Bikes we love

What I want: Triumph Sprint GT SE

“You need more than one bike,” my wife told me recently.
She’s coming ’round, boys! She’s coming ’round! Though, sadly, I can’t dupe myself into thinking this statement was explicit direction or permission to go out and get myself a second motorcycle. After all, where the hell would I put it? 
Instead, it was simply an observation that my love of motorcycles stretches across multiple genres of machine. At best, it was implicit agreement that, one day, if we have the space and finances safely allow, she wouldn’t –– on principle –– have a problem with my owning multiple bikes. I’m happy with that.
In the present and immediate foreseeable future, though, I am a one-motorcycle guy. The question I am forever wrestling with then, is what kind of bike is that one motorcycle? You can see it in all the What I Want posts I write: one day I’m swooning over an Indian Scout, the next day I’m pining for a Honda VFR1200F. Increasingly, though, when I think about how I use my bike and how I want to use my bike, I find myself feeling that, if pushed, I would –– at this point in my life, at least –– choose the latter of the two.
And I suppose it’s that oh-so-slight leaning toward sport tourers that caused me to wander into a Triumph dealership recently and spend a really long time talking to the guys there about the Sprint GT SE. Well, that, and the fact that it was freezing outside.
I had ridden the 80 miles to Blade Motorcycle Centre in Swindon, which serves as an official dealer for a number of motorcycle brands and is the closest Indian/Victory dealer to Cardiff. I was there to finally test ride the new Indian Scout.
On this particular day, the weather had been incredibly cold (below freezing) but dry when I had set out from Cardiff. However, in Swindon I found myself riding through snow. Then, when I got to the dealership I discovered that the salesman who’d booked me in for a test ride had taken the day off and informed no one of my intended arrival (a). The bike was not prepped to be taken out. Considering the state of the roads and the fact that I’d be liable for any damage to the bike, I decided to just let the issue drop. Maybe I’ll get a chance to test ride the Scout some other day.
Still chilled to my core, however, I decided to wander through to other parts of the centre rather than get back on the road. Before long, I found myself hanging out in the Triumph dealership, where there were actual salespeople to talk to –– all of whom were incredibly quick to offer me a mug of tea.
They had a Sprint GT SE on display. I’ve pondered that bike off and on since I wrote a post about middleweight sport-touring motorcycles more than a year ago, but hadn’t put a great deal of effort into learning about it. So, this was my first experience of seeing the bike in the metal. And I was shocked to discover that it is a whole lot better looking in person than in pictures. I mean, this thing is gorgeous. 
The dash is so cool.
In red, the Sprint GT’s paint is deep and transfixing. The finish and quality stand out in even the tiniest of places –– the fact the chain guard is metal, for example (the chain guard on my Honda is plastic); the way the suspension can be adjusted while you’re sitting on the bike; the small, lockable compartment in the fairing. Everywhere you look, you find yourself thinking: “Oh, isn’t that clever!”
Sporting a 1050-cc triple, the Sprint GT delivers roughly 130 horsepower and 79 ft. lbs. of torque. Looking at owners’ reports on, it appears the bike gets roughly 45 mpg, which is more or less in line with what Triumph claims and is relatively comparable to the fuel economy I get on my current bike.
Sitting on the thing, I found its ergonomics to be even roomier than the Honda VFR1200F, and its pillion seating is equally more ample. Not to mention that the standard gel seat is comfy as heck. The weight of the bike felt decently balanced, even though it was laden with luggage.
And that, of course, is one of the great selling points of the Sprint GT SE: it comes fully equipped. Panniers, top box, 12V outlet, the aforementioned gel seat, centre stand and heated grips are all standard. This, mis amigos, is a motorcycle that is ready to tour Europe right out of the box.

The luggage, by the way, amounts to 117 litres of storage and has a special mounting system that allows the panniers and top box to move slightly. Apparently, that helps reduce the negative effects of getting hit by a sudden gust of wind. Like I say, clever.

