Triumph Speed 400 first ride review | Is this the neo retro bike we’ve all been waiting for?
Few motorcycles have really changed the course of motorcycling in India. In recent years, few examples that come to mind are the KTM 390 Duke, the Royal Enfield Classic 350 and Hero with the Impulse and the Xpulse. Although there seems to be one bike on the horizon that could potentially be the next one on this list. The Bajaj made Triumph Speed 400 is here and it has taken the market by storm. So much so that almost everyone I know from the motorcycling community, myself included, have booked either the Speed or the Scrambler 400 X. This is before even riding either. The reason is simple. On the face of it, Triumph has launched what seems to be a very well-equipped bike, performance and features wise at a price that is simply too hard to resist. Is it too good to be true or does it also ride as good as it looks? We get our hands on the bike on a rainy day to find out.
Triumph Speed 400 design
The Triumph Speed 400 is based on the bigger Speed Twins — the 900 and 1200. So design wise, it looks like a scaled down version of those bikes. Now unlike the Harley-Davidson X440 which has some design cues suggesting it is a part of the Milwaukee based manufacturers fleet, the Speed 400 looks like a ‘pukka Triumph’ through and through. Starting from the front, you have the iconic round headlight with the signature Triumph DRL. All the lighting on this bike is LED but since we rode during the day, we didn’t really get to test the efficacy of the headlight. Behind the headlight, you have a simple but effective semi-analogue instrument cluster with an analogue speedometer and the rest of the information displayed on an LCD, non-TFT screen. Although I would’ve liked it if the speedometer was a digital readout and Triumph gave us an analogue tachometer instead.
Below the cluster is a wide handlebar with bar-end mirrors that do a good job of showing the world you leave behind and this is despite my rather broad shoulders. Then there's the tank with the off-set fuel filler cap. The paint finish with the accenting stripe is finished beautifully. In fact the overall fit and finish of the bike is stunning and definitely almost at par with Triumph’s bigger bikes. Behind the tank you have a rather roomy seat which was comfortable for the 200-odd kilometres I put on it. Even two-up there was enough room for both of us. The bike ends with a sleek looking tail light.
The attention to detail on the Speed 400 is impeccable. Take for example the engine. It is finished very well and despite being liquid-cooled, it still has the asymmetric fins that hark back to Triumph’s older engines. Then there is the exhaust pipe and the way it bends from the header all the way to the muffler — a proper Triumph touch. The engine also wears a small badge that reads ‘TR Series’ identifying this new range of engines. All of these small details really indicate that this is a well thought out motorcycle, as you would expect from one that wears the Triumph badge. If you have an affinity towards neo-retro motorcycles, this one will definitely make you feel weak in your knees.
Triumph Speed 400 engine
Before I get to talking about the engine, let me set the record straight. This is an all-new engine that bears no resemblance to the Bajaj Dominar engine apart from the bore figure. Bajaj claims that the bore figure is a good place which is why the same number. That’s where the similarities end. The 398cc, four-valve, DOHC, single-cylinder engine is liquid cooled and is all-new. Bajaj has zero rights to use it in any of their bikes. The engine produces 39.5bhp at 8000rpm and 37.5Nm of torque at 6500rpm. These power and torque outputs make it amongst the most powerful in the neo-retro class. Triumph has done such a good job of making the bike look like a ‘Speed Twin’ that you’re a little more than surprised when you fire the bike up and are greeted by a single-cylinder coming to life rather than a twin.
The brand claims a 0-60kmph time of 2.8seconds and the run to a ton takes 7-odd seconds. The bike definitely feels as fast, maybe a little faster even. One thing I was a bit worried about when I saw the spec sheet was that the bike would be very peaky in the way it delivered power. I’m happy to report that that is not the case. The Speed 400 is very linear in the way it delivers power. The bike has a very usable low-end and it’s from the mid-range that the power delivery becomes a lot of fun. With a punchy mid-range and top-end the 39.5 ponies that the Speed 400 has to offer are extremely usable. The engine is also fairly tractable and can pull cleanly from speeds as low as 50kmph (around 2500rpm) in sixth all the way to the red line. What this means is that you can enjoy setting your local twisties on fire or slowing things down and soaking in the views and letting pedestrians enjoy the view of your bike, all with the same amount of ease.
The engine is refined for the most part and it’s only after 7500rpm where the real vibrations start to kick in. But before you get there you’re already doing around 120kmph on the speedo and that is more than enough for Indian roads. In terms of top-speed, Triumph claims a 145kmph v-max. But on the straight at Bajaj’s Chakan test track, my 110kg frame comfortably clocked 160kmph on the speedometer. I’m really curious to get the bike for a longer duration and test it with a Vbox to get an idea of what’s what.
