Triumph Daytona 675 – the perfect track bike?

daytona-rearWhen Triumph released the Daytona 675 in 2006 to the public it took the world by storm. Here was a small British manufacturer taking on the Japanese in one of the most fiercely contested market segments; the midweight 600 class and smashing the competition into oblivion. This really was Triumph’s finest hour, demonstrating a practical application of Britain’s first class engineering heritage to the world.

Just as Supermarine combined a phenomenal engine package in the Merlin engine with a ground breaking airframe to produce the superlative Spitfire before World War II, Triumph achieved their own victory by designing a phenomenal 675 triple engine married to a staggeringly composed and responsive chassis.

d675The Daytona 675 exceeds the sum of its parts however because it has another quality that is often lacking in Japanese motorcycles. That quality is character. It’s not easy to define, but you’ll recognise it as soon as you ride a Daytona 675. You’ll appreciate the phenomenal torque delivered by its three cylinder engine across the rev range, the howl from the exhaust as you surge towards the redline, and the complete composure of its chassis regardless of road or track conditions. Nothing, in the midweight class, could compete with the package offered by Triumph in the Daytona 675 and it went on to win both Supertest and Masterbike’s prestigious awards in the Supersport class two years in a row (in 2006 and 2007).

The Daytona 675 went through two signficant iterations in 2009 and then 2011 before being completely revamped in 2013.

2006- First incarnation
2009- Headlamp/fairing redesign, less weight, +3bhp, new top end, lighter wheels, improved suspension and brakes
2011- Introduction of the 675R. Ohlins suspension and Brembo brakes
2013- Complete re-design

1GG_0863Track and road riding are two different disciplines. Riders that are new to the track benefit from smaller capacity bikes that don’t overwhelm their abilities. Many experts suggest that a 400cc four, or 600cc twin is the perfect bikes on which to learn track craft. These types of bike force you to focus on corner speed and the maintenance of momentum; all of which contribute to increased confidence, ability and ultimately faster lap times.

Once you start to acquire those track skills, you will want a more powerful machine. This is where any Supersport category motorcycle will meet that need. In the hands of an accomplished rider a 600cc machine will anihilate a less capable rider on a bigger machine despite giving away 40-80 horsepower.

The key attributes of a track motorcycle are:

– designed for track use
– relatively low cost (both to buy and maintain)
– easy to upgrade
– cheap to repair with wide availability of new and used spares

So are all 600cc motorcycles from 2000-2010 the same? In short “no”. In order to win races, Japanese motorcycles have chased more horsepower with ever increasing red lines and narrower power bands as a by product. If you exit a corner in the wrong gear on a Japanese Supersport bike, you will be eaten alive the bikes following behind.

RYE_6275Triumph’s 675 triple engine nearly matches the Japanese in headline horsepower but it delivers usuable power right across the rev range. Invariably this means nearly double the available torque at 5000RPM. This is what gives the Daytona 675 so much usuable drive out of corners and is what makes the bike so forgiving to less experienced riders.

To be honest a 750cc motorcycle is probably the capacity bike for track use because it affords a combination of 600cc handling combined with 1000cc like engine performance. Of all the Supersport bikes from the noughties (2000-2009), the Daytona 675 is probably the closest match to a 750 – a fact borne out in many head to head comparisons with Suzuki’s GSXR750 where the Daytona 675 regularly turns in faster lap times.

Are you sold on the Daytona 675? If so, which model should you buy?

My advice would be to go for the 2009-2012 models. If you can find an “R” model, so much the better. The newer 2013+ models are both more expensive, less easily tuned and will have less second hand part availability. It’s worth noting that there is almost complete parts interchangeability between the 2006-8 and 2009-12 models which gives access to a huge set of available parts and spares.

My own track bike is a 2009 Daytona 675 on which I have done nearly 3000 track miles! Over the past two years I have made the following changes to the bike (incrementally):

520 chain conversion: -1/+2 gearing change for better drive
suspension: new K-Tech springs and valves (front) and K-Tech 35DDS lite rear shock
slipper clutch: swapped for a 2013 slipper clutch

Apart from using increasingly stickier track tyres each season, I don’t have any further immediate upgrade plans, although a removal of the catalytic converter and a remap on a dyno are on the cards.

I sometimes wonder about changing my Daytona for something else… but then I realise that this bike does everything that I ask of it so well that I’m pretty sure I would only be disappointed by something else. Plus I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on the howl and crackle emerging from its Arrow exhaust as I drive from corner to corner!

