Here we look back at how John Bloor’s new Hinckley factory attempted to break into the Supersport class with their all new Triumph TT600.
In the mid to late 1990’s the 600cc class for racing machines was booming and the Japanese bikes were leading the charge with motorcycles that were fast, smooth, reliable and good looking.
Looking to re-enter the American market with Triumph Motorcycles America LTD set up by John Bloor in 1994, there were two key sectors to conquer.
The cruiser market and the race /sport bike world, these would be the golden ticket to be taken seriously again in the US and internationally.
So Triumph went to the drawing board and from 1996 onwards research and development took place for their first inline four cylinder sportsbike that would be able to engage in British road racing and international races in the 600 class.
The AMA 600cc Supersport class was one of the most contested and largely consisted of the Big Four Japanese manufacturers fighting it out so it was only natural that Triumph on their comeback tour would want in on the action.
The result was the TT600 was the first motorcycle in the 600 class to receive fuel injection ahead of the competing Jap bikes. The idea, concept and shock factor swept through the press and public, anticipation was high.
Triumph were back and nobody was safe, or so we all thought at the time, until the TT actually rolled off the production line, then there was a slightly different story to tell.
The TT600 was produced between 2000 and 2003 with the later models being significantly better and any glitches resolved from the early bikes.
It was then succeeded by the Triumph Daytona in 2003, so while it’s lifespan was quite short, it left a mark and added to the legacy of the new Hinkley, British thoroughbred motorcycles that Triumph were starting to build.
Triumph TT600 Review
The most important place to start with the TT600 is the motor, this was the new Triumph’s first supersport machine and the engine is the key to success for any sport machine.
Engine and Transmission
Knowing they had to take on the Japanese who were already producing excellent 600cc motorcycles like the GSX-R600 from Suzuki, Triumph figured they needed to do something more, boost their motorcycle somehow.
The way to separate themselves from the Japanese was to beat them to it and use a fuel injection system. This was the shock factor for the press when it was announced, but let’s not skip ahead just yet.
The motor was really quite conventional, liquid cooled, a 16 valve inline-four, 6 speed transmission, 110 horsepower and 68 Nm of torque. The precise fuel injection system was intended to aid smooth power delivery.
However, this was the first fuel-injected sportsbike for Triumph and there were two major issues. The first was it had really choppy throttle response, and secondly the fuel mapping was poor so on/off throttle transitions were jumpy and harsh.
Below 4000rpm it would seem like it was choking, it was weak and the fact was it was not suitable for riding at low revs.
Triumph were quick to try and resolve these issues early on, for the 2001 model it was smooth and power delivery greatly improved across the rev range. The only issue now was that as a result it was reported that the bikes lost around 3 horsepower from the top end.
Before Triumph themselves addressed the issues, dealers were quick to start selling aftermarket exhausts and offer to sort out the injection mapping. As a result of these pretty easy fixes and the dealers initiative the TT600 sold very well, as it had enhanced streetability.
Cycle World in 2000 pointed out that racetrack glory might not have been the real intention for the TT, but rather it was there to plug a gap in the company’s line-up. It would be a bike for younger customers who gravitated towards the middleweight sportsbikes.
“And according to a company spokesman, the TT600 has achieved that goal, quickly becoming one of Triumph’s top-selling models, second only to the recently revived Bonneville Twin.”
However, with that said, in 2002 Triumph improved on the motor once more, getting it back to full power by doing even more ECU reprogramming. It was finally in a position of potentially competing with the likes of the Ninja’s and GSX’Rs.
Chassis, Suspension, Brakes
The twin spar aluminium frame never really got too many complaints, it followed convention for a sportsbike of the era and it was more than fit for purpose. The chassis overall was strong and rigid making steering a breeze, it was a real compliment to the design.
The fully adjustable KYB suspension was considered excellent along with the brakes, throughout the production run there was no complaints about either of these parts, just praise.
“The TT’s Nissin four-pot front calipers don’t disappoint, providing strength and consistency without being overly sensitive in normal street use. The rear setup also provides very good feel and function when used in conjunction with the front.” Cycle World
Much like the motor the TT in terms of handling and rideability is a tale of two stories with the early model being a let down and the later models being spot on and a joy to ride.
Initially the engine issues made riding the TT troublesome, a grabby clutch, spluttering motor and fuel injection issues at low revs meant there was nothing fun about riding the TT in any situation.
