- Italy 3-1 England
- I.Italy – England
- Chassis and inner values
- strength measurement
- Italo or Brit style?
Comparison test: Aprilia SL 750 Shiver, Benelli TnT 899S, Ducati Monster 696, Triumph Street Triple
Italy 3-1 England
The European Football Championship is over, but it is still far from clear who is in charge in Europe. Italy is attacking with the three new highway strikers Aprilia SL 750 Shiver, Benelli TnT 899S and Ducati Monster 696 and challenges England’s playmaker and joker Triumph Street Triple.
I.Italy – England
Seldom has a British recreational athlete been so enthusiastic as Triumph‘s Street Triple. The lively little three-cylinder won one comparison test after the other in 2007 and put the assembled Japanese competition in their place with understatement in price and a powerful engine. Italy is now starting the counterattack: With Aprilia’s Dorsoduro sister SL 750 Shiver, Ducati’s beefy Monster 696 and Benelli’s three-pot burner TnT 899 in the sports version S, three manufacturers are on the hunt for the European mid-range cup – and already cut a fine figure while standing still.
Benelli’s orange techno ant TnT in particular attracts with shapes, curves and details that can only be created in Italy. The curved tubular rocker arm, the eccentric chain tensioner and the elegant footrests, all of which are already familiar from its big sister, the TnT 1130, are always inspiring. The carbon parts on the engine and front wheel, the two-part seat, the license plate holder made of light metal and the fully adjustable chassis can only be found on the S version. The new Monster also has a lot to offer in terms of ahs and ohs. The large tank nostrils, the directly hinged suspension strut attached to the left, the massive-looking tubular space frame with swing arm and the minimalist cockpit visibly distance it from the previous model 695. The new rear-view mirrors are also noticeable, but seem a bit cheap. Nevertheless, the 696 remains clearly recognizable as a monster even after 16 years of model history.
The Aprilia Shiver cannot come up with such a pedigree. You don’t need it either: The golden frame screwed together from two parts, the distinctive lines, the slotted eye end pots and the side-mounted suspension strut without deflection, similar to the Monster, effortlessly line them up between the two other Italians. The Speed Triple has a difficult position against this array of southern European beauty. With its large eyes, the cheeky cockpit hat and the crisp rear end, it can still be seen well, but the admirers’ gaze stealthily wanders to them three Italian women. And how do you sit on the new ones? On the Benelli, the pilot’s limbs are arranged in the usual sporty way – the seating position is identical to that of the TnT 1130. The driver and pegs are located high up, the seat upholstery is quite spartan, the handlebars are mounted at a moderate height. Due to the wide tank and the heavy weight of 224 kilograms, the 899S feels very grown up overall.
Chassis and inner values
Benelli TnT 899 S as an example for fun bikes with pillion compatibility.
The same applies to the Aprilia: The seat height of 830 millimeters embeds the pilot another 10 mm higher than the TnT, which leads to ballet interludes at the traffic lights for drivers with the anatomy of Philipp Lahm. The knee angle is moderate, but the notches are positioned a bit too far forward. The very soft seat cushion and the high handlebars make the Shiver suitable for long distances, but lack sportiness.
Lahm would probably feel a lot more comfortable on the Monster 696. The seat height of 780 mm is very low and allows even smaller Ducatists to stand securely. However, the pilot still has to stretch far over the long tank to reach the wide, straight handlebar – not as bad as with earlier models , but uncomfortable. In addition to the TnT, the small, minimalist and, at 185 kg, very light monster looks almost like a pocket bike. The Triumph can only smile at such extremes, it chooses the golden mean: inconspicuous and well it brings the pilot into a pleasantly sporty seating position. Everything fits, nothing seems too narrow, too wide, too big or too heavy. British understatement in its purest form. It looks quite different with the engine. As before, the English recreational athlete’s little three-cylinder is the measure of all things and shows that an infernal fire blazes behind the dumb, googly eyes. Without a breather, it sprints through the rev range, accompanied by a unique sound experience, that brings tears of joy to your eyes, and does not give up even at high engine speeds. Only the silky smooth running of the engine and the surprisingly low load change reactions on the test motorcycle are reminiscent of the proverbial English discretion.
Benelli doesn’t want to know anything about that. With very pronounced load change reactions and a hoarse voice, she roars across the country roads, always screams for more and is only satisfied when the shift light flickers. For this idea, she treats herself to a sip more than the other three at the pump, which in fact limits the range a bit with the 15-liter tank. Despite its archaic character, the small TnT motor, which only differs from its big sister in terms of stroke, lacks the last bit of bite due to the high weight of the 899. The basic features of the monster engine are also well known. New cylinder heads, revised valves and combustion chambers, modified cooling fins and the omission of some ball bearings should bring nine percent more power and eleven percent more torque compared to the 695. When it comes to the gas mixture, the Italians have recently started to trust German quality – the injection system comes from Bosch.
Triumph Street Triple: It’s impressive how much smoke there is in a small three-cylinder.
