Here at Rider, we have an unofficial motto: “Ride to eat, eat to ride.” And I contend that the perfect road food is the taco. So I set out to find the perfect taco on a 2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster.
That’s right, the lowly taco, eaten by indigenous peoples in what is now Mexico since long before the Spanish arrived, bastardized (and popularized by Taco Bell) into the hard-to-eat, crunchy, ground beef, iceberg lettuce and yellow cheese-filled version most Americans are familiar with.
What I’m after, however, is authentic Mexican street food: variations on a theme of meat, onions and cilantro served on a soft corn tortilla. Street tacos are small enough to stave off hunger without making you feel stuffed or sleepy, and you can grab one quickly and eat standing next to your bike. The best part is they’re packed with flavor—much more satisfying than a dry granola bar or greasy cheeseburger.
California, as you might expect, is replete with good Mexican food, and you’ll find taco stands and taco trucks everywhere from urban street corners to the side of a random farm road. (Helpful hint No. 1: where there’s agriculture, there are good tacos.)
We happened to have a 2018 Triumph Speedmaster fitted with the optional “Highway” accessories in the Rider garage, ideal for a two-night road trip up California’s Central Coast—what better opportunity to seek out the perfect example of the perfect road food?
The Speedmaster (read the First Ride Review here) is all new for 2018. Based on the Bonneville Bobber platform, it borrows the best of both Bobber versions and then dresses up in classically beautiful 1950s style, complete with swept-back beach bar, streamlined headlight nacelle and, in the case of our loaner bike, two-tone cream and black paint accented with hand-painted gold and black coach lines.
Read our First Ride Review of the Bobber Black here.
Helmet: Bell Star MIPS
Jacket: Furygan Legend
Pants: AGV Sport Aura
Boots: Rev’It Royale H2O
It shares the Bobbers’ hardtail-look frame with a hidden shock, High Torque 1,200cc parallel twin and throttle-by-wire with Road and Rain ride modes and switchable traction control. It borrows the standard Bobber’s 41mm, 3.5-inch travel Kayaba fork, but with cartridge damping like the Bobber Black and a stiffer spring for two-up riding, and its rear shock is fitted with a stepped preload adjuster.
Adequate 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 chunky front and rear tires. Best of all is the larger 3.2-gallon gas tank, which we found good for at least 150 miles.
In stock form the Speedmaster is a classic cruiser, but Triumph’s Highway Inspiration Build ($2,250) transforms it into a weekend road warrior, with waxed cotton and leather saddlebags, a three-position windshield, comfort rider and pillion seats, a chrome passenger backrest/luggage rack and engine bars and a polished oil filler cap. Riders can mix and match the accessories from this or other Inspiration Builds to suit their specific needs.
The first night on my Taco Trail ride was up in Santa Cruz County, south of the San Francisco Bay Area, so I hightailed it up four-lane U.S. Route 101, covering 312 of my 850 miles in one fell swoop.
I ducked off at San Miguel for gas and my first taco at Taco Mafia, where I chose carnitas, which literally means “little meats,” a tender pulled pork style that originates from the western Mexican state of Michoacán. Farther north, the landscape opened up into the wide, flat, agricultural Salinas Valley, and the breeze off the ocean cooled me down after the warm inland temperatures.
Castroville bills itself as “The Artichoke Center of the World,” but it’s also the home of a must-stop tacqueria, Deliciosos Tacos. Wedged into a decrepit strip center next to an equally questionable-looking Chinese restaurant, this is the kind of place where all the signs are in Spanish and only cash is accepted. I opted for a taco al pastor.
Al pastor, which means “shepherd style,” has interesting origins. It developed in Central Mexico, based on the shawarma-style grilling technique brought by Lebanese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pork is marinated in chiles, spices and pineapple, then layered vertically on a rotating spit and once cooked is sliced off with a knife—the same technique used for Greek gyros.
