Buying a first ‘big’ bike is not an easy thing to do. Primarily, you’ll want something you can ‘grow’ into. As much as I loved the Honda CB500F that got me back onto two wheels earlier this year after a long absence, any riders buying purely for fun would soon get bored of its modestly powered and not especially characterful parallel twin. You might not want to go too far the other way either, buying something excessive you’ll have barely scratched the surface of after a few years of riding.
On the face of it, there’s one bike that seems to be the ideal starter above all others: the Triumph Trident. At £7,395 it’s plenty attainable, it’s fast but not too fast, has a more interesting engine than its rivals, and finally, would you just look at it?
It’s a very attractive bike displaying just the right amount of retro-ness without verging on the pastiche. The Trident is neatly packaged too, with a short, low-slung exhaust and number plate/mudguard combo sprouting from one side of the swingarm, negating the need for the usual bulky stock tail unit. The Union Jack decal on the tank is a nice touch too, even though some will inevitably enjoy pointing out that the bike is one of many Triumphs currently made in Thailand.
Switching the ignition awakes a small but well-thought-out instrument cluster. The upper semi-circular bit is a more traditional LCD showing the fuel level, speed, revs and so on. Below it is a rectangular colour TFT giving trip computer information, and if you spend an extra £210 on a connectivity module, things like turn-by-turn navigation instructions via your phone. It’s also possible to control a GoPro with it.
Once you’ve had a fiddle, you can fire up the Trident’s greatest attribute - its 660cc inline-three. The engine is good for 80bhp at 10,250rpm, and 47lb ft of torque at 6,250, and can be restricted for A2 license compliance. In this uncorked setting, it’s a fabulous thing.
Triumph bangs on and on in its PR guff about these triples giving the low to mid-range punch of a twin plus the smoothness and top-end excitement of an inline-four, and it’s hard to argue with that. Such is the gutsiness of the low end (most of the torque is available from 3,000rpm), that it feels as fast as more powerful four-pots for much of the time.
The fizzy inline-three noise is addictive, and I frequently found myself chasing the redline, which matches the 10,250rpm peak powerpoint. This does mean the occasional headbutting of the rev limiter is inevitable, though, particularly as it feels as though the engine should be topping out higher (perhaps because the old Daytona engine it’s based on was indeed a revvier so-and-so). Plus, the by-wire electronic throttle can feel a bit weird and laggy at low revs, but these are small complaints.
In the corners, the Trident provides more grip than a newbie will ever need, thanks in no small part to Michelin Road 5 tyres. It tips in briskly, and on smoother roads, it’s a joy to carve through a nice set of flowing bends. On poorer surfaces, though, chinks in the bike’s armour start to appear.
The Trident gets Showa suspension front and rear, with non-adjustable 41mm forks and a preload-adjustable monoshock. Whether you’re going slower and negotiating speed bumps or travelling a little faster on a rougher B-road, the Trident can get quite bouncy. A more experienced rider might not be so fussed by this, but for fresher riders like me, it’ll prove unnerving when you’re banked over mid-corner and the bike’s failing to iron out the chatter from the road.
To be fair to Triumph, there’s only so much money you can spend on suspension when you’re trying to put together a bike costing just over seven grand. That being said, a Honda CB650R is pretty much the same price, and although it too uses Showa components, the chassis feels plusher and more confidence-inspiring.
This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker - you’d get used to the ride in time, I suspect. The Trident just might not feel as friendly as some other bikes in those early stages of your riding career. In terms of want-factor, though, it’s unparalleled thanks to the way it looks and that fizzy, brawny triple. Despite a few cheaper-feeling bits (the mirrors, for instance) it’s also a well-made thing.
Would it be your first bike of choice?