Sports touring with gusto. Triumph’s Sprint ST makes for champagne touring for beer money.
Introduced in 1999, the Triumph Sprint ST had a difficult design brief – to take on one of Honda’s most competent and respected models at its own game. The venerable VFR800.
At that point the T300 version of the Sprint had been with us since 1993 with reasonable sales results, but Triumph knew it had to come up with something offering a good deal more sophistication than the earlier bike could deliver. Brave, but history suggests that Triumph got it right, with the bike becoming an almost instant sales success.
The ST made use of the three-cylinder, DOHC, four-valve 955cc engine from the T595 Daytona in a new alloy, perimeter-style frame.
A multipoint sequential fuel-injection setup complemented the altered state of tune (better midrange to suit the job of sports touring).
Power was 79kW at 9200rpm and 97Nm at 6200rpm. Seat height was 800mm, dry weight 207kg and fuel capacity a wise 21 litres.
A nice feature was the single-sided swingarm (lifted from the Daytona) and consensus was that the bike was decidedly handsome. A big plus in Triumph’s quest to pinch some marketshare from the VFR.
Those interested in sports touring will tell you it is all about function, but they are as style-conscious as their sports bike brethren and the Sprint ST hit the mark well in the fashion stakes.
Suspension was a little down-spec from the Daytona, with preload adjustable 43mm forks up front and a preload and rebound adjustable monoshock at the rear.
The bike remained pretty much unchanged until 2002 when the donk came in for some tweaks that saw power raised to 88kW. It was in pretty much the same state of tune as the Daytona of the time.
This was universally applauded and set the bike on the course for which it was built – that aforementioned marketshare held by the VFR.
The Sprint RS (very similar to the ST with a half-fairing) ran alongside the ST and was discontinued in 2004). Weight saving tricks on the RS included a polymer drive sprocket cover and a cable operated clutch along more rudimentary instruments. Handlebars were lower and narrower too. The idea was a more sporting version of the ST and many believe the RS to be a better proposition for sports operation.
The ST came in for a major redesign in 2005 with the engine capacity upped to 1050cc and an entirely new fuel-injection arrangement got the nod, as well as a new beam frame. Power was now 93kW at 9250rpm and at 104Nm at 7500rpm. Much more sporting figures than the bike’s predecessor offered.
The wheelbase was shortened (1454mm) and exhaust pipes re-routed underneath the seat (with the common problem such a set up brings of cooking derrieres).
The six-speed gearbox was revised with a remote gear change linkage and the clutch got an anti-backlash mechanism for smoother shifting.
In 2007, three features that were options in previous models became standard: Colour-matched panniers, handlebar risers and an improved windscreen.
For 2008, Triumph introduced a steel fuel tank to allow the use of magnetic tank bags, and a new headlight design to improve night vision. Chassis, bodywork, and engine remained unchanged.
There was a recall for bikes manufactured between 2005 and 2009.
“Triumph is recalling certain model year 2005 through 2009 Sprint ST 1050 motorcycles manufactured from November 4, 2004 through September 2009. The rear suspension drag link assembly in these motorcycles can fracture due to corrosion,” the notification posted on the NHTSA website stated.
The bike can suffer from finish issues once it ages. Chain adjusters have been known to seize, along with brakes. This can result in warped discs, so check for any vibration here.
Listen closely to the engine. If there is a knock, you could be looking at a big end issue, usually caused by bad maintenance schedule observance. Check the oil – if it is discoloured, this is a bit of a giveaway that your vendor is not particularly fastidious.
If it’s new oil, well you don’t learn a whole lot, he could have changed it especially for you. This is where a service record is worth its weight in gold. Always ask to see one, if there is none available, a well-timed frown can help bring the price down.
A trap for young players in regard to the ST is the fitment of aftermarket mufflers and air filters. If the fuel/air mixture formula has not been downloaded at the same time, tuning will almost certainly be less than perfect. Ask about that.
Nice factory hard panniers are available and a good set of these is a real plus when looking at a used buy. If you’ve never had hard panniers before, well, you’ll be converted if you cover long distances. It’s simply very satisfying to unhook your hard bags and wander into your hotel room with minimal fuss.
The ST became the bread and butter offering for Triumph. It capitalised on the inherent ‘difference’ that its three-cylinder engine configuration offered (common opinion is that you get the top-end of a four with the ‘off the bottom’ pull of a V-twin) and built a winner.
The bike has a relatively tried-and-true reliability record, has always been well priced and is a pleasure to ride, for both rider and pillion.
It has managed to walk the fine line between popular appeal and a degree of exotica, simply based around the credibility the brand brings. A real bonus for Triumph and a market positioning tool it leverages brilliantly.
In short, if big miles are your thing with a goodly sprinkling of spirited riding tossed in, the ST is a very, very wise used choice.
Look for signs of a hard life – the spec is not as upscale as it could be, but this one will serve a used buyer very well indeed.
Triumph Sprint ST 1999-2010
You’ll pay: 1999-2004 – $3000-$4500, $ 2004-2010 – $4500-$7500.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.