It may not have had the kudos of its fully-faired ST ‘brother’, but the RS wasn’t a bad bike by any standards. It’s better still, now it’s in the bargain basement…
Twenty years ago Triumph was just beginning to challenge the might of the Japanese with two sports-touring three-cylinder machines.
The Sprint ST was a fully faired challenger to the mighty Honda VFR, by then (1998) in its 800FI guise, while the marginally cheaper Sprint RS was launched a year later in Seville, Spain.
Much was shared on both bikes: the ally beam-frame was the same the 955cc three-cylinder motor was the same: in fact the RS was only the missing half of a fairing and the heavier single-sided swingarm, really. The motor was plenty peppy enough and the suspension was pretty good through the corners, even with a firm rear shock and slightly soft front forks. Turn-in was even quicker than the ST thanks to sportier steering geometry. The biggest difference was the price: £7999 for the ST and £7299 for the RS…
Despite this price difference, for some reason during its five-year run in the range, the RS never really shone, despite being almost every bit as capable as the ST. Of course, some key kit was missing that the ST had: most notably things like pillion handles and a centre-stand. And if you bought these ‘extras’ you’d be approaching the cost of the ST itself.
Today the costs are much lower with projects starting at just a shade over £500, runners for a grand and decent, low-milers sitting between £1500 and £2000…
WHAT GOES WRONG?
HEADLIGHTS: Poor as standard as only one is on in dip mode: many owners connect them together via the relays under the seat so that both are on but perhaps more modern bulbs is a better idea to save frying your electrics?
ENGINE: The motor has anything from 105-115bhp (more power came with the 2002 version) and power delivery is like a diagonal line… Few issues by now: back in the day some rough-running of the fuel-injected triple would be sorted by a trip to a Triumph dealer and some diagnostic equipment. The engine management light (as on early injected Triumphs) sometimes stays on…
SERVICING: Every 6000 miles: the 12,000 mille one costs as the 1999-2001 bike needed regular valve adjustment. Bikes that are hard to start on a cold day can be a sign of timing issues, later engines had revised valve set-up.
BRAKES: Brilliant as new, but do need constant TLC if used over winter.
MIRRORS: Not brilliant as they aren’t that wide and do vibrate.
QUALITY CONTROL: You need to keep your RS clean otherwise parts will degrade over time, including engine case paint, shocks, fasteners and swingarm finish.
SUSPENSION: Not as good as the ST from new and soft at the front. Will need fettling by now but the forks can be re-valved.
AFTERMARKET PARTS: Triumph threw everything at the ST and RS so – if you can find one – we’d recommend buying any model (2002-on has 10 more bhp and needs less maintenance) that has any original Triumph parts on it, from top-box, heated grips, screens, end-cans, throw-over soft panniers, tank bags and the very useful bottom fairing.
RECALLS: Drive chain possible fracture, fuel level sender could fail, clutch cable potential to snap, fuel hoses could fracture. (2000 to 2004 models.)
TRIUMPH SPRINT RS
Price New: £7299 (1999)
Price now: £500-£2400
Engine: 955cc, liquid-cooled, inline 4-stroke triple.
Power: 118bhp @ 9200rpm
WHY WE LOVE IT: Now very cheap, different
WHY WE DON’T: Uninspired looks, finish