Back on the bike, after nearly 300 miles of four-lane highway, the Speedmaster in Highway guise was proving to be a capable and friendly companion. Smooth and powerful, the 1,200cc parallel twin rumbled pleasantly from its two slash-cut mufflers and delivered plenty of grunt through the wide-ratio gearbox.
Sixth gear is almost an overdrive, and once engaged around 75 mph the dual-counterbalanced engine settled into a silky smooth lope that was all-day comfortable. The windshield, in the middle of three positions, was effective and non-obtrusive, producing just some light buffeting. Like most feet-forward cruisers, my rear was complaining from being locked into position, but the comfort seat helped on the long drone north.
Fortunately, I would soon be leaving the superslab and heading for tarmac that twists and turns among the giant coast redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. State Route 9 is one of many such roads that crisscross the area, but as a major route between the Bay Area and Santa Cruz, it carries quite a bit of traffic.
At Boulder Creek I hung a left on State Route 236 into Big Basin Redwoods State Park. If you’ve got the time, it’s well worth a stop to hike off your tacos and get up close and personal with the mighty redwoods.
Back on Route 9, it was time to meander toward my first night’s stop at Flipjack Ranch, a working organic farm-turned-bed-and-breakfast owned by two motorcycle enthusiasts. They sell homemade wine and fruit preserves too, which made me glad I brought a tail bag; the Speedmaster’s small saddlebags are only good for a bare-bones weekend, even riding solo.
Flipjack would make a fantastic base for exploring the area, but time was short so I headed out the following morning and aimed my front wheel south. It was bittersweet—as much as I would’ve liked to explore more, I was excited to revisit Big Sur, which I hadn’t ridden since the winter 2016 landslides closed Highway 1 in two places.
I was blessed with a perfect morning of clear skies, blue waters and light traffic before detouring off Highway 1 at its southern closure, clawing my way up the coastal mountains on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road—not a road for the faint of heart! Its tight turns and switchbacks were taking a toll on my wrists, especially after the many curves along Big Sur.
The Speedmaster’s beach bar is perfect for cruising, but after nearly two days my right wrist and forearm were aching from twisting the throttle at an awkward angle; the standard cruise control helped, but only on straight sections. Swapping to a more traditional handlebar would solve the problem.
Other than the awkward bar and a tendency to scrape footpegs, the Speedmaster is a nimble and confident mount on challenging roads, and is at its best on smooth, sweeping curves.
Back in the golden inland hills, I looped through Fort Hunter Liggett and into Paso Robles wine country, rejoining Highway 1 in the village of Cambria. Nestled in the hills among coastal pine and cypress trees, Cambria is an ideal southern base for a Central Coast ride.
The next morning, after a freshly roasted cuppa joe at the Cambria Coffee Roasting Company, I meandered inland on the rolling, curving State Route 46 to Atascadero—out of my way, yes, but I couldn’t ride within 20 miles of Garcia’s and not stop.
We discovered Garcia’s on our “Monkey Butt 500” ride, and the tacos de adobada (a variation on al pastor with a heavier Middle Eastern influence) were good enough to be crave-inducing: cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice warming the mild chile spices.
Then it was back to the coast on pastoral State Route 41, and one last taco, an important style to California in particular: the fish taco. Originating in Baja, they’re filled with either grilled or fried fish, and are usually topped with lettuce or shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and sour cream or a citrus/mayo sauce. Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos, a favorite of EIC Tuttle, serves up its own unique variation: smoked fish. Very unique, and quite tasty!
As I wound my way home on Highway 1, I reflected on how lucky I am to live in a place with such diverse and delicious food, ideal weather, spectacular scenery and entertaining roads. Not to mention my ability to take bikes like the 2018 Speedmaster on weekend road trips. It all makes my lifelong search for the perfect taco that much more enjoyable.
2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster Specs
Base Price: $13,150 (Jet Black)
Price as Tested: $15,900 (color, “Highway” Inspiration Build)
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Bore x Stroke: 97.6 x 80.0mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Valve Train: OHV, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 12,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: Multipoint sequential EFI w/ 44mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 4.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated assist wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Charging Output: 558 watts @ 3,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 10AH
Frame: Tubular-steel cradle & twin-sided tubular-steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 59.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.3 degrees/3.6 in.
Seat Height: 27.8 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm cartridge-style fork, no adj., 3.5-in. travel
Rear: Single laydown shock, adj. for spring preload, 2.9-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 310mm discs w/ 2-piston floating calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 255mm disc w/ 1-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Spoked, 2.50 x 16 in.
Rear: Spoked, 3.50 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: Tube-type, 130/90-B19
Rear: Tube-type, 150/80-R16
Wet Weight: 616 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 435 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 1,051 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gals., last 0.8 gal. warning light on
MPG: 87 PON min. (low/avg/high) 46.9/54.6/60.2
Estimated Range: 175 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,500
Great to read about real tacos on the road.
Just looking at Rider for the first time in years. Amazing that thee first article I read in Rider was a taco search by Beau Alan Pacheco (sp?) and friends. Great article Jenny! Well written, interesting and may pull me back in as a subscriber!
Good article, great photos, and a nice bike! Definitely a little jealous of the West coast right now. Well done!
Would be nice to hear more about the bike than all the bull. Can’t even find the horsepower of the bike. Worst bike review seen in a while. Wasted my time.
Well aren’t you a lovely human being? Here:
Max Torque EC: 78FT-lbs (106Nm) @ 4,000rpm Max Power EC: 77Hp (57kW) @ 6,100rpm
Now go away.
Lol, I enjoyed your review. I am about to buy this bike and was very helpful. BOB, all the info you are after is on triumph website. Its great to read about an actual riding experience.
Gee it frustrates me that Triumph has failed globally to provide Speedmasters for reviews like this without the optional mid foot controls fitted. The peg scraping is drastically reduced / all but eliminated once the mid foot controls are fitted – Bobber Black reviews are a good guide on this issue – since a mid mounted Speedmaster is really a Bobber Black with beefed up rear suspension and various options for 2 up riding. I also found I can ride all day with no back problems once the mid fort controls were fitted + the comfort seat. Much more natural riding position. The touring screen makes for much quicker roll on acceleration 60 -90 mph – way lower drag. Agree that the middle position for the screen is best – though I take my screen off unless I am doing longer rides at high speeds – it’s only 4 screws (torque hex). Screen makes for more wind noise and I can’t hear that glorious exhaust note under acceleration load quite as well (“who me Officer?”). I cranked the pre load to the 5 setting for 2 up riding and ended up leaving it there as it stiffened the suspension nicely for 1 up fanging about. I’m ok about the Beach Bars – Especially since the optional alternative from Triumph is the Bobber Black flat bar – which is the other extreme for me. I did adjust the handle angles carefully though to suit my hands (standard Allen key). Brakes are good – but you need to be a front brake type rider – twin Brembos up front – the rear is pretty weak I find – so riders coming off rear brake heavy Harleys etc will need to adapt. Btw I am 55 / 6’1 / 180 lbs. Ps. I’m done now. Now that I have this thing dialled in – Its such an adaptable piece of rorting good fun that this is my last bike. PPS . Whingeing Dude – lighten up – there are multiple cross references to an earlier article with more tech details.
Typo in first sentence. Meant to say “with”, not “without”.
A little late to this party, but this is a really helpful addendum to an already enjoyable review.
Does anyone know what type of saddlebags those are and where to get them
Hi guys, i test rode today… I own a 2010 T100 and am thinking of buying this Speedmaster which i test rode.. I was hoping the beach bars and seat would help iron out my T100 issues.. being a sore arse after 1 hour in the saddle. The bars on the SM.. seemed to be uncomfortable to me.. The saddle too..I did ride the SM with standard seat fitted.. and am undecided..and am asking if i can get to ride with the ” Comfort” seat.. but from my previous experience, i wouldnt be that optimistic that it will be much of an improvement. It (SM) is def an uprgrade on my T100, but K20 AUD worth, im not sure.
I’m with Bob ……tacos…..really?? WTF