Triumph knows a thing or two about winning Best Standard MOBOs. Last year, the Street Triple RS took home the honors, and two years before that, the Street Twin landed a MOBO. Impressive. And that’s the word that we would use to describe the 2019 Triumph Speed Twin.
You start with the standard Bonneville profile as required to fit Triumph’s Modern Classic designation. To that, you mix in the Thruxton’s 1200cc High Power parallel-Twin engine and trim off 5.5-pounds of fat. A lighter crankshaft makes for a quicker revving, more responsive mill that delivers a broad, flat torque curve that is sure to please anyone who throws a leg over the bike. Since weight loss was a theme for the Speed Twin, the front wheel lost 6.4 pounds, which pays dividends in acceleration, braking, and turning. The rear wheel loses less weight, but its placement on the rim means that there is 43% reduction in inertia.
Ironically, these performance improvements were given to a bike that is less performance-based than the model that the parts were derived from. So, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the changes trickle-up to the Thruxton in 2020. To support this idea that the Thruxton is still supposed to be the sportiest member of the Modern Classics, the Speed Twin receives a non-adjustable fork and twin shocks with preload adjustment only. Still, despite those cost-cutting features, the Speed Twin performs quite well. In fact, even with the less advanced suspension, the Speed Twin is a better all-around motorcycle.
The riding position is upright with a nice, wide handlebar to exploit the quicker steering. The footpegs also are more relaxed, making the Speed Twin a practical bike that you can still rip on when you want it to. Triumph has succeeded in taking an existing, more expensive model and improving upon it in a few key areas, while keeping the price lower than the original. While the result isn’t as flashy as the Thruxton, the Speed Twin is one of those motorcycles that hits the sweet spot for performance and practicality. Combine those with a charismatic personality, and you have the recipe for a winner – the Best Standard Motorcycle of 2019, to be exact.
May we have the envelope please. It’s the new Husqvarna Svartpilen 701!
Everybody talks about the advantages of light weight and simplicity, and less being more, but nobody does anything about it. With a claimed dry weight of 349 pounds, the Svartpilen feels nearly bicycle-like when you climb onto its ergonomically transparent self, and all things good flow from there.
The 693cc Single that powers it has two counterbalancers that have the lone 105mm piston operating in a nearly vibration-free zone, and the 69.8 horsepower our 2016 KTM Duke 690 produced was equivalent to that year’s Yamaha MT-07 and Suzuki SV650: The Duke out-torqued both of those heavier twin-cylinders also, producing 50.4 lb-ft. at 6900 rpm. A refined version of that motor scoots the Svart right along, producing plenty of torque just off idle before running happily into its redline 9000 rpm later. The slip/assist Adler clutch and up/down quickshifter make the six-speed gearbox almost automatic.
You’re right to think the Svart is a styling exercise, but part of its appeal to the younger set takes the from of premium components, too. Fully-adjustable WP suspension at both ends serve up 5.9 inches of well-controlled smooth sailing, and there’s no reason not to set off down dirt roads on the standard MT60 Pirellis (which also have plenty of grip on pavement). Light begets more light; a single 320mm disc and Brembo caliper on the front wheel are all you need.
Whether you’re a hipster or not, it’s hard not to like the black arrow’s subdued gray coloration and flat-tracky tailsection, complete with ducktailed neoprene passenger seat. It really is a pretty little bike to look at, but it goes even better than it looks.
Last year’s 401 Vit- and Svartpilens marked Husqvarna’s return to the street market following KTM’s acquisition of the historic Swedish brand in 2013. The 701 shows they’re serious about it.