2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster | First Ride Review

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
For 2018, the Speedmaster becomes part of the updated Bonneville family, shedding its cookie cutter cruiser persona in favor of a handsome, ’60s-inspired, distinctly British look. (Photos by Kingdom Creative)

When the Bonneville America and Speedmaster cruisers disappeared from Triumph’s lineup for 2017, we knew something was afoot. The Bonneville line was in the midst of a radical makeover centered around two new liquid-cooled “High Torque” parallel twins (a 900 and 1200), the wildly popular Bobber was taking social media by storm and Triumph was reaping the rewards.

Read our 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber review

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
The two-tone Fusion White & Phantom Black version features hand-painted gold and black coach lines.

Now we have a new 2018 Bonneville Speedmaster, and it bears little resemblance to its cookie-cutter cruiser predecessor. Yet…there’s something familiar about it, and there’s a reason for that: it’s essentially an “un-bobbed” Bobber. While one would normally start with a “base” model, creating custom variations like bobbers, café racers or scramblers from there, Triumph has done it backwards in this case—and that’s to the Speedmaster’s benefit. It’s a conglomeration of all the Bobber and Bobber Black’s best qualities, with a healthy dose of classic Bonneville DNA.

Read our Bobber comparo: Triumph vs. Indian vs. Moto Guzzi

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
At what we’re guessing is around 550 pounds wet, the Speedmaster is a lightweight by cruiser standards, but it doesn’t look, feel or sound too small at all. The rear seat and chrome grab rail are both easily removable for a clean look.

The 2018 Speedmaster is based on the Bobber’s single rear shock, hardtail-look frame, and it’s powered by the same High Torque 1,200cc parallel twin with what Triumph calls the “Bobber tune,” for more linear power delivery than the T120. We’ve been smitten with the liquid-cooled High Torque 1200 since it was launched with the 2016 Bonneville T120 and T120 Black, and it’s still buttery smooth and powerful enough to satisfy our heavy wrists. For such a torquey engine, it loves to rev, but it has enough grunt to pull you out of a corner or around a slow-moving truck without downshifting.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
The comfy dished saddle and passenger seat are trimmed in white. An even more comfortable touring saddle is available as an accessory, or it comes with the Highway inspiration kit.

Past the engine and frame, the Speedmaster picked up a few pointers from its Bonnie brethren: it has the same 41mm, 3.5-inch travel Kayaba fork as the Bobber, but with more sophisticated cartridge damping and a stiffer spring better suited for two-up riding. Its rear single shock, meanwhile, actually has slightly less travel than the Bobbers (2.9 inches, about 0.15-inch less), but is equipped with a stepped preload adjuster. Stopping power is provided by twin 310mm front discs with floating two-piston Brembo calipers and a single 255mm rear disc with single-piston Nissin caliper, and ABS is standard. It rolls on the Bobber Black’s 16-inch spoked wheels, with wide 130-series front and 150-series rear tires.

Read our 2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black review

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
Details like the headlight nacelle, tank badging, chrome rails and engine accents give the Speedmaster a ’60s feel without going overboard with the retro kitsch.

Perhaps best of all, however, is the larger 3.2-gallon gas tank, which should extend the Speedmaster’s range into the touring realm; if fuel economy reaches Triumph’s claim of 50 mpg, you’d be looking at a 160-mile range. You could also take someone with you or carry luggage (or both), since the Speedmaster is also equipped with a pillion seat and grab rail, both easily removable for one-up cruising.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
Our ride covered stop-and-go traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway, sections of freeway superslab and, best of all, plenty of curves. The Speedmaster soaked it all up and left us wanting more.

While it was made clear that the Speedmaster isn’t exactly a cruiser—as Triumph North America PR Manager Phil Read corrected me, it’s a “British Classic Custom Icon”—it definitely exudes a more laid-back attitude than the upright standard Bonnie T120 and the midmount control, flat bar aggressiveness of the Bobbers. Pull-back beach bars are comfy and not so wide as to make full-lock parking lot turns difficult, and the forward controls aren’t extreme—the lack of floorboards helps—so shorter-inseam riders should find the Speedmaster a good fit. Speaking of which, its 27.8-inch seat is a bit higher than the Bobbers (about half an inch) thanks to thicker seat foam, but it’s still more accessible than the 30.9-inch elevation of the T120’s perch.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
The analog speedometer/LCD displays fuel level, gear position and riding mode, and is switchable to also display an odometer, engine rpm, range to empty, fuel consumption data, time of day, two tripmeters or traction control setting.

