Victory Vegas / Triumph Speedmaster Comparison

Text: Warren Sobat • Photography: Christian Neuhauser

Parallel twin versus V-twin in a no-holds-barred contest of cruisers. We grabbed two contemporary powerhouses in the muscle bike market to see which one holds the edge: Is it the parallel Brit style or American know-how in the tangent?

When the powers that be at RoadRUNNER suggested the assignment of taking on the Triumph Speedmaster and Victory Vegas in a twin cylinder comparison, I thought the differences between these bikes were so extreme that they seemed as comparable as Arnold Schwarzenegger is to Danny DeVito! However, when we got them on location, rolling over our proving grounds, the two bikes certainly challenged one another.

Both are beautiful. The Vegas with its swooping custom styling, redolent of today's popular West Coast and Orange County Choppers, is sure to please the urban boulevard cruising crowd. And the Triumph's definitively retro style presents a cross between utilitarian and chopped performance that ought to bring any 60's Brit-bike enthusiast to his knees.

The foremost feature in both cases is style, with the designers going for that intangible quality known as the "ah" factor.

The Vegas catches your eye instantly with its unbroken lines sweeping back from the fuel tank to tail section. As with most cruisers, the Vegas is swathed in chrome but instead of appearing as bolt-on items, every piece appears carefully thought out and integrated into a single theme. The fuel tank splits toward the rear to accommodate the stylish seat, and the diamond-shaped LED taillight is set flush into the rear fender. Subtle details like these make the Vegas a real showstopper. And who would expect anything less from a design heavily influenced by custom motorcycle great Arlen Ness?

The Speedmaster casts an altogether different shadow. Triumph's offering has a look of serious business about it. With less chrome and featuring black enamel for engine and casings, this bike presents a more brutish look and the lower, leaner lines make it appear to be crouching, as if it's all set to pounce on unsuspecting pavement. The large perforations in the chrome air-cleaner cover add to the ambience of its "days gone by" pub-racing image. Our test unit also featured an optional, custom checkered-flag motif on the gas tank that is absolutely gorgeous.

Engine and Transmission
Now to the meat of things: the performance of these twin-cylinder monsters.
There is a serious displacement disparity between the two engines. The Vegas plant works out to be a tick over 1500 cubic centimeters while the Speedmaster makes do with an anemic 790. The Victory also holds an advantage with electronic fuel injection breathing through 44-mm throttle bodies; the Triumph wheezes fuel and air via a pair of carburetors with throttle position sensors.

These bare facts don't tell the whole story though. On the road, the Vegas engine is the epitome of smooth. It pulls cleanly from the bottom and gains power as the revs climb. Opening the throttle spreads a wide grin across your face and absolute joy throughout your heart. The Triumph, in keeping with its bad-boy image, wants to have the throttle wrung out and delivers great power at the upper levels of the speedometer. The Speedmaster is much buzzier throughout the powerband and constantly sends a tingle through your arms. My right hand started to go numb after several miles. Vibration from the Vegas is negligible until rolling at serious highway speeds (65+ mph).

Each bike features a 5-speed transmission and they both performed well under some punishing conditions. The Vegas shifts were a bit smoother considering the size and torque of its engine, but neither one was problematic.

All things considered, the nod in this category must go to the Vegas.

Chassis and Brakes
Although these bikes aren't serious performance machines, both sport some very nice handling equipment. Each has a double cradle frame mated to beefy forks, 41mm for the Brit and 43mm for the Yank. Out back, the Vegas wears a mono-shock tucked away for that hard-tail look, hooked up to a forged, cast-aluminum swingarm. The Speedmaster's rear-end suspension duty is handled by a pair of chromed spring shocks attached to a tubular-steel swingarm. Both units have only pre-load adjusters.

The bikes performed well on the twisting canyon roads of Southern California, with the Speedmaster winning in the ground clearance category. Lean transitions were also much easier with the Triumph, in large part due to its superior weight advantage over its heavier American cousin - 620 dry pounds for the Vegas versus 504 for the Speedo.

Stopping power for both bikes is excellent. The Speedmaster is fitted with twin, 310mm hard-mounted front rotors squeezed by two-piston calipers and a single 285mm disc in the rear. The Vegas is hauled in by a single 300mm floating disc pinched by a four-piston caliper in the front and the same goes for the equipment in the rear, set up with a two-piston caliper. Braking was easy on both bikes but neither will throw you over the handlebars even with hard full-fisted pulls on the lever.

It's a tough call picking the leader in this category. On paper, the Victory shows great attention to detail and the selection of some premium hardware. But in the glaring light of real-world performance, our nod has to go to the cockney cruiser.

Accessories and Arrangements
On the Interstate, the Vegas feels like a much more stable mount. Vibration is significantly less, but with its high mounted pullback handlebars, the rider is like a sail in the breeze, all of which leaves shoulders aching after extended highway miles. More aches caused by the Victory's forward foot controls and flashy low seat emanated from my rear end by the end of the day. While the Speedmaster's pegs and controls also sit fairly far forward, they are not nearly as hard to reach. Also, our test unit was fitted with an optional broad solo seat which was very comfortable and a small windshield which looks like a large fake fingernail that is quite effective considering its diminutive size.
Right out of the box, neither of these bikes is set up for long-distance tours. Thankfully, both manufacturers have seen fit to offer optional equipment to tweak their machines into almost any guise a customer could desire.

The Speedmaster can be fitted with leather or fabric panniers, a variety of solo and passenger seats as well as backrests. Our test unit came with a solo seat and chrome rail setup (both items are a la carte) and the rear seat was swapped out for a handy dandy attractive luggage rack. An analog clock set into the tank is stock on the Triumph, but the bike we tested had this replaced with an optional tachometer. I am not a big fan of having to look down at the tank while riding to check my instruments; however, it is better than no tach at all.

The folks at Victory go one better with its list of customer choice add-ons. Along with a broad selection of hard and soft saddlebags and smaller pockets that can be strapped almost anywhere they could think of, they also offer a host of very tasty chrome and billet bolt-on items designed by Arlen Ness.

Both manufacturers offer slip-on chrome exhausts, but the Victory engineers have produced stage I and II kits for sale through dealers that include exhaust, air box, injection calibration and cylinder head upgrades.

In short, both Triumph and Victory have catalogs that can only be described as an enthusiast's playground. But when it comes time to make a choice, the fickle finger of fate swings to the Vegas for its wide variety and excellent quality choices.

For cruiser fans looking at either of these bikes, it will not be an easy choice. Both bikes will turn heads on those Saturday night boulevard cruises. Despite its obvious shortcomings in engine displacement, for a three-day weekend trip most riders would be better served aboard the Triumph. But for great-looking style, feel and big grins with right-handed wrist twisting, the Victory gets the checkered flag.

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster

Retail Price $ 8,699
Warranty 24 month unlimited miles
Maintenance Schedule 500/4,000/every 4,000 miles (800/6,000/every 6,000km)
Importer/Distributor Triumph Motorcycles America Ltd. 385 Walt Sanders Memorial Dr., Suite 100 Newnan, GA 30265 phone (678) 854-2010
www.triumph.co.uk

Engine
Type parallel-twin, 270° firing interval
Cooling air
Valve Arrangement DOHC
Bore & Stroke 86 x 68mm
Displacement 790cc
Compression Ratio 9.2:1
Carburetion 36mm Twin carburettors with throttle position sensor and electric carburettor heaters
Exhaust Emission Control n/a

Transmission
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch wet, multi-plate
Final Drive X ring chain

Chassis
Frame tubular steel cradle
Wheelbase 1655mm (65.2in)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)33.3°/56.7°
Trail 153mm (5.98in)
Front Suspension fork
Stanchion Diameter 41mm
Adjustments n/a
Travel 120mm (4.7in)
Rear Suspension chromed spring twin shocks
Adjustments preload
Travel 105mm (4.1in)

Wheels & Tires
Type na
Front alloy 6-spoke, 18 x 2.5in
Rear alloy 15 x 3.5in
Front Tire 110/80 R 18
Rear Tire 170/80 R 15

Brakes
Front Brake twin discs
Diameter 310mm
Rear Brake single disc
Diameter 285mm
Combining n/a

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 720mm (28.3in)
Dry-Weight 229kg (504lb)
Fuel Capacity 16.6 litres (4.4 gal US)

Performance
(American measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)62PS (61bhp) at 7,400 rpm
Torque 60Nm (44.3ft.lbf) at 3,500 rpm
Top Speed 170km/h (104mph)
Acceleration 0-100km/h (0-63mph): 5.4s
Fuel Consumption 5.74/100km (40.4mpg)
Fuel Range 289km (177.8mls)

Equipment speedometer, clock, indicators for direction, engine and nuetral.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 4/5

Chassis 4/5

Brakes 3/5

Comfort 5/5

Luggage w/accessories 4/5

Equipment 3/5

Design 3/5

Bike for the buck 5/5

TECHNICAL SPECS:

Victory Vegas

Retail Price $ 15,349
Warranty 5 Year, unlimited mile with 24 hour roadside assistance
Maintenance Schedule 500 mile break-in, no valve service
Importer/Distributor Victory Motorcycles Division of Polaris Industries 2100 Highway 55 Medina, MN 55340 phone (763) 417-8650
www.victory-usa.com

Engine
Type 4-stroke/50°/V-twin
Cooling air/oil
Valve Arrangement SOHC/4 valves per cylinder/self-adjusting cam chains/hydraulic lifters
Bore & Stroke 97mm x 102mm
Displacement 1507cc (92cu-in)
Compression Ratio 19.2:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection/44mm throttle bodies
Exhaust Emission Control n/a

Transmission
Gearbox 5-speed
Clutch wet/multi-plate
Final Drive reinforced belt

Chassis
Frame tubular steel cradle
Wheelbase 1690mm (66.5in)
Rake (horizontal/vertical)33.1°/56.9°
Trail 134mm (5.28in.)
Front Suspension fork
Stanchion Diameter 43mm
Adjustments n/a
Travel 130mm (5.1in)
Rear Suspension single shock link type
Adjustments preload
Travel 100mm (3.9in)

Wheels & Tires
Type spoke
Front 21.0 x 2.15in
Rear 18.0 x 5.0in
Front Tire 80 90/21 Dunlop® Cruisemax
Rear Tire 180 55-B18 Dunlop® D417

Brakes
Front Brake single disc
Diameter 300mm
Rear Brake single disc
Diameter 300mm
Combining n/a

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 673mm (26.5in)
Dry-Weight 281kg (620 lbs)
Fuel Capacity 17l (4.5 us gal)

Performance
(American measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank)n/a
Torque n/a
Top Speed n/a
Acceleration n/a
Fuel Consumption 5.7l/100km (41mpg)
Fuel Range 300km (184 miles)
Equipment speedometer, clock, indicators for direction, engine and nuetral.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 5/5

Chassis 4/5

Brakes 5/5

Comfort 4/5

Luggage w/accessories 2/5

Equipment 4/5

Design 5/5

Bike for the buck 3/5