Inside Triumph: Top 10 Tidbits Learned Behind the Factory Doors

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

Access to chief product planner and engineer provides insight into Triumph's present and future

Flying us to England to witness the reveals of its new Speedmaster and Bobber Black seems an outsized expense for Triumph considering that riding the latest Bonneville line’s variants wasn’t part of the trip. However, the significance of the Modern Classics to Triumphs recent sales successes can’t be overstated: The Bonneville lineup accounts for 25% of the company’s total production.

So, we willingly jumped on a 787 Dreamliner to visit Triumph’s HQ in Hinckley where we saw the unveiling of the new bikes. While there, we were able to speak with several of Triumph’s reps and gain further insight into the company and its products.

Big Sales

If there’s a downturn in the motorcycle market, Triumph is ignoring it. Some 63,400 motorbikes were sold from July 2016 through this past July, a 13% growth over the previous 12 months and the fourth consecutive year of record sales. Triumph touts that it has introduced mind-boggling 15 new models in just the past two years.

2018 Triumph Speedmaster

In basic terms, the 2018 Speedmaster is a Bobber with beach bars and a dual-seat arrangement. It also receives the new Bobber Black’s dual-disc Brembo front brakes and its footpegs are placed further forward. A 41mm Kayaba cartridge fork replaces the damping-rod 41mm legs of the regular Bobber, and it uses 16-inch wire-spoke wheels. A preload adjuster is added to the underseat shock. Cruise control, ABS and TC are standard, and it is fitted with a 12-liter fuel tank (3.2 gallons), a bit larger than Bobber’s. It uses the same frame but with the addition of subframe to accommodate a pillion. Stay tuned for our ride report from its launch in February, by which time an MSRP will have been announced.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster Revealed

Actor Luke Evans aboard the new Speedmaster.

2018 Triumph Bobber Black

This new Black version toughens up the Bobber’s stripped-down appearance with a fat 16-inch front tire (19-inch on original Bobber), dual-disc Brembo front brakes, a larger-diameter (47mm) Showa cartridge fork (vs. 41mm non-cartridge Kayaba) and blacked-out finishes. Cruise control is now standard equipment, as are Road/Rain ride modes, ABS and TC. It’s nearly 20 pounds heavier due to fatter wheels, tires, fork and its additional front brake. It will cost more than the regular Bobber ($11,900), but no MSRP is yet set. Expect a ride report from us in December.

The new Bobber Black is a butcher version of the successful Bobber.

2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black Revealed

Quick Sales

The Bobber has been Triumph’s fastest-selling motorcycle in its long history, with more per-month registrations since its emergence at dealers this spring than any other Triumph ever. More than 6100 have been sold worldwide to date, and we like to think we helped play a part in the Bobber’s success by awarding it our Best Cruiser of 2017 in our annual MOBOs. More than 2000 of them were sold in the U.S., amounting to about one-third of production.

Best Cruiser Of 2017

Size Matters

The new Bobber Black uses a fat 16-inch front wheel and tire that adds a significant butch factor compared to the 19-inchers on the regular Bobber. Stuart Wood, Triumph’s chief engineer, insisted on the 19 as used on the previous cruiser-y Speedmasters and Americas, but he now admits the the Black’s 16s look cooler and claims they don’t degrade the Bobber’s adroit handling qualities.

Premium Products

Triumph has made a corporate decision to place its products in a so-called premium market, which is part of the reason the 250cc platform in development a few years ago was axed. The veracity of this revised strategy is backed up by sales figures of its top-line model variants. Of the three-bike Street Triple line, it’s the high-end RS that sells in the greatest numbers. The Thruxton R sells in a 7-to-3 ratio over the base model.

Triumph showed off its development mule for the Moto2 category of grand prix racing, which will use a hot-rodded version of the Street Triple’s 765cc three-cylinder engine replacing the class’ current 600cc Honda engines for the 2019 GP season.

Thai One On

Steve Sargent, Triumph’s chief product officer, tells us sales of the Street Triple line falls only a bit behind the broad Bonneville platform of bikes. Both are produced at Triumph’s three factories in Thailand, one of which is tasked solely with the manufacturing of frames. The Tiger 800s are also built in Thailand.

Triumph Factory Visitor Experience

In conjunction with the reveals of the new Speedmaster and Bobber Black, Triumph christened its newly constructed Visitor Experience cum museum at Triumph’s headquarters and UK factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, in England.

Triumph Motorcycles Factory Visitor Experience

Officially opening on November 1, the exhibit will be free to visitors. A factory tour is available at the cost of 15 pounds sterling. Attendees can see the first Triumph, the No.1, from 1902 and other significant models through the company’s 115-year history.

To me, the coolest bike in the Visitor Experience is the TR6A ridden by Steve McQueen in the iconic film The Great Escape. The epic jump over a fence in the movie was performed by McQueen’s longtime cohort and stunt double, Bud Ekins. It’s estimated to be the most valuable Triumph in the world.

Indian Future

Triumph made a surprising announcement in August that it had entered a non-equity partnership with India’s Bajaj Auto to jointly develop and produce a line of mid-sized motorcycles. When pressed for details on what the platform might be, Steve Sargent was unsurprisingly coy, but he did reveal the first bike will debut in about three years.

Triumph Partnering With Bajaj To Produce Mid-Sized Motorcycles

My personal favorite celebrity seen at Triumph’s soiree was three-time Grand Prix champion Freddie Spencer. Fast Freddie, the only rider to have won the 250cc and 500cc championships in a single year (1985), was in good spirits and tells us he’s enjoying life now living in London and regularly attending classic/vintage motorcycle events and riding schools throughout Europe.

The term “mid-sized” is purposely vague so as not to reveal much at this early juncture, and Sargent would only admit to it being between 300 and 700cc. I’ll guess it’ll be right in the middle, at 500cc. Later in the conversation, Sargent noted Royal Enfield sells about 600,000 bikes per year, so I’ll guess the new Triumph/Bajaj line might be a smaller platform of modern classics, probably with a parallel-Twin engine, which would allow spin-offs of a variety of models like the current Bonneville line.

Celebrity Value

Triumph understands the weight that celebrities can bring to its products, so it invited a few luminaries to the unveiling party for its two new bikes. A-list actor Luke Evans from The Hobbit trilogy, Dracula Untold, and Fast & Furious 6, 7 and 8 rode a Speedmaster on stage at the gala event, while musicians and moto enthusiasts Mark Richardson (drummer from the UK rock band Skunk Anansie) and Clayton Bellamy (from the Canadian country-rock band the Road Hammers) also attended, as did Triumph ambassador and four-time World Superbike champion, Carl Fogarty.

Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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3 of 20 comments
  • Sentinel Sentinel on Oct 09, 2017

    If they made a Bonneville with a larger capacity fuel tank I'd buy one, but until then I'll have to look elsewhere.

  • Idaho Renegade Idaho Renegade on Oct 21, 2017

    Any news on the 2018 Rocket III? Really hoping they come out with a fully dressed touring bike (preferably with a QD trunk) based on that platform.

    • Kevin Duke Kevin Duke on Oct 21, 2017

      No news, but they didn't talk about it as a dead or dying model, so perhaps it will live on with revised tuning to meet Euro4...