The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.6
The Triumph Speed Twin is no style-led, retro dandy, or simply a Triumph Thruxton with wider bars. Look more closely and you’ll discover a hugely characterful motorcycle with a unique combination of relaxed geometry and torque rich engine that makes it fast, friendly and forgiving to ride. The Speed Twin isn’t just our pick of Triumph’s Modern Classics range, but our pick of the modern retros.
Reasons to buy
- Sweetest handling Triumph in the Modern Classics range
- Performance tweaks well suited to UK roads
- Classic looks turn heads
At a glance
The Speed Twin offers the sort of ruthlessly decluttered aesthetic that turns non-motorcycle heads at 100 paces. Triumph may be a company with a somewhat bumpy history, but its customers still expect the Modern Classics range of motorcycles to explore this heritage. The Speed Twin badge was first seen on a Triumph in 1937, yet rather than dusting off some old badges and utilising the best parts bin engineering, the Speed Twin features a costly bespoke frame, custom seven-spoke alloys and new geometry to create an oh-so-right silhouette.
The Speed Twin’s tubular steel frame may be based on the Triumph Thruxton Café Racer but it features a re-designed sub-frame and new aluminium engine cradle to save weight. With a seat height of 807mm, it’s marginally taller than a Ducati Scrambler (790mm) or BMW R nineT (785mm) but thanks to a narrow petrol tank and bench seat, it remains easy for most riders to get two feet flat on the floor. The geometry is set somewhere between the Bonneville T120 and Thruxton, though it feels more on the sporty side with wide bars and footpegs positioned just 38mm in front of the Thruxton’s settings.
The 100-mile range (14.5-litre tank, 45mpg) proves the Speed Twin hasn’t been designed to devour hours of motorway miles at a time, but thanks to a smooth engine, vibe-free mirrors, more upright riding position and padded seat, it can still do it. While all-day comfortable for the rider, the Speed Twin would prove less enjoyable for passengers as there are no decent grab handles offered as standard. Under the seat provides access to the battery, fuses and a two amp USB socket for charging your mobile phone on the go.
Performance & braking
There is nothing remotely retro about the way the Triumph Speed Twin starts or stops. While the original 1937 bike employed a 500cc parallel twin, the 2019 version uses the same thoroughly modern 1200cc parallel twin motor found in the current Thruxton, albeit with magnesium engine covers, lightened crank shaft and clutch assembly to save weight. It develops 90bhp at 6750rpm and has a torque curve so rich, it’s nearly flat, hitting a a maximum 80lb ft at 3750rpm. As such, the Speed Twin is as happy thumping around town as it is chasing the redline on a B road. It’s this abundance of torque and the comparatively short gearing that defines the Speed Twin, allowing you to access all the fun and performance at speeds that aren’t going to lose your license. Only a snappy throttle opening in the sportiest of rider modes prevented otherwise smooth and silky progression in all scenarios. Even the twin 305mm front discs and single 220mm rear disc proved worthy companions in stopping 196kg of motorcycle.
Ride & handling
With good low-speed balance, a relatively low seat and well-mannered fuelling (in rain and road modes at least), the Speed Twin is a superb urban commuter. Yet the real revelation for ride and handling comes out of town. While the Thruxton is a lighter weight version of the Bonneville T120, the Speed Twin is lighter still and you can feel that agility and positivity when you turn into the first corner. The wide bars, the reduced rotating inertia of the seven-spoke alloys, the front end feel of the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres... Despite the non-adjustable 41mm KYB cartridge forks and fairly basic rear shocks, the Speed Twin feels noticeably better through corners of every conceivable radius, camber and severity. And yet, if Triumph had fitted the Ohlins suspension from the Thruxton R, this bike could be even better. Speed Twin R, anybody?
The original Speed Twin was designed by the company’s managing director and chief designer of the time, Edward Turner, and was considered a seminal moment in Triumph’s early history as it offered everyday riders a high-performance motorcycle for a low price: £74 or around £5,000 in today’s money. You’d have to look to Royal Enfield for that sort of bargain these days, but the Speed Twin more than justifies its modern asking price - on par with a Bonneville T120, marginally less than a Triumph Thruxton - by being technically cutting edge. All versions will deliver around 50mpg so whether you go for the Speed Twin, Thruxton or T120 will ultimately depend on how you enjoy your riding.
The Speed Twin may be a new model, but the 1200cc parallel twin is well established in the Modern Classics range, as is the quality of its products and the robustness of Triumph’s two-year warranty. Any recalls are also conducted by the dealer network free of charge.
Warranty & servicing
All Triumph models receive a minimum two-year warranty and two-year roadside assistance. According to a main dealer, customers should budget £100 for the first 600-mile service, followed by £249 every year or 10,000-mile intervals thereafter. The 20,000-mile service, however, involves valve clearance checks and will cost approximately £549.
All bikes come with a wealth of modern features including three rider modes - wet, road, sport – switchable traction control, two trips, fuel range, gear indicator and ABS. The heated grips may radiate decent warmth, but they’re not on the nuclear level of BMW’s offerings and the same applies to Triumph’s aftermarket catalogue. There may be plenty of warranty-covered mirrors, seats, Vance & Hines exhausts and two-tone paint options (Korosi Red and Storm Grey are a £300 option) to choose from, but it’s a long way from the Harley-Davidson ‘tome’ of accessories.
The Speed Twin is both beautiful to look at and beautiful to ride. If you don’t like the styling of the Ducati Scrambler 1100, or the sound of the BMW R nineT, yet still want something that is as well built, well finished and as entertaining to ride, then the Speed Twin needs to be on your shopping list. For us, it isn’t just the pick of the Bonneville range, it’s the pick of the modern retros.