All of this spun in my mind as I sat chatting about the bike. I thought about how valuable the fairing and heated grips are to me on my existing bike, about how I prefer the security and ease of hard luggage, and how my whole modus operundi toward a motorcycle these days is to use it to travel the sort of distances that demand luggage. I thought about how good the pillion accommodation is on the Sprint GT, and how the power of the bike would be more than enough for hauling two people and all their stuff. And I thought of how it is just barely –– with financing –– a bike I could actually afford to get right now. Whereas machines like the Honda VFR1200F or BMW R1200R are realistically at least five years away. Especially if I want them equipped with features like those that come standard on the Sprint GT.

A beautiful machine like the Indian Chief Classic, meanwhile, is a good decade (or two!) away; a touring bike like the Chieftain or Roadmaster even more assuredly so. Meanwhile, I don’t have the space for any of those machines and my experience has shown me their dealer network in the UK is piss poor. They are bikes for a different time, a different place and different conditions.

In the right now, in the reality that exists, a Sprint GT SE –– a British bike in Britain (b) –– is one of the best machines I could hope for. So, I have told myself that I will think about it seriously: I’ll weigh everything in my mind and take the time to test ride the bike. If my love for this bike is just as strong (or stronger) in a month or so when my birthday rolls around, I will look into the possibility of actually getting one.

Having said all that…

Although £9,000 is an unquestionably good deal for such a bike, it is still a whole lot of money. All of my savings and a fair bit of good luck on the trade-in value of my Honda will be necessary to make a deposit sizeable enough to to ensure that the monthly repayment is truly manageable. And then there’s the whole philosophical question of finance. You chain yourself with such deals –– chain yourself to a bank and to the 9-to-5 working drudgery needed to sustain the whole devil’s deal.

Not to mention that it’s a devil’s deal that inherently demands paying for full comprehensive insurance. Look at all that fairing, yo. You don’t want to risk being stuck paying for repairs to that stuff on your own. And if you have a bike via Triumph’s TriStar Finance scheme you will want to make sure it spends the next three years being kept in good condition.

That’s something to think about when you’re sitting astride a 130-hp beast. All that power increases your chances of overcooking acceleration on a slippery surface and having the thing kick out from under you. Especially considering that the Sprint GT lacks traction control and much of the other electronic wizardry to be found on more expensive machines (although, it does have anti-lock brakes).

It also lacks their ease of maintenance. The Sprint GT is a chain-driven bike and, although it’s not impossible, getting access to said chain for regular cleaning looks challenging.

To that end, the Sprint GT is a bike that feels a little long in the tooth. Although far, far more attractive in person, its styling is still just a bit outdated. And its engine is basically the same as was being used in the Sprint ST more than a decade ago.

If I were to sign an agreement on this bike, my plan would be to ride it for three years (the length of a TriStar Finance agreement) then use it as a deposit on a different bike –– perhaps entering a new 3-year financing cycle with that new machine, or perhaps having saved up enough money by then to buy it outright. Is the Sprint GT SE the sort of bike that I will be able to love for three years?

And lastly, there’s the question Jenn asked when I told her I was thinking about all this: “What about the Thruxton?”

I haven’t got any idea when the new Triumph Thruxton will be released, or even if it will, in fact, be a Thruxton. Most of the spy photos have referred to it as the Triumph Street Tracker. Equally, I have no idea how much it will cost, nor whether it will be available for financing via TriStar. I do know it won’t have hard luggage and spacious passenger accommodation; I do know that it won’t have fairing.

But I also know that Jenn has never expressed such interest in a motorcycle as she has for the Triumph Thruxton. It looks like the bikes she used to collect pictures of when she was a little girl, like the bike that was her dad’s favourite. And I know that’s important to me.

The Sprint GT SE is a Triumph, though –– made in the UK –– so it has a connection to that heritage and spirit. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe it isn’t.

Maybe. Maybe. We’ll see…

(a) Incredibly bad form, yo. If Indian expects to compete against Harley-Davidson it has to compete on all levels, including customer service. I committed myself to riding 160 fucking miles in freezing temperatures for the sake of getting to test ride the bike; the very least I’d expect is for someone to be there when I show up. Honestly, I cannot express how angry this made me.

(b) Whereas there is only one Indian dealership within 100 miles of Cardiff, there are 15 Triumph dealerships.