It’s A New Bonneville Generation

Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber was a calculated risk that paid off big-time. Springboarding off that success, the factory doubled down with a blackout/custom version of the popular Bobber, and it added to the lineup with the all-new Bonneville Speedmaster. The Speedmaster still serves as the custom-cruiser of the Bonnevilles, but it drops the old swingarm frame in favor of the faux-hardtail Bobber bones. Riding modes, ABS, traction control, cruise control and two-up seating join the 1,200 cc Bonnie engine to make the Speedmaster a much more capable machine for longer trips and interstate work. Yeah, let’s face it shall we? The Bobber is a great little barhopper, but little else, and this new setup expands the lineup into more practical territory.

Continue reading for my review of the Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster.


2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
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Bonnie DNA is apparent, as is the Bobber influence, for a combination that seems to make the Speedmaster both practical and really cool looking.

It seems that we have entered the Age of the Softail. Yeah, I know that’s a Harley name, and why not, they were the first to mass-produce the hardtail-looking frame that delivered antique looks and a modern ride, after all. H-D collapsed its Dyna series to focus on the Softail as the only cruiser in its entire lineup, and now Triumph has converted the external shock-and-swingarm Speedmaster to work with its own faux-rigid Bobber frame. While it’s unclear to me if this is a response to popular demand, or just a practical business move by one party that started a chain reaction. We’ll know within a few years, but meanwhile, let’s look at what Triumph is hoping will help carry it into this brave new market.

Fat tires and laced rims starts the classic vibe even before you get to the triangular swing-cage that makes the illusion work. The overall frame geometry lends lines to the bike that immediately call to mind the custom culture of the postwar-era with a rigid-looking rear end and hydraulic forks up front with blackout sliders and bellow gaiters.

Unlike the Bobber that articulates the close-fit rear fender with the rear wheel, the Speedmaster has a more modern setup with fender struts that hold the fender in a fixed position above the back hoop. This gives it the capacity to mount a pillion pad and serve as a two-up cruiser, or even as a light tourer with the “Highway” kit from the accessory catalog.

Bonnie DNA is apparent, as is the Bobber influence, for a combination that seems to make the Speedmaster both practical and really cool looking. I think the Bobber is a right cute little ride, but cute don’t cut it when you have real-life riding considerations, and I love that Triumph is finding other uses for its brilliant little fake-hard frame.


2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
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I reckon rake and trail will be the same as the Bobber with similarly nimble handling characteristics.

Tubular-steel members make up the double-downtube/double-cradle frame that tapers down in back to meet the triangular swing cage, which itself is comprised of the same material. Though the factory hasn’t specified in its release info, I reckon rake and trail will be the same as the Bobber at 25.8-degrees and 3.5-inches, respectively, with similarly nimble handling characteristics.

Standard front forks come with 3.54 inches of travel but nothing in the way of adjustability, and the coil-over rear shock gives up 2.87 inches of travel with naught but the compulsory preload adjustment for tuning. Simple but sufficient, the suspension doesn’t really inspire one to seek out any rough patches or line up on a long trip to say the least. Laced 16-inch rims mount Avon Cobra hoops with a pair of 310 mm brake discs and dual Brembo twin-pot calipers up front, and a single-piston Nissin caliper to bite the 255 mm rear disc with ABS included in the standard equipment package.


2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
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With 42 percent more torque than the MY15 Speedmaster, that'll definitely register on the ol' heinie dyno.

The beating heart is, of course, the 1,200 cc, 270-degree parallel twin. Triumph missed a chance to get real with the old-school treatment by using one of its air-cooled plants, but the blackout radiator blends in reasonably well at the front of the bike and at least the throttle bodies come with that classic mechanical-slide carburetor facade. Cooling fins on the jugs and heads do give it something of an old-school appeal, if only in profile, and they actually contribute to cooling as a supplement to the water jacket and radiator.

