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2018 Triumph Speedmaster India review, test ride

24th Apr 2018 12:13 pm

We put Triumph’s Harley-baiter through a long-distance highway test.

  • Make : Triumph
  • Model :

‘It looks gorgeous!’ I exclaimed within my helmet as it lay parked squeaky clean at the Triumph Mumbai dealership. I was happy to be reunited with the new Speedmaster, a motorcycle I’d ridden only a few months ago in America. The day-long ride from the San Diego coast up into an agreeably isolated mountain range was a fulfilling one, and the Speedmaster had proven its capabilities as a highway motorcycle with a decidedly retro state of mind. Mumbai is an unforgiving setting, in comparison. This isn’t a city known to sprinkle romance on motorcycle rides and the brightest corner of my brain suggested I find the closest exit.

That’s taken an hour, and I need a breather. I’ve pulled up under the miserly shade of a small food cart, lured by the sight of a cooler perched haphazardly atop a metal rack. For all its known ill-effects on the human anatomy, there’s no substitute for an ice-cold aerated drink, sometimes. Suitably cooled, I gazed passively at the Speedmaster, its chromed exhaust pipes glinting in the late morning sun. It’s true the Speedmaster is essentially a Bobber with a pillion seat, but there’s more to it. It lacks the cult ambition of the Bobber, to begin with, but paints a pleasantly American picture – especially with its accessory windscreen and leather saddlebags. It looks meaty and packed, but not an inch bigger than it needs to be. In other words, it’s an elaborate design but not an exercise in excess.

Triumph Speedmaster side action

My escape from the city was a demanding one, but the Speedmaster had only a sliver to contribute towards it. The low-set, wide handlebar took a moment to adjust to, but it never really intimidated, from the onset. The plush seat felt welcoming and the feet-forward stance (although mildly laborious in peak traffic) didn’t take away the promise of a rewarding ride I was destined for, later in the day. This bike, I gathered, was different to the standard version I had to myself on the Californian coast; this one was outfitted with the ‘Highway’ inspiration kit. This kit features the ‘comfort’ rider seat, a wider pillion seat with a backrest, adjustable touring screen, waxed cotton and leather panniers, a pannier rail kit, engine crash bars and a luggage rack; all of it adds up to roughly Rs 1.23 lakh (excluding taxes). The other inspiration kit goes by the name of ‘Maverick’ (around Rs 1.15 lakh extra) and bears a more ‘custom’ approach with its quilted leather single seat and other minimalist bits. The Speedmaster is a pretty conventional-looking cruiser, but it can get consuming in the details. At this point, I realised I’d overstayed my pit stop and decided to press on. I had somewhere to be.

Riding under the mid-day sun in peak summer is an occupational hazard I’ve come to embrace, and motorcycles like the Speedmaster extend that association only too effortlessly. With the speedo nailed to an exact 100kph – courtesy the simple, intuitive cruise control (one button on the LHS control pod activates it; works between 48-160kph in third gear or higher) – I’d made decent progress in the last couple of hours. I’m not vehemently opposed to mid-journey breaks, but I quite enjoy an uninterrupted ride when a motorcycle or road permits it. It was exactly at the two-hour mark when I made my first twitch in the seat, emerging from faint discomfort. It was going to take at least another forty minutes to establish itself as ‘take a break – now!’ This level of comfort is appreciable and falls within realistic riding expectations. Considering the Bonneville-sourced fuel tank’s 12-litre capacity, you can run it dry in one stint in the saddle, given a cattle-free highway and a resolute riding itinerary. Although the thought of pushing 245kg (dry) to a fuel pump should convincingly dissuade you from such an attempt.

On to less discomforting thoughts, then; the Speedmaster, much like the Bobber it started life as, is powered by the same 1,200cc, eight-valve, SOHC, parallel-twin motor which produces 77hp at 6,100rpm and 106Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. Those don’t sound like intimidating numbers, but being tuned for a massive helping of low-end muscle means it feels immensely satisfying. It accelerates from 0-100kph in an impressive 5.01sec and the 6-speed gearbox’s slick but mechanical operational feel is something you never tire of. The light and friendly wet clutch with torque-assist makes the urban crawl bearable, too. The engine’s torque-laden mannerisms naturally contribute to its rideability, as well; it registers 20-50 kph (in 2nd gear) in 2.32sec, 30-70 kph (in 3rd) in 2.80sec, and 50- 80 kph (in 4th – it wouldn’t roll-on without hiccups from 40 kph) in 3.93sec. These are figures you will come to appreciate in the real world.

