Nostalgia is a menace. It’s particularly potent when linked to things from our younger years, especially things we wanted but couldn’t have. Classic bikes, cars, trucks; anyone with an ounce of petrolhead about them has to stop and take a second glance when something old, carbureted, and noisy rolls past.
Which is why it feels completely weird to be doing an old-versus-new test in which the Daytona 675 plays the part of the old-timer. I vividly remember how excited I was when these were launched, drooling over early styling sketches, rushing to see one up close when someone rolled in at the local bike meet on a fresh-from-the-dealer 675 in graphite grey.
I remember the sound. I’m 34 years old; I can’t believe I’m doing the “I remember when they came out” bit. But 15 years is 15 years, and a lot has changed in that time. The 600cc supersport class that the 675 stood atop has all but vanished. Bikes now come with compulsory, non-switchable ABS. And Triumph has gone from an underdog British bike maker to a globally recognized manufacturer of top-quality motorcycles. Not only that, but it’s gone from having a hand in a few supersport race teams to being the engine supplier for the entire Moto2 grid.
We thought we had lost the Daytona for good in 2016, when production of the 675 ended, but under consumer pressure Triumph launched the Daytona Moto2 765 Limited Edition in 2020. So what better excuse to take the original and the latest to a track and spend some time chewing up tires to see how far the three-cylinder Daytona has come?
Full disclosure: The Daytona 675 is one of my all-time favorite sportbikes. I lusted after them, raced them, crashed them, and even had a hand in the creation of the 2009 and 2013 models as a young design engineer at Triumph. This model here is my own, a 2006 bike fitted with the nose cone from the 2009 update purely because one of my best mates designed it. I remember sitting and staring at it on his 3D model thinking it looked like Donnie Darko, but that’s what 12-hour days at a CAD terminal will do to you.
The 675 is still a stunning-looking bike, and now more than ever it looks impossibly compact. It’s as skinny as a V-twin from head-on, while the tall seat and low, tucked-in bars are purposeful and uncompromising. This was a bike built before manufacturers worried quite so much about pleasing every potential customer with a nice low seat and comfy riding position. There’s no traction control, no ABS, not even a quickshifter. Hell, we were just excited to discover it has a manual lap timer built into the dash. I wonder how many of these were wrecked by people trying to beat their best lap time back from the shops. Simple switch gear sits next to a nonadjustable clutch lever and a radial Nissin master cylinder that, in fairness, still looks reasonably up to date.
Jumping across to the new 765 brings a mixture of familiarity and new touches. Each time I’ve decided it’s exactly like the old bike, something new catches my eye. The main spars of the frame look the same on both bikes, but the new TFT dash and fancy switch gear is worlds away from the original. There is no denying the styling cues between the two bikes, but in the flesh the new one is definitely more refined, better finished. And the exhaust on the 765 gives it a proper Moto2-replica feel, with the bulk hidden under the bellypan. The old bike is cheating a bit here, as the bulky, heavy stock underseat silencer is long gone, ditched for a lighter aftermarket unit. The riding position is definitely more roomy on the 765, still an aggressive sportbike stance, but with less of a feeling of being tucked in tight behind the fairing.
Firing up both bikes to warm up in the pits really highlights how much development Triumph has put into the original 675 triple. The old bike sounds so much harsher, so much more mechanical as it whirrs away the morning condensation. Even on the stock silencer, the 675 has a more rasping and aggressive exhaust note, released before the ever-tightening net of emissions and noise control closed in. That same net, in the end, was the final nail in the coffin of the Daytona 675.
The 765 purrs in comparison, smoother and quieter but still retaining the distinct intake and exhaust notes that makes us love the three-cylinder format. For track use the 765 needs some electrical setting up: putting it into Track mode to reduce ABS intervention, giving you the option for less traction control or, in fact, none at all. The ABS cannot be turned off completely, unless you go rummaging for fuses or removing wheel-speed sensors. Setting up the old bike goes no further than finding the lap timer on the dash and removing the tired, sun-hardened front indicators, which incidentally started flapping around on their leads after half a lap.
Heading out on the 675 first brings back a huge feeling of familiarity. Hours of testing and racing come flooding back. Ten years disappear in an instant. Say what you like about nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses; if you had a bike in your past that you loved, go and buy yourself another one. It will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling that no new bike can. Impressively, even compared to the latest and greatest machinery, the 675 still feels damn good on track. Sure, it’s “slow” compared to an S 1000 RR, and it has nowhere near the electronic refinement of the 765. But the chassis, power delivery, and brakes are spot on.
Just as my Dad and his buddies lamented the loss of carburetors when fuel injection became the standard, I now find myself longing for the days of a regular throttle cable, days when a bike’s throttle bodies did more or less what you asked of them. The 675 has a dual butterfly system controlling inputs to the bike, but compared to the new ride-by-wire system, it feels more direct and more like you’re getting what you asked for when opening the gas.
The thing that stands out about the 675 now is just how raw and sharp it feels, darting into corners and changing direction in an instant. Push it too hard and you get a slap from the bars to warn you off. Fifteen thousand miles have punished the suspension, but it still behaves well enough to hang with more modern 600s on track. The brakes were toast prior to the test; corrosion got the better of the discs. But with fresh EBC discs and pads fitted it would outbrake the newer bike, which was too busy arguing with its own ABS system. To be perfectly honest, there was only one bit of tech I actually missed on track: a quickshifter.
