Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster First Ride Review

07 May 2018, 08:02 AM Charles Pennefather

Introduction

 
Pros
+ Handling, engine
Cons
-  Low ground clearance, low cornering clearance

Introduction
There are motorcycles, and then there are two-wheeled monstrosities that only leave the kitchen sink out because it would be illegal in most countries. The Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster isn’t one of these monstrosities; it treads the middle ground between ‘I want more’ and ‘Holy Caligula, did they really need that on there?’ admirably. Of course, we did have a go on it some time ago, but that was halfway around the world. How does it fare on roads closer to home?

Quality

The traditional cruiser types would be very pleased with the Bonneville Speedmaster. There’s acres of metal, chrome and faux leather. None of those icky plasticky panels that little boys prefer on their crotch rockets. Everything is buffed to a gleaming finish, the chrome bits make you want to have your sunglasses on, especially on a bright day, and the painted surfaces exude the depth of colour of a quality paintjob. However, bits like the windshield mounting could have been better, with rattles already creeping in thanks to the jostling that our roads provide. We like the addition of adjustable brake and clutch levers. After all, making a rider’s life simpler should come at the top of everyone’s list, not just Triumph’s.
 
Rating: 4.5/5

Comfort

The Speedmaster is based on the Bonneville Bobber, a single seater. What has been added is a pillion seat and backrest, so you can tour two up. The Speedmaster offers a rather comfortable seating position, with the legs kicked out in front but not very far. Similarly, you need to reach out to the handlebar but it isn’t a big reach. However, the handlebar imitates the shape of the ‘bars of many decades ago, and it forces you to either tuck your elbows in, or if you’re a wide specimen your wrists are forced to bend, with the fingers pointing away from the body. This isn’t a problem with the left wrist, but with the constant motion required for the right wrist, it can be quite uncomfortable. The windshield does a great job of putting the rider out of the wind buffeting, and with the kind of speed the Speedmaster is capable of, it is a good addition. The rear suspension travel isn’t very much, as with all cruisers, but it doesn’t let sharp bumps through, which is a big plus point. The test bike you see has a kit worth Rs 1.2 lakhs installed. It has the crash guards, windscreen, comfort seats, a backrest with comfort padding, and soft luggage. Our aftermarket seats had great cushioning and it doesnt need a great stretch of the imagination for us to see ourselves riding into the sunset for a few days at a time with the Speedmaster.
 
Rating 3.5/5

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 11,33,700

Performance

 
The Speedmaster has the 1200cc parallel twin cylinder engine from the Bonneville T120. It generates 76bhp and 106Nm. It uses chain drive via a six-speed gearbox to lay the power down. The Speedmaster has so much torque, the 100kmph comes up in second gear itself, and takes under six seconds. Watching a Speedmaster take off from rest is quite like watching your grandpa hitch up his trousers and participate in the 100m dash… and beat most of the young ‘uns at it. Cruising at 80kmph in top gear has it rumbling along at just under 2000rpm. It will go on to hit an impressive top speed, but in the absence of a windshield, the wind buffeting will discourage the rider from attempting it. The engine behaves quite like a traditional cruiser engine; it feels a little unwilling to rev at low revs. However, keep rolling on the throttle and it finally gives up, like a teenager who knows there’s no way out of doing the chores, and it suddenly bellows its enthusiasm and slingshots all 246kg of the Speedmaster down the road. The traction control doesn’t have anything but the ‘on’ or ‘off’ settings, and it lets the wheel spin up, but then cuts in really very abruptly. The brakes are up to the task of stopping the bike in a hurry, but the best bit of the Speedmaster is its handling.
It may weigh a lot at 249kg, but the Speedmaster is always eager to change direction. Not only that, you run out of cornering clearance far too easily, a feature we suspect is designed this way to protect the mufflers from touching the ground. Our test bike’s feeler bolts were ground right to the nut – this should tell you how much confidence this product offers the rider, even when hard parts start touching the ground.
 
Rating 3.5/5

Technology

 
Just like the Bonneville, there is ABS, switchable traction control (no levels, just ‘On’ or ‘Off’) and two rider modes to choose from, ‘Rain’ and ‘Road’. Rain softens throttle response for slippery conditions. Every time you switch the engine off, the Speedmaster reverts to ‘Road’ mode, which can be mildly irritating. The digital display in the instrument cluster is a simple one but hides all the necessary information, including a rev counter, trip computer and traction control status.

Rating 3.5/5

Fitness of purpose

 
The Speedmaster is supposed to be the more affordable and manageable brother to the Thunderbird LT, and it does that admirably. It also manages to ride better than the Bonneville Bobber on which it is based, which makes it more comfortable as a companion for long rides. Bonus points for it actually looking better than the Thunderbird LT.
 
Rating 4/5

Our take

 
The Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster mixes old world charm with new-gen reliability in the right doses. It should appeal to the cruiser market, especially considering the kind of performance it offers along with those looks. Now if they’d only give it a little more cornering clearance…
 
Photography: Kapil Angane/Kaustubh Gandhi

Gear Check

 
Helmet: HJC FG-15 - ₹ 15,000
Jacket: Scorpion Hat Trick - ₹ 19,700
Pants: Joe Rocket Phoenix - ₹ 15,500
Boots: Alpinestars SMX-6 - ₹ 21,500

 

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