Inline triple engines are novelties in the modern motorcycle market. If twin-cylinder layouts uphold usability and four-pot mills prioritize performance, triples bridge the gap between approachable and untouchable. Nevertheless, only a select group of manufacturers engage in the inline-triple trade. Two brands specifically—Triumph and Yamaha—rank at the top of that list, and both OEMs continue to push the configuration’s limits.
Team Blue played its hand first, updating its CP3 platform in 2021. Boosting the powerplant’s capacity to 890cc, Yamaha engineers maintained the engine's potency while complying with Euro 5 emissions regulations. Within the MT-09 naked bike, that torquey triple benefitted from ride-by-wire and a six-axis IMU. When it came to the up-spec SP trim, the bLU cRU surrounded the CP3 with premium suspension from Öhlins and KYB.
Not to be outdone, Triumph updated its Street Triple 765 lineup for the 2023 model year. While Hinckley held the R trim to 118 horsepower, the RS variant picked up the pace with 128 ponies. Similar to its Japanese counterpart, the Street Triple 765 RS sports upgraded suspenders. Triumph also trusts the stern to Öhlins, but a Showa fork steadies the stem instead.
With these two bulked-up triples practically cornering the class, odds are that heavy middleweight customers will consider both models. So, which up-spec naked delivers the best bang for buck? We consult the spec sheets for such an answer.
|2023 Triumph Street Triple RS||2023 Yamaha MT-09 SP|
|Engine:||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 765cc Inline-Triple||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 890cc Inline-Triple|
|Bore and Stroke:||78mm x 53.4mm||78mm x 62.1mm|
|Performance:||128 hp/ 59 lb-ft||117 hp/ 68.6 lb-ft|
|Weight (wet):||414 pounds||419 pounds|
Might and Muscle
Right off the bat, hawkeyed consumers will discern the MT-09 SP’s capacity advantage. With 890cc, Yamaha’s CP3 enjoys 135cc over the Street Triple RS’s 765cc volume. Yet, Triumph squeezes blood from stone with its high-strung triple. Thanks to a 13.25:1 compression ratio, the 765 reins in 128 horses. Conversely, the SP’s 11.5:1 compression rate only yields 117 ponies, despite the CP3 boasting 8.7mm of additional stroke.
That extra piston travel benefits the MT-09 in other areas, though. Namely, torque. The SP churns out 68.6 lb-ft of torque while the Street Triple only manages 59 lb-ft. With both models ruling opposite ends of the spectrum, the customer should consider their personal riding style before purchasing. After all, the RS’s top-end performance better suits the circuit while the MT’s torque-rich character rules the road.
Fleet of Foot
All that power and torque don’t go anywhere without a competent chassis and both Triumph and Yamaha equip the mighty middleweights accordingly. The RS relies on an Öhlins STX40 piggyback reservoir monoshock aft and a 41mm USD Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF) fore. Both units offer preload, compression, and rebound adjustability with nearly 5.2 inches of travel up front and a skosh over 4.2 inches out back.
Yamaha takes similar measures with the MT-09 SP. A fully-adjustable Öhlins shock provides 4.8 inches of travel while the 41mm KYB inverted fork bolsters suspension stroke to 5.1 inches. As with most categories, the RS and SP remain neck-and-neck, but the Street Triple’s 23.2-degree rake results in snappier handling than the MT’s 25-degree caster angle, securing the agility category for Triumph. Team Blue counters when it comes to stability, though, as the SP’s 56.3-inch wheelbase outlasts the RS’s 55.1 inches.
When the two roadsters aren’t exposing one another’s weaknesses, they’re matching each other tit-for-tat. Still, the Triumph establishes a clear advantage in one arena: braking. With superbike-worthy Brembo Stylema radial calipers dropping the anchor up front, RS riders will enjoy more stopping power and control. The MT-09's four-pot units may hold their own, but they just can’t match Brembo quality.
The Slimmest Margin
The RS and SP go blow-for-blow until the final bell. Even in the vaunted tech category, the two contenders remain virtually equal on the scorecards. Both tout a six-axis IMU that governs lean-sensitive traction control, cornering ABS, and wheelie/lift control. The pair also flaunt all-around LED lighting, slipper clutches, and quickshifters. Triumph only eeks out the upper hand by arming the Street Triple RS with a 5-inch TFT display, which barely eclipses the MT’s 3.5-inch TFT panel.
After trading haymakers and wobbling back to their corners, the two undoubtedly go the distance. With a difference of $1,096 separating the RS’s $12,595 MSRP and the SP’s $11,499 sticker price, Triumph and Yamaha sure aren’t making the decision (for us and customers) any easier. If forced to choose between the two, we’d have to side with the Street Triple. The model’s power advantage, sharp-handling chassis, and Brembo calipers narrowly claim the victory.
With that said, we’d recommend the MT-09 SP for street riders and the Street Triple RS for track rats. The inline-triple market may be small in numbers, but it sure is big on competition.