Triumph Daytona Slipper Clutch

Slipper_DSC_0078After nearly blowing up my engine on a previous track day when it overreved and slewed into a corner as I changed down one gear too many, I figured that a slipper clutch would be a worthwhile investment; much cheaper than rebuilding the top end of the engine due to a bent valve.

I looked at fitting a Sigma clutch but the cost was going to be close to £900 (US$ 1,350) if you included a new set of plates that would be required to give the correct pack tolerance and to also get rid of the anti-judder rings. That was just too much to spend in one hit even if I could probably re-sell the Sigma clutch at a later date … especially when a cheaper (but decent) option is available.

I heard that it is possible to fit the 2013 Daytona Slipper clutch into the 2006-2012 Daytonas. Only the inner clutch basket and plates need to be changed as the outer basket is the same on the both models. I therefore spoke with T3 Racing to find out about the upgrade/conversion and what it would all would cost. After a little negotiation, the final price came out at almost half the cost of the Sigma unit (with new plates).

Slipper clutches prevent the rear wheel from locking up violently when changing down by using the back torque from the wheel to “lift” the inner basket using ramps in the clutch. This has the effect of separating the plates in the same way that the rider would if they pulled the clutch level in. As the clutch is activated, the rear wheel can turn freely again because it is no longer being restrained by the engine.

Slipper_DSC_0075Once you hold the clutch assembly in your hand you see how simply this works. While the Sigma uses a mechanism that separates the plates by lifting the whole inner backet on ramps at the back of the basket, the Triumph slipper clutch works by having ramps on the inner basket which only lift the pressure plate. This is what allows the rear wheel to free wheel instead of locking up when any back torque is applied.

The parts diagram shows the 2013 Daytona Slipper clutch components needed to convert a 2006-2012 Daytona clutch. The required parts are identified with red boxes.
Not listed is the clutch cover gasket – you will need a new one.

Fitting the new clutch is actually pretty straight forward, provided you have a Haines or workshop manual and the correct tools. The steps are as follows:

  1. Release the clutch cable from the actuator arm
  2. Remove clutch cover/case
  3. Remove the pressure plate
  4. Remove all the friction plates, steels and rings (keeping them in the correct order!)
  5. Remove the inner clutch basket
  6. Fit the new clutch basket
  7. Add the new rings, plates and steels in the correct order
  8. Refit the lifter piece, seat the new bearing, fit the pressure plate and tighten the springs
  9. Clean the gasket surfaces, smear the gasket with sealer and fit
  10. Refit the cover
  11. Re-attach the clutch cable to the arm and adjust the tension correctly

Here are some photos taken during the removal of the old clutch center, and when fitting the new slipper basket center.

The whole job took me just under 3 hours, but I reckon I could do the next one in under an hour. Triumph recommend using a special tool to hold the clutch basket to remove the retaining nut. An alternative method is to use an air gun with the bike in (second) gear and the rear brake applied. There is no need to drain the engine oil to carry out this job.

If you think that you might re-use your original clutch at a later date, then it is really important to note the order in which you take the clutch apart and store it assembled correctly. Similarly, it is important to keep all the plates and rings in order as you dismantle the new clutch before fitting it to the bike.

After fitting the new clutch, I had to adjust the clutch cable tension because the cable was now too loose. Once I has done that I was struck by how light the clutch action is compared to the old clutch – this could be a function of the three new springs that replace the five in the older clutch unit.

Although I gave the bike a quick test to make sure everything was fitted properly and that there were no oil leaks, I didn’t have a chance to test the back torque / slipping action properly due to failing day light. However with my next track day only four weeks away, I am looking forward to trying it all out properly on track. I’m not expecting to lose too much engine braking into corners and should have the reassurance of knowing that I am less likely to overrev the engine by mistake.

I’ll report back with more feedback after my next track outing.

Update February 2016, Cartagena Spain

Spent four days at Cartagena with No Limits and really got the chance to put the new slipper clutch to the test.

This is an awesome bit of kit that you were really and quickly appreciate when approaching corners. You still get all the engine braking you had before just up to the point where the back wheel would either lock up or skip – except that it doesn’t.

It’s hard to describe but it sort of feels like “magic” as if someone is feathering the clutch for you just enough to
stop the engine overreving in and to keep the rear end of the bike in shape.

I’m not sure how much you’d use a slipper clutch on the road, but you will pretty much come to rely on it for every corner on track once you have one.

Well worth the financial investment!