Speed of light (Triumph Speedmaster)
TRIUMPH’S Speedmaster is long and low and oh-so-cool.
It is an authentic looking stripped down sports cruiser with attitude and rideability. Just the job for a lazy winter’s ride.
I reach under my left thigh and turn the ignition key. The needle on the rev counter swings to 9k and back again and I fire the parallel twin into action. Slash cut pipes trail the length of the bike’s belly before coming to an abrupt end at a black 15” back wheel. The engine casings are also covered in the same dark paint, as is the 19.3 litre tank. Basically, if it’s not gleaming, it’s black. The bike bears a new headlight design, 19” cast aluminium front wheel, ‘skinny’ tyre and single disc brake to add character.
And the riding position has been tweaked to make it more accessible to a wider audience, with a bottom-dragging 690mm seat height and new, wider handlebars. Although I’m far from average sized as far as lady bikers go, I’m about as tall as most guys and the ‘hot-rod’ styled bike fits me fine in a snug sort of way.
Before setting off, I cast an eye over my steed. The footpegs are embossed with the British marque’s name and they’re ‘normal’, as in not heel-and-toe cruiser styled. The speedo is elegant in its simplicity, the dash bears all the essential information and while the fuel cap isn’t lockable, it’s twist and fill easy. The pillion seat is Kylie Minogue small and completely devoid of grab rails, which I guess you might not actually want should Miss Minogue ever happen to ask you for a lift.
As I ride further away from town on the relatively empty motorway, I’m struggling to find a position that’s comfortable. The Triumph may have a lazy 1,655mm wheelbase, but it’s quite a compact motorcycle and the riding stance feels like it should be more outstretched than it is. There just isn’t enough space for my lower limbs to find a natural resting position. My bum’s pushed as far back as it will go in the scooped out seat and from the waist up, I’ve adopted such a lazy slouch that any teenager would be proud of me. My back’s beginning to ache so I slide back and perch on the pillion seat. Unfortunately, the poor road surfaces soon put an end to my motorcycle gymnastics as I hit a rather cruel dent in the asphalt, wince, audibly yelp and slide back to my padded and intended seat. The non-adjustable front, and preload adjustable rear suspension is doing its best to cushion me but it feels quite harsh at times.
At a legal limit, the Speedmaster rides with purpose and a steady, good-natured ease. I wind the throttle back a tad to assess its high speed ability and instantly back off again. It just feels wrong. Not just because I don’t want to experience life in a Belgian jail, but because the bike doesn’t like it either. The handling feels looser and I’m definitely more aware of the windblast. With a modest 61bhp and 74Nm of torque, the power and its delivery is more than adequate for pottering about. The 865cc, air cooled parallel twin engine is smooth and capable and it’s more smouldery than fiery which suits the bike’s image perfectly. Although it’s a parallel twin, it doesn’t have the same revvy ride as an ER6 or Versys because it has a 270 degree firing order. There are no flat points or spikes, just an easy predictability.
Steady riding with a bit of posing seems to be the order of the day and (aside from my constant fidgeting in the saddle) I have no complaints. It’s not long before I’m off the motorway and into the twisties. OK, so they’re hardly Spanish switchbacks, but to be perfectly honest, I’m quite happy about that. The ground clearance is limited to riding around, not driving through a corner.
I stop to shake my legs and notice the bike’s hero blobs have been shaved away to a stump. I’ve already jumped out of my skin once today when the Speedmaster rather abruptly started grinding away at the asphalt. It’s making me apprehensive about throwing the bike into turns too eagerly and I feel as though I’m waiting to hear that scraping sound every time the road snakes. I know it isn’t built for sportier riding, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to try. At the photography spot, I have the perfect opportunity to check out the bike’s low speed handling as I U-turn and head back for another pass at the snapper. Any awkwardness quickly dissipates as I realise that the Speedmaster is actually quite well balanced and even the brakes work better than I expected them to.
In short, the Speedmaster is a great bike for anyone who wants to feel and look like they’re chilling out. And of course, there are a whole range of genuine Triumph accessories like saddlebags, screens and different seats for you to choose from. The Speedmaster may not be a master of speed, but it is a well-rounded soft cruiser.
Model: Triumph Speedmaster £6,849
Engine: 865cc Air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin, 270º firing interval
Power: 61PS / 60bhp / 45 kW @ 6800rpm
Torque: 72Nm / 53 ft.lbs @ 3300rpm
Wheelbase: 1606mm 63.2in
Weight: 250 kg (550 lbs)
Seat height: 690mm (27.1in)
Tank: 19.3 litres (5.1 US gals)
Colours : Phantom Black, Cranberry Red
Rivals: Yamaha XVS950A Midnight Star, Kawasaki VN 900 Custom, VT750C2B Shadow Black Spirit.
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