After three years and over 45,500 miles, Lola moved on to a new owner last week. It’s unfortunate that I had to let the Speedmaster go, but there’s simply no room for two, and I wanted to fund the Scrambler project. Needless to say she and I collected a lot of memories over the past three years, and certainly gave me a lot of experience, much of which is documented here. While I’ve already done one Long-term review, to pay her in kind, I feel it’s only fitting that I throw down some final thoughts on the Speedmaster as a whole.
Let me start off by saying that I will put the Speedmaster up against any 900 cc cruiser in its class. Honestly, I simply feel like you get more bike for what you pay where the Triumph is concerned versus the Sportster and its Asian clones. Let me also go on to say that I feel that the Harley Davidson 883 Sportster is the primary competitor to the Speedmaster. Now, I will give Yamaha a lot of credit with the new Star Bolt, that’s a legit bike, and I will hold it a close second to the Sporty, but in the end the Speedmaster still has more gas and equal (if not better) performance against the Bolt. The Sportster on the other hand has boat load of street credit to compete with. Harley Davidson is obviously the cruiser brand of choice for the vast majority of Americans, and (at least on paper) there are some distinct advantages to buying a Sportster. For one, maintenance (in theory) should be simpler with pushrods and rockers versus the Speedmaster with dual overhead cams. In addition, the aftermarket parts available for American made bikes is ridiculous; if you want to farkle your Sporty, it’s merely a click away. The Sportster (as with the Bolt) is also belt drive, which makes that maintenance even easier if you’re just an urban cruiser. That said, professional moto-journalists agree, the Speedmaster offers better all-day comfort out of the box, and still holds its own on the stat sheet. In the long run, I also believe the Speedmaster fits a wider breadth of motorcycle consumer (that want more than to just own a Harley) than other leading competitors in the 900 class. Aside from the seating position, the five gallon gas tank will get you upwards of 200 miles to a tank if you ride conservatively. I will also add that all of the parts on the Triumph America are interchangeable with the Speedmaster, so if you want windshield, bags, and a plush pillion seat, that’s easy to come by. I also want to throw in, aside from my comments about the 900 cc class, the Speedmaster unabashedly keeps up with big bore cruisers as well. In three years, at no point did I ever feel like I needed a little more “power” to hang with my buddies on their “Big boy bikes”; moreover, on at least one occasion, I was told I was “walking away from the group”.
Despite my obvious bias toward the Speedmaster, Lola was not without faults. Plainly, the rear shocks suck. I tolerated the stock rear suspenders primarily out of “cheapness”, and then eventually because I was expecting a new bike on the horizon. If you’re in the market for a new Speedmaster, save a little cash in the bank, and go ahead and spend $300 on an aftermarket set of rear shocks (Hagon and Progressive solutions are readily available). I personally find that the rear shocks stand out immediately considering the ease of bottoming out thanks to a pothole, but it’s worth mentioning that the front springs could stand to be upgraded as well. Again, I myself did not make the investment, and the casual rider need not fear the stock setup, but for folks that prefer a more “spirited” ride, it’s worth spending $100 on a set of progressive springs for the front forks, and (I’m told) it’s an easy swap in the garage. Chain maintenance can also be a bit annoying. I would recommend that anyone who plans on “upgrading” the exhaust pick up shorty Triumph Off-Road pipes (TORs) or British Customs Cocktail Shakers (if you really want loud) just for the ease of chain maintenance; the long stock exhaust gets in the way. I will also say that a center stand is available (although it’s bloody ugly), or you may want to invest in a paddock stand, just to make things easier. I already covered the concerns about wind protection in the long term review, but I will reiterate, $130 on a Dart Flyscreen will completely change the way you view cruising on the highway. In fact, for under $1,000, you can easily throw some highway bars, bags, and a flyscreen at the Speedmaster and turn it into a budget touring bike. That said, some guys complain about the higher engine revs on the freeway. I’m going to say that the engine revs to 8k, so cruising at 4500 isn’t a big deal, but if you do find that annoying, you can upgrade to a 19 tooth front cog when you replace the chain (but lose some torquey character). For folks laying down more than 12,000 mile annually, the valve clearance check and adjustment can be a bear. Fortunately, the 865 engine is shim over bucket, and uses a drive gear for the cam gears, which makes it easier (no fussing with cam chain), but it’s obviously more work than pushrods. In the end, chain and valve maintenance is the price you pay for better performance.
In spite of its shortcomings, the Speedmaster was still a great ride. As I’ve mentioned before, the choice to move on was because I wanted mid controls, the option of (realistically) riding dirt, and ultimately a bike that I didn’t feel guilty for getting filthy and possibly neglecting (like riding in the salt and snow). Feet forward became a real issue for me; yes, you can upgrade the seat and suspension, but with forward controls, all your weight is essentially on your butt, and therefore your spine absorbs the shock load. If money were no object, and I actually had a garage to fill, Lola would be parked next to Rosie right now. I love the 865 air cooled twin; while not quite a stone ax like a 650 single, the Speedmaster engine offers the performance of DOHC, simplicity of air-cooled, and character in spades, especially with the 270 crank (which sounds great with aftermarket exhaust). The air-cooled Triumph twin simply begs to be flogged and is (typically) bullet-proof reliable. Despite the ease of putting a peg down (as with most cruisers), the Speedmaster still loves the twisties, and I was often surprised at how nimble it felt after riding a lot of other cruisers.