Triumph Speedmaster Review

Spend a day on Triumph's latest and coolest vertical twin cruiser

This Triumph Speedmaster review takes on the newest rendition of Triumph's twin is a variant of the Bonneville America, Triumph's best-selling bike in the US for 2002. All the Bonnevilles have 790cc air-cooled DOHC vertical-twin engines, but the America was cruiserized for the Yankee market. Like the America, the Speedmaster has the extended 65.2-inch wheelbase and the crankshaft is configured with its pins 270 degrees apart. However, the Speedmaster diverges from the Bonneville America in its blacked-out finish on the engine with polished fins on the eight-valve cylinder head, shortened gearing, a flat handlebar on risers, performance-style saddle, cast wheels replacing the America's wire-spoke items, and the addition of a tachometer.

We spent a day riding the Speedmaster through the hills and coastal plains north of Santa Barbara recently, and came away impressed. The styling is cleaner, more aggressive and somehow more true to the Triumph tradition than the America. The saddle has a sort of racing profile, with a brief tapered passenger section (which backseaters are sure to hate) but an accommodating rider portion, which was roomy and flat enough but just slightly too softly padded after a few hours. The lines of the saddle and the flat handlebar set on tall risers give the Speedmaster a profile to match its name, and the lower gearing allows it to leave a stop a bit more vigorously than the America. The disc rear wheel, which mounts a 170/80-15 tire, and the twin discs on the 18-inch cast front wheel reinforce the performance image. However, the front brake still has a nice gentle engagement, making the added braking power quite controllable, matching the rear brake.

Though the rider footpegs are well forward, the position worked pretty well for us, though we noticed other riders stretching their legs frequently by the end of the day. The 33-inch-wide bar's height and bend made it comfortable on the highway and provided comfortable leverage for winding roads. Vibration is not an issue, even when the tach needle is nudging the 7500-rpm redline. The only real comfort shortcoming (at least for the rider) is the suspension's limited ability to soak up bumps; sharp bumps and potholes hit you pretty hard.

Though the rev limiter asserts itself at 7500 rpm, a few hundred rpm later than the America's, the engine is otherwise functionally the same as the America's, with the same exhaust note and cadence. There is good power from about 1500 rpm and, according to Triumph, it's making 90 percent of its torque by 2750 rpm. At an indicated 60 mph, the tachometer is reading 4000 rpm in fifth. The bikes in our group averaged about 38 mpg. The clutch is light and progressive, and shifts, except for a very slight resistance when upshifting through neutral, are smooth and positive.

We think the Speedmaster, which inherited a name used in the mid-1960s for the T120R by an American importer but not by the factory, is much tidier than the America because pieces like the big plates over the footpeg bracket are blacked out and less conspicuous, and because the black-coated engine looks cleaner. However, we think a few more components, like the carb manifolds, which were left in their natural metal finish, would be better off finished to match the engine. Triumph will offer two color choices, yellow and black or red and black, for the standard $8699, $300 more than the America. However, there are also custom painted pieces available as well as a long list of factory accessories, which includes three saddlebag styles, four windshields, four seat options, a clock to replace the tach, racks, sissybars, floorboards, light bars, different tank badges, and about a dozen chrome replacement parts.

The Speedmaster will be available in America early in 2003.

Filling out the same tank-top console as the America, the Speedmaster's tach warns when the 7500-rpm rev-limiter is close.
Passengers will doubtlessly hate it, but the saddle works well for the person in front.
We think the Speedmaster looks cleaner and more aggressive than the Bonneville America on which it's based.
Blacking out the engine makes the engine bay look cleaner. The 790cc engine is the same as the America's.
Triumph has a wide range of accessories available for the Speedmaster from chrome to touring gear.
You will even be able to get graphic options for the Speedmaster as well as different tank badges.