This is the second bike we’ve reviewed conforming to the LAMS limits of 660cc and a 150kW/tonne power-to-weight ratio. With its low-down urge, Suzuki’s SFV650U impressed as a capable all-round street bike. But the Triumph has been specified right on the limits of capacity, weight and horsepower for LAMS. It’s also based on the king of the middleweight class, the 675 Street Triple.

That’s a promising recipe. So does it live up to its billing?

Unchanged melody

If you were basing your LAMS contender on a bike universally praised for its chassis package, you’d leave well alone, right? And that’s exactly what Triumph have done. Everything about the Street Triple’s running gear remains unchanged in 660cc guise.

Despite suspension that’s adjustable only for rear preload, the handling is spot on. The new (2012) model shifted the centre of gravity forward a notch compared to the first Street Triple (2007-11). With slightly altered geometry, the result remains a Goldilocks balance of agility and stability. Perhaps a fraction less eager to dive for the apex than the old bike, the trade-off is a tad more front end feedback. The seemingly basic Nissin two-pot front brakes are brilliant, combining power and feel just the way you’d want. ABS is welcome, particularly on a bike aimed at learners, and it works seamlessly.

There’s more than enough ground clearance for track-day antics, while the suspension provides a supple ride and impressive composure. It only gets out of its depth when pushed to the limit with a heavier rider aboard. Standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso tyres are grippy and confidence inspiring, and show that corners have definitely not been cut on this ‘learner’ version.

From the outside, not a lot seems to have changed in the engine department either. Fire up the 660 and your ears are serenaded by the same characterful three-cylinder soundtrack. With the Street Triple’s shift to a low-mounted three-into-one can for 2012, the exhaust noise has been moved slightly closer to the rider. But it’s actually the induction howl that dominates the harmonics, and it’s no different for the 660. Get the engine spinning above 6K and it’s genuinely spine tingling. Like Slippery Sam firing out of Creg-ny-baa…

Usual clear Triumph clocks, including gear indicator

Usual clear Triumph clocks, including gear indicator

Heart of the machine

Making a new engine for a LAMS version motorcycle sounds extravagant, given it’s only for Australia and New Zealand. But the cunning engineers at Triumph achieved it with some simple modifications.

The big change is to capacity, and Triumph did it by shortening the stroke. This meant repositioning the con rods and machining the gasket face between the head and block. Reduced cam lift and longer duration were required to keep the Triple’s grunty character. In fact, at 54Nm, the 660 produces 80% of the peak torque of the 675 but does so at just 5150rpm, versus 9750 revs for the bigger engine.

To keep power down to legal limits, the ECU restricts it to 55PS at just 9300 revs. Its fruitier sibling runs to 106PS and 11,850rpm.

Triumph has pulled off a remarkable trick here. In normal road riding, the 660 feels every bit as strong as the 675. At small throttle openings the LAMS machine goes like a good ‘un.

Exhaust helps centralise mass, still sounds fruity

Exhaust helps centralise mass, still sounds fruity

Living the dream

There’s little wrong with the Street Triple as an everyday ride and the 660 version is no different.

There’s the same sweet riding position, the same okay seat (it does slant a little forward, requiring regular shifts back on a long ride), the same friendly seat height and jump-on-and-go familiarity. And the same dodgy mirrors. The new mirror design gives a poorer view than the old ones, and the stalks easily loosen and swivel around. Loctite and a firm tighten of the Allen key might be the answer.

Fuel consumption is no better than the 675, which is average, and the 17.5 litre tank is just about enough for distance riding. If you want to take a pillion, adjusting preload is easy (so long as you have the right size C-spanner) and the seating position is better than any sports bike. Optional grab handles are available for about $299.

Regular maintenance is made simple with Triumph’s angled tyre valves and clearly marked chain adjustment. The convenience of a sight glass on the brake master cylinder isn't matched on the engine: you’ll need to use the dipstick.

In terms of reliability, Triumph have carved out a solid reputation over the years. Some of the early 675 triples could drink oil but that problem was solved with new ring designs in later motors. Expect 100% dependability.

Basic looking two-pot brakes deliver the goods

Basic looking two-pot brakes deliver the goods

Verdict

If you were challenged to create the ultimate LAMS bike, something that sits right on the edge of what’s possible, its hard to imagine doing better than Triumph’s 660 Street Triple.

Starting with the recognised class champ, you might dismiss it as an easy job. But it would have been even easier to spoil a brilliant bike. Instead, Triumph have pulled off a minor miracle. The Street Triple 660 doesn't feel like a proper bike that’s been strangled to fit some regulations. It’s genuinely fun and sufficiently fast to make a case for itself as a lovely middleweight bike in its own right.

Which brings us to price. At $13,990 plus on-roads it’s not the cheapest in the class, but nor is it the most expensive. Strikingly, it’s $2,200 cheaper than the 675. Given it’s identical in every way apart from the power difference, that makes it a bargain.

If you’re in the market for a LAMS bike, and you can afford the 660’s price tag, that’s surely all the excuse you need.

Specifications

Model: Triumph Street Triple 660 ABS
Cost: $13,990 + on-road costs
Engine: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline triple
Capacity:  660cc
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive
Seat Height: 800mm
Dry weight: 181kg
Fuel capacity: 17.5

Pros

Snarling, soulful engine
Fun chassis
All-round ability and appeal

Cons

Annoying mirrors
Lack of suspension adjustment

Demonstration machine courtesy of Holeshot Motorcycles.

ride forever