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Triumph Daytona 1200 – Worthy Classic or Cheap Sports Tourer?

As it approaches its 30th birthday the Triumph Daytona 1200 will soon reach official classic bike status. Here we look back at the 4 cylinder Daytona and consider if it’s worthy of the title.

The birth of the Triumph Daytona 1200 started in 1991, with the British company reinventing itself from the ashes of the Japanese supremacy of 80s motorcycles.

To kick-start its “rebirth”, Triumph launched itself with the Trophy 900 and 1200 alongside the Trident 750 and 900. 

Safe and sensible models they were but the motorcycle world in the early 90s were roaring with World Superbikes and the continual drive from the Japanese manufacturers to create large capacity fast production bikes.

Quite simply, Triumph’s offerings weren’t going to cut it in the fast-paced market of the time.

A bit of head scratching later and the response to their Japanese competitors was the Triumph Daytona 1200, launched in late 1992, early 93.

Triumph’s first “Superbike”

Triumph Daytona 1200 for sale
This 1995 Daytona 1200 is in excellent condition and is currently for sale for £5250 – details here.

So soon after the relaunch, Triumph was not yet in a financially stable position to build brand new models from the ground up yet were desperate to compete with the big superbikes churning out from the Japanese market.

The solution was to create a “new” machine with as many parts from their existing line-up as possible alongside a few specialist bits and pieces imported from Japan. The result became the four cylinder Daytona 1200.

Named from the world-famous Daytona Speedway in Florida, a nod to Triumph’s successes at the track in the 1960s, the Triumph Daytona 1200 was the company’s most powerful motorcycle to date.

Its brutish 1180 cc, 16-valve water-cooled engine came from the Trophy 1200 and tuned for more power (Triumph claimed 147 bhp at the crank compared to the Trophy’s measly 106 bhp!).

Despite all this power, the Daytona was “only” geared to hit a top speed of around 160 mph, far less than that of its Japanese rivals. Therefore, it would seem that the aim of the Daytona was to provide better acceleration through its 6-speed gearbox at normal road speeds and leave the Japanese to fight amongst themselves for the title of worlds fastest production superbike.

Surrounding the Daytona’s power plant, the steel spine frame, swing-arm and wheels all came from the Triumph parts bin. However the brakes and suspension came imported from Nissin and Kayaba respectively.

These ‘exotic’ components really pushed the Daytona away from the Trophy and firmly placed its crosshairs on the Kawasaki ZZ-R1100, Yamaha FZR1000 and Suzuki GSX-R1100, the fastest bikes at the time.

The suspension gave the Daytona very good handling compared to its stablemates yet was still less nimble than the competition partly due to how tall it was.

The launch model was offered in three bold and bright colour options: Racing Yellow, Pimento Red and Barracuda Blue. Popular rumour has it that Triumph had at the time just invested in a new paint shop and were keen to show off what they could produce, their new model featuring four layers of paint rather than the standard two. 

It had a functional fairing at the front, twin headlights, large fuel capacity and comfortable riding poise. Perfectly set up, it would seem, for longer trips.

The Triumph Daytona 1200 was dubbed the “British Musclebike” on launch and praised greatly by the motorcycle press and public alike for its raunchy engine, good handling and comfortable riding position. 

Following further down this particular rabbit hole, the Daytona seats you in an upright position with high handlebars and low foot-pegs, certainly less stressful on the body over long distances that the more chest forward, high heels body position of a traditional superbike.

Triumph Daytona 1200 Launch Specification

  • Engine: Liquid-cooled, 16 valve DOHC, in-line 4-cylinder

  • Capacity:  1180cc

  • Max. power: 147 bhp / 108 kW @ 9,500 rpm

  • Max. torque: 115 Nm @ 8,000 rpm

  • Gearbox: 6-speed manual

  • Top speed: 168mph / 270 kph

  • Fuel capacity: 25 L / 6.6 US Gal

  • Seat height: 790 mm / 31.1 in

  • Dry weight: 228 kg / 502 lbs

Triumph Daytona 1200 Variants

The production run for the Triumph Daytona 1200 was short-lived, just 5 years from 1992 to 1997 when it was succeeded by the T595.

Changes were few and far between during this period; by the end of 1993 the front and rear wheel were changed for 17-inch three spokes, the exhaust end can was changed from stainless steel to black, the Nissin brake calipers were re-badged as “Triumph” and a new colour was introduced, Butch Black.

Triumph also released a special edition, the Daytona 1200S on a limited run of 250 units which featured 6-pot front brake calipers and tweaked suspension.

Buying an original Daytona 1200

When it was first launched in late 1992, it was priced at £7,899 (equal to £17,880 at the time of writing in 2022) and over £900 more than the Kawasaki ZZ-R1100.

Towards the end of its production run the price had increased to £9499 and was also fighting off its newer stablemates such as the Super III so despite the initial praise stemming from its launch coupled with the fact Triumph Motorcycles were still rebuilding themselves, very few Daytona’s were built.

30 years on and what does that mean for anyone thinking of getting one? 

Finding a Triumph Daytona 1200 is increasingly difficult, however they are out there and currently at good prices which will likely increase over the coming years as they hit “classic” status.

Top quality used ones can be found for around £4,500 – £5,500. However, if you’re looking for a bit of a project, a few high mile examples are floating around the web for between £2,000 – £3,000. 

Example of a low mileage good condition model on Autotrader for £4,500.

Example of a high mileage good condition on Autotrader £2,500.

Restoring a Triumph Daytona 1200

Triumph still produces parts for most of its bikes even down to the decals, so anything you need will be easy to get, but at a price. Full headlight assembly costs £240 and just one of the front brake discs will set you back £250!

There are still aftermarket parts aplenty for the Daytona 1200 at half the cost of the OEM bits if you’re not fussy and of course the world’s favourite online auction site has over 30,000 bits and pieces at the ready.

Genuine Triumph Parts can be purchased at World of Triumph.

Is the Triumph Daytona 1200 a Good Investment?

Currently, restored models are selling for around £5,500+ so not much profit to be had from a £4,500 purchase for a good bike. However, taking a high mileage machine and cleverly restoring with a combination of new and used spares could see a good return.

I can see the price for a well restored Daytona 1200 increasing over the next few years with it hitting the magical 30-year-old mark.

Good for the future, not for now

The Daytona 1200 makes an ideal sports tourer
The Daytona 1200 makes an ideal sports tourer

It’s been enjoyable looking into Triumph’s resurgence and I’ve no doubt that models like the Daytona 1200 were a big part of that period and success that has followed.

My biggest issue with this bike is that the motorcycle press, dealers and even the company themselves called the Triumph Daytona 1200 a Superbike.

If I viewed it as such, then it doesn’t stack up against its Japanese competitors. I think I hinted at this throughout, it’s heavier, not as nimble and the rider position is not that of a racer.

Triumph would eventually go the sports bike route over a decade later with the completely new and ground breaking Daytona 675 but the only way I got my head around the Daytona 1200 was to look at it as a sports tourer, then it made infinitely more sense to me.

However, there’s nothing about it as a bike that sparks either my head or heart to want one. As a future investment I’ll put my hand up and say it’ll be worth it down the line, but as a personal bike, not for me.

If I had to choose a bike from Triumph’s line-up of that period then it would be the Daytona 900 Super III. For me Triumph is the proprietary eponym for an inline 3-cylinder engine, and I’d stay true to this.

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