A SOHC times the 8-valve heads, and a 270-degree offset in the crankpins gives the mill a distinctive lope with gobs of torque just waiting to be spooled up. At 4,000 rpm the Bonnie engine has developed its full 78.2 pound-feet of torque (up 42% from the ’15 Speedmaster), and if you wind it on up to 6,100 rpm you’ll see all 77 ponies the plant has to offer. Bore and stroke measure out at 97.6 mm and 80 mm respectively, and compression is in the lower midrange at 10-to-1.

A ride-by-wire throttle control comes with “Road” and “Rain” riding modes that give tailored power delivery for a variety of situations and a switchable traction control meant to prevent loss of traction at the rear wheel due to, uh, too much enthusiasm at the right wrist. As yet another layer of contact-patch protection, a slipper clutch couples engine power to the six-speed transmission to prevent excessive backtorque and wheel hop during aggressive downshifts. That’s quite a package of safety gear, especially for a cruiser, and I imagine that will appeal to a lot of the buying public, or at least it should.


2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
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MSRP on the 2018 Bobber is $11,900 so figure a little more than that for the Speedmaster.

I haven’t seen pricing at the time of this writing, but I imagine it’s going to be in the ball park of the Bobber. MSRP on the 2018 Bobber is $11,900 so figure a little more than that.


2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
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2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob
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Frames are of similar construction, down to the triangular swingarm and under-seat shock, but H-D kicks that front end on out to 30 degrees of rake with a 6.2-inch trail and a trade off of some agility for straightline stability.

There can be little doubt that the Speedmaster will be vying for much the same market as Harley-Davidson’s entry-level custom Softail, the Street Bob. H-D starts off just like Triumph on a set of laced rims though the Street Bob leads off with a 19-inch hoop instead of a 16-incher like the Bonnie. Blackout touches start at the fork sliders and encompass the rims, tripletree, headlight can, handlebars, mirrors, rear fender struts and exhaust system, for quite a bit more achromatic treatment than the Speedmaster that carries a tasteful amount of chrome mixed in with the black. While the stock Street Bob comes with a solo seat, it is quite capable of mounting a pillion pad for your favorite passenger.

Frames are of similar construction, down to the triangular swingarm and under-seat shock, but H-D kicks that front end on out to 30 degrees of rake with a 6.2-inch trail and a trade off of some agility for straightline stability. Both bikes sport some sort of security system as stock equipment, but Harley’s ABS is a $795 option and The Motor Company has no answer at all to Triumph’s traction-control and rider-modes features. If you’re into gadgetry, there’s no escaping the fact that H-D is still behind the curve in that department.

H-D sees a large advantage in engine size. Trumpet’s 1,200 cc mill falls short of the Harley’s 1,700-plus displacement Milwaukee-Eight, and that size difference naturally creates a power differential as well. The Bonneville plant is no slouch with 78.2 pounds o’ grunt at four grand, but the Street Bob brings the pain with 110 pound-feet at three grand for a difference that will register on even the most poorly-calibrated heinie dyno. Pricing is still a mystery for the Speedmaster, but I’d be willing to bet it’s going to fall somewhere just under the $14,499 Street Bob.

He Said

“Do I like it? Hell yeah! Is there room for improvement? Gotta’ say yeah to that, too. An air-cooled plant would look cooler (if not actually run cooler), and adjustable forks would give it a bit more ride-quality flexibility. This ride is just in time I think, given how Harley is trying to shove buyer interest in a very definite direction. Can’t wait to see how it’s received.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "This new Speedmaster has a nice sound. It’s a deeper note than the T120 and up to 10 percent more power and torque over the current generation, as well. Triumph offers ’inspiration’ kits to add accessories that make the bike your own. I might like the Highway kit that adds bags, an adjustable windscreen, a comfort seat and wider pillion, passenger backrest,and luggage rack. I think that would make a nice little tourer. The Maverick kit adds a very nice-looking brown quilted silo seat and removes the grab rails. It puts flatter raked out handlebars on the bike and a whole slew of blacked-out features that lets you go dark and mean."




2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob
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See our review of the Harley-Davidson Street Bob.

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