This is my dream. I would like a racetrack all to myself, a 600cc supersport class motorcycle and endless tanks of fuel. I would also like six pack abs, Rossi's skills and Felix Baumgartner's courage. But you cannot have it all, I'm told.
But on a bright sunny day in Chennai, the pit lane of the Madras Motor Race Track was occupied by a gleaming Triumph Daytona 675R. Even as I rubbed my gloved hands in glee, anticipation and a healthy dose of fear, the clouds quickly gathered and rained down on the track.
The Daytona 675R is a focussed, sleek 600 supersport
This is true and I'm not making any of this up. Thankfully, the rain lasted only long enough for me to give the bike a good, close going over.
This form of the Daytona arrived in November 2012 as a 2013 model. The new shape was sleeker and sharper and I am told that the exposed engine bits and various bits are typically Triumph. I'm not convinced. I think the 600cc-class supersports class is full of aggressive-looking motorcycles that look very distinctive. Maybe save for the Honda CBR600RR. In that sense, I think I wanted the Daytona to have a little bit more presence when seen up close.
But let's face it, you don't buy a 600cc supersport to look at it. And let's also remember that if it was not for the Triumph Daytona and its more tricky cousin, the 675R, you simply wouldn't be able to buy a supersport in India at all. Perhaps I should be a lot more thankful. Then again, you cannot have everything, eh?
Okay, snarky jokes aside, the Daytona is a serious performance machine. In the 2013 update, Triumph updated the bike from scratch. So the engine remained a 675cc triple, but inside, the bores grew wider and the stroke became shorter to allow a higher 14,400rpm redline. Peak power, 126PS (Euro-spec) and 118.5PS (ARAI-spec) arrives at 12,600rpm. The rest of the revs are there for race tuners and mad hatters to use to get still more power out of the engine.
The digital screen seems cluttered but is clear and the sequential shift light is very good to use
The rise in power is modest, just 2PS over the previous model but Triumph also brought to the table a rise in torque across the whole rev range as well as a corresponding improvement in peak torque as well. And if you read any of the reviews, you'll quickly gather that the 75cc displacement advantage the Daytona has is used primarily to make torque lower down so that the Triumph can see off the Japanese 600s that tend to open one eye at 9,000rpm and then really get going by 11,000.
The new engine also gained new ceramic-coated bores, debuted reshaped valves in titanium, relocated the exhaust under the engine for better mass centralisation and handling. The 6-speed gearbox grew a slipper clutch as well as an electronic system that opened the throttle butterflies just a bit to take the sting out of engine braking.
Obviously, the bike is fuel injected and like most serious sportsbikes has twin injectors per cylinder which are employed primarily to smoothen the transition from a closed to an open throttle.
Triumph also lowered the seat a smidgen, added a new die-cast aluminium subframe and made other minor changes. As you know, the base Daytona gets KYB suspension while the R version gains all-singing all-dancing Ohlins units that offer greater adjustability as well as greater feel. The R also gains a Race ABS mode that allows a little sideways action before it intervenes for heroic corner entries as well as quick shifter.
Given that the price difference between the two models is Rs 1.5 lakh, approximately, I think the 675R is actually pretty good value between the two. However, I do wish that Triumph could lower the 675's price because Rs 10.69 lakh ex-Delhi is still a big hill for most of us to climb.
But should you be thinking about climbing this hill at all, then?
Once the rain stopped, we realised that the track wasn't that wet and given Chennai's heat, chances were the track would also dry fast. But then we noticed that the tyres on the Daytona 675R. The R gets Pirelli's supersticky SuperCorsa tyres. This bike though, had heavily worn examples that showed that someone had already had the good time at the track that I wanted to have. Ah well, you cannot have everything, eh?
But as the track dried, the 675R proved to be a delightful motorcycle to pilot. You see, supersport motorcycles are the hardest-core production performance motorcycles money can buy. Even more than the litre-class bikes, the 600s worry about every pound of weight, every ounce of extra power and every degree of extra ability. Which makes them by turns, tiresome, fearsome and intense.
So if you have to ride the Daytona 675R around town daily, your wrists will hurt a lot unless you have the abs needed to use your torso to carry your bodyweight. The same committed riding position, though, also enables a sense of connect and feedback that allows incredible control and despite the worn tyres, I was able to feed as much power as I dared to the rear wheel on corner exits while braking early and hard on the worn fronts to allow the ABS to save my skin on corner entries.
But where the 600 supersport excels, really, is cornering. And despite the tyres, the 675R didn't disappoint. It feels skinny and slim between the legs and that compactness not only makes it a little less intimidating to pilot but also makes it easy to work with. The 675 will flick neatly into corners and shows remarkably little inertia even when you're rapidly changing direction like in Turns 4-5 at Chennai.
What really blew me away though was Turn 7, my favourite corner. This is a long sweeping corner that goes right endlessly. You sit at a high speed and big lean for a long time. Initially I was very scared of trying anything here given the worn tyres but as the track dried and my confidence in the feedback and ability grew, I found that I could up the pace until the point where my skills would permit no more.
At which point, the intense facet of the supersport kicks in. Because the chassis basically looks at you pitilessly and asks if that's all you've got. On the day, that's all I had.
Our bike had worn tyres but India's top racer Sarath Kumar shows that if there's a will, there's a way
But here's the thing. As much as the Daytona 675R is a lovely, lovely little motorcycle and lamentably the only supersport 600 you can legally buy in India at the moment, buying one is a decision that needs a little thought, and perhaps, preparation.
First, if you've decided to go for it, try to extend your budget and get the R - the extra money is worth it. But if you haven't decided think about it like this.
If the sun was out the whole time and the bike had new tyres, the dream would be perfect. I'd be lucky enough to have the right bike at the right place at the right time. But the focus of the 600 supersport also makes it hard for these bikes to acquit themselves in a variety of riding conditions. And that's the nub of the matter.
Buy a 600 supersport if you're a track regular and have access to those specific conditions often. In the right conditions and in the right hands, there literally is nothing else in the motorcycle world that can give you the thrills and intensity like a 600 supersport. These are absolutely brilliant motorcycles and the Daytona is a good example. They also require hardcore riders.
But if you're going to primarily be riding Indian highways and in our cities, think carefully. These aren't the friendliest of bikes by design. You'll probably enjoy the flash of the plastic fairing and the idea of a focussed hardcore performance motorcycle. But if you were to get something easier, more versatile and more accessible like a fast street naked instead, you'll actually enjoy the riding as well. As I've noted often in this story - you cannot have everything. Choose.
Images by Varun Anchan