Common Tread

The Speedmaster returns, but Triumph leaves us guessing on the details

Sep 18, 2017

I woke up this morning to a surprise announcement from Triumph Motorcycles: The Speedmaster is returning and it looks to be quite different from its namesake. 

I say “surprise” because there was no traditional press release issued. Instead, keeping with the current fashion of the day, Triumph uploaded a teaser video to YouTube and their social media outlets.

Originally introduced to the American market in 2003, the Speedmaster was a mid-sized cruiser in Triumph's Modern Classic lineup. It was powered by Triumph’s 790 cc air-cooled parallel twin found in their Bonneville line until it got the bump to the 865 cc engine in 2005. Over the years, Triumph had marketed the Speedmaster as the sportier version of their other air-cooled cruiser, the America. In reality, however, there was little more than styling cues separating the two bikes. In spite of its name, no one accused the Speedmaster of being an aggressive speed machine. 

Instead, both the Speedmaster and America served riders interested in the Triumph brand but who didn't feel comfortable bumping up to the larger, heaver, more powerful, Thunderbird. Folks who were more familiar with the Americanized cruiser look than with the retro-British aesthetic of the rest of the modern classic lineup. The Speedmaster was Triumph's take on a Harley-Davidson Sportster.

2016 Triumph Speedmaster
The old air-cooled Speedmaster was discontinued in 2016. Triumph photo.

The Speedmaster disappeared from showroom floors in 2016 when the British firm introduced their new liquid-cooled Bonneville lineup. Aside from the bump in displacement in 2005, and a slight style update in 2011, the bike had remained relatively unchanged since its inception. It had grown long in the tooth and I suspect waning sales played a role in Triumph’s decision to leave the Speedmaster out of the revamped Bonneville line. However, with the success of Triumph's new Bobber, maybe there is place in the current line for a Speedmaster after all.

2018 Triumph Speedmaster
By the look of it, the new Speedmaster will get the larger 1200 cc engine found in the T-120 and Bobber. Image from Triumph video.

Details in the video are sparse, but I feel safe in making a few guesses as to what we are going to see. I would expect styling similar to that of the Bobber, a minimal stance with a heavy dose of nostalgia. From what I can see in the video, it looks like it will have forward controls and the larger 1,200 cc engine currently being used in the T-120 and Bobber. Unlike the Bobber, I would expect the Speedmaster to have accommodations for a passenger.

Personally, I never liked the style and look of the original Speedmaster, America, or Thunderbird. I felt the bikes lacked the character that seemed to set most Triumphs apart from the rest of the motorcycling pack. Bikes like the Speed Triple, Thruxton, and Bonneville bucked the norms of their day while the Rocket III, Daytona, and Sprint ST attacked established categories while maintaining a style which was distinctly Triumph.

When Triumph introduced the Bobber last year, I felt they finally created a “cruiser” that was uniquely their own. While I tried hard to avoid engaging Lemmy in conversations as to whether or not it was truly a “Bobber,” I found it to be a compelling machine. Clean lines, quality hardware, and a style that took a definitive step away from what the rest of the industry was doing.

I would hope that we see the Speedmaster follow down this same road. According to the video, we’ll get a chance to see for ourselves soon enough. The Speedmaster will be unveiled in the United Kingdom on October 3 with a U.S. release slated for 7 p.m. EST on October 10 in Washington D.C.