The rumours are true. Triumph has launched a sub-500cc bike for the first time in over thirty years – two of them, actually – and we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch at The Bike Shed in London, seeing the new Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 X in the flesh. Amongst all the hype and crowds at the event, we were blown away by how aesthetically pleasing these 398cc bikes look. They have all the DNA of Triumph’s Modern Classic range, just packed into a smaller body. Of course, these are the first two motorbikes to come out of the Triumph and Bajaj partnership, with the focus on building mid-sized bikes for lucrative markets like India and Asia. Which means these motorcycles have the potential to become the biggest selling bikes of all time – but will they?

First impressions
While Western countries have historically gone with the motto of “bigger is better”, the affordability and practicality of the sub-500cc class puts it on top in the Asian market, and it seems like Triumph has decided to have their slice of that pie. And this is no half-baked attempt; both the Speed 400 and the Scrambler 400 X are very mature for their displacement.

At the launch, Triumph put the Speed Twin 1200 and Scrambler 1200 XE up on display next to their single cylinder siblings for reference, which made it easy to see that these bikes really do look the part, both in appearance and size. Being 1.92 metres (6.3 feet) myself, I expected to be challenged for space. However, both bikes offered plenty; I preferred the slightly higher Scrambler 400 X seat height of 835 mm to the Speed 400’s 790 mm.

Not a single detail forgotten
These bikes have the potential to be a great entry point for new riders to enter into the brand, but to do so successfully, they obviously need to hit a certain price point. In spite of this, the bikes look the part without the word “budget” coming to mind. For example, the fenders are plastic instead of aluminium, but Triumph has cleverly disguised them by carrying them out in matte silver.

The brakes are not the Brembo’s found on the bigger bikes, but on the 400’s you’ll find Bybre calipers front and back that come from the same Brembo factory, with a four-piston radial caliper gripping the single front disc. From the dash to the controls, the 400’s are reminiscent of their bigger brothers – which means they look spot on. Add in ride-by-wire throttle, switchable traction control, and ABS (switchable on the Scrambler for off-road fun), and you do feel these bikes come well-equipped right from the factory.

As with other models from their Modern Classic range, the Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 X come with various accessory options that allow you to start the customisation process before you’ve even left the dealership. From a fly screen to nicely designed round blinkers, to engine mounts and luggage options, there’s 25 accessories already available from the moment these bikes hit the dealers. Speaking of launch dates: both models will be available in India next month, with all other markets following at the start of next year, when the acclaimed very competitive prices will be unveiled.

With the aforementioned competitive price, these bikes will be a perfect platform for those who look to go beyond factory accessories in adding their personal touch. The cast aluminium wheels are the elephant in the room here, as we imagine that many riders might prefer the look of a nice set of spoked wheels instead. Triumph opted for a bolt-on subframe, which makes us wonder when the first aftermarket alternatives will become available.

As with most Triumph’s these days, the upswept stock exhaust already looks great, but we think a high-mounted version would add some desert-sled vibes while giving a little single-cylinder thump to your ride, especially in the case of the Scrambler.

The Verdict
Triumph clearly tapped into the heritage of their Modern Classic range in their design, creating two bikes that don’t look like your usual 400cc fare, but have the specs and looks to take on the mid-sized market in style. 40 horsepower doesn’t sound like much, but with a weight of under 180 kilograms plus a responsive single cylinder underneath you, these bikes will be perfect for anything from lane splitting on your way to work to a little adventure off-road.

Probably the most stand-out feature of both bikes is that among bigger bikes they don’t stand out like other small capacity bikes do when parked in a lineup. And if you ask us, that’s a great feat. The only question left is: will these bikes become the biggest selling motorcycles in the world? Only time will tell.

[ Triumph Motorcycles ]