Triumph Speedmaster & America Launch Report ~ Trevor Hedge www.mcnews.com.au
Triumph’s Speedmaster and America models tread a slightly different path to cruising to the traditional v-twin layout. At their $13,990 price point it is impossible to evaluate these models without comparing them to Harley’s Sportster line-up, so we’ve done exactly that.
Triumph’s well established 865cc air-cooled parallel twin provides the motivation and spins quite freely in comparison to the competition. With the optional high-flow chrome silencers ($549) both Triumphs sound quite sporting.
Despite all the PR guff saying that the 270-degree crank layout gives a v-twin feel, in reality it doesn’t. But that’s not entirely a bad thing.
Fairly tall gearing sees both Triumphs lope along under 4000rpm at 110km/h and reasonable overtaking thrust is only the twist of the wrist away. Some vibrations are felt as the revs rise but are not obtrusive enough to spoil the ride.
There is no real low rpm lope and heavy crank-beat that’s synonymous with Harley’s similar capacity baby Sportster, the 883. The Harley engine provides a stronger sense of occasion than the British machine, particularly around town. The Triumphs have a slicker gearbox and appreciably more top end power which makes the Brit more satisfying in the bends than the American iron.
A lack of ground clearance is another trait the Triumph machines have in common with their American cousins.
Overall both Triumph’s suspension is more compliant and a nudge above the Harley hardware which makes the lack of ground clearance even more annoying. Mid corner bumps that compact your lumbar vertebrae on a Harley Sportster are only felt as a dull thud in the buttocks aboard the Triumph machines.
Ergonomically the America and Speedmaster are much changed for the 2011 model year. Seat heights are down and there is a markedly shorter reach to the bars and pegs than their predecessors.
The pillion seat only has enough room for the most petite of bottoms but leg room is fairly amenable. The well controlled rear suspension will make a massive difference to pillion comfort levels as the Triumph’s Kayaba suspension is far superior to that of the competition. Some of the opposition pillion perches are worse than Chinese water torture largely due to their abysmal rear suspension.
Styling changes are also rife with the Speedmaster appearing more streamlined thanks to a smaller headlight, taller front rim and the change to a single disc front end.
The America is designed to look larger with shrouded forks, chunkier rims and long valanced guards with extra overhang accentuating its size.
The America follows the more classic cruiser lines while the Speedmaster is more a stripped style that looks more purposeful.
Generous 19.3 litre fuel tanks endow both bikes with an impressive 325km touring range.
There is minimal wind protection though and long stints in the saddle are not comfortable on this style of machine whoever the manufacturer.
Optional screens are available which are easily mounted or removed in seconds and without tools and would be a wise $649 investment for any extended touring.
With the America now $500 cheaper and the Speedmaster $1000 more affordable than before there is some change left in the kitty to raid the Triumph accessory and clothing product lines.
If I was forced to pick between the two models I would plump for the Speedmaster. But if I were to walk into any Triumph showroom with a pocket full of cash it would still be the more sporting Thruxton model that would end up in my garage. Personally I can’t deal withthe frustrating lack of cornering clearance afforded by the more cruiser inspired machines when their chassis is clearly capable of much more.