Bonneville’s Punchy Little Brother

 

After spending some time visiting our friends at Cycle World of Athens, I pointed the little 2024 Triumph Speed 400 west toward my home. Hopping on Georgia 316, I throttled up hard in each gear, winding the 398cc single to 8-9K rpm through the six cogs to merge with the fast flowing highway traffic. Glancing at the display, I was running 70 mph, still in 5th gear, when I got to the end of the on-ramp and blended in with the cagers. I clicked into 6th with the butter smooth slipper clutch, feeling confident with the diminutive “baby Bonneville” in semi-dense traffic.

Soon, I found a gap in the left lane, so signaled then jumped over, throttling up to pace a fast moving silver Acura that had passed me. As he (or she) pushed the pace, the traffic thinned behind us, so I said aloud in my helmet, “Okay little dude, let’s see what you got in that single thumper heart of yours.” I chased the Acura, pinning the throttle on a long, by now sparse stretch of 316. The pint-sized Triumph was absolutely roaring through its trumpet. A second glance at the speedo showed 92 mph, about 10k of 12k max rpm, and I swear, it felt like there was still some gumption left in the howling mill.

Could this little 398cc single thumper actually hit 95+? 100 maybe?? I dared not try, as Athens/Clarke County PD might not be very forgiving if they clocked me.

Looks are deceiving. The Speed 400 is a hungry little beast.

I backed off to a more reasonable 75 mph, amazed that this sub-500cc single cylinder motorcycle could be capable of such a feat. I still smile and shake my head when I think about it, a week later. This may be the smallest motorbike in Triumph’s lineup, heck, the smallest motorbike they’ve built in well over 50 years (at least for North America), but it punches way above its weight class.

Like Ted has quipped before, sometimes it’s more fun to ride a small, slow bike fast, than a large, fast bike slow. Yet Triumph’s new entrant into the small displacement motorcycle category is a little beast, no mere “small, slow bike”. The Triumph Speed 400 is that pint-sized chihuahua that comes charging into the dog park, confidently yapping at the bigger canines, who give him a wide berth out of sheer respect (yes, I’ve seen this at our nearby park). It’s that good.

Attention to detail.

The first time I laid eyes on Triumph’s new Speed 400 and Scrambler 400X late last year, I knew they were taking aim at Royal Enfield with both. I’ve stated before that RE ripped a page from Triumph’s playbook some years ago by manufacturing and marketing small displacement motorbikes, targeting the younger gens with affordable, approachable, fashionable motorcycles. Royal Enfields are viewed as cool, hip, easy on the bank account and super fun to ride. Which they are, absolutely. Triumph has long appealed to the young hipsters as well, but RE has been chipping away at Triumph’s market share here in North America with their offerings in recent years.

As much as we loved the Royal Enfield Hunter 350 last year (still do), you honestly get way more bang for the buck with Triumph’s new Speed 400, for not many more bucks. Triumph just stole back that page of their own playbook from Royal Enfield, with this supremely cool and capable Speed 400. Check out the specs on this bike, compared to the Hunter 350:

Is the Speed 400 worth the extra $800? Let the buyer/rider decide.

I’m all of 5’8”, 155 lbs, and the Speed 400 fit me perfectly. Rider triangle is very neutral for me, and as light and flickable as it is, I was comfortable and confident the first time I throttled out. This bike will be pigeonholed as a “beginner bike”, “women’s bike” or “short rider bike.” And that’s a shame, because the Speed 400 is so much more. However Triumph geared and tuned this machine, the Speed 400 is a half-pint hooligan bike. Even that deep growl emitting from the single exhaust sounds throaty and aggressive when running up through the gears, rolling high up in the revs in all six. I’d be very happy with this bike in my garage, and would be tempted to thrash it most every day. I’ve had that much fun with it.

Oh yeah, wind it up, baby. On a back road with no traffic, of course.

I did notice, on several occasions, a slight flat spot in the rev range when shifting up and throttling high in each gear on this demo model. At about 7000 rpm, I’d briefly feel a small hesitation in throttle response; not every time, but enough that I made a mental note, and informed the Triumph guys about it. They are still tweaking the mapping in some of these, they are so new, so I’m guessing it will be remedied by the time they hit the dealerships.

You know a bike is good, when every chance you get, you want to throw a leg over and throttle out. Every day we had this bike (2 weeks total), I was finding reasons to go ride it, even if I wasn’t making notes on it. Any bike that much fun, and that satisfying to ride, is worth owning.

Ah, Springtime in the Deep South: flowers blooming, petals floating, pollen filling the air, sinuses clogging,…

It’s one thing to test ride a bike for 2-3 miles at a demo event; it’s another thing to get a day or two on one during a brand’s press launch. But there’s really no substitute for having a bike long enough to live with it, to wake up and mount up day after day, to put hundreds if not thousands of miles on a bike, to really feel it’s deep, true essence. Those others are nice, but this is what we live for at Road Dirt, to give you the real deal on a motorcycle.

And Triumph’s “Bonneville’s kid brother” is the real deal.

Rob

For more on the 2024 Triumph Speed 400 and stablemate Scrambler 400X, check them out here:

Triumph Speed 400

Here’s some ride footage and observations on it that we shot:

Law Bike

5 Comments

  1. Tommy

    beautiful looking bike!!!

    Reply
  2. Tommy

    beautiful looking bike!!! good times

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      It is indeed! Looks fantastic, rides fantastic.

      Reply
  3. Phil Heslep

    That’s an amazing value! Lots of great tech right where riders want it. I already shared it with a friend.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Thanks Phil!
      Great to hear from you!

      Reply

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