The Speedmaster also gets a full suite of electronics, including switchable traction control, throttle-by-wire with two ride modes (Road and Rain; both provide full power, but Rain eases throttle response for slippery conditions), and easy to use single-button cruise control as standard.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
Switchgear is easy to use, with single-button cruise control as standard. Both the brake and clutch levers are adjustable.

One of my biggest pet peeves is long lever travel, and somehow it’s even more annoying on bikes with adjustable levers. I don’t have small hands, yet I’m often stretching my fingers to reach the levers, even when they’re adjusted as far in as possible. For new or smaller riders, that can be intimidating and fatiguing. Well, high fives to Triumph for not only equipping the Speedmaster with an easy-pull assist clutch and adjustable brake and clutch levers, but also making them actually adjust close enough to be easily reached by less than XL-sized hands.

And that segues nicely into the whole point of this review: how is the Speedmaster to ride?

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
While the beach bars are great for cruising, after a full day of aggressive riding in the twisties our wrists were getting a little sore. Swapping for a flat handlebar would solve the problem.

Settling into the comfy saddle, feet a bit forward, gripping the tiller beach bar, we got acclimated to the new cruiser—er, British Classic Custom Icon—by, well, cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway through the quaint seaside towns of Carlsbad and Oceanside, on our way to 150 miles of curvy bliss. The Speedmaster’s exhaust is unique, with a deeper, richer tone than the Bobbers, and as we picked up the pace in the twisties the growl was punctuated regularly by the sound of peg feelers scraping asphalt, an unavoidable side effect of forward controls. The Speedmaster handles so well—light and neutral, with reassuring stability—that it’s all too easy to touch down.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
The Speedmaster incorporates the best of both Bobbers, with a cartridge-style version of the standard Bobber’s lightweight 41mm fork and the 16-inch front wheel and fat 130-series front tire from the Black. The combo is quick and easy to steer, making for a whole lot of fun on a curvy road.

The combination of 41mm cartridge fork, 16-inch front wheel and wide tires seem to be the Goldilocks formula for the stable, 59.4-inch wheelbase Bobber chassis. The Speedmaster turns in with little effort, for that magic combination of quickness and stability. The stiffer springs and improved damping in the fork reduce its tendency to skip across rough pavement in a turn, ideal for both aggressive one-up and regular two-up riding. The brakes are strong and offer good feedback, throttle response is spot-on…it was hard to find anything to complain about except the limited cornering clearance. The funny thing is, if the bike didn’t handle so darn well, that would hardly deserve a mention.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
The forward controls aren’t extreme, so this 5-foot, 9-inch rider was easily able to weight the footpegs through corners. Be careful, though, the peg feelers touch early and often!

The good news is that more aggressive riders who still want the overall look and feel of the Speedmaster have a few options. Triumph offers a plethora of accessories, including a flat handlebar and Bobber-style midmount controls, that will improve your ability to take advantage of the Speedmaster’s handling. There are also two “Inspiration Kits” that are designed to offer turnkey dealer-installed customization options: the single-seat, flat bar Maverick kit and the touring-oriented Highway kit with a windscreen, passenger back rest and saddlebags.

But at the end of the day, if you want a sportbike, Triumph has plenty of other options. The Speedmaster is a unique, powerful, extremely fun to ride, comfortable “cruiser” (sorry, Phil), and if you’re in the market for what I just described you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not taking one for a test ride.

The 2018 Speedmaster is priced at $13,150 for Jet Black, $13,400 for Cranberry Red and $13,650 for Fusion White & Phantom Black with a hand-painted twin coach line. We should start seeing them roll into dealerships in February or March.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster in Fusion White & Phantom Black.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster Specs
Base Price: $13,150 (Jet Black)
Website: triumphmotorcycles.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,200cc
Bore x Stroke: 97.6 x 80.0mm
Transmission: 6-speed, wet multi-plate assist clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain
Wheelbase: 59.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.3 degrees/3.6 in.
Seat Height: 27.8 in.
Claimed Dry Weight: 541 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gals.
MPG: NA

Jenny’s Gear:
Helmet: Nolan N87
Jacket: Joe Rocket Lira
Jeans: Bolid’ster Jeny’ster
Boots: Sidi Livia Rain

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22 COMMENTS

  1. I’m really excited to see this bike in person. When I rode the Bobber, I loved it, but being a one-bike kind of guy, it didn’t hit the mark for me. I like the idea of throwing a bag on the sissy bar and doing multiple-day rides. If the Highway Kit allows for comfortable 300-400 mile days, then this could prove to be a good fit. The fact that it can be stripped down easily for shorter distances and city riding is a nice bonus. The one nit-pick I have is chain final drive. I think a belt would look better.

