Triumph Speedmaster - A Bonneville Built For America - First Ride

British Alternative To The Common V-Twin

By Brent Avis, Photography by Tom Riles

Leaned over and tucked into the still pocket of air created by the accessory flyscreen, left hand searching for heat coming off the gently pulsing cylinder firing every 270 degrees, I was in an excellent position to examine the Speedmaster's paintwork. And I was surprised to find that, having finished hand painting the pinstripes that separate the two tones on the fuel tank, the artist sketched his initials into the base, just out of view under the front lip of the seat. Nice. That's a far cry from the stencil jobs on most mass-produced cruisers and just another example of the thought given to every facet of this "hot-rodded factory custom," to borrow Hinckley's excitable verbiage.

We'd have been a happier lot if the Triumph folks had brought over a few pints from the local pub. Instead, they brought typically crap English weather to otherwise inviting and picturesque Morro Bay, California, to introduce us to the latest Bonneville iteration.

Considering that cruisers account for some 30 percent of its total sales in the U.S., Triumph pays special attention to this market segment and for the Speedmaster did a thorough bit of research to ensure they'd get to the heart of what excites us Yanks. With its stylish new cast wheels, slash-cut exhausts, black-painted engine and gunslinger seat, this thing cuts an appealing silhouette. Integrating the rev-counter and various warning lights into the tank nacelle gives the bike an unfettered appearance, and the new chain cover, passenger footrest hangers, upper fork shrouds and other chromed bits all look neat and expensive. Only that accessory flyscreen looks cheap when examined up close.

With a nicely tapered seat, forward foot controls and a comfortable-yet-sporty reach to the well-placed flat handlebar, hour-long stints in the saddle were enjoyable in spite of the weather. The seating position, in fact, reminded me of Harley's Softail Deuce, one of my all-time faves. Suspension front and rear was well matched and several ticks above what we expected, with a decidedly up-market feel. Neither end blew through its travel when subjected to sharp pavement edges or larger sustained loads. Cornering clearance was surprisingly good, too, enabling us to enjoy the bends before rolling open the throttle-which is where things went a bit flat.

Though aggressive in name, the heart of the Speedmaster is still the same basic air-cooled 865cc parallel-twin that drives Triumph's other two-cylinder offerings, which is both good and bad. The claimed 54 horses do their business with a distinct thrum and soothing vibes that are welcomingly different from a V-twin, but we couldn't help wishing for more power across the board.

Given the Speedmaster's retro styling and affordable price point, Triumph saw no need for fuel-injection. These carbs work well enough, though, supplying a good, smooth draw from 1500 rpm on up. There's a nice surge in the middle before things turn their usual shade of fuzz and motivation goes soft as you thunk the next cog. Good clutch action, too, with nice engagement and lever effort. Similarly, the brakes, front and rear, have on tap sufficient friction that is easy to modulate.

Added to the already impressive line-up of bikes like the Rocket 3, Daytona 675, Speed Triple and Tiger, the Speedmaster says Hinckley's future has never looked brighter.

Tech Spec
Evolution
Based on the Bonneville twin, the Speedmaster is the result of an in-depth marketing study and is aimed squarely at American buyers who think outside the V-twin box.

Rivals
Entry-level cruisers from the Harley-Davidson Nightster and Sportster Customs to the Victory Vegas 8-Ball and all manner of cookie-cutter metric models.

Tech
Price: $8299-$8499
Engine type: a-c, parallel-twin
Valve train: DOHC, 8v
Displacement: 865cc
Bore x stroke: 90.0 x 68.0mm
Compression: 9.2:1
Fuel system: (2) 36mm Keihin
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 5-speed
Horsepower: 54 bhp @ 6750 rpm
Torque: 51 lb.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Frame: Tubular steel cradle
Front suspension: 41mm fork
Rear suspension: Twin shocks with adjustable spring preload
Front brake: Dual two-piston calipers, 310mm discs
Rear brake: Single two-piston caliper, 285mm disc
Front tire: 110/80 R18 Metzeler Lasertec
Rear tire: 170/80 R15 MetzelerME 880 Marathon
Rake/trail: 33.3o/6.0 in.
Seat height: 28.3 in.
Wheelbase: 65.2 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.4 gal.
Dry weight: 504 lbs.
Colors: Phantom Black, Mulberry Red, Phantom Black/Mulberry Red, Phantom Black/Sunset Red
Warranty: 24-month, unlimited mi.
Contact: Triumph Motorcycles America Ltd.985 Walt Sanders Memorial Dr. #100Newnan, GA 30265678.854.2010

Verdict
A solid effort to expand Triumph's reach in the crucial U.S. market and a worthy alternative to domestic or metric twins.

By Brent Avis
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