Triumph has pulled the cover off its new Speed Twin – yet another variation of the Bonneville platform – and I’m finding it difficult to muster any real enthusiasm for the thing. This is troubling, considering my long history of drooling over just about everything Triumph does. Is there something wrong with me, or is it really the case that Britain’s best known moto brand has run out of ideas?
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The Speed Twin name is an important one for Triumph, first appearing in 1938 for a parallel-twin-driven motorcycle that not only built the reputation of Triumph but played a major role in establishing British twins as the bikes to have in the 1940s and ’50s. Now being driven by the same 1200cc parallel twin that powers the Bonneville T120, Thruxton, Bobber, Speedmaster, and Scrambler 1200, the Speed Twin is effectively a Thruxton with Street Twin looks and ergonomics. Or, it’s a Street Twin with a Thruxton engine.
The names are pretty close there (no doubt on purpose), so for folks not wholly familiar with the manufacturer’s line-up, the Street Twin is Triumph’s “entry-level” 900cc parallel twin. It’s like a Bonneville T100 but more affordable and with pegs moved back just a teency bit. Offered in Thruxton tune, the Speed Twin will produce some 32 horsepower more than the Street Twin (That’s 96 hp versus the Street Twin’s 64 hp), as well as having a markedly better fit and finish.
Switchable traction control, three riding modes (Sport, Road and Rain) and all LED lighting combine to make the sort of Triumph modern classic we’ve come to know and respect. Intriguingly, the Speed Twin does not have the TFT screen of the Scrambler 1200. Nor does it have the cruise control feature offered on a number of other 1200 models. Discuss.
Perhaps as a result of these missing items the Speed Twin will counter Triumph’s recent habit of setting increasingly unrealistic asking prices. We won’t know for sure until mid-January. For point of reference, though, the new Street Twin costs £8,100; whereas the Thruxton starts at £11,000. The folks at MCN (who are pretty hit and miss when it comes to guessing such things) are betting on a price at or around £10,000. If correct, that’s less than the Ducati Scrambler 1100 and Indian FTR 1200 – two bikes that could potentially be seen as competition.
Beyond that, the Speed Twin is, as I say, the sort of modern classic we’re used to from Triumph. I have no doubt it’ll be an absolute hoot to ride, there’s nothing out of place about the looks, and with 10,000-mile service intervals ownership should be relatively stress-free. But I’m just not that excited. It feels uninspired. I mean, it’s a bike most of us will have imagined three years ago, when the Thruxton 1200 and Street Twin were first introduced. That it’s being introduced now is just so… meh.
And that bothers me. It makes me fear that a UK moto-journalist I know was right earlier this year when he declared that Triumph were “out of ideas.” It should be noted that he followed this comment with claims that Suzuki was on the verge of blowing our minds with all kinds of amazing new stuff – so it’s clear he’s capable of being totally wrong – but, you know, what if he’s not wrong about this? What if Triumph has stalled out?
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Roughly two years ago, Triumph seemed to be on fire, turning out one category-defining bike after another. I was so excited by the company’s potential that I became a Triumph owner; I wanted to be a part of its story, wanted to be able to look back on the golden age I thought was arriving and say: “I was a part of that.” But since that time Triumph has bailed out of a number of segments – sportbike, tourer, and (heavy) cruiser – and moved ever closer to being solely a purveyor of modern classics.
Outside of that genre, it doesn’t feel as if Triumph’s done anything new. That’s not actually true, of course; it’s slapped TFT screens on the Tiger 800/1200 and Street/Speed Triple, dramatically improved all four bikes’ internal bits, and improved the overall quality of all the bits. But I can’t think of the last time Triumph offered an aesthetically new bike that wasn’t a modern classic.
That all said, here’s another question: so what if Triumph has hit a creative slump? Who cares? No manufacturer hits a homerun every time, and the important thing is that this one is still producing good-looking bikes that are fun to ride. Maybe I’m just bitching because I’m doing that weird owner thing of complaining about the brand that I choose to ride – the way Harley guys will bitch about Harleys but keep buying Harleys. Maybe. I still wish Triumph hadn’t dropped the Trophy, though…