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Triumph Sprint ST 1050

Model profile - Triumph Sprint ST 1050

(MT Feb 2019, updated July 2020)

Triumph Sprint ST 1050

True Sports Tourer

by Guy 'Guido' Allen

Back in 2005, Triumph really struck motorcycling gold when it developed the 1050 Sprint into what was then the ultimate sports tourer


Is it just me, or is the Sprint the forgotten motorcycle of the Triumph range? It kind of died out locally, though the GT successor was still marketed in the UK as late as early 2019.

What’s significant about the model is that, in its prime, it did the unthinkable and knocked the almighty Honda VFR series off its pedestal as the world’s most capable sports tourer. That was a major feat. But before we go too far down that path, let’s have a quick look at the potted history of the nameplate.

When Triumph relaunched as a serious player in the early to mid 1990s, it revived all sorts of interesting names, such as Trident, Tiger, Daytona, Trophy and eventually Bonneville. Even the ‘speed’ theme was revived, albeit as Speed Triple rather than Speed Twin.

Triumph Sprint 900

There was one oddball nameplate: the Sprint (above). Initially it was a range-filler – something that plugged a nominal gap for minimal investment. Based on the original 885cc T300 series Trident, it ran a frame-mounted half fairing with dual headlamps. There were numerous variants produced from 1991 to 1998, including versions with factory panniers.

At the time they were a handy enough thing – particularly if you were long-legged enough to cope with the slightly top-heavy demeanour when the giant 25 litre fuel tank was full. Nice enough, it was only ever a bit player in the range and now you rarely see them for sale on the used market.

Triumph Sprint ST 955

Next up, in 1999, we’re treated to the first version of the Sprint ST (above). Running a variant of the 955 triple powerplant from the Daytona and Speed Triple, it gave the feeling that, unlike its predecessor, it had received a considerable amount of dedicated thought and attention.

With bespoke bodywork in the shape of a full fairing, plus what amounted to a Daytona engine with more emphasis on the midrange, it was a very good thing. For its day, it was quick, not too heavy, had lost the top-heavy issues of its predecessor and did an admirable job.

At the time, Honda’s VFR800 series was top dog in the then very active sports tourer segment and probably just had the edge. Certainly that’s how it panned out in the marketplace.

Move on to 2005 and Triumph goes for take three: the 1050 ST (top & below). Now this was a whole lot more than just a stroked version of the 955.

Critically, Triumph claimed to have surveyed users in one of its key export markets – Germany – and had listened. It had also made a real effort to sharpen up the bike’s image.

Triumph Sprint ST 1050

The package had a harder-edged look to it and carried through a consistent triple styling theme, from the aggressive and distinctive three-lamp lighting set on the snout, through to the trio of mufflers poking out from under the tailpiece. Even the instrument cluster was a three-dial affair. If the intention was to make the owner feel a bit special and good about their purchase, it was a success – no longer was it an also-ran model.

Funnily enough, one of the highlights was that instrument cluster, which would have to rate as one of the most readable and attractive produced by the company. The analogue speedo and tacho dials kept the traditionalists happy, while the third digital unit held a host of useful info. You got the sense it was done by people who rode and enjoyed motorcycles.

Under the paint, you were dealing with the third generation of the modern triples, and the second with fuel injection. They had benefitted enormously from the extra development, with more power (now up to a reasonably serious 123 horses) and better throttle response, matched to a noticeably more refined transmission.

The chassis was conventional enough for the day, though Triumph seemed to be pretty cluey when it came to choosing suspension rates. While the ride was aimed at comfort, there was a good degree of control. Meanwhile braking was sharp with good feel.

Really, this was a genuine good time looking for somewhere to happen. You could take it for a swing through the curves at a respectable pace one weekend, and cross the country with it the next. ABS was offered as an option, as were factory panniers.

The real news was that, while the Sprint ST had clearly moved ahead leaps and bound, Honda’s rival VFR800 seemed to have lost a little of its market lustre. A few years before the launch of the 1050 ST, it had switched from gear to chain-driven cams (the former were much-loved by gear-heads) and had adopted a version of the corporate VTEC variable valve timing.

