Review: Triumph Speed Twin

In 1937, Triumph launched the Speed Twin 5T, the first series-produced 500 cc parallel twin. It would become an example for many other twins that followed. And now Triumph reintroduces one of the most glorious names of its history, with the 2019 Speed Twin.

On Triumph’s list of modern classics, the “new” Speed Twin sits nicely between the Street Twin and the Thruxton. Its looks are clearly copied from the Street Twin while the Thruxton set the standard for its performance level. The result of this combination had to be a retro-styled motorcycle with modern technology and the handling qualities of a naked. So did Triumph achieve this?

The design is more than good. What a beauty! The Speed Twin looks as classic as the Street Twin but can’t hide its sporty ambitions: weight on the nose, the tank tilted slightly forward, the rear set high. I hope you don’t mind I’m drooling a bit.

The beautiful engine, with the cylinders nicely visible from all sides, the uninterrupted exhausts, the brushed aluminum parts, and that paint job! The quality of the materials, the degree of finish and the eye for detail are of an extremely high level. There’s nothing where it doesn’t belong, no wire makes a wrong bend, this is pure class. Although I prefer the Korosi red over the Storm gray of my test bike.

The dashboard is a mix of an analog speedometer and ditto tachometer, and digital screens in which you can read trip meters, gas meter and the riding mode. The meters glow very nicely in the dark. The front LED light is also a design statement, with a semi-circular DRL incorporating the Triumph logo. The bar-end mirrors don’t fit the style of the bike in my opinion, but at least they vibrate less on the Speed Twin than on the Street Triple RS.

The Speed Twin has the same 1200 cc Bonneville HP twin powerhouse as the Thruxton. “HP” stands for High Power. There’s also an HT or High Torque version of the 1200 cc Bonneville twin that’s used in the T120, Bobber and Speedmaster.

The Thruxton engine was altered at various points and, above all, made lighter. For this, the engine covers were adjusted and the valve cover made of magnesium. Even more weight was saved with cast aluminum wheels and a lighter frame. As a result, the Speed Twin weighs no less than 10 kilos lighter than the Thruxton and even 2 kg less than the 900 cc Street Twin.

Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires are fitted as standard and underline the Speed Twin’s sporty character, just like the Brembo front brakes and a whole bunch of electronic assistants do. The KYB suspension is not adjustable, except for the spring preload.

When I sit on the Speed Twin I’m surprised. “Is this really a 1200 cc bike? So narrow!” The sitting position is relaxed, the foot pegs are positioned far enough forward and the handle bars are in a comfortable position too. The seat is flat and allows you to move easily. You can grab the narrow tank properly with your legs, which ensures a good contact with the Speed.

And yes, it’s very clear you’re riding a 97 hp, 112 Nm 1200 cc bike. It accelerates furiously with the engine revving very smoothly. In addition, a wonderfully deep twin sound comes from the conical pipes, popping when shifting down. Yummy!

You’re never short of torque, at least if you stay north of 3000 rpm. Below, it reacts a little absent and rough. The Speed’s vibrations are vivid but they give the bike more character without disturbing.

When the pace goes up, you’ll notice how easy this Speed Twin rides. Just effortless. You can go hard super relaxed. Because of the geometry, the Speed requires a bit of input when cornering, but it decisively follows the chosen line. At really high speeds, the front seems a bit too softly sprung and as said: the suspension cannot be adjusted.

Slowing down also goes without any effort. The brakes respond just right, without an aggressive bite. The rear brake in particular deserves to be mentioned: it’s remarkably efficient. This is useful if, for example, you are going for a stroll in town. Because of course occasionally you want to show off with your oh so beautiful Speed Twin, right?

Thanks to the good rear brake, your right hand can fully concentrate on the throttle. Which is necessary. The throttle is so snatchy at low speeds that I used the clutch much more than I wanted to. Fortunately, it’s a slip-assist clutch, so it’s light and precise. Still I’d rather be able to ride at low speeds without having to use the clutch. It helps to choose the Rain riding mode in the city, but the jerky gas response never completely disappears.

Conclusion

The new Triumph Speed Twin has become an orgastically beautiful bike. The finish is unprecedentedly high and the details got a great deal of attention. It rides like a naked, just as Triumph intended. Everything on the Speed Twin goes without effort, except for slow riding: the snatchy throttle happens to be quite a pain in the a**.

Photography: Kenny V.H.

Pros

+ What a beauty
+ Stunning level of finish
+ Riding the Speed Twin is soooo easy

Cons

– Jerky throttle at low speeds
– Seat isn’t very comfy during long rides

Tech specs

Engine & transmission

Type: Liquid-cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel-twin
Capacity: 1200 cc
Bore: 97.6 mm
Stroke: 80 mm
Compression: 11.0 :1
Max Power: 97PS / 96bhp (72kW) @ 6,750rpm
Max Torque: 112Nm @ 4,950 rpm
System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust: Brushed 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin brushed silencers
Final Drive: X ring chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox: 6-speed

Chassis

Frame: Tubular steel with aluminium cradle
Swingarm: Twin-sided, aluminium
Front Wheel: Cast aluminium alloy, 17 x 3.5 in
Rear Wheel: Cast aluminium alloy, 17 x 5.0 in
Front Tyre: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tyre: 160/60 ZR17
Front Suspension: 41mm cartridge forks, 120mm travel
Rear Suspension: Twin shocks with adjustable preload, 120mm rear wheel travel
Front Brakes: Twin 305mm discs, Brembo 4-piston fixed calipers, ABS
Rear Brakes: Single 220mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Instrument Display and Functions: LCD multi-functional instrument pack with analogue speedometer, analogue tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, range to empty indication, service indicator, clock, trip computer, scroll and mode buttons on handlebars, heated grip ready, fuel consumption display, traction control status and throttle mode display. TPMS ready.

Dimensions & weights

Width Handlebars: 760 mm
Height Without Mirror: 1110 mm
Seat Height: 807 mm
Wheelbase: 1430 mm
Rake: 22.8 º
Trail: 93.5 mm
Dry Weight: 196 kg
Tank Capacity: 14.5 L

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