Triumph Speed 400 first ride review: A Triumph for the masses
Variety is the spice of life. We all know this to be true. And in that respect, in the sub-500cc motorcycle space out here in India, things have certainly gotten a lot spicier this July, because although there are great motorcycles in this segment in the form of the Honda CB bikes, RE 350s and KTM 390s and others, there are Global players like Harley-Davidson and Triumph who are entering that space for the first time in a long time, after teaming up with Indian manufacturers like Hero MotoCorp and Bajaj Auto respectively. The Triumph Speed 400 is the first motorcycle to be born of the Triumph-Bajaj Auto alliance, and as you can see, it is a very handsome looking motorcycle which promises a lot with the amount of features it has to offer, and it's aggressively priced at Rs 2.33 lakh. So it's the most affordable offering that Triumph has out in the country, but is it a true-blue Triumph Motorcycle? Let's find out.
Now everyone that tuned into the launch of the Triumph Speed 400 was completely baffled by its pricing which undercut even something like the Bajaj Dominar 400 with the introductory price for the first 10,000 bikes. Post that, the first thing most of us thought of was, well if it's so cheap and affordable, they must have cut some corners in some way, in terms of build quality or fit and finish, right? Wrong. Because everything about the Speed 400 is as you would naturally expect on some of Triumphs larger capacity motorcycles. If you previously thought the attention to detail on motorcycles like the latest Royal Enfield J-series of bikes was impressive, well they've gone one massive step ahead with this one.
From the tidy welds all over its chassis to the neat tucking away of its wiring, down to the powder textured finishes on bits like the front mud guard, the quality of clamps, the gloss finished tank the machine-finished fins on the engine and even the stainless-steel exhaust can, everything is top-drawer and looks on par with higher capacity motorcycles that brandish Triumph badging. It feels like you're getting more than your money's worth at this rate. Class-leading quality in every sense.
You get LED lights at both ends with DRLs up front that are very reminiscent of the bigger bikes from the British manufacturer's stable, and I absolutely love the little Triumph logo in the headlamp and LED tail lamp units which undeniably add touches of class. The chunky golden USD front fork and that wide handlebar with its bar-end mirrors that sits atop it gives the bike a very butch, retro-macho appeal.
Even in profile from the tank, past the liquid-cooled engine, the exhaust manifold, the panels down through to the bench seat to the tail section, everything about the Speed 400 looks neat, proportional and thoughtfully designed. It maintains certain design elements of the current crop of Bonneville bikes and cannot be mistaken for anything other than a Triumph motorcycle.
The instrument console consists of a very neatly laid out analogue speedometer and a digital LCD screen which reads out two trips, time, level of fuel, average fuel consumption, gear position indicator and the switchgear too has a nice crisp feel to it, just like on the bigger more expensive Triumph motorcycles that we've gotten our hands on in the recent past. No Bluetooth connectivity with this Triumph though, and honestly, you won't be too bothered by the lack of it. You do get a conveniently located USB socket so you can mount your phone or GPS devices the bar and keep them charging on the go.
Now although Triumph has left out features like ride modes and Bluetooth connectivity with this motorcycle, the great thing about it is that it has included more practical features like ABS, which can't be switched off, but the traction control can be, and that's not something you get to see every day on a motorcycle of this displacement category. Also the liquid-cooled engine, the slipper clutch, ride-by-wire throttle, all features that are really useful out on the road, especially in conditions like this and that's a brilliant thing.
Although the Speed 400 packs a good amount of features, the real outstanding bits about it for me has to be 398cc, single-cylinder liquid cooled motor. Makes about 40PS of max power and 37.5Nm of max torque. Comes mated to a six-speed gearbox. This thing makes a good amount of low-end torque, high-up the band there's a good amount of juice for you to extract and its mid-range is just perfect. Low down the band things are just so smooth, refinement levels are great, and the way the chassis is setup, it's a hybrid chassis of sorts where you have parts of the tubular steel perimeter frame neatly hidden behind the tank and some of the panels, and the sub-frame is bolted on. The way this bike is setup, it's just so enjoyable, the way the power is delivered, it's just excitement all the way through.
Now Triumphs new TR-series engine might have the same 80mm bore as Bajaj's own Dominar 400, but it's very different in its construct and mentality out on the road. The Speed 400 may look like an easy-going roadster, but with the amount of power it has to offer it enters KTM 390 Duke territory, and although its acceleration of the line isn't as aggressive as that of the Austrian motorcycle, it's more gradual, linear and will get your blood pumping fast with as much as 80 percent of the max torque kicking in at 3,000rpm. This gives the bike a good amount of shove in the low-mid-range. You could say that the Triumph takes a more gentlemanly approach to performance, and I'm sure that this is something that many will fancy.