After multiple stints on the 675 I was absolutely buzzing, which left the Moto2 edition bike a huge set of shoes to fill. The 90cc advantage is immediately obvious, along with the development and refinement this motor has received in the last 15 years. It does everything the original motor did just that little bit better. More midrange, more top-end, more torque, and a slicker gearbox to feed it all through. I thought I was happy with the power available on the 675, but the 765 treads a brilliant balance between enough power to be more fun and so much that the horsepower dominates the ride. That was always the best bit of a good supersport 600, a bike that you can still ride with corner speed that rewards getting on the throttle early and building speed out of a turn.
On track sections that required me to tap-dance the older bike between second and third gear, I was able to hold the 765 in third and use the torque, making it easier to carry more speed through the turns. Although the peak power difference isn’t huge, just 10 extra bhp or so, the extra torque of the 765 means it’s that bit keener to lift a wheel exiting second- and third-gear corners. And who doesn’t enjoy a good power wheelie?
Despite my love of the 675 chassis, the 765 simply outperforms it when pushing harder. The new bike holds a line better through and out of a turn, stays more stable when braking over bumps, and shows far less of a tendency to shake its head when things get loose. One place I felt the older bike did work better was in fast direction changes, where it was easier to get it to hit the right lines.
Old versus new. The story of nostalgia versus technology, the rose-tinted glasses versus the cold harsh light of a back-to-back track test. We didn’t need to put a stopwatch on it; the new 765 was simply faster and more refined everywhere. But does that make it better?
As a road bike, certainly. The 765 is a far easier bike to get on with day to day. It’s smoother, has more power where you need it, and an electronics package to pick up the slack when the road gives you unexpected gifts of low grip or low-vision motorists. The riding position is less cramped, there’s less vibration through the bars, and the quickshifter makes changing up and down the box an absolute joy. For all my love of the 675, the latest-edition 765 Daytona is a better bike on the road.
But here’s the catch. Triumph wrote “Moto2″ on the side panels of that bike. Its engineers programmed the dash to say “Moto2″ whenever the ignition switch is turned, and it announced the bike under a fanfare of components developed from the Moto2 project. Like most of us, I salivated at the thought of a legit Moto2 bike for the road, a proper racetrack refugee that would suck on the morning commute but make the ultimate canyon ripper and king of all the trackdays. When it launched a bike in the exact silhouette of the discontinued Daytona 675, I thought no bother, the engineers have piled the Moto2 energy into the chassis, where it counts.
But they haven’t. The Triumph Daytona Moto2 765 Limited Edition is really just a Daytona 765. That’s not to say it’s a bad bike, far from it, but it’s not the edgy track weapon so many of us were hoping for. It’s a continuation in Triumph’s line of excellent road sportbikes that are fun to ride on track, coated in fancy carbon fiber bodywork and posh componentry.
The 765 is a better bike than the 675, but I would pick the older model out of the two. Not because I’m trying to stir up a fuss, nor out of nostalgia or some stubborn view that those were the glory days. I prefer the 675 because it feels uncompromising. It was the pinnacle of what Triumph’s engine and chassis teams could create at the time, built to take on a fiercely competitive class.
This new bike feels like it’s trying to please everyone, to be a competent bike on both road and track for nervous and experienced riders alike. And with that it has lost its edge. Instead of being that one exciting mate that’s always getting you into trouble, it’s become the friendly neighbor that never causes a problem. The Daytona has grown up and has the mortgage to think about. Punk rock is dead.
2021 Triumph Daytona Moto2 765 Specifications
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder; 12-valve|
|Bore x Stroke:||78.0 x 53.4mm|
|Claimed Horsepower:||128 hp @ 12,250 rpm|
|Claimed Torque:||59 lb.-ft. @ 9,750 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Multi-point sequential electronic fuel injection w/ SAI; electronic throttle control|
|Frame:||Aluminum beam twin spar; die-cast subframe|
|Front Suspension:||43mm Öhlins inverted NIX 30, fully adjustable; 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Öhlins TTX 36 twin-tube monoshock w/ piggyback reservoir, fully adjustable; 5.2 in. travel|
|Front Brake:||Brembo Stylema 4-piston radial Monoblock calipers, twin 310mm floating discs w/ switchable ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Brembo 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc w/ switchable ABS|
|Wheels, Front/Rear:||Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5 in. / 17 x 5.5 in.|
|Tires, Front/Rear:||120/70ZR-17 / 180/55ZR-17|
|Seat Height:||32.4 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.6 gal.|
|Claimed Dry Weight:||363 lb.|
2006 Triumph Daytona 675 Specifications
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder; 12-valve|
|Bore x Stroke:||76.0 x 49.6mm|
|Claimed Horsepower:||123 hp @ 12,500 rpm|
|Claimed Torque:||53 lb.-ft. @ 11,750 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection|
|Frame:||Aluminum beam twin spar|
|Front Suspension:||41mm inverted fork, fully adjustable, 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Monoshock, fully adjustable; 5.1 in. travel|
|Front Brake:||Nissin 4-piston calipers, dual 308mm discs|
|Rear Brake:||Nissin 1-piston caliper, 220mm disc|
|Wheels, Front/Rear:||Forged aluminum|
|Tires, Front/Rear:||120/70ZR-17 / 180/55ZR17|
|Seat Height:||32.7 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||3.8 gal.|
|Claimed Dry Weight:||365 lb.|