Triumph Speedmaster rear action

In 90 kilometres, the scenery changed dramatically. I was separated from the barren heat haze of the national highway and was now riding at a more conservative pace, on a single carriageway. The snaking blacktop would eventually lead to the Arabian Sea (well, just short of it, obviously), where I had intended to be. Corners of interesting shapes lay ahead of me and the Speedmaster indulged, tipping over intuitively and with the grace of a very large Boeing – albeit one fitted with foot pegs. The bumpy, uneven road surface kept things realistic, but the Speedmaster seemed to be prepared for it.

The suspension at either end feels plush and works overtime, enough to keep me unperturbed.  There’s a nice metallic ‘thunk’ to every compression of the fat 41mm telescopic fork, although it is accompanied by a squeak from the fork gaiters which goes away if you can shift focus from it. The linkage-type KYB monoshock (tucked away out of sight) is comfortably soft and is preload-adjustable. With my weight and a light load of luggage, the Speedmaster felt composed and predictable, all the while feeling expensive and well-engineered. Only through the most foul-meaning potholes did the front-end get crashy, but there was no unpleasant after-effect to such unfortunate encounters. This comes as some relief, despite the short suspension travel (90mm front/73.3mm rear wheel travel; the Bobber offers 77mm at the rear) and the new dual-rate spring is clearly of much help. The Harley-Davidson 1200 Custom, in comparison, feels neither as plush in terms of the ride, nor as premium in its overall responses.

The civilisation blurring past was uniformly rural, with well-worn-in brick houses and cattle aplenty – and that meant I had two fingers ready on the front brake lever instead of one, as is usually the case. Stray chickens went about their routine brief of being feathered extortion rackets, and unpainted speed-breakers sprung up with frequency and unpredictability. The Speedmaster’s twin-310mm discs (the Bobber only gets one disc up front) are up to the job in terms of both bite and feel. The rear brake, too, is easy to modulate and thanks to ABS, all braking is poised and free of dramatics – as it should be.

Triumph Speedmaster front static

We’re finally where we wanted to be – parked beside the sea, by the receding high tide. To be honest, everywhere we were until this point was an agreeable place to be, as well. The Speedmaster is that kind of motorcycle, you know: it’s comfortable and it works hard to keep you so while not making a big deal about it. This is a motorcycle designed for relaxed touring and, amazingly, makes even a commute feel like a journey. Maybe it’s the way it seats you, or maybe it’s the throbbing pulse of its parallel-twin motor; but there is a sense of ‘travel’ to this motorcycle that puts a smile on your face. I’m not particularly fond of that accessory windscreen – in the Indian summer, the last thing you want is for crucial ventilation to be restricted. But there’s still something about a classic-styled motorcycle with a tall windscreen that makes you envisage a long, solo journey to nowhere in particular.

If you echo that sentiment, the Triumph Speedmaster is just the motorcycle you should have. Its price tag of Rs 11.11 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) gets you not only an inherently nice motorcycle, but one that’s contemporary and yet classically simple. Sure, a Bonneville T120 will do all of the above for a fair amount less, but the Speedmaster has a premium and sophisticated feel that is a step ahead, and feels even more relaxing. In other words – it’s not edgily exciting to deprive you of precious slumber but rather prefers you wake up rested and happy, with yet another glorious sunset to chase. So be it.

Also see:

2018 Triumph Speedmaster image gallery

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 11.12 lakh -
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
No of Cylinders 2 -
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1200cc -
Engine Layout Parallel-twin -
Valves per cylinder 4 valves per cylinder, SOHC -
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 77hp at 6100rpm -
Max Torque (nm @ rpm) 106Nm at 4000rpm -
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
No of Gears 6 -
Clutch Type Wet -
Dimensions & Chassis Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Weight (kg) 245.5kg (dry) -
Width (mm) 770mm -
Height (mm) 1040mm -
Wheel base (mm) 1510mm -
Seat height(mm) 705mm -
Fuel Tank capacity (lts) 12 litres -
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Brake Type Twin-disc, ABS -
Front Brake Size (mm) 300mm -
Rear Brake Type Disc -
Rear Brake Size (mm) 255mm -
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Suspension \41mm KYB telescopic fork -
Front Suspension Travel (mm) 90mm -
Rear Suspension KYB monoshock with linkage and stepped preload adjuster -
Rear Suspension Travel (mm) 73mm -
WHEELS AND TYRES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front wheel (inch) 32-spoke, 16 x 2.5in -
Front Tyre 130/90 R16 -
Rear wheel (inch) 32-spoke, 16 x 3.5in -
Rear Tyre 150/80 R16 -
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