The all-new 2019 Bonneville Speedmaster is a hunka burnin’ retro love aimed at motorcycle enthusiasts who may gaze admiringly at submarine-sized Triumph cruisers on the highway but who don’t feel like negotiating all that tonnage. It’s a cruiser, to be sure, but smaller, sportier and nimbler than the other galoots in Triumph’s fleet.
It’s also a great motorcycle for either a beginner or a person who is under, say, 170 pounds or of general smaller proportions; the seat’s 27.8 inches, so your feet won’t have trouble finding the ground. In fact, the ground will become your friend as leaning produces a scrape of a footrest fairly easily, which is fun if you see it coming.
My 10-day test took me through upstate New York’s twisty forested roads and finally, on the last evening I had the motorcycle, through Times Square at midnight after a solid day of evaluation. Sometimes a motorcycle will do well either with city riding or country cruising, but the Speedmaster handled both like a 541-pound ballerina. You blast off when you twist the throttle even if you happen to find yourself in second gear, but the clutch is butter-smooth with none of that “I can’t find neutral” buzzkill. You’re also skinny enough to squeeze through and around traffic.
It’s got a savage 1200 cc, liquid-cooled, 8-valve, 270-degree crank angle parallel twin engine that grumbles at startup like your Uncle Fred before he’s had his coffee.
Customization’s plentiful, with over 130 accessories on deck to apply or not as you please and up-to-date features like the latest “rider-focused technology” including but not limited to ride-by-wire, two riding modes (‘road’ and ‘rain’), single button cruise control, ABS with switchable traction control, torque assist clutch, and an immobiliser. On further inspection and educating yourself about the motorcycle, you’ll find little touches that up the modernity and class quotient, like the ever-so-sculpted gas tank, a full DRL LED headlamp with classic “nacelle” detailing, and a twin skin chrome exhaust system. There are also a plethora of clothing and accessories available.
Visually it’s retro stem to stern – Triumph says they took styling cues from the original 1938 Speed Twin roadster. It’ll appeal to both the boomers who are buying more of the motorcycles these days and younger cats fond of looking back to the future with classic-looking bikes, straight razors, snuff and vinyl. The motorcycle starts at around $13,000.
Triumph also offers two ‘inspiration kits’ to get your customization rolling; a “Highway” kit focuses on the bike’s touring characteristics with its full pannier set, touring screen, extra comfort seat, and additional features designed to maximise comfort. A “Maverick” kit offers a more stripped-back, streetwise look with single seat setup, flat raked out bars, and stylish blacked out details.
This was one of those tests that kept revealing small pleasures as time went on, rather than feeling as though “I got this” and being done quickly as with some test bikes. The power was there when climbing steep hills in a hurry, the grip was there when I wished to blast around corners, but there was fun to be had in slow times in the rain, in traffic or tootling off to the grocery store and back at midnight. It’s an angry, handsome little bike and a great addition to the 2019 world of motorcycles as manufacturers continue their attempt to maintain profits, to figure out what different customers want, and give it to them.