It’s nice to get invited to bike launches, but it can also be a bit awkward when you have to be polite about a manufacturer’s brand new baby when you’re not half as excited about it as they are, so with spy preview shots not giving much away I was a bit nervous about being close-up and personal on the launch of Triumph’s new Speedmaster.
Having built so many bikes we love over the last two years, I was ready to be less enthused about Triumph taking it’s Bonneville range into a more, er, American direction, with what we assumed would be a heavyweight cruiser based around a lardy version of the Bobber, but hold-up. Someone at Triumph wanted us to have our cake AND eat it. Who woulda thunk it? Big Drum roll, …welcome to Triumph’s multi-personality Speedmaster.
At one end of the spectrum, wearing the Highway inspiration kit, the 1200cc Speedmaster is built for the Californian Freeway and could almost be painted in CHiPs livery, but in single-seat form, this bike might just be the Bobber some of us wanted in the first place and there is no doubt that this bike fills all the gaps in Triumph’s Bonnie range, in it’s various guises and with different accessories fitted.
So how has this bike evolved from 2016’s Bobber?
Starting at the front, the Speedmaster bike has higher-spec, fatter Showa forks, with twin discs retarded by a pair of twin-pot Brembo stoppers, and the hub is laced to a 16 inch front rim with appropriately fat tyre. It’s beefy looking, but with better performance, and before you ask – the rake has been adjusted to compensate for the fatter rubber, to preserve the original handling of this bobber-based bike.
Swept back bars (old-school, flattrack style) allow for a more upright riding position than the hunched-over stance you get on the Bobber (if you’re over 5’9”) along with an option for forward foot controls, or you keep them mid position – as you prefer. The whole look of man+bike looks right. More so than the Bobber, in my opinion.
There’s also a different headlight, more 60’s Triumph than the flattened Harley/Brat look fitted to the Bobber, but I rather like it. It looks better proportioned beside the necessarily large speedo display.
The fuel tank is also bigger but without looking bulbous, to give more range, with some stunning paint options (as pictured).
Heading backwards along the bike the obvious big difference is the Speedster’s ability to take passengers, with a different seat design to the bobber, configured for two. I say ‘design’ rather than ‘set-up’ because the back-end of the Speedmaster is technically very similar to the Bobber, employing the same hard-tail-look swinging cage, with single-shock tucked under the seat, but instead of the seat (and your bum) floating above the rear mudguard the front single-seat appears to sit on the rear bodywork, while the passenger seat occupies a separate perch on the rear fender, as per an old-school Harley Sportster… but while Triumph are clearly aiming this bike at would-be Bobber owners who have a partner worth taking out on a ride, the beauty in this bike – for me personally – is how fantastic it looks as a single-seater when it’s got the rear seat and grab-rail completely removed, as shown with the ‘Maverick’ inspiration kit (pictured), which transforms the bike into an alternative Bobber.
Going back to the test ride at the end of 2016, along with many surprised journalists, I was completely won-over by the Triumph Bobber’s engine and even more so by it’s nimble handling, but I wasn’t quite seduced by the interpretation of the Bobber-look, and I already had a thought that the bike would look better with a fat tyre on a 16 inch front rim – especially if Triumph wanted to take-on Harley and Indian sales. The other thing about the Triumph Bobber I, personally, didn’t love, was the floating seat, leaving your backside hanging out in the air. It’s a pure personal preference, but my eyes prefer to see a rider sitting on a subframe. I can’t explain why, but I do know a few others that feel the same. The new Speedmaster completely sorts that out. To me, the Speedmaster is still a Triumph Bobber (rather than a new Cruiser – as some might describe it), but this time it’s more like a 1200 Harley or Indian bobber, and it’s all the better for it, Best of all, now you can snap a rear seat perch onto the bike with the turn of a key, and take someone out with you to enjoy 106nm of torque at just 4,000 rpm.
There are loads of other clever features on the bike, like 2-step preload, easily accessed under the seat to help your one-up/two-up choice of the day, switchable maps and cruise control, but we’ll leave the tech sheet and internet to tell you about all that.
What I can tell you is that this bike should work as well, or perhaps even better than the already fantastic Bobber, but now it’s a bike with real-world flexibility and styling options to suit more tastes, from midlife crisis Route 66 obsessives to badass 25 year olds who want something with stripped-back street presence – and everyone in between.
When they bring one out in all-black, count me in.
Check the full specs here