Triumph Speed 400 test ride impressions compared to a KTM Duke 390

The only gripe I have with the Speed 400 is its performance.

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My close buddy was among the first 10,000 to book the Speed 400. Triumph Kochi called him 2 days back to offer the TD for yesterday. So I tagged along with him to the showroom. T400 bikes looked gorgeous on the showroom floor. Loved the Red and Blue bikes the most. My friend intends to change his original choice of Black to Red one. The paint finish is really glossy, it remains to be seen how long the sparkle lasts. Better get some Ceramic coating done on the tank (13 Litres) and side panels. The tank has retro-looking caps with nicely sprung key covers. The handlebar has a silver powder-coated finish which I didn’t like. The switchgear is ok. Could not check out the headlights for throw. It looks striking though. Clutch and Front brake levers are not adjustable nor do they have break-off tips. So watch out during a fall. I guess these levers can be changed out for better-designed ones. Indicators too are average. Didn’t like their looks. Loved the rear tail lamp though.

Showroom folks were very welcoming despite having a modest crowd that was keeping them on their toes. Their positive attitude was a pleasant surprise. And it didn’t end there – they offered me a test ride too if I was interested. “Sure” I replied.

The sales advisor patiently answered all our queries. He even admitted to not knowing a few answers as the bike was new and information was tickling down.

On observing the Speed 400, a few features that struck me was that the bike had a comfortable seat height for short-riders. I am 5′ 6″ and my friend is quite a bit shorter yet both of us could easily plant our feet on the ground while seated on the bike. The seating triangle was quite comfy too unlike my Duke 390, which incidentally is my daily driver, and will be comparing both bikes. The seat too is sufficiently wide and long with an adequate amount of cushioning. I dare say it will also be comfortable for better halves sitting sideways. Handlebars seem to be a tad wide which aids flickability. Loved the analogue dials however lettering for the tacho is small. I love my tacho so this is kinda bad. Plus it displays limited information unlike the Duke 390. No Bluetooth or Navigation. The clocks seemed to have a decent backlight. The throttle is Fly-by-Wire which has precise fuelling which is not so in my Duke 390. Now the big one: during the 3-4 km TD through a busy highway and some narrow side roads, the Speed 400 felt so tractable. The torque especially at low rpms was quite good and in that respect, trundling along our streets will be a piece of cake. Don’t need to row through the gearbox. However, twisting open the throttle brings in just about adequate performance. One begins the wonder where the 40 (almost) horses have gone. I was expecting it to be almost like my 2020 Duke 390. Nope. So if you like to blast from point to point, look elsewhere. And this is my biggest gripe. Why? Cause the suspension is almost perfect and well sorted out. Speed 400 is so flickable that a faster-responding engine would’ve been nirvana. Triumph came so close. Why did you keep this bit away from such a good bike? Don’t get me wrong – this bike is made for our city rides and probably also for our highway jaunts yet I feel that its almost dull top end will take away the excitement from longer highway expeditions.

Despite many others saying that the exhaust note is good, I found it to be sort of meh! It is not bad but doesn’t seem to have any special character. The longish radiator has a guard which looks adequate however the coolant tank is right at the bottom below the oil sump. It is covered by a plastic shroud. Riders better beware, change it to a stronger metal one, Triumph sales staff assured us that a metal guard is available as an official Triumph accessory. Somehow I have this nagging feeling that the coolant tank is susceptible to damage. The cap for coolant top-up too is right at the bottom. Guess this should have been designed better. The lowest point on the bike is the catalytic convertor (SA could not confirm if this was a catalytic convertor or part of the muffler). Crankcase is powder coated which could easily be worn out from regular rubbing of feet.

The clutch is moderately weighted and progressive. ECU seems to be tuned for crawling at slow speed if you let the clutch out in 1st gear, even without any throttle input. The engine does not die out. Nice touch. Gearshift is much better than my Duke 390. Finding Neutral too is easier. I loved the shifts, didn’t cause any mis-shifts during the TD. The brakes are good. The bite is not sharp though. I noticed a strange brushing noise coming from the front discs during braking. Actually heard the same sound from my friend’s bike too when he braked. He was riding behind me on another Speed 400. (During TD one staff from the Triumph dealership goes in front as a pilot. While 2 customers follow him on 2 different TD bikes. Nice arrangement – we are not allowed to overtake him nor fall too far behind, he needs to be able to monitor us in his rearview mirrors). Not sure why this sound emanates from the front discs – probably due to the bedding in process. Bar end mirrors have a good view and are free of vibrations at speeds less than 70 km/h.

Black 17″ alloy wheels which look as if it is built to a cost. The bike will come with either Apollo H1s or MRF rubber (don’t know which one). Apollo H1 Tyres on the TD bike came with Front: 110/70 R17, Rear: 150/60 R17, which felt very grippy on dry roads. The bike begs the rider to lean into corners. Didn’t have the curves to do so, unfortunately. But I could really go deep in while taking U-turns. Generally, I use horns very rarely, just a small honk to warn erring motorists, so I am not very big on how horns sound. Yet the one on Speed 400 is amongst the meekest horn I have ever heard. Decades back while riding a moped as a teen, is when I heard such a weak horn. If there is one accessory that needs an urgent upgrade, it is the horn. My friend was heard asking if it was possible to fix a dual horn setup, I think they said it was possible.

In short, loved the bike. Would I replace my Duke 390 with the Speed 400? No. But if Triumph comes out with Speed 400 with a more peppy response – Triumph have my money, no questions asked.

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