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First ride: Triumph's Bonneville Speedmaster custom 'desirable, practical and cool'

Published: 19 January 2018

On my left is the beautiful Pacific Ocean, where perfect waves peel onto empty beaches. To my right niche cafés and cool pit-stop ‘hang-outs’ sit in the shade of an avenue of palm trees. Between them, a four-lane road runs smooth and straight – this is California cruising at its best.

And with their all-new Bonneville Speedmaster, one of MCN's first rides of 2018, Triumph have provided me with the ideal bike to match the environment: the best-of-British is turning more Californian heads than the scantily dressed beach volleyball players.

The early morning sunlight amplifies the new bike’s appeal; it’s stunning in the flesh.

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Triumph has based the Speedmaster on their successful Bobber, the Hinckley factory’s fastest-selling bike in history. It receives the same engine and brakes as the recently launched Bobber Black, with twin 310mm discs up front, rather than the single disc on the original Bobber, and Brembo calipers at the front and Nissin at the rear. It’s powered by the same high-torque T120 parallel twin, with 10% more torque at 4000rpm than the standard Bonneville and 42% more torque and 25% more peak power than the old Speedmaster it’s replacing.

The suspension is similar to the Bobber’s and gets that classic hardtail look, but is reworked to compensate for the extra weight of a subframe and potential pillion and luggage. The obvious changes to the standard Bobber are the laid-back styling, which includes swept back ‘beach bars’ and forward-mounted pegs. There are new twin and single seat options, which are plush and add extra comfort. The sculpted fuel tank is new, and up from 9.1 litres to a more practical 12.

Like the Bobber, the Speedmaster’s beauty is in the detail. Be it the seat piping or stylish and functional single clock, the battery box with heritage styling or carb-styled twin throttle-bodies, the finned exhaust clamps or hand-finished fuel tank, every time you gaze at the new Speedmaster something new seems to catch the eye.

I love the look of the new bike; it’s stunning. My only gripe is the lack of bark from the twin exhausts, which have a clean design and look attractive but lack character. I’d certainly be looking at the accessories catalogue for a system that offers more beef – and, luckily, Triumph offer over 100 accessories to personalise your Speedmaster (see some of them below).

The Speedmaster ventures into the mountains

Thankfully, the test of the new bike ventured beyond posing along the ‘Baywatch’ coast, and headed into the mountains. Like the Bobber, the new Speedmaster shines on proper roads, too. The steering feels fluid, and the Speedmaster rolls into corners with relative ease for a laid-back cruiser. The footpegs eventually scraped the Californian road, but ground clearance isn’t bad for this type of bike and I suspect better than the competition. The twin Brembo calipers offer decent braking considering they’re stopping 245.5kg (kerb) of Bonnie and are backed up by uninstrusive ABS. Mountain riding is genuine fun.

But it’s the 76bhp, 1200cc parallel-twin that is the Speedmaster’s ace card. The high-torque engine will pull strongly from as low as 1800rpm, allowing you to simply short-shift at 2000rpm and surf the torque in the classic cruiser style. If you need a quick escape, the new Triumph fires away from the lights too, laying down enough power to activate the traction control.

At 70mph the motor is hardly working, hovering around 3000rpm, which results in impressive fuel economy. Triumph is quoting 54.7mpg but I averaged 64mpg and was riding aggressively at times.

At town speeds the engine can feel a little snatchy due to the sheer amount of torque available at low rpm. However, the changeable riding modes smooth out the power at low speeds – and I much preferred Rain mode (the other being Road mode, both linked to the ride-by-wire system) for town work and low speed cruising.

Californian cruising

A welcome surprise is the way comfort and practicality score highly, especially when compared to the standard Bobber. The laid-back bars and feet-forward riding position create a natural riding position, while the seat is wide and plush (though the same can’t be said for the removable pillion seat, which is tiny). The one touch cruise control is simple and easy to use, while 70mph cruising is effortless.

It’s a shame you can’t incrementally adjust your speed via the cruise control. To increase your speed slightly you have to turn the system off, manually accelerate and then re-set your speed. But apart from that and the wide bars and mirrors, which make filtering hard work, I’m struggling to find fault.

The Speedmaster was cool. It made me want to stay on and explore the epic roads and coast of southern California – I really couldn’t think of a better bike to do it on. The cocktail of desirability, English character, ease-of-use, power and handling is as heady as it is satisfying.

Speedmaster highlights

  • T120 high-torque twin
  • Proven bobber chassis
  • Over 100 custom options
  • New subframe and pillion seat
  • Laid-back riding stance

Optional Speedmaster kit

HIGHWAY – £13,550

  • Black waxed cotton + leather pannier set with mounting kits
  • Adjustable wind shield with mounting kit
  • Black comfort seat and matching wider pillion seat
  • Chrome passenger back rest, luggage rack  and pad
  • Chrome engine bars
  • Polished machined oil filler cap

MAVERICK – £13,450

  • Brown quilted single rider seat kit
  • Flatter, lower handlebars in black
  • Vance and Hines pipes in black
  • Black exhaust headers and header flanges
  • Grab rail removal kit
  • Black rear mudguard
  • Black oil filler cap

Speedmaster facts

  • Price: £11,650 (red £11,765, white and black with twin coach line £11,900)
  • Engine: 1200cc 8v parallel-twin
  • Frame: Tubular steel twin cradle
  • Seat height: 705mm
  • Suspension: Non-adjustable 41mm KYB forks; single KYB rear shock with preload adjustment.
  • Brakes:  2 x 310mm discs with two-piston Brembo calipers; 255mm rear disc with single-piston Nissin caliper
  • Colours: Red, while/black, black.
  • Power: 76bhp @ 6100rpm
  • Torque: 78ftlb @ 4000rpm
  • Weight: 245.5kg (kerb)
  • Tank capacity: 12 litres 

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