Triumph Speed 400 neo-retro roadster has been put through multiple tests on real-world conditions and here’s what I think about it
The date was December 15, 2016 when Bajaj Auto shook the auto industry by launching the Dominar 400 aggressively for a price tag of Rs. 1.36 lakh (ex-showroom). Fast forward six and a half years, Bajaj repeated the unthinkable by pricing the fully-loaded Triumph Speed 400 at just Rs. 2.23 lakh (ex-showroom, introductory) as it proves yet again that local manufacturing prowess and synergy with a global brand can make wonders.
The Triumph Speed 400 is appealing on paper to the point that it does not have any direct rival matching its performance numbers and long list of features. It is quite convincingly the biggest motorcycle launch in terms of radically changing the landscape as the hotly contested 350-500 cc segment has been put on notice and it will have a domino effect on the prices of the upcoming models from other brands.
When the dust settles down and hype fades away, what really matters is how the Triumph Speed 400 performs in real-world conditions. As we know, the D400 had its issues ironed out actively over the years and consequently, it could not hit the target volumes despite being a highly capable touring machine. Is it the same case with the Speed 400? The short answer is no!
I made sure every second counted as I hopped on the neo-retro roadster and rode well over 150 km across varying terrains and tarmac conditions where it will be ridden almost every day. As I cast my eyes on the lush greens of the drizzling Khopoli, I found an elevation off the highway and reaching there would put the 158 mm ground clearance to the test.
To my surprise, the Triumph Speed 400 fared well and the side-mounted exhaust system did not scrape even once despite encountering loose surfaces and rocks. Bear in mind, it’s not an adv but it can tackle the occasional mild off-roading scenarios. The seat height of 790 mm and the curvature of the seat will suit riders of different heights.
For a 5′ 11” guy, I did not have a problem with getting my foot down on jam-packed traffic often and I am sure it is easily manageable for short riders due to the wet weight being 176 kg. The wide handlebar setup is intuitive and you can flick through corners after getting used to the motorcycle. It does not feel too light but then again, it is not a naked streetfighter to begin with!
The 300 mm front disc with four-piston callipers and 230 mm rear disc with a single-piston calliper assisted by a dual-channel ABS system work wonders and they have been calibrated well. However, the suspension feels a bit soft at the front as well as the rear. On regular tarmac, you would not feel it, but riding through wet patches of ghat roads and on bumpy sections, I did wish the big piston USD front forks were firmer (India-spec model is actually firmer than the export version).
The rear monoshock suspension is ten-step adjustable for preload but the connection between the front and the rear is not quite what I expected – chipping away the planted nature of the motorcycle, some of its cornering abilities, front-end feel and its overall composure. The wide, single-piece seat is supportive and won’t make your long saddle hours miserable and is complemented by the middle set footpegs aiding in an upright ergo.
After mulling over what the motorcycle really is and spending 4 to 5 hours behind the wheel, the second half of the ride was more fun as I spent time on the highways cruising along on our way to Bajaj’s Chakan plant. Thanks to our route miscalculation, we swapped the machines and rode through hilly sections and Pune traffic more than we intended.
After getting acclimatised with the motorcycle, I realised in the second half that it munches miles like crazy as I found myself doing 130s and 140s with ease. I managed to hit a top speed of 162 kmph with the Triumph Speed 400 and we have not even got to the best part yet! The powertrain is just tremendous and I would not have minded if the motorcycle was one lakh costlier for what it truly is.
The all-new 398 cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled engine develops 40 PS at 8,000 rpm and 37.5 Nm at 6,500 rpm and is paired with a slick six-speed transmission with a slipper clutch as standard. The torque kicks in right from 3,000 rpm and it does not give up on you anywhere across the rev band. The abundance of performance crammed within this engine is unfathomable.
Dab the throttle and you would be doing three-digit speeds in no time and the unintentional wheelies even when traction control is on. It also boosts ride-by-wire throttle for eliminates any mechanical linkages between the throttle body and the accelerator and segment-first immobiliser. At this price point, no motorcycle in India could come remotely close to what the Speed 400 is capable of. But the biggest takeaway is that it can still be relaxed and cruise the way you want it to and behave how you want it to. Simply put, it will be darling when treated delicately!
The soft suspension setup, despite the aforementioned niggles, enables decent riding comfort like a true roadster should. Bajaj-Triumph did not compromise on the overall build quality as the whole package feels premium and a couple of segments above. The semi-digital cluster features a small LCD display, which is bright even in broad daylight despite its size.
The hybrid perimeter chassis complements the roadster nature but on track, I did wish it made the Speed 400 sportier to hang through the corners. The long wheelbase of 1,377 mm enables the rider to move around freely on long rides. I managed to get an appreciable fuel economy of close to 28 kmpl on my 150 km ride (not display indicated) by brimming the tank again to the same level and calculating it to find its accuracy.
The Triumph Speed 400 is an unmissable package for anyone wanting to own a motorcycle as it gives more than what one would expect and is easily the most value-for-money offering out there. But, it is not perfect! Hey! no motorcycle is ever! The unique styling along the lines of its bigger siblings, the Triumph Speed Twin 900 and 1200 is instantly mouthwatering, to say the least.
To save costs, the India-spec Triumph Speed 400 gets either MRF or Apollo tyres as opposed to Pirellis or Metzelers offered globally. As you ride through different surface conditions, you would realise the grip level could be improved. These W-rated tyres are specifically developed and will have a claimed tyre life of 18,000-20,000 km. The heat dissipation is well managed but the fan could be a little less noisy. With a service interval of 16,000 km and a standard warranty of 2 years or unlimited km, Bajaj-Triumph claims that the service cost in the first three years will be cheaper than that of comparable REs. In addition, 120 dealerships will be established by March 2024 – extending the footprint from just 15 outlets currently.
If the after-sales support is done right and servicing is cost-effective as Bajaj-Triumph claims, the Speed is certainly the start of a revolution in the middleweight segment our passionate Indian motorcycle community long awaits!