There was no instantaneous thrust to make it great for on the track and equally it was pretty difficult to ride around town, until you could hit the back roads and get over the 4000rpm hump.
However, the engine revisions came for 2001 and much of these problems were therefore resolved, vibrations remained though and these could be felt through the bars, pegs and seat. Get above 60mph in the 6000-7000rpm range and things calmed down a bit and vibes were pretty mild at 80mph in 6th gear for highway cruising.
2002 onwards the engine was overall a lot smoother and vibrations at lower revs much more tame.
The riding position is best likened to that of the Honda CBR600F, sporty but not extreme, it is a motorcycle that could be loaded up for some sports touring if that was your thing; equally it would make a competent commuter and weekend bike keeping you comfortable on your journey’s.
Comfort was increased by the use of a well padded seat, and the small screen provided enough wind protection to make high speed riding fairly easy so highway rides could be undertaken without feeling like you are going into battle with the wind.
The clip on bars are also much higher than the likes of the GSX-R so your wrists wouldn’t take all your weight as your riding along.
Triumph had produced a chassis from day one that was light weight and provided stellar high speed maneuverability. It was stable enough to hold a line, breezed through high speed cornering and you could really get your knee down and work on your lean angle.
It was a confidence inspiring ride that would have owners testing their abilities. Okay so it wasn’t going to compete too much in terms of power with the Japanese in the end, but handling wise it was up there with the best of them.
The only issue taller owners might have is a their legs feeling a bit cramped and their knees a bit too high up the tank, it seems Triumph took after Ducati in terms of catering for small European riders.
Now the TT was a pretty light bike but not as light as the competition. It weighed in at 427lbs without fuel which was a whole 20-30lbs more than its serious competitors.
As a result of this added weight and better suspension it did offer a slightly more comfortable, refined ride than the Japanese machines that seemed more hardcore and only interested on track type performance.
On the aesthetic side the TT lacked distinctive style initially and the black and yellow first release didn’t go down too well with many arguing it looked like a copy of the Honda CBR.
They weren’t wrong.
The clocks were big, a white faced analogue tacho with digital speedometer and clock/trip meters sat upfront.
Styling improved as production carried on and Triumph carved their own brand into the TT, in the end paint schemes included Jet Black, Red Tornado and Aluminium silver.
Graphics were tastefully done and refined to add to the air of quality about the bike. It was in the details that riders could see the effort designers had gone to, such as the use of color matched air intakes.
Silver powder coating was used to match the frame to the paint schemes where appropriate.
While the bike had some extra weight to it, lightweight components were used such as cast aluminium wheels, polycarbonate headlight lens, and a lightweight console unit also added to the air of premium quality about the bike.
It is safe to say that there were no complaints about the build quality of the Triumph.
While the press were expecting a serious competitive supersport with track victories on the horizon; it seems that Triumph’s supersport division were quite happy to just suggest that was their intention with the TT.
When the actual goal likely was for it to attract a new younger audience away from the Big Four’s offerings and for them to buy the British version for their first bike. Reports suggest the TT sold extremely well and so this goal was certainly met.
MCN rates the TT600 as a 4/5 stars and their owners rating comes out at 4.5/5 stars.
The summary of their review sums up their feelings clearly and I’d say is pretty bang on for how much of the public also felt.
“Triumph wowed us all when they beat all the Japanese manufacturers to putting a fuel injected engine in to a 600cc sportsbike. Shame about the glitches. Later Triumph TT600s are better but the handling and brakes have never been in doubt: they’re awe-inspiring. Dodgy looks but a true Brit.”
Visordown were a little more direct in addressing the 2000 models early issues “in its earliest form it lacked mid-range thrust and was justly criticised for this. The styling was also on the conservative side” Equally however, they pointed out that the 2002 model year improved on matters “The TT600’s chassis and brakes attracted deserving praise (some hailed it as ‘the best-handling 600cc production bike ever’) and fixes for the mapping added mid-range push.”
The over riding conclusion from press and public was that the 2000 TT600 was lacking in all the important areas, but these things were addressed for the 2002 model year and it appears the end result was worth waiting for.