The 4-valve DOHC engine pulls nice and clean which not only feels great at the bars and the pegs with characterful vibes, but it sounds great too. At 6,000rpm the bike appears to get its second wind and pulls ever so sweetly all the way up to the redline near the 8,500rpm mark complimented nicely with throaty roar from the stainless steel exhaust can all the way through. Its first gear is short but beyond that the gearing of the higher cogs is spot on, allowing it to also be one of the most tractable single pot motors of its time.
You could be doing speeds of around 100-110kmph in fifth, brake hard, reduce speed down to about 35kmph and not have to shift down at all. Even at around 100kmph in sixth at around 4,000rpm, the engine feels like it has hit a sweet spot and it's waiting for you to open up some more and let the speedo needle fly further up north. This is definitely a motorcycle that you could ride every day and still not get bored of riding it at all, for a good amount of years to come.
The Speed 400 has been designed ground-up by Triumph and out here, completely built by Bajaj, and it feels like a motorcycle of remarkable quality, even when it comes to its handling mannerisms and dynamics. You'll be seated in a fairly upright position on this motorcycle with no stress on your palms as you reach out for the wide handlebar, while your feet are slightly rearset in a sporty stance. Another exceptional bit about this motorcycle has to be its chassis, which makes it one of the easiest motorcycles to manoeuver at all speeds, and it really feels so effortless going about it even in tricky road and weather conditions. Out on the wet roads between Mumbai and Pune cities, I had my reservations about the tyres that this bike comes with, because while the International spec Speed 400 gets sticky Metzeller M9 RR tyres, the India-spec bike only gets the option of MRF and Apollo manufactured tyres which are both of the same sizes front and rear.
The bike we rode out on, into Maharashtra's monsoons, came clad with Apollo 110/70 and 150/60 section R 17 tyres at both ends and although they might not match up to the M9 RRs while exuberantly lunging into corners, I'm thrilled to report that I walked away very impressed with their performance. Very confident in the way they held up on all sorts of surfaces especially in the wet, and coupled with the responsive pair of disc brakes equipped with Dual-channel ABS, which can't be switched off, and the traction control unit which jumped into action on multiple occasions while launching the bike and going hard on the gas out of corners on some nice twisties, everything worked very well in instilling a high level of confidence at all times. You see, this is a performance motorcycle at the end of the day, so there are going to be instances where you'll feel like pushing on hard, and having this kind of safety net for you to fall back on is more than mildly reassuring to say the least.
Even the way the suspension is configured on this motorcycle is highly impressive. The bike takes away the sharpness of most bumps that you will come across while the seating provides a good amount of space for you and your pillion to adjust yourselves and go about your business in comfort and style. Handling of the Speed 400 is very neutral and it won't be long before you get used to riding this motorcycle and going all guns blazing on it.
The India-spec bike weighs six kg more than the Eurospec bike that was showcased in the UK a couple of weeks before it was launched in India, and the differences between the two are - the Speed 400 set for India gets a neatly integrated numberplate bracket up front, the suspension tuning which is set up for Indian standards, the engine guards which come standard, the grab rail at the back, the saree guard and of course the tyres. Still, there's very little to find fault with, with the Speed 400, although I was slightly concerned with the location of its engine cooling liquid reservoir which is just behind the thin bashplate.
Looking at the Speed 400's pricetag and with all that it brings to the table, you get a sense of this roadster being a real steal of a deal. And it really is so! Overall, you really feel like you're getting more than your money's worth with this motorcycle. Just like some of Triumph's bigger more expensive bikes, the Speed 400 comes across as a highly capable and desirable machine, but the crazy bit about this one is that it's well within financial reach too. It is sure to ruffle the feathers of each and every player in this displacement category, and that's not something that we, as Indian motorcycle enthusiast, will complain about.
Now given this motorcycle's price of Rs 2.33lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), there's nothing currently out on the road that comes close to it, because it ticks a lot of boxes which is awesome. Right from its level of fit and finish, the quality of parts, the suspension, the brakes, the wheels, the way the engine performs, the way the chassis holds up under pressure, the way it handles, the ride quality, it's just such an amazingly well put-together machine. You'll have a real good time astride this machine once you get your hands on it. Yes, variety is the spice of life, and the competition will definitely have to roll up their socks and better their products to match up to this one, because it has set an all-new benchmark in this segment, at this price. Also, yes there's another version of this motorcycle that's just around the corner the Triumph Scrambler 400 X, which is the more off-road centric, not completely off-road focussed, but that one too is going to be a very promising proposition when it comes out this later October.
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