Triumph TT600

The throttle goes both ways - but only one of them is fun!
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The Triumph TT600 is officially a bunch of complete arse...

...and all the magazines agree. Even ex-GP star and multiple BSB champion Niall Mackenzie, who used to think it was a good bike before he's ridden the others, now isn't all that impressed with it. And if they all agree, it must be true! Triumph only sold 500 of them in the UK during the model's first year, indicating that the public stayed away in droves in favour of R6's and the Y2K hot-ticket the Gixxer 600. This year the CBR600 has been reborn and is sleeker and sexier and trendier as well. So who the hell would want a mouldy old second rater like the TT600?

S'funny. I've ridden the M&P Kawasaki ZX6-R demonstrator, I may even have commented on it in here at some point, and I remember being impressed most by the prodigious availability of mid-range poke for a 600, but not left with a huge desire to ever own one, even if I'd had space in the garage at the time for a 600. I also had a play on a Y2K TT600 courtesy of Rosners, bogged horrendously below 5 or 6K and was next to unrideable at town speeds, but which was a revelation out in the fast and twisty stuff near Westerham in Kent. It was also pretty comfortable. The fuel injection glitches rendered it unfit for purpose IMHO, which was a pity because it was a complete scream out in the boonies.

So anyway, Triumph have now fixed the faults which rendered the Y2K bike shite, by changing the exhaust headers, cams and injection mapping. It's cost the bike a little peak power at the top end, apparently, but everyone agrees it now fuels better throughout the rev range. It's still not good, though. Until you fit the race can, that is, when it cleans right up to perfection. Sadly, but understandably, most road tests are conducted on standard bikes. And everybody seems to agree that it is, in fact, either the best handling of the 600's, or at worst the equal best handler of the 600's with the R6, but without the R6's penchant for flapping its bars everywhere. But they also universally agree that it's still crap. They say it's short on low end torque, they say it's too heavy, they say it's down on top-end power, and they say it's slow. So, they say, it's crap.


OK, then, let's see how crap. Well, in the August edition of Two Wheels Only, young Niall Mackenzie took it and all the other 600 supersport bikes (including the Ducati 748) up to Croft circuit for a back-to-back play. All were in standard trim, which means no race cans. The results speak for themselves. The TT600 came last.

It's the heaviest. Oh, actually, it's only the second heaviest. Any guesses which bike is heavier? Anyway, the lightest bike - the GSXR600 - was a completely shocking 6.5kg lighter than the TT600 (or equivalent, in my case, about 8 days of a low carbohydrate diet). The only bike heavier was the lightweight twin, bizarrely enough - which broke the scales at an astonishing 218.5kg wet, a full 13kg heavier than the TT.

So the TT is a horrendous... err... 3% heavier than the GSXR600.

And it's the slowest. With the standard can on, and blaming fluffy low end power delivery out of the hairpins for his slower lap times, Mackenzie managed a pathetic 1m35.04s. In contrast, on the GSXR600, he managed a rip-roaring 1m31.05s - which may be cheating slightly considering that he has serious form for testing the Crescent Superbike and Supersport GSXRs this year. On the previously seminal R6, the bike he was second fastest on, he went round in 1m33.47...

So the TT is... err... 2.5% slower than the R6.

Now we come to the peak rear-wheel horsepower numbers, and here the new GSXR600 actually does kick TT600 arse rather. The TT dynoed at 90.3bhp at the rear wheel without the benefit of the ram-air or the racepipe tune, more than the 748's 87.8 but rather less than the 99.2 supplied by the GSXR-600. So the Gixxer 600 produces 9% more ponies than the TT. Sadly, the CBR600, the only bike that has a riding position that is as comfortable as the TT, manages just 94.3bhp - putting it just 4% ahead of the stock TT.

Well, obviously, with an across-the-board slating like that, it's no wonder nobody wants them. Except… ...except it's a bloody nice bike to ride. It may be, on average, 4.5% less good than the best of the rest, but it's bloody quick, handles sublimely and because you can actually use the performance it offers instead of short shifting everywhere and backing off the throttle all the time in deference to the limits of the road, as one would on a firebreathing monster like the R1, Gixxer 1000 or even the new Daytona, one can ride the bike much harder without exceeding the limits of the road. A truly great scratcher, in other words. With the race can on, the motor fuels just fine. As I mentioned elsewhere, you can leave it in fourth gear if you need to, and pull away

with a little clutch, it'll pull comfortably at 20mph, you can overtake from 30mph, and if you just slam it open at 20mph then hang on once the revs get past about 5K you can get a free ride astonishingly quickly all the way to the redline at 145mph. Flexible enough for me. Plus subjectively, it's much nicer to ride than the ZX6-R I borrowed was. Much nicer. Still, as somebody looking for an out and out scratching machine that could double as a practical motorcycle in an emergency, why would I buy a TT600 when what I really need is the seminal CBR600?

Well, price, in a word. The CBR600 is selling for an undiscounted £6,999 with 2 years interest free credit. It's approximately 2.5% better overall than the TT600 by all the objective measures of performance, has ergonomics that are equally friendly, and then it has the superior Honda build quality on its side, plus of course it probably won't depreciate the way old TT's depreciate - but given that I intend hanging on to the bike long term rather than offloading it, that is (bizarrely) something of disadvantage rather than an advantage. I can get a brand spanking new TT600 for £5,499, with two years interest free credit - it was only £5,299 if I wanted it over 12 months. So, the CBR600 is a 2% better motorcycle (maybe a little more), and yet it costs 27% more.


Easy decision, really. So I bought a red and silver TT600 today. Last years colours (a fig leaf over Triumph's outrageous list price for the 2001 bike), this year's bike. You're hard pushed to buy anything else nearly as good for the money.

I'd like - at this point - to issue a heartfelt thank-you to all the fashion victims out there who wouldn't be seen dead on a TT600 :-).

When you consider that I'm buying it through the company, and reclaiming the input VAT, the bike will stand me something like £4,550. When it depreciates like a stone over the next year or so, I can buy it out the company at a (fair market value) pittance, charging myself the VAT on same, and have a very cheap, very fast scratching toy to play with.

I should pick it up next week. So I'll say sorry about the weather in advance, OK?


PS: Anyone who hasn't had a waz on one of the current crop of Supersport 600's should nip up their local dealer and try one. They're amazingly potent machines, with wicked handling!



Copyright © 2003 Ken Haylock. All rights reserved.
Last Revised: April 27, 2004 .