Triumph TT600 Specs list
Engine and Transmission
Engine – Four stroke, transverse four cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Capacity – 599c
Bore x Stroke – 68 x 41.3mm
Compression Ratio – 12.5:1
Cooling System – Liquid cooled engine
Starting – Electric
Lubrication System – Wet sump
Induction – Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injected system with forced air induction
Transmission – 6 speed
Final Drive – Chain
Clutch – Wet, multi-disc, cable operated
Max Power – 110 horsepower at 12,750rpm
Max Torque – 68 Nm at 11,000rpm
Top Speed – 154mph
Standing 1/4 mile – 11.4 secs, 120mph
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame – Aluminium twin spar
Front Suspension – 43mm forks with dual rate springs, adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear Suspension – Mono shock with adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping
Front Brakes – 2 x 310mm discs, 4 piston calipers
Rear Brakes – Single 220mm disc with single piston caliper
Dry Weight – 170kg
Wheelbase – 1,395mm
Height – 1,150mm
Width – 665mm
Length – 2,060mm
Seat Height – 810mm
Fuel Capacity – 18 litres
Fuel Consumption – 53.3mpg
2000 Triumph TT600 Variants
There were no specific variants of the TT600 but with each model year came improvements that resulted in a very refined package by 2002.
2001 Triumph TT600
For 2001 Triumph did what they could to revise the engine and solve the issues that had cropped up during the first production year. The fueling system was looked at, remapped and the bike was much smoother as a result.
2002 Triumph TT600
2002 is when the biggest changes happened and when it could be argued that the TT600 was finally turned into a full fledged supersport machine. It was at this point that it could go toe to toe with any true racing bike.
Triumph claimed to have reduced internal friction within the engine, done further engine revisions including new injection mapping which overall increased performance and made for a great bike.
In fact the TT went through 13 different fuel injection maps before it was finally left alone.
The 2002 edition onwards was a top bike and was what the TT600 should have 2 years prior. If Triumph had held off and done slightly more development then they may not have faced the issues they did early on and had to endure publicly.
Buying an original Triumph TT600
Prices in the UK for a TT600 in the UK start at around £1,800 and go up to around £3,000. In the US prices average around $3,000.
Many owners were quick to fit aftermarket parts especially early on. Most riders will have fitted an aftermarket end can and have it remapped to ease some of the early teething issues.
So you will want to be aware of these changes, check for paperwork and any history with the bike if possible. These additions won’t be a bad thing if done correctly and even the early models with these changes can be awesome.
The key to remember is that these were 600cc sportsbikes and like many sportsbikes they will have been thrashed and suffered some abuse. Not all of them but many.
So be sure to check for any crash damage, signs of the bike being dropped etc.
Where possible I would suggest you go for a 2002 onwards bike just to save yourself going through any of the issues that the 2000/2001 machines had. Although they are pretty easy fixes especially with todays advanced computer systems etc.
Restoring a Triumph TT600
Restoring a TT600 is an easy project and an affordable one, it is quite easy to pick a bike up for cheaper than the average asking price and parts are plentiful.
Again, however, I would try to go for a later model just to save hassle with the engine revisions needed unless you have the equipment and knowledge for remapping.
I wouldn’t though undertake a TT600 restoration with a view of making any money and only do it if you want a British 600 to race around on. They aren’t very expensive on the used market and the price band is not that broad.
Is the Triumph TT600 a good investment?
2002 Triumph TT600 models and 2003 are quite hard to find as owners tend to hold on to these as they were the better versions.
These are the most coveted and the model to get a hold of if you can. They ride better but also hold their value better, the scarcity of them means that naturally the value is higher.
However, overall prices are pretty low and I can’t see them skyrocketing anytime soon.
I would think that the TT600 is a future classic Triumph particularly post-2002 versions as they are part of Triumph’s racing machines before we had the triple cylinder modern Daytona.
I do no think that they will be very expensive classics though. In 10 years I would think they will be the ‘classic’ bikes that we point people to when they want to do their first restoration.
Overall the TT600 is a zero-hero story. It was released perhaps too premature, before it was actually ready but quickly it blossomed into what it was intended to be in the first place.
Without the TT the supersport division at Hinckley wouldn’t have gone on to produce the Triumph Daytona 675 so we have to give credit where it is due to the TT.
I quite like it but I like old things, and have a tendency to buy bikes and cars that are plagued with issues (its character right?) and at the current prices I don’t think you can go wrong.
Certainly fewer TT’s on the road than CBR’s, GSX-R’s and R6’s so I’d rather stand out, just maybe not with the Honda copycat version.