As the years roll on in your late 20s and early 30s, there comes a temptation to cash in on the pact that you made with your best friend. Not out of love or romance, but out of familiarity and comfort. The case seems to be similar when it comes to the Bajaj – Triumph partnership, with both wanting or rather, needing each other to survive in the world’s largest two-wheeler market. The result? An all-new global-first Triumph Speed 400. The question then remains: Is this marriage off to a good start?
A Propah Triumph
I was 22 and without a fully grown frontal lobe when Triumph and Bajaj signed the dotted line back in August 2017, and it shows. When I first heard the news, I was expecting something akin to the KTM 390 Duke, but Triumph. Perhaps a smaller Street Triple or a Daytona (or single) in this case. But as I’ve grown older, my patience for fiery red graphics and increasingly front-mounted handlebars has grown thinner.
Fortunately, the Speed 400 ditches that, cashing in on the retro is cool trend of today. Things are less drama and more theatre here. There’s nuance to the details. Nothing feels out of place or unnecessary. Every button clicks and clacks and every bolt or welding joint appears invisible. Things are quieter, but classy. The paint job is premium, and so is the quality of the seat, the tank finish, and everything the light (all LED in this case) touches.
There’s a lot of Speed Twin 900 and 1200 in the design DNA here, but not without its unique set of quirks. For instance, the fuel-filler cap sits off-centre, while the chain drive is placed unconventionally on the right side. It’s all very distinctive when you’re close to it. But stand afar and things change. While I do appreciate this “quiet luxury,” the Speed 400 does appear small and rather inconspicuous in traffic, which I reckon would not be the cup of tea for the aforementioned front-lobe-lacking Gen Zs of today.
A Paradoxical Saddle
Forgive the exaggeration, but the Triumph Speed 400 feels a little paradoxical. On paper, it has the measurements of a compact motorcycle, with a seat height measuring 790mm and weight not exceeding the 176kg mark. Sit on the saddle though, and you’d feel the Speed is bigger than what it appears to be. I reckon this might be due to the slightly forward-set handlebars and slightly rear-set footpegs, with your knees converging on the narrow fuel tank. The rider’s triangle is sporty, but not in a tucked-in sort of a way, but rather just enough to give you the feeling of being on something more powerful and aggressive.
I do, however, have a bone to pick with whoever designed the instrument console. I am not the person who cares that much about the display dash, to be honest. Give me a rev counter, a speedo, and a fuel indicator, and I’d be happy. The console on the Speed, though, is a little trickier. For an embarrassingly long time, I did not realize that what I thought was the rev counter was actually the speedometer. The digital rev counter, on the other hand, is almost hidden in the Speed’s basic, black and white dash, perhaps needing a telescopic visor for my helmet.
New Single, Ready To Mingle
During the launch, both Bajaj and Triumph emphasized the fact that the Speed 400’s 398cc single-cylinder engine (40PS/37.5Nm) is built from the ground up, and I believe that. Conspiracy theorists may suggest that this might be the same engine we’ll see on the upcoming 2023 KTM 390 Duke with some re-tuning, and it could be true. But this motor on the Speed is far more tractable than what the Duke DNA stands for. There’s an ample amount of low-end torque here, allowing you to maintain a speed of 20kmph in third gear without needing to fiddle with the clutch. Speaking of which, the slip-assist unit and the gearbox are sharp, light, accurate, and drama-free.
Perhaps an allegory on its placement in the market, but the Speed 400 shines remarkably in the mid-range, specifically the 4,000rpm to 6,000rpm band. Find the right road, and it’ll gallop like the charge of the English cavalry. While it is not as exhilarating as a balls-to-the-walls, higher-revving KTM 390 branded rocket, the Speed does serve you that adrenaline pump but in glassware.
Climb up the rev range, though (if you can find it on the dash), and you’ll notice some hiccups. Things get a little buzzy post 90kmph. You can almost notice the difference when Triumph fades away and Bajaj takes over. Not that it’s unmanageable, but rather a tiny bit annoying. But perhaps this is too harsh of an observation. It is a single-cylinder after all, and that too Triumph’s first one. But that’s the sort of expectation the Speed 400 sets, in the best way possible.
Predictable, Yet Exciting
Hit the twisties, and you’ll notice some amount of British leisureliness kicking in here. Don’t get me wrong, the Speed 400 will go fast in corners, but it doesn’t always want to. I reckon this is partly due to the suspension setup here, which leans towards the softer side. While it works wonders for our roads (or lack thereof), absorbing every nook and cranny, it appears a little too lazy when pushed hard. The good news is Triumph does give you the option to tinker with the preload, which might ever so slightly alter the experience.
What’s praiseworthy here, though, is the handling, which feels exciting yet predictable, giving a sense of control all the time. Braking hardware (300mm – Front/ 230mm – Rear) here performs fairly up to the task, although a firmer feel would’ve been appreciated. The 176kg kerb weight and overall compactness of the bike also help it remain agile during overtakes and lane changes, without the aggression of the KTM 390 Duke. Back in the day, I would’ve had more patience for the latter, but today I’d rather appreciate the former.
Who Is It For?
Priced at Rs 2.33 lakh (ex-showroom), objectively, the Triumph Speed 400 is the perfect first bike. It’s gorgeous, fun, approachable, and an excellent all-rounder. So much so that someone migrating from the 150cc class would get comfortable within a few rides. But subjectively, that’s also its biggest boon. Every time you get on it, you’ll see its ceiling approach quicker than the tenure of your EMIs. Is that a bad thing? It depends on who you are as a person and a motorcyclist. If you’re someone like me who’s tired of the hassles of their late 20s, this is as drama-free of a motorcycle as you can get. In case you do have the patience for more or want to hone your skills more, I’d rather wait for the Scrambler or the rumoured Tiger sibling. Overall though, even if this might be a marriage of convenience for both Bajaj and Triumph, they have somehow managed to keep the romance alive.
Image Credits – Abhijeet Landge & Triumph
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