of touches through the steering or sitting at 70ish ploughing up or down the A1 in the rain, the TT will do it all. 

What you notice with the TT600 are the details, that famed Triumph build quality which lifts it, even now, above it’s contemporaries. The quality of the welds on the frame, the suspension components that even on a 20,000 mile example such as this one, still deliver a tight yet forgiving ride. The buttons and switchgear still click into place with a feeling of solidity whilst the bodywork and panels fit beautifully. Starting is simplicity itself as the fully working Sagem fuel injection has automatic cold start compensation and a self-diagnostic capability, and pulling away shows no sign of any fuelling issues at all. But it’s above 6000rpm that the real fun begins with a second, stronger push, when keeping the engine in it’s sweet spot between 9000-14000rpm. Man alive, this Triumph really shifts, showing 120+ in an instant on the modern looking digital speedometer (on a track of course.) 

What do we have then with this, the Triumph TT600? It’s good looking, well built, fast, handles and brakes superbly and stands out from the crowd. The best bit? You can get a low mileage TT for around £1750.00. How do I know this? I’ve just bought one and it’s absolutely fantastic. 

Where will you go?

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