Ridden: affordable new models take Triumph to the top

Paul Owen
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New TR models increased Triumph's NZ market by 20 per cent almost overnight.

Triumph, that once-rusty British bike brand before its rescue by businessman John Bloor 30 years ago, is now king of the hill when it comes to registrations of new road-going motorcycles in this country.

Triumph TR400.
Meet the TR400s: Scrambler (black) and Speed (red).

Driving that sudden market dominance is the arrival of the two TR400 models you see here. The Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 increased Triumph’s market share by more than 20 per cent virtually overnight, making the 122-year-old brand the biggest seller of road bikes in New Zealand for the month of April.

“We’ve been wanting to do a proper press launch for the 400s for some time now, but the bikes kept disappearing from the warehouse as our dealers ordered more and more to replace their showroom stock,” says Michael Beckhaus, director of Triumph Motorcycles NZ.

The appeal of the new TR400 range is obvious from the first glance of the price list. The road-oriented Speed 400 is $7995, while its more adventurous and substantial sibling, the Scrambler 400, is $8995.

Triumph TR400.
The single-cylinder engine is a highlight of the new TR400s: smooth and surprisingly torquey.

Yet the bikes don’t look or ride cheap. The motor they share is arguably the best single-cylinder 400cc engine ever made, the design looks tidy and well-executed, brake and suspension components are simple yet effective; there’s even traction control and top-shelf European tyres from Pirelli and Metzeler fitted.

As bikes designed and sorted in Britain and then made in India by Triumph’s partner, Bajaj, this pair present a compelling argument for the cost-effectiveness of multinational manufacturing.   

Triumph NZ obviously wanted to give the market a shakeup when launching the TR400s. Bajaj also makes two key competitors for the Triumphs in the same factory at Chakan, Pune, the KTM Duke 390 and 390 Adventure. These list for $8949 (Duke 390) and $11,899 (390 Adventure with spoked wheels) despite tracking down the same production lines and shipping routes as the Triumphs.

Triumph TR400.
Think of the Speed 400 as Triumph's Mazda MX-5.

A decent price saving awaits those seeking a bike made in Chakan that bears a British brand instead of an Austrian nameplate, isn’t orange, and has pleasing neo-retro looks instead of KTM’s insectoid design theme.

If the pricing doesn’t convince would-be buyers, a test-ride will, especially if it’s the frisky and highly-biddable Speed 400 that’s between their knees. Key chassis differences consign the Scrambler 400 to also-ran status when it comes to dishing up a highly-engaging riding dynamic. It remains the best pick for gravel roads and light off-road applications thanks to the leading-axle forks that slow the rate of turning into corners, longer wheelbase, extra 10mm of suspension travel, higher seat height (835mm instead of 790mm), increased ground clearance, beefier wheels, extra 9kg of mass, and multi-purpose Metzeler Karoo Street tyres that don’t instill quite the same confidence as the super-sticky Pirelli Diablo Rosso III rubber fitted to the Speed.

If these TR400s were Mazdas, the Speed 400 would be an MX-5 fitted with Pirelli P-Zero tyres while the Scrambler 400 would be a CX-3 compact SUV shod with Michelin LTX all-terrains.

Triumph TR400.
Scrambler 400 trades some dynamic sharpness for crossover-like versatility.

Then there’s that fine single-cylinder engine. It doesn’t have quite the same top-end zip as the KTM factory-mates but the trade-off is more torque arriving earlier in the rev range. With the Speed weighing just 170kg and the Scram measuring 179kg with the 13-litre fuel tanks topped up, it’s impressive just how lively this 40bhp single feels.

It’s also smoother than some twins, regularly delivers 3.0litres/100km fuel use, and has an excellent 6-speed gearbox and slipper-clutch to transfer its wholesome goodness.

Meanwhile, Triumph Motorcycles NZ hasn’t finished re-arranging the market order here just yet, with a pair of affordable 400cc singles. A new 660cc three-cylinder sportsbike also makes its official debut this month.

Triumph Daytona 660.
New Daytona 660 is worthy of the historic model name.

The Daytona 660 costs $15,990 in learner-approved form and $16,990 with the full 70kW of top-end power on tap. This price-friendly sportster follows in the wheel-tracks of the Daytona 675, supplier of the engine that is the basis of the Moto2 feeder series to MotoGP.

Crack open the throttle of the full-phat engine and you’ll hear echoes of a Moto2 soundtrack as the rasping triple rips through to a 11,250rpm redline. Despite the racy looks and convincing performance, the Daytona 660 is owner-friendly thanks to its three riding modes, 810mm seat height, and 16,000km service intervals (same as the TR400s).

With these additions to the model range appealing to an audience who might have never considered owning and riding a Triumph before, 2024 should continue to be a good year in this country for the most iconic of British bike brands.

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