Though technically advanced and terribly interesting, the poor old VFR had lost some of its market traction and was no longer quite the darling of reviewers that it had once been.

Shock, horror, Triumph’s product was now being championed as the leader of the sports touring pack, even by non-British journalists! They had a point, as the ST was now a very capable bit of kit that looked and felt like a premium product.

Here’s an example of the mood at the time, taken from a period launch report by Visordown: “It looks good. Really good. Triumph's had a bit of a design shake-up in recent years and keeps on getting stronger and stronger. Think Daytona 600, Rocket III, Speed Triple and Sprint ST, all really good-looking bikes from the Hinckley stable.

Triumph Sprint ST 1050

“We tested the Sprint ST along some roads with fast 100mph-plus corners as well as tighter knee-down second and third gear bends on smooth and bumpy surfaces and it was excellent on everything. Despite the comfortable riding position ground clearance isn't an issue and it has a very neutral and balanced feel while still being definitely sportier than the old model.

“And it's got the legs on the VFR when it comes to power.”

Over the years, the rise of adventure tourers and their ‘soft-roader’ offshoots have muddied the market waters for pure sports tourers, so the sector is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was when the 1050 Sprint ST was launched. I suspect, for that reason, it’s kind of been forgotten as a potential player. Except, perhaps, by people like me who have fond memories of them.

The thing is, a well-maintained one would still be a damned good ride today. They’re pretty robust and still feel very much like a modern motorcycle.

As a modest future collectible, I reckon they have a couple of things in their favour: one is they kinda knocked Honda off its perch; And, perhaps more importantly, they’re a well-styled and themed motorcycle.

If you’re in the market and have the option, I reckon an ABS model with factory bags would be the smart choice.

The good news is you don’t have to spend a bomb to get one. I’m seeing very good examples with modest miles on the market for around Au$6-7k and workable examples for less. Not bad for something that also works a treat.

***

Triumph Sprint ST 1050 GT

Let’s go touring
Seeing yet another niche, Triumph went on to develop the ST further as the more touring-oriented GT. Sold from 2010, that bike was much the same animal, albeit with more seating room thanks to a longer wheelbase and lowered exhausts. It became a UK-only model from 2014.

You could still see it for sale on the company’s UK website as late as early 2019, with the SE version (above) offering a giant topbox.

Triumph Sprint RS

Meet the RS
The first generation of the ST generated an interesting offshoot, in the shape of the 2004-09 Sprint RS (above). It was a typical factory special in many ways, generating an extra model with the minimum of investment.

It ran a half fairing instead of the full-length item on the ST, matched to a colour-coded pillion seat cover, and was arguably the best-looking bike in the range at the time.

Sales numbers were modest, but it was well-liked as a ride.

2006 Triumph 1050 Sprint ST

Triumph Sprint ST 1050

RATINGS

Good
Versatile
Fast
Comfortable

Not so good
A forgotten model

SPECS:

ENGINE:

TYPE: Liquid-cooled, four-valves-per-cylinder, inline triple

CAPACITY: 1050cc

BORE & STROKE: 79 x 71.4mm

COMPRESSION RATIO: 12:1

FUEL SYSTEM: Multipoint fuel injection
TRANSMISSION:

TYPE: Six-speed, constant-mesh, 

FINAL DRIVE: Chain
CHASSIS & RUNNING GEAR:

FRAME TYPE: Aluminium twin spar
FRONT SUSPENSION: Conventional 45 telescopic fork with preload adjustment

REAR SUSPENSION: Monoshock with full adustment

FRONT BRAKE: 320mm discs with four-piston calipers with optional ABS
REAR BRAKE: 255mm disc with two-piston caliper with optional ABS
DIMENSIONS & CAPACITIES:

WET WEIGHT: 240kg
(213 dry)
SEAT HEIGHT: 805mm

WHEELBASE: 1470mm
FUEL CAPACITY: 20lt

TYRES:
FRONT: 120/70 ZR17
REAR: 180/55 ZR17

PERFORMANCE:

POWER: 90kW @ 9250rpm
TORQUE: 104Nm @ 5000rpm

OTHER STUFF:
PRICE NEW: $17,000 plus ORC (2006 ABS model)


 

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