Cruisers are undoubtedly the coolest of the cool – they’re beautifully crafted, have low slung seats and are great companions for weekend getaways. These classic bikes are also the ultimate expression of freedom.
Imagine riding under the blue sky on a long stretch of tarmac, surrounded by nature, without a care in the world – a perfect synchronisation between man and machine. Could there be a better image of what it means to be free? Amid all the craze and frenzy of modern and sophisticated motorcycles, I guess on some level we bike lovers are drawn, like moths to a flame, to the idea of retro bikes. And perhaps that’s why we couldn’t help but pit the latest member of the Triumph Bonneville family, the Speedmaster, against one of our favourite cruisers, the Indian Scout, to find out which of them is the ultimate showstopper.
Based on the Bobber, Triumph’s fastest selling motorcycle in their history, the Speedmaster is powered by the same 76bhp, 1,200cc High Torque parallel-twin heart. The beauty of this torquey parallel-twin engine is that it provides plenty of power at slow speeds, and its tall gearing allows you the freedom from constantly fidgeting with the gears. In terms of refinement and performance, Triumph has managed to hit the sweet spot with this High Torque motor, as it responds instantly and in a linear fashion. We all know how tedious peak traffic can be, but during our test drive, the Speedmaster patiently negotiated slow moving vehicles without ever pushing me to rev it up. With a healthy 105Nm of torque at our disposal, it showed a lot of spunk around 1,800 to 2,000rpm. All this is thanks to the flawless ride-by-wire throttle. Meanwhile, the engine is mated to a precise and effortless 6-speed transmission, which only adds to the overall smoothness of the ride.
Getting stuck in start-stop traffic can be quite frustrating, but to make the riding experience a little less stressful, the Speedmaster comes with a torque-assist clutch – which allows you to use the lever with just a single finger. Unfortunately, the parallel-twin engine heats up very quickly – something that’s common to all V-twins.
Initially, the ‘beach bars’ did come across slightly intimidating, but once I got used to the riding stance with these swept-back handlebars and forward-mounted foot pegs, the Speedmaster was quite easy to manoeuvre around the city. What makes it a step up from the Bobber, pragmatically speaking, is that it’s a two-seater motorcycle and offers a more comfortable ride. The Bobber’s firm suspension setup makes it impractical for our road conditions. But Triumph has changed the setup of the front 41mm KYB forks, and the Speedmaster comes with a dual-rate spring that offers a more cushioned ride. Adjustments to the rear KYB monoshock have also been made to ensure the comfort of the pillion. A sub-frame to accommodate a pillion or luggage is another practical addition.
The Indian Scout is one gorgeous motorcycle. Be it power, comfort, riding position or looks, this ‘little’ Indian scores big in all these categories. It’s so gorgeous that it makes anyone look good. Being a single-seater (our test bike featured the optional second seat which is available as an accessory), the Scout’s saddle is more supportive than the Triumph, making it ideal for long rides. The riding stance of both cruisers is similar, as they offer traditional cruiser-like seating positions. For riders over 6-feet tall, the stance could be a bit cramped though.
Fire up the 94bhp 1,133cc unit and it rumbles to life at once. The first thing that I noticed was that this powerplant has more powerful acoustics than the Triumph, and is likely to draw more attention at a result. Twist the throttle and it responds instantly, but in terms of refinement, and when compared to the Speedmaster, the motor feels a bit rough. This does play on your mind initially, but the Scout offers so much power that it effectively compensates for any shortcomings. Now, the Speedmaster stands apart when it comes to its low and mid-range, but the Scout has such a versatile motor that it encourages you to rev it – and, once you do, it pulls with great pace through the rev range. The 6-speed transmission, meanwhile, is smooth, but the clutch does feel heavy – especially when compared with the Speedmaster.
Coming to the handling, the Scout’s been one of our favourite cruisers, as its low centre of gravity makes it a peach to manoeuvre around the city, but the Speedmaster is a lot nimbler in traffic. Also, the Indian is front heavy, which means riding it in slow-moving traffic can be a tedious task. And it’s for this very reason, in spite of being almost 5 to 6 kilograms lighter than the Triumph, it still feels heavier. But the Scout is a retro cruiser with a fairly good lean angle – as it allows you to lean a good deal before you end up scraping the foot pegs.
So, which one?
Personally, I love retro bikes – who doesn’t? – but sadly, these motorcycles aren’t the most practical lot for our riding conditions. They are gorgeous, and manage to make you feel like a million bucks, but their suspension set ups tend to be a bit too firm, while their riding stance isn’t ideal in the city and manoeuvring them in slow traffic can be challenging since the V-twin engines generate plenty of heat. Still, if you’re looking for an ideal partner in the limited pool of cruisers for a quick weekend getaway, the Speedmaster manages to trump the Scout by a whisker. The Triumph’s engine refinement, ride quality and additional pillion or luggage space are what make it a more practical and rounded bike. But when it comes to matters of the heart, the Scout certainly pulls at your heartstrings with its abundant power and the way it looks. Moreover, I like to ride solo, so the pillion space is a waste for me…
- Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster
- Indian Scout
Engine: 1,197cc / SOHC / Liquid Cooled
Power: 76bhp @ 6100rpm
Torque: 105Nm @ 4000rpm
Price: ₹ 11.11 Lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: The Speedmaster brings back swept-back beach bars, has a refined engine and comes with a pillion seat – making it both cool and practical.
• Powerful and refined motor
• Comfortable riding position
• Engine heat
Engine: 1,133cc / V-Twin / Liquid Cooled
Torque: 97Nm @ 5,600rpm
Price: ₹ 12.69 Lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: Premium quality, exhilarating performance and handles like a charm.
• Gorgeous retro design
• Powerful engine
• Feels heavy
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