  2. I am buying mine from Castle Powersports.Just waiting for the phone call.You know…I kind of like the chain.Sloppy but it’s what I like.My Thunderbird has a belt and, that’s fine too.

  3. Jenny, you folks looked mighty fine riding all those Speedmasters last Sunday. I came in to the Palomar Mountain restaurant as your first group was leaving for the East Grade – (backside). I was the nut on the very fast Silver Thruxton R that past as they were doing your photo shoot. The Speedmaster looks great and very comfortable. It looked as though everyone was pleased with the set up. Keep the touring stories coming! I love my Rider magazine subscription!

    • Thanks Don! We did enjoy our ride…especially the stop at the Julian Pie Company! The bike is great, completely different from the old Speedmaster, and better for it. -Jenny

  4. Tubed wheels and a tiny tank do not make a good combination on any motorcycle. No thanks, Triumph. You’re screwing yourself out of customers by doing that. Hilarious that you gave it cruise control with such a puny gas tank. Flat those stupid wheels and you’re not going anywhere but on the back of a flatbed truck. Pathetic of Triumph to do that to someone. Most of you so-called journalists fail to mention this fact. Pathetic.

    A 3.2 gallon fuel tank and tubes and Triumph goes and puts a cruise control on it? Where are you going with that Lilliputian tank? To the gas station and back. To Hell with that. Maybe next year Triumph will have a special edition Spudmaster with a 5 gallon tank and tubeless wheels. Of course then they’ll take off the cruise control. Stupid.

  5. My 2017 T- 120 regularly hits 65 MPG if ridden under 65 MPH. Tubes? Last flat I had on a tubed street bike was in 1971 in front of Old Disneyland. They happen, but with 65 bikes since 1969, I’ve only had that one. I ride about 9,000 miles a year.
    There’s no ‘perfect” bike. But this the Speedmaster in Black/white is my next bike – soon as it stops snowing in Michigan

  6. Been riding for thirty years. 2 flats on tubeless tires and 0 flats on tube tires. Laced wheels not a problem. Besides I think you get a little more shock absorption on laced wheels.

  7. BMW spokes are on the extreme outside of the rim, beyond the tubeless tire so air is not lost around the nipples. Very clever. Come on Triumph, get with this new technology!

  8. I recently purchased the Speedmaster for my wife and she loves it. There was an article titled “Triumph and the Taco”. in the August issue. The article shows a package called the “Highway Inspiration Build package” which includes and windshield, saddlebags bags, backrest, engine bars and a new seat. I cannot find this option anywhere and no dealer can find it either. I am mainly interested in the windshield. Can you help?

  9. Jenny- always enjoy your reviews as you tend to look at the practical side of owning and riding the bikes you test. When I saw the reference to the Highway package I started wondering if this might be the solution to a problem. As I get more miles on the personal odometer( one recent new knee and one to go soon) have been considering options to my big heavy, but comfortable Goldwing. Looking for something a little more nimble but still able to be Ok for a few days of 300 miles and also Ok for shorter two up rides with a small amount of luggage. I am not locked in to any particular type or brand of bike and would appreciate any suggestions you might have. I’m a fairly big guy, 6’2″ and 240 #’s. Also, it does not have to be a new bike.

    • Hi Bob, thanks for your comments and questions. The Speedmaster in Highway guise is a great road-tripper, but you might find it a little on the small side, especially two-up. In fact, since you’ve got some size on your side I’d look hard at an ADV-style ride if you’re looking for comfort and lighter weight. The BMW R 1200 GS is a great choice and surprisingly comfy for two-up. Other good (and less expensive) options are the Suzuki V-Strom, Kawasaki Versys and Yamaha FJ-09/Tracer 900. The GS is nice though since it carries its weight so low, it’s easy to handle, even with a few miles on your odometer. 😉

  10. Thanks Jenny, I knew I asked the right person. I have been looking at several S-Stroms ans VErsys. They are very interesting and probably on target for what I need

  11. I just bought 2018 Speed master with highway kit? Waiting for kit to come in. I had a 02 America ,put 160,000 miles on it. Hope to do same to speed master. It handle’s great . Would like a center stand for chain maintenance.

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