2020 Triumph Speed Twin Review: A Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

The 2020 Triumph Speed Twin is a good looking classic machine! (Photos: TFLbike)

The instant I swung my lanky legs over the Triumph Speed Twin’s saddle, I felt like I was on some kid’s bike. Almost like I was straddling an engine – accentuated by the fact that the frame is so narrow and relatively low to the ground. The riding position initially felt a little awkward, yet at the same time fairly comfy on my 60-mile spin. The foot pegs on this latest model are set lower and more forward than that of the sportier Thruxton model, which may account for the different feel.

The sculpted gas tank, which allows one’s knees to tuck in from the wind, and short handlebar width, added to the feeling that I was riding a machine that could be easily tossed about like a rag doll.

Ah, but wait, beneath my posterior I felt the weight of a lump. Triumph has bolted a 1200cc, eight valve, SOHC parallel twin under the seat and although the motorcycle feels diminutive, the big powerplant makes its presence felt at all times. I noticed this especially when cornering or accelerating. It felt like it wants to stand you up – almost like a warning – if you dare to lean too far over.

It took a little getting used to, being a crotch-rocket rider myself, so I had to come to terms with the fact that this is a café racer, more suited to comfy boulevard cruising with the odd blast of excitement here and there.

Great Pedigree

There is some great history and pedigree to this machine. The Speed Twin made its debut in 1938 thanks to Edward Turner, Triumph’s visionary boss, who drafted the engineering concept, which eventually became the Triumph Speed Twin.

Turner figured that by using two half-sized pistons instead of one biggie – it smoothed out the ride considerably. Then he added aluminum connecting rods to eliminate a costly five-piece roller crank assembly. By doing this he could squeeze the engine into existing Triumph frames and save production costs – which is ultimately what enabled the marque to survive the war years in England. Between 1938 and 1966 no less than 45,000 Speed Twins were sold. Impressive to say the least…

Features

Back to 2020 and the latest Speed Twin. The latest model will set you back $12,200 and for an extra $500 you can color the fuel tank, which our test bike sported. For your money you also get a low inertia, six speed, parallel twin of 1200 cc producing 96 hp at 6750 rpm and 82 lb-ft of torque at a lowly 4950 rpm.

Stopping power is provided by twin Brembo 4-piston axial calipers with twin floating discs up front, while at the rear Nissin 2 piston floating rear caliper with a single disc help hold the horses. The ABS controlled brakes were nicely responsive with good bite during my twisty excursion.

Front suspension consists of KYB forks with cartridge damping and at the rear twin KYB rear suspension units with adjustable spring pre-load which soaks up the bumps nicely. New lightweight 7-spoke aluminum wheels shod with Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3 tires made for a very solid ride, the tires are really sticky and instilled great confidence in the curves.

Technology

Rider aids includes ride-by-wire, ABS with switchable traction control, and three modes of riding, Road, Rain and Sport.  A torque-assist clutch also does a great job providing for smooth shifting. The riding modes worked well and it was simple to toggle between them. I tended to keep it in ‘Sport’ during my shortish test ride up and down a canyon or two.

Cool Retro Styling

Triumph has done a nice job with the styling on this machine. The Signature 3.8 gallon tank, twin upswept sports silencers, bench seat, sculpted side panels with aluminum detailing, and bar-end mirrors all hark back to the early versions of this versatile sportster and pay tribute to its roots.

On The Road

After a couple of hours in the saddle here how I would summarize the Triumph Twin Sport. This machine has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

It’s so much fun to ride. The engine is so tractable, even in fifth gear at low revs, a sudden twist of the throttle elicits a burst of power and a surge of gut-wrenching acceleration.

It’s a bit of a British brute when opened up and tossed about and can feel fast and sporty when the urge arises, yet it’s also easy to doddle along comfortably at low rpms on a leisurely ride to the store. It also sounds good and emits a pop-pop exhaust note on downshifts, for that added sporty tone.

This may not be super sports ‘R ‘bike, but it’s also a lot more than just a classic looker. It rides well, handles relatively well for a café racer, looks good, and offers some cool new technology.

The Speed Twin is available in three colors: Silver Ice / Storm Grey, Korosi Red / Storm Grey, and Jet Black

MSRP: $12,200 (color tank option – add $500.00)

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION
TypeLiquid-cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel-twin
Capacity1200 cc
Bore97.6
Stroke80
Compression11.0 :1
Max Power EC96Hp (72kW) @ 6,750rpm
Max Torque EC82.6 FT-lbs (112Nm) @ 4,950 rpm
SystemMulti-point, sequential electronic fuel injection
ExhaustBrushed 2-into-2 exhaust system with twin brushed silencers
Final DriveX ring chain
ClutchWet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox6-speed
CHASSIS
FrameTubular steel with aluminum cradle
SwingarmTwin-sided, aluminum
Front WheelCast aluminum alloy, 17 x 3.5 in
Rear WheelCast aluminum alloy, 17 x 5.0 in
Front Tire120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire160/60 ZR17
Front Suspension41mm cartridge forks, 4.7 in (120mm) travel
Rear SuspensionTwin shocks with adjustable preload, 4.7 in (120mm) rear wheel travel
Front BrakesTwin 305mm discs, Brembo 4-piston fixed calipers, ABS
Rear BrakesSingle 220mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Instrument Display and FunctionsLCD multi-functional instrument pack with analog speedometer, analog tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, range-to-empty indication, service indicator, clock, trip computer, scroll and mode buttons on handlebars, fuel consumption display, traction control status and throttle mode display. TPMS ready.
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS
Width Handlebars29.9 in (760mm)
Height Without Mirror43.7 in (1110mm)
Seat Height31.8 in (807mm)
Wheelbase56.3 in (1430mm)
Rake22.8 degrees
Trail3.68 in (93.5mm)
Dry Weight432 lbs (196kg)
Tank Capacity3.8 US gal (14.5l)