The Speed Twin is a gorgeous bike. It is something that looks old-school and performs like modern bike.
British bike maker Triumph Motorcycles has a long history. Over a century of bikes, and bike enthusiasts looking for fun in the most common and sometimes not so common places. And if there is one thing that Triumph has always stood by, it's that heritage of offering some of the best ponies in the world.
The Bonneville bikes have for long been the flag-bearer of this heritage of theirs, and has been more than equal to the task. In the Bonneville lineup, there were two extremes: a retro racing machine, the Thruxton R was the Café Racer of choice for the speed freaks out there, and the cultured T120 was what you would use for a leisurely, nostalgic cruise along the coastline, the one you could take home to introduce to your mother.
But we wanted something somewhere in the middle. Something that would thrill us like the Thruxton but still be comfortable enough like the T120. So, Triumph brought us the Speed Twin. A 1200cc Bonnie meant to keep you going faster, for longer.
Let's talk about looks first. Everything about this bike, like all the Bonnies before it, is perfectly old school. From head (lamp) to tail (lamp), it harks back to the 50s. Sure, there are bits of modernity thrown in, but not so many that you can immediately call out. Take the headlamp, for instance. In true retro fashion, it is round. But nestled inside is a band of well concealed LED DRLs. You get the teardrop shaped tank, complete with a Monza fuel filler cap positioned off centre to the right. A fairly short single piece seat and a slightly protruding tail completes the spartan look.
Even the instrument cluster is old school. You get a twin analogue pod setup that displays the tach and speed, along with warning lights. Within the pod, though, digital inserts give you all your other information, like riding mode, odometer, trip meter, fuel level, range to empty as well as current mileage.
Now, the bike is said to be based on the Thruxton R. To keep things exciting, Triumph just yanked out the café racer's engine and shoehorned it into a new body work. And they’ve made it even lighter. The entire bike is about 10 kg lighter than the Thruxton. The engine gets a new magnesium cam cover and other engine covers that cut down weight. The downtubes that cradle the engine have also been swapped out for lighter aluminium ones, and lighter rims help lower the rotational mass.
Like we were saying, the engine is the same Thruxton powerplant in exactly the same state of tuning. A 1,200cc parallel twin making 97 PS of maximum power and 112 Nm of peak torque sends power to the wheels via a 6-speed gearbox. You get ride-by-wire and with that, three self-explanatory riding modes: Rain, Road and Sport. ABS is standard and traction control is switchable throughout.
When you look at the Twin, it looks big. Big not in dimension, just in sheer presence. It won't stand tall among the other bikes parked around it, but it will definitely stand out. Swing a leg over it and you realise how compact it really is. A person of average height can sit comfortably, while even shorter riders won't have a hard time.
Thumb the starter and you are greeted with the familiar rumble of the Bonnie engine. Thanks to the wet weather conditions during our time with the bike, we were using Rain mode for most of my ride. This mode dumbs down the throttle response quite significantly, so there's nothing too scary even if you twist too hard. In the Road mode, the response is improved and is quite helpful riding around in the city.
But, Sport mode is something else. The bike feels a little snatchy but a fistful of twist is enough to send you screaming down the next corner in utter bliss. Torque, too, is plentiful, right from really low down in the rev range. We frequently found myself pulling ahead in a gear higher than we usually would, with the bike not hesitating or stuttering even in the slightest. The Speed Twin is fast too. When given the beans and a decent stretch of road, you can hit 200 km/h without any shaking or instability from the bike.
Coming to ergonomics, like we said before, the big Speed Twin is actually really compact. It's easy to swing a leg over, yet feels substantial under you. The handlebars are nice and wide and give you enough leverage to throw the bike from side to side. The foot pegs are not set as far back as they are in the Thruxton: they sit 38 mm ahead and 4 mm lower. This puts them squarely under the rider's feet, so it is a lot more comfortable when riding long distances. This also helps when you're riding hard and you need to shift your weight onto the pegs. A bit of vibration does come through the footpegs, but it is barely noticeable.
If there was one problem though, it could be this: this rider's knees never really reached the sides of the tank. In fact they sat lower and close to the engine — which can make things pretty hot. And since this is a naked bike, the heat cannot be redirected in any meaningful manner. This means it can get a little toasty on your thighs when you're stuck in traffic, though on the move, there is not much to complain about.
In terms of riding aides, there is ABS — which is always active. There is also switchable traction control, but there are no levels to it. I wish the sampling rate for it was a little higher though, because there were times where the rear tyre would slip out a little from under when accelerating hard.Overall, the Speed Twin is a gorgeous bike. It is something that looks old-school, yet performs like a modern bike. That's why the terminology modern-retro, we suppose. You'll command presence on the streets, even when you don't want it. But the feature about this bike will be its ability to do exactly what you want it to do. Take it out on a long road trip, take it to the office or take it to the mountains, you won't be disappointed.