The engine is mated to a six-speed gearbox and a torque assist clutch. The gearbox is clicky and tactile and works well most of the time. I had a couple of occasions where the bike didn’t go to a gear very easily. The clutch action is light and the feel is positive. In terms of the exhaust note of the bike, the Speed 400 sounds really nice while on the go with a gruff tone making it sound just as sporty as it feels.
Triumph Speed 400 chassis, ride and handling
The Speed 400 uses an all-new chassis setup with what Triumph calls a hybrid spine perimeter frame with a bolt on subframe. This frame choice was to ensure that the bike is robust enough to handle everything that India and its road conditions has to throw at it. The frame hangs off of a 43mm big piston USD fork setup at the front and a 10-step preload adjustable gas-charged monoshock at the rear. This setup lends the bike with very sorted riding dynamics. Like I said that this bike looks like a proper Triumph, it also rides like one. It’s sharp, predictable, confidence inspiring and a whole lot of fun. We got to have a go at the Chakan test track and immediately the bike felt at home over there. It handled the quick direction changes with a lot of composure, and was stable even on the bumpy sections of the track. The bike is quick to react to steering inputs but not so much that you need to be extremely calculative of your inputs. It holds the line well and throws up no mid corner surprises. The bike is available either with specifically developed MRF tyres or with Apollo Alpha H1s, both W rated. In the dry, both tyres performed well, never running out of grip. But in the wet, the MRFs didn’t inspire as much confidence as the Apollos did. That is something you would want to take into consideration when getting yours.
The suspension setup is plush and deals with our roads rather well. At slower speeds the rear feels ever so slightly stiff and does toss you a bit, but pick the pace up and it starts ironing out the imperfections in the road very nicely. The Endurance suspension setup does a good job in offering a good balance between sporty and comfortable in the way that the Speed 400 rides. Brakes come courtesy of a 300mm disc at the front and a 230mm disc at the rear with a ByBre radial calliper at the front and an axially mounted calliper for the rear disc. The brakes have a good amount of stopping power and even the dual-channel ABS system is well-calibrated and relatively non-intrusive. My only complaint with the braking is the feel at the lever. You need to squeeze the lever a fair bit before the callipers start to bite on the discs. What would have made the experience a lot more enjoyable would be if there was more reaction much earlier in the travel of the brake lever.
Triumph Speed 400 ergonomics
In terms of ergonomics, the Speed 400 strikes a good balance between comfortable and sporty. Your feet are very slightly rearset and your upper body is relaxed, reaching for a fairly wide handlebar. The seat height at 790mm is accessible even for really short riders and at the same time, the bike doesn’t feel cramped even for taller riders. The India-spec Speed 400 has a few location specific bits like a different suspension tune, the saree guard, grab rails, engine guards, stronger wheels, tyres and slightly wider fenders. This has resulted in a 6kg increase in the kerb weight at 176kg. Despite that, the bike feels light and very manageable.
Triumph Speed 400 features and accessories
The Triumph Speed 400 gets all-LED lighting at all ends, dual-channel ABS and a switchable traction control system. The traction control worked well and was always in the background, never really coming in the way of my riding. The cluster is basic with no connectivity features and that is not a big deal-breaker in my opinion. You do however get a type-c charging port for your phone. In terms of accessories, in typical Triumph fashion, you can choose from around 25 high-quality accessories like luggage, luggage racks, guards, crash protection, mirrors and so on. Most of these accessories are also cross compatible, meaning you can put them on both the Speed 400 and the Scrambler 400 X.
Triumph Speed 400 verdict
What Triumph and Bajaj have done with the Speed 400 is exceptional. To be able to offer so much bike at Rs 2.33 lakh (Rs 2.23 lakh for the first 10,000 bookings) is staggering. The bike is built very well, it has more than enough power to keep riders of various skill levels entertained, handles like a proper Triumph and best of all, looks sexy as hell. As I said in the start of this review, this bike really has the potential to be one of those record setting bikes that we’re going to be seeing a lot of on the roads. And I’m not complaining. The Triumph Speed 400 is a great option for anyone who wants a well built, surefooted, engaging and stylish neo-retro bike. It is really hard to find any fundamental problems with the bike and the competition really has their work cut out for them. The only thing we need to really look out for is how well these bikes age, but I'm sure Bajaj and Triumph have worked hard to ensure that that is taken care of too. It really is a great time to be a motorcycle enthusiast in India. Time to break my piggy bank for the Scrambler 400 X now.
Watch our first ride review here: