Following the Bobber’s success Triumph gear up to do similar business with their new Speedmaster…
Classic styling, pillion-friendly, quality Bobber ride. Report from California.
THE FIRST TRIUMPH Speedmaster was launched in 2003, though you’d be forgiven for missing it – the feeble Bonnie offshoot lacked both speed and mastery. It did improve over the years but was never Triumph’s finest. The new one is, thankfully, considerably better. The concept is the same as before – take the Bonneville engine and turn it into a cruiser that, hopefully, Americans will love. The advantage Triumph have this time is that not only is the 1200cc parallel twin a fabulous device, but there’s the hugely successful Bobber to base the rest of the bike on – all major chassis dimensions are the same. So the new Speedmaster has 25 per cent more power than the old one (76bhp v 60) and 42 per cent more torque (78 lb.ft v 53). This is enough to outgun rivals such as the Indian Scout and 1202cc Harley Roadster. At the launch in California, Triumph talk a lot about the new bike being a new British classic, and judging by the quality there’s a good chance it will be. From the tank badge to the brushed alloy footpegs and cases, it’s difficult to find components that have been built down to a price – it’s a lot easier with a Harley. Of course, that’s not altogether surprising given the base model Speedmaster costs £11,650 (red is £125 more and the white and black an extra £300). The riding position is supremely relaxed, once you get used to it. Holding the fat grips either end of the elegantly swept back bars (Triumph call them Beach Bars), and settling into the low comfy seat feels instinctively right, and the seat height of just 705mm means plonking both feet on the ground is easy for anyone over five foot. If you’re used to a normal riding position the next bit takes practice: when you pull away, your feet need to move up and forward to the front-mounted pegs and controls, but you soon get used to the wind whistling up your trouser legs. The clutch uses the same torque-reduction system as all the Bonnevilles and is beautifully light, then there’s the gentlest of gearbox clunks and you’re away. The Speedmaster’s two pistons twirl the 270-degree crank, which chugs pleasingly through the exhaust while barely sending any vibrations through to the rider. It’s creamy smooth and with as much go as you’ll ever want from a cruiser – from 0-50mph I’ll bet this thing is as fast as any sportsbike thanks to its long wheelbase and accessible torque. Once you’re up to speed simply press the cruise control button (a standard fitment) and you’re the king of the road, thrumming along Highway 101 at 70mph and 3000rpm, hanging onto those Beach Bars. Into the twisties high above San Diego I leave the Speedmaster in third and scrape the pegs out of endless corners, riding the torque, grinning from ear to ear. And when the occasional tighter bend hoves into view, there’s the combination of twin
‘American riders will stick with Harley… they’re missing out’
front discs, Brembo two-piston calipers and ABS to calm things down. The Nissin rear brake is strong too so you find yourself pressing on, safe in the knowledge that the brakes are easily capable of bringing all 245kg of Speedmaster to a stop. There’s also traction control (which can be switched off should you feel the need), but with dry roads I don’t get the chance to test it. The twisties do highlight the only gripe with the bike – it’s a little snatchy on the throttle in the first two gears at low revs, which is annoying at first. You do get used to it, and it’s less obvious in rain mode (the other mode is ‘road’) which still gives you full power so you could stick in that if it bothers you. As you’d expect, the ride quality is excellent. The 41mm cartridge forks – different units to the Bobber’s because of the Speedmaster’s pillion and luggage potential – are coupled with the hidden rear shock to give a plush and controlled ride. Even the fat 130-section front tyre doesn’t seem to compromise handling, though it will be interesting to see how it copes with the UK’S shonky road surfaces. But here on California’s finest tarmac, the only thing that slows you down is the ground clearance on those forward-mounted pegs – it’s so easy to atomise the hero blobs that you have to adopt a faintly ridiculous Jorge Lorenzo riding style if you want to keep up with non-cruisers. With Bobber sales taking Triumph by surprise last year, this latest specimen could easily do the same. It looks stunning and naturally you can accessorize it to your wallet’s content – Triumph already have 130 different bolt-on parts to tempt you. As ever, most American riders will stick with a Harley, but they’re missing out. This Brit is very, very good.
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Turn your standard Speedmaster into the ‘Highway’ cruiser or ‘Marverick’ badboy with two ocial kits, or choose from 130 bolt-on accessories