2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster SuperLow vs. Triumph America [Video]
Prestige-brand cruisers that won’t crush your pocketbook
2012 Triumph America $8299 – $8599
The SuperLow’s compact dimensions open doors to the cruiser world for riders that, well, also have their own compact dimensions and are on a limited budget. The America, on the other hand, is a reg’lar-size machine. But it also comes with a price that won’t induce sticker shock, making it an excellent alternative for cost-conscious riders that don’t require a somewhat-specialized rider triangle.
I was surprised at the stark contrast between each bike’s rider layout when I had my first opportunity to switch immediately from the SuperLow to the America
You’ll sit mostly upright in the Triumph’s large, wide saddle (the passenger seat is also roomy), and the sweeping pull-back handlebar makes for a natural, easy reach. In contrast to the Harley’s mid-mount foot controls, the America’s footpegs are mounted forward, but close enough to complete its relaxed rider triangle. Despite the considerably roomier cockpit, you never feel like you’re slouching in the seat that’s 27.1 inches above the tarmac.
Furthermore, Triumph achieved this low seat height without chopping down rear suspension travel: the America’s dual coil-over shocks provide 3.7 inches of travel – effectively double what the SuperLow provides out back. This additional travel pays dividends in the form of a suppler, forgiving ride, especially when you encounter crummy pavement.
The America’s 63.6-inch wheelbase is long compared to the Harley’s wheelbase, and so I half expected this to surface in the form of lazy steering, but once again the Triumph took me by surprise. The extra inches between the America’s wheels benefited the bike by keeping the chassis stable, yet the bike’s steering geometry also provided light-action handling allowing me to dice around canyon corners without feeling like I was exerting excessive energy just to flick the Triumph from side to side.
When a rider will notice the America’s longer wheelbase is during tight radius U-turns and the like. The Harley can turn much tighter circles than the America. Smaller, shorter riders take note: the SuperLow is nimbler at lower speeds.
A single, two-piston front caliper and 310mm rotor are what the Triumph uses to slow down from the front-end, but the package is more than adequate. While the America’s front brake performance isn’t heaps better than the Harley’s, the Triumph nevertheless does offer a crisper, more authoritative feel at the lever. And the America has the useful feature of four-position adjustable clutch and brake levers; the Harley does not.
Instrumentation is as simple on the America as it is on the SuperLow. A speedo with LCD inlay sits above the Triumph’s big, chrome headlight, but rather than incorporate warning lamps in the speedo mount Triumph instead placed them in a gleaming chrome tank console that also encompasses the non-locking fuel cap (the SL’s cap also doesn’t lock).
We appreciated the Triumph’s rich two-tone paint and liquid-metal-like luster of its numerous chrome components, yet as noted in the America’s single-bike review, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Japanese cruiser styling, especially with little offenses like the cheap-looking stamped steel speedo mount and less than ideal routing of the clutch cable. However, I can over look these styling peccadilloes as minor tradeoffs for mirrors that are much more useful than the Harley’s.
The Triumph America is in some ways a typical Harley-clone, but its vertical-Twin powerplant is a welcome departure from the ubiquity of V-Twin-powered cruisers. Building on the America’s positives are its full-size rider ergos, excellent handling and a spirited engine.