Suitable Part­ners

If you owned a Tri­umph Speed Twin 81 years ago you were in a very elite league – the first Bri­tish par­al­lel twin in mass pro­duc­tion, and a de­sign that would be im­i­tated by al­most the en­tire in­dus­try.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS -

Tri­umph Speed Twin Yamaha FJR1300AE

Now, all those years later, the Speed Twin is back as the lat­est mem­ber of the mod­ern 1200cc Bon­neville range that in­cludes the T120 at one end and the Thrux­ton R at the other. And in the mid­dle is where it sits, al­most. You see, the Speed Twin, while shar­ing its DNA with its sib­lings, is con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent, with around 80 be­spoke parts, and it has to be said, the best of the lot.

Why? For starters, it’s 10kg lighter, and that kind of weight loss is not to be sniffed at be­cause it has been achieved by care­ful at­ten­tion to de­sign de­tail from front to back, and in the mid­dle. To take the last point first, the crankshaft is an in­cred­i­ble 2.5kg lighter, so it gets on with the job quicker. A mag­ne­sium cam cover and a lighter clutch cover fur­ther bring down the net fig­ure. At the front end, a com­pletely new 7-spoke cast wheel de­sign, cou­pled with top-spec Brembo twin disc brakes with ABS shave an­other 2.9 kg, and its rear coun­ter­part lops off a fur­ther 1.6kg. Even the front down tubes of the frame, which bolt into place top and bottom, are al­loy tub­ing, not steel, painted black to blend in with the rest of the frame. The swing­ing arm is al­loy, and iden­ti­cal to that on the Thrux­ton.

With the en­gine in the same spec­i­fi­ca­tion as the Thrux­ton as far as power and torque curves are con­cerned, the lower weight re­sults in a more spir­ited per­for­mance as well as a more so­phis­ti­cated ride, which is es­pe­cially no­tice­able once you leave the stop-start of the city. There are three en­gine modes; Rain, Road and Sport, and al­though peak power is iden­ti­cal, the throt­tle re­sponse is pro­gres­sively more ag­gres­sive in each mode via the en­gine map­ping which sim­ply whips open the throt­tle bod­ies quicker. You re­ally no­tice this in Sport mode, which I used for the open roads stuff, and around town, Road is a bet­ter, smoother op­tion. There is also switch­able Trac­tion Con­trol, and of course, ABS. The noise comes out via a pair of re­verse cone mega­phone si­lencers, which de­spite be­ing de­signed to con­form to Euro 5 specs, emit a glo­ri­ous growl, es­pe­cially when stirred. Of course, it’s not the growl from the orig­i­nal 360 de­gree crank, but a mock-vee twin growl thanks to the 270 de­gree fir­ing in­ter­vals. How­ever if you’d pre­fer a dif­fer­ent style of mu­sic, there’s a Vance & Hines ex­haust sys­tem listed as one of the 80-plus op­tional ex­tras. Other op­tions in­clude a quilted seat, knee pads for the tank (now there’s a real throw­back), ma­chined footrests and a sump guard.

The wheel­base has been in­creased 15mm and al­though the seat height is the same at 807mm, the seat it­self is 10mm thicker, with the footrests set fur­ther for­ward an a lit­tle lower. I found the rid­ing po­si­tion ideal – a care­fully thought out re­la­tion­ship be­tween the fairly flat (ta­pered al­loy) han­dle­bars, seat and footrests that doesn’t put too much weight on

“The lower weight re­sults in a more spir­ited per­for­mance as well as a more so­phis­ti­cated ride.... es­pe­cially no­tice­able once you leave the stop-start of the city.”

wrists and al­lows you to crouch slightly for­wards. And the lower weight comes vividly into play once you start flick­ing the Speed Twin around – it changes di­rec­tion beau­ti­fully. I found the KYB rear shocks, which look a lit­tle un­usual and are ad­justable only for spring pre-load, to be fine, but I thought the front end was too soft, and a goodly pro­por­tion of the travel (sag) is taken up sim­ply with the rider aboard. Still, I am sure this could be reme­died by play­ing around with the vis­cos­ity of the fluid in the non­ad­justable 41mm KYB fork tubes.

A pair of tra­di­tional look­ing in­stru­ments sit up front, and in the sec­tion of each be­low the sweep of the nee­dle is all the in­for­ma­tion com­ing from the com­puter, al­though it’s a bit hard to read on the run. It’s hard to fault the fin­ish, which is ex­cep­tional, and there’s a choice of three colour op­tions – Red, Sil­ver or Black – al­though sadly, not the dis­tinc­tive Amaranth Red of the orig­i­nal ’38 model. That would have been nice. Ac­cord­ing to the fac­tory in­for­ma­tion, look and style headed com­fort and han­dling in the re­quire­ments, and there has been care­ful at­ten­tion paid in achiev­ing that aim, even down to the Monza style fuel cap, which ac­tu­ally just shrouds a screw-in plug that hides un­der­neath and re­quires the ig­ni­tion key to re­move. The only as­pect of the styling that didn’t re­ally grab me was the abruptly cur­tailed rear mud­guard. I think it would look bet­ter with a longer guard, but none of my con­tem­po­raries agreed so I guess I lose that one.

My 300km ride in­cluded ev­ery­thing from the no­to­ri­ous Mel­bourne city traf­fic (where the feather light Torque­as­sist clutch was much ap­pre­ci­ated) to the near de­serted mid week coun­try roads to Healesvill­e, in­clud­ing the mo­tor­cy­cling favourite Black Spur and on to Lake Mountain, and the Speed twin handled it all with aplomb. The ro­bust torque and will­ing­ness to rev made the twisty bits a breeze, mindful of the speed limit on this favourite haunt of both rid­ers and po­lice alike. Only once did I think I’d bit­ten off more than I could chew when I charged into a blind cor­ner that was way tighter than an­tic­i­pated, but the stu­pen­dous Brembo brakes, ABS and a bit of Body English brushed that brief ex­cit­ing mo­ment aside with ease. Over­all, the Speed Twin, po­si­tioned in mar­ket­ing terms as in the mid­dle of the other 1200 twins, is in my opin­ion by far the best of the whole very im­pres­sive bunch.

Jon Munn’s su­perb orig­i­nal Speed Twin. Can’t I have a 2019 model in Amaranth Red, please?

ABOVE Visually rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal Smiths clocks, the new Speed twin di­als have a host of in­for­ma­tion which is dis­played via the han­dle­bar-mounted scroll but­ton. ABOVE CEN­TRE Bar end mir­rors ac­tu­ally work well, un­like the old Bri­tish ones that usu­ally man­aged to vi­brate upside down af­ter a few miles. TOP RIGHT The Speed Twin’s stumpy rear end and KYB shocks. RIGHT Su­per stop­pers. 4-pis­ton Brem­bos on 305mm discs.

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