How do you beat the American’s at their own game? Simple — don’t play by the rules. Instead of building a cruiser for the American market like the Americans do, Triumph went their own way. They’ve stuck to their strengths with the traditional British styling, but have incorporated the riding position of a more conventional cruiser and a few other bits to make this a more comfortable tourer.
Meet the Bonneville Speedmaster — Triumph’s crack at the lucrative cruiser segment.
Ah, a Bonneville. Is it based on the T120?
Well, yes but not entirely. The Speedmaster is actually based on the Triumph Bobber which itself has a modified version of the T120’s platform. In terms of the engine, it runs the same 1200 HT engine that the T120 and the Bobber gets, but in the Bobber’s state of tune. That means 77PS and 106Nm — 10 per cent more than the T120. It also shares the same frame as the Bobber, with the concealed mono shock that allow it to pull off that lovely hardtail design. However, other bits on the chassis are new including the brakes, suspension and the size of the front wheel.
Yes, the Speedmaster actually gets a 16-inch front wheel compared to the Bobber’s 19-incher. It also gets a 310mm twin disc set up (the Bobber gets only one disc) with Brembo callipers up front, and a 255mm single disc with a Nissan calliper at the rear wheel. The suspension has also been uprated with 41mm cartridge damped KYB forks up front and an adjustable (for preload only) monoshock at the rear.
That’s all great. But how is it more touring friendly?
Good question. The Speedmaster has a number of changes over the Bobber that make it more friendly on long rides. The most obvious one is the addition of a rear seat, meaning you can actually get company along, or just fit luggage on to the back. The seat itself is better padded and more comfortable to use for a long time. The Speedmaster also gets a larger 12-litre tank — the Bobber’s 9.5-litre tank meant plenty of fuel stops. The larger tank means you sit slightly further behind, but the ergonomics have completely changed. The pegs have been moved right ahead so you sit with your legs splayed out and you get a swept back beach bar as standard. The addition of cruise control is also a welcome one on this sort of a touring biased machine.
Did you ride it?
Yes, I did and on American soil, no less. The Speedmaster does come across as a very easy bike to ride over long distances, by virtue of the fact that it so comfortable. The ergonomics are spot on and you can sit for hours without tiring. It’s a traditional cruiser position, and it works well on this sort of a motorcycle. The seat is wide, and comfortable and unlike the Bobber’s which had a firm edge to it, this is quite soft and welcoming.
The engine is the real party piece. It’s got huge reserves of torque, and a flat torque curve. It’s more than happy being red lined in every gear, and yet can sit burbling at 2700rpm in sixth gear without complaining. It will satisfy you with a bassey growl courtesy the 270-degree crank when you open it up, and it surges forward with intent. Out on the highway, quick overtakes are a breeze and you have plenty of juice at hand whenever you call for it. The cruise control really helps when there is massive ground to cover — available from third gear through sixth gear — it allows you to roll off the throttle with the bike maintaining its set speed.
It wasn’t just on the highway that we rode the bike, we even tested it on a few twisties. The bike doesn’t have a quick turn in due to the fat front tyre, but it the handling is very predictable. So once you overcome that initial resistance to turn and have it leaned over, it is very comfortable holding its line steadily though the corner. The pegs on the footrests were being scraping indiscriminately throughout the ride, and they do tend to scrape rather early. The chassis is capable of carrying way more lean and way more speed through corners, but the ergonomics of the motorcycle limit this. Braking has improved significantly thanks to the twin disc set up — which was added to deal with the added weight of a rear seat and the possibility that someone might sit on it. One major grouse we had with the Bobber’s suspension was that it is too firm with not enough suspension travel. The roads we rode on in California were baby-bottom smooth and it is hard to assess how the suspension will behave in India. We’re going to reserve judgment on that for when we ride it in conditions more similar to what we have back home.
So you’re saying it is good?
Very much so. It is extremely capable at what it is designed to do, and has an uncanny ability to keep you smiling when you’re on it. So there’s no reason not to like it. Yes, wind buffeting can get a bit annoying after a while, but Triumph is offering over 130 custom accessories (including one massive windscreen) to be able to spec your Speedmaster as you wish. The Speedmaster is expected to launch in India by March-end or early April, and expect it to be priced a bit expensive. We estimate that it will cost in the vicinity of Rs 11.5 lakh ex-showroom.