Why Ducati is sticking to the cold start device despite the system change remains a mystery. The manual forces that are necessary to operate the slipper clutch are pleasantly low. In practice, the revised V-twin is a lot of fun. With hardly noticeable load changes, accompanied by a sonorous humming, it pushes forwards in a controllable manner at the exit of the curve in order to increase it again between 6000 and 8000 rpm. Not brutal, but fun. It also doesn’t bother that the minimalist cockpit sits very low and the barcode design rev counter and the somewhat small speed display can only be seen if you look carefully. The Aprilia does not know this problem. An analog-digital mix of numbers always provides clearly visible information about speed and engine speed. Speaking of digital: the Shiver is the only test motorcycle to run on e-gas; instead of opening the throttle valve using a Bowden cable, turning the throttle grip sends information to a servomotor, which then controls the throttle valve.
Old hat for R6 drivers; a queasy feeling for traditionalists to leave the decision about full throttle or engine brake to a computer. As with the Dorsoduro, there are also three mappings available. A rain mapping (R) with reduced power and soft throttle response, a tour mapping (T) with full power, but also soft power, as well as a sport mode (S) in which the two-cylinder responds much more aggressively. Despite the high level of technology, the Shiver motor, apart from the noticeably smooth throttle grip, works quite conventionally: Almost bitingly, it accepts the e-gas and confidently thunders through the speed range with a deep, sonorous bubbling. If you want to have maximum fun, you should definitely choose S-Mapping. In this mode, the engine pulls through linearly, but it slackens a bit at high speeds and so cannot keep up with the smaller Street Triple in terms of performance.
The situation is similar when braking. With a great bite and a lot of transparency, the small Triumph can be compressed perfectly in front of tight turns. The fork, which is a little too soft, compresses deeply during hard maneuvers, but responds cleanly and pampers you with a lot of comfort. The Triumph driver can only dream of that with the shock absorber. The damper is the great weak point of the otherwise convincing British. Stubborn and far too soft, it constantly brings unrest to the motorcycle everywhere and mercilessly hits through hard bumps. Back on level ground, the Streety tries, as if it were embarrassed by the rocking, to regain the pilot’s heart with neutral, homogeneous turning and cornering behavior without appearing nervous. The monsters do not need such reconciliations. Regardless of which motorcycle you switch from to the 696 – you always have the feeling of suddenly sitting on a bike.
Italo or Brit style?
Small, fine, handy: The Monster is and remains a motorcycle with a high fun factor.
The handling is phenomenal thanks to the 60 mm cross-section on the front tire and the low weight, sometimes even a bit wobbly. The chassis is well balanced, tuned sufficiently tightly for the country road and invites you to completely relaxed and uncomplicated cornering. The brakes also fit into the smooth picture: Not overly snappy, but reliable and easy to control, they use gentle force to protect the pilot from arrogance. The Benelli driver also has to be careful of that: incited by the hoarse scream of the engine, he tends to let the accelerator stand for a moment longer. No problem for the 899S: Your Brembos will safely catch the orange whirlwind at any time. The bite of the four-piston stoppers does not come close to that of the Aprilia or even the Triumph, but the pressure point and controllability are beyond any doubt. This also applies to the chassis, with the exception of the engine the only real difference to the 1130: Instead of a 50 mm fork, the 899 bars with a diameter of only 43 mm are in the bridges; the shock absorber does not come from Sachs, but from Extremely tec.
The Benelli is the only motorcycle in the test field to offer rebound and compression adjustment for both the fork and the shock absorber, but only in the S version, which is 500 euros more expensive than the base model. The 899S is sporty, tight and very full on the road. Only the fat 190 rear tire dampens the joy a little and forces the driver to give a clear steering impulse at the entrance to the curve. The Aprilia needs that too, at least on the brakes. The standard Dunlops do not harmonize with the Italian and spoil the fun on bends with a clear set-up moment over bumps and when braking. The Street Triple does that much better on the same tires. Pirelli Diablo Corsa assembled on a test basis were able to reduce the problems, but not eliminate them. Otherwise, the Italo chassis is convincing: Comfortably designed and equipped with sufficient reserves, the Shiver always gives the pilot a good feeling, steers easily and cleanly without a brake. The delay of the Aprilia stoppers leaves nothing to be desired. Well controllable and with a full bite, they allow braking maneuvers with centimeter precision – without electronics.
Despite the large number of Italian values: The Triumph Street Triple is the most fun. Their combination of a great engine, the typical three-cylinder sound, the right seating position and the snappy brakes are addicting and let you overlook the poor shock absorber. But the Ducati Monster 696 is also a nice playmate. Essentially, it shines with its puristic, uncomplicated drivability. The great handling, the low seating position and the well-balanced chassis combine to create a mix that is fun without overwhelming. The Benelli 899S behaves completely differently, but offers a lot of mood potential. With a little less weight and a narrower rear tire, more would have been possible. The tires slow down the Aprilia Shiver a little; the moment of standing prevents the fat grin under the helmet that comes with the other three.
CONCLUSION: Seven Italian cylinders fail to snatch the trophy from the hands of the English three of a kind. The Italians are especially hard at work with the great 675 engine and the two-piston floating calipers. The newcomers also have a lot to offer: The Benelli shines with a lot of power, a sporty, taut chassis and a fascinating design and only misses the Triumph by one star. The great strength of the Monster 696 is its bicycle handling; that holds a lot of fun potential. With more power, it would do even better. The Aprilia just ended up in fourth place. She does everything well without being really enthusiastic in one area. There has to be such players in a good team.
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