“They’ve all come, to look for America”, sang Simon & Garfunkel. The Triumph America is built for those sort of people – the sort of people who look for America; but from the other side of the Atlantic. Bikes from other countries tend to look more like clones, but the British do things differently. That’s why I’ve always admired Triumph cruisers: they don’t try to clone that most iconic of cruisers from the good ol’ US of A. No big V-twins here, just “jolly good old parallel twins, just like we’ve always made 'em.” But of course there will be some people who still look for a bit of America in the styling of their cruisers – and that’s where the “America” version of the Triumph cruiser twins comes in. Mechanically, the Speedmaster and America are exactly the same, but this has more of that American look about it, with valanced guards and pull-back handlebars. I’d previously tested a Speedmaster and been very impressed (harsh rear-suspension and ergonomically poor riding-position not withstanding), and had been wanting to ride the America. I’d had a couple of opportunities, with group rides from a local dealer, but I’d chosen not to because of the test-route. Lots of bumps and some narrow winding mountain road were not the places I wanted to be on a cruiser. This time when the test-fleet came to town, I skipped the official ride day and went in the following day, was thrown the keys and took off on my own chosen route: one more suited to a cruiser; and my dodgy old back.
IN THE DRIVEWAY
The America looks fabulous! The photos here certainly don’t do it justice. Two-tone metallic paint, with lustrous deep shine, and acres of chrome, make it look magnificent! Twin chromed pipes run down beside the shiny-finned motor and then stretch back alongside the chromed engine side-covers and beneath the chromed rear suspension units, ending in a reverse-cone shape that makes it look distinctly Triumph. Wide chromed bars sit atop silver-coloured forks and triple-clamps, with chromed instruments behind a big chromed headlight. Did I mention the lustrous two-tone metallic paint? Oh, I did, okay. Did I say it looked fabulous? Sitting on the bike the first thing you notice is the wide, plush, comfortable seat. This is great! The next thing you notice is the riding-position. That’s not so great. Yes, yes, I know, it’s all a matter of preference and taste, but ergonomically, the riding-position of cruisers is all wrong – and even more so when the bike has forward-controls that have your legs angled forwards. Don’t believe me? Ask a physiotherapist or any posture expert. For me, having a crook back, this was not good: and it was made worse by the pull-back handlebars that had my long arms feeling pushed-back and cramped. Controls are all pretty standard and easy to operate, except for the ignition switch, which is down on the left side of the bike at about arm’s length, below the seat. Very convenient – not! All you see in front of you is a speedo, which sits up tall and proud. The warning lights are located in a chrome panel on top of the tank. Not only is this way out of your line-of-sight, but when the sun is on them it’s almost impossible to tell if they’re on or off. So checking to see if you’re in neutral is best done by trying the clutch. And blinkers? Just try to remember to turn them on and off; you’ll never know by looking at the warning-lights. There are warning-lights for low oil-level and high-beam, but again, don’t bother looking unless it’s night time or a very dark day. (Blinkers and high-beam are off in the photo). A couple of other minor gripes: I found the rear brake lever a bit hard to get at. You’d get used to it if you owned one I suppose, but I found it a bit awkward. And the side-stand is tucked in under the exhaust and also hard to get at.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Start it up and it sounds good! There’s a throaty sound, with an occasional burble on the over-run – better than you expect on a standard bike, especially one of that capacity. Put an after-market pipe on it and it would be even better! There’s a clunk as it goes into 1st, but once on the move the change into higher gears is smooth. Clutch-less up-changes are easy and smooth. The British twin, in typical cruiser fashion, isn't overly powerful, especially considering its capacity, but it has good low-down torque and pulls away efficiently from very low revs. Somewhat uncharacteristically of cruisers, it revs out quite willingly. The engine's performance is, however, hampered by the gearing. The gearing is ridiculous! It's way, way too high. I don’t know what the gearing is, in terms of kph / 1,000rpm (because there’s no tacho), but it will easily break the 60kph town limit without changing up. I even got it to 80kph in 1st without it sounding overly strained. It pulls away from standstill okay, thanks to the low-down torque. Then around town it’s all 2nd and 3rd gear, with often a (clunky) change back to 1st at intersections and roundabouts. On the highway I often found myself inadvertently cruising at 100kph or so, still with two gears to go. Top gear feels a bit unhappy at anything under 80kph, and doesn’t really start to feel comfortable until about 100kph. From there on it feels good. For a (naked) cruiser, that’s ridiculous! The engine is good enough to give it more than adequate performance, but that gearing really pulls it back. On the highway, in top gear, I found I had to wind on more throttle to counteract even a fairly light headwind. And hills required more effort than they would have if the gearing was more suitable to the power and style of bike. It’s just stupid! You get the impression that it would be really good at around 140kph – which is faster than most owners will be riding it – but struggles at normal highway speed. My test route included mostly highway and major suburban roads, with a little bit of fairly smooth back-road. So when I say that the handling is great, I’m not talking about flip-flopping through tight twisties – that’s not where cruisers are at – but for the type of riding I was doing, it handled very well. Those wide bars give good control over the fat front tyre, but it doesn’t take much controlling anyway. The bike steers amazingly well for a cruiser, and tips into corners with such ease that you start forgetting it’s a cruiser. Okay, it’s not a sports-bike, but there’s none of that fighting-the-front-end feeling you get on a lot of cruisers. And now we come to the ride. There is some compliance there, but in typical cruiser fashion, the ride is pretty harsh. Even the front felt a bit firm, which is unusual for a cruiser. As I said, my ride was mostly on relatively good surfaced roads, but even on the highway I was bounced off the seat a couple of times. And if there was any sort of decent bump I really felt it – straight up my spine! If you do find the limit of the rear suspension’s short travel, especially at speed on a big bump, well, as a friend of mine said when he rode one and hit a big bump, “It’s like being hit in the bum with a sledge-hammer!” There’s no adjustment either, except preload on the rear. I avoided bumpy roads but my back was still sore by the end of the test-ride. It was the second test in succession where I came home needing medication to settle my back down. (The previous one being a totally different type of bike – the Triumph Speed Triple). The brakes are good. The front works very well, which is often not the case with cruisers. In fact, I used the front only, a few times in traffic, mainly because my foot was still getting used to finding the rear pedal. So there it is. I still think Triumph do cruisers very well; and I admire the fact that they do them a bit differently to most other makers. For people who want something a bit different, but are still looking to America for some of the usual styling cues, this bike could be an ideal choice.
SNAPSHOT The Triumph America looks fabulous, goes well, handles well, but is hampered by the usual ergonomics of cruisers, and the again usual poor ride. And also by its silly gearing. But, in cruiser land it’s still a good bike!
Engine: 2-cylinder, 865cc. Power: 45kW at 6,800rpm. Torque: 72Nm at 3,300rpm.
Suspension: Front: 41mm forks with 120mm travel. Rear: Twin shocks with 96mm travel.
Fuel capacity: 19.5 litres.
Weight: 231kg (dry).
Seat height: 690mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 130 X 16. Rear: 170 X 15.
Brakes: Front: Single 310mm disc with 2-piston caliper. Rear: Single 285mm disc with twin-piston caliper.
Price: $13,490 (Ride-away).
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