2018 Triumph Speedmaster
Bonneville | 1200cc | Bobber | Pillion Seat | High Torque (HT) | Specifications
▲ Triumph has been claiming a lot of innovation for that rear suspension arrangement. But it's actually decades old, albeit with modern revisions. The seat height is 27.7-inches, incidentally. That should increase the potential number of riders, some of whom are likely to be ex-Harley-Davidson. The forward controls tell you all you need to know about how to ride this motorcycle.
▲ The 16-inch rubber front and back isn't likely to appeal to everyone. Arguably, it makes the bike look "lardy" and ponderous (as opposed to the standard Bobber's slimmer 19-inch front wheel—which ought to have been a 21-incher). But the Speedmaster is a two-up, laid-back, low-down cruiser and will find its fans without much trouble. The silencers, incidentally, are cleverly routed through a concealed cat.
▲ The front tyre is a 130/90-B16. The rear is 150/80-R16. The fuel tank is 2.6 gallons (12-litres) which is probably good for maybe 150 - 180 unhurried miles. The low RPM promises years of Easy Ridin' on the motorways. But this is a bike best suited to the byways, not the highways.
▲ Traction control. Two rider modes. And ABS. It will arguably make the journey more secure, but you'll be paying for it with a 540lbs dry (245.5kg) basic payload, plus rider, plus pillion, plus fuel, oil & water, plus luggage. Ouch! Meanwhile, isn't it time one of the cruiser manufacturers devised a fold-out saddle to improve pillion comfort?
▲ 2018 Triumph Speedmaster in Phantom Black/Fusion White. From this angle, it looks pretty cool. Would be nice to say that it's made in England. But you have to face economic realities. Hinckley's clearly making the books balance.
▲ On the fake carburettor it reads: TRIUMPH MOTORCYCLES SINCE 1902, which is true enough notwithstanding the odd manufacturing blip and commercial switcheroo. A lot of the component on the Bonneville range are not quite what they seem. But do we care? Well, not much, anyway. Hinckley Triumph has simply created a pretty compelling package, and we've no doubt the best is yet to come. Buy British. There are fewer and fewer reasons not to.
The engine featured a 270-degree crankshaft intended to simulate the classic H-D potato-potato exhaust note. The bike dimensions were deliberately enlarged and exaggerated to improve its presence and add much needed gravitas. And some of the (corny?) design cheats didn't satisfy all tastes.
Based upon the shrewdly named Bonneville America, the original Speedmaster featured twin front discs (as opposed to a single), blackened engine cases (as opposed to chromed), flatter handlebars, revised gearing, a one-piece saddle and various other minor changes.
Hinckley sold a respectable number of examples, and we road-tested one and found it ... well, overweight and a little ponderous, but otherwise it was perfectly acceptable for the market at which it was aimed.
In 2005, the 790cc parallel twin engine was increased to 865cc. In 2008 it dumped its carburettors and ran with fuel injection thereby paving the way for traction control.
But 15 - 16 years after the original Speedmaster was launched, the newly announced 2018 model has clearly put a lot of distance between itself and its forebears. In fact, it's not the same bike at all, except in name and market placement.
Based upon the 2017 Bonneville Bobber, the 2018 Speedmaster has acquired the Bobber's
liquid-cooled, 8-valve, SOHC, 1200cc HT (High Torque) engine. Kicking out a claimed 75bhp (77PS for all you metric-heads) at a lowly 6,100rpm, the torque is rated by Hinckley at 78lbs-ft (106Nm) @ 4,000rpm. The crank is once again a 270-degree item (i.e. 270 degrees between firing pulses). The bore is 97.6mm. The stroke is 80mm. The compression, as if that really matter in an age of electric starters, is 10:1.
The throttle is a ride-by-wire arrangement offering two basic modes; specifically "Road" and "Rain" (the latter of which might not get much use). There's also traction control, a torque-assist wet multi-plate clutch feeding power through a six speed 'box, and an instrument cluster with more buttons than a Pearly King.
Speedmaster front & rear suspension
The front suspension is a 41mm KYB fork fitted with cartridge damping. There's 90mm travel, which isn't great. But it's adequate for the kind of roads this bike is likely to be cruising.
The rear suspension is a KYB monoshock with a preload adjuster. There's 73.3mm rear wheel bounce, which also ain't much. But it will haul you and companion around in reasonable comfort on all but the most unforgiving surfaces. Wheels are 16-inch front and rear with traditional chromed wired rims (it's a 19-inch front wheel on the Bobber, note).
The rigid-looking rear suspension design was devised by Bill Davis from St Louis, USA. At least, he's widely credited as the originator.
The story goes that Harley-Davidson spotted the set-up, liked the rigid look, bought the concept and redeveloped the chassis with the firm's in-house engineers. That said, Phil Vincent and Phil Irving were essentially treading the same path, and there were others before them fooling around with broadly the same, or a very similar, rear suspension concept.
Nevertheless Triumph et al have since embraced the faux-hardtail design. But only Harley-Davidson gets to call it a "Softail" (and the firm's gung-ho lawyers will be glad to explain why).
Single seat or twin seat?
The significant thing about the pseudo-hardtail set-up on the new Speedmaster is that unlike the standard Triumph Bobber, there are now two seats. Or, rather, one saddle and a notional perch behind—which is an arrangement that makes more sense when she's at the helm and he's at the rear.
But was it always in Hinckley's master plan to enlarge the Bobber's appeal with a second seat? Probably. The Bobber's solo impact and presence would certainly have been weakened were it introduced as a tandem experience. But arguably, the pillion provision had to come sooner or later. And here it is.
Speedmaster sound, lights and options
Undoubtedly, the Hinckley engineers have been very busy tuning this bike to create exactly the right right-on racket; a sound that, like a Vox amp needs to be fundamentally "British" (whatever that means to you), but retains the clarity of a Fender amp and the punch of a Marshall (and if you don't play electric guitar, just skip this bit). The roar, such as it is, also needs to stay the right side of the noise police, and it remains to be seen how well this has been achieved.
The headlight is an LED unit with a daytime running module which will be offered appropriate to whatever market the bike is being sold into.
Triumph is also offering over 130 custom accessories which includes a "Highway Kit" (full soft luggage pannier set), and a "Maverick kit" for "a stripped back, mean attitude – which includes single seat and raked out bars". And if you really don't like the sound, Triumph will flog you a cool Vance & Hines exhaust to give you a new song for the road.
There are just three options at present. Cranberry Red, Jet Black, Fusion White/Phantom Black.
Conclusion and pricing
We like this bike, with reservations, and we're looking forward to getting astride one when the moment is right. But at 540lbs dry (245.5kg) this is evidently a heavy beast. So okay, people will tell you that you hardly notice the weight on the move, etc. Nevertheless, this hunk of steel, aluminium and rubber needs a serious diet with the loss of 50 - 60lbs (22 - 27kg) before we'd consider buying it. And that's a pity because in most other respects it lights us up. But maybe we'll come around when the shock wears off.
Triumph hasn't released prices yet. But it's likely to be around £10,500 - £11,000.
Copyright Sump Publishing 2017