2012 Triumph America Comparison

Jan Plessner | May 21, 2012

The Triumph America arrives for this shootout recently revamped in the 2011 model year. The British marque revised its entry-level cruiser for friendlier ergonomics, moving the handlebars and foot controls toward the rider, as well as hacking more than an inch off its seat height -lowering it to 27.1 inches. It’s a revision that should serve well toward catering to the growing women’s market.

The America is the first British riding experience for most of our test riders and the only Parallel Twin in the lineup. Like the Sportster, the 865cc Triumph Twin is air-cooled. But when it comes to power, the Triumph America secures the top spot in engine performance, horsepower, torque and quarter-mile acceleration.

As soon as I got on it, I knew this was a machine like nothing I have ever ridden. My smile broadened as I figured out what the powerplant is all about. The Triumph is a torque monster and it is fun to goose it time and time again, just to feel it accelerate. The best way I could describe the America’s engine is that it feels like a mechanic went through and used a microscope to check the precise location of all the moving engine parts. I kept thinking, “this is like a precision-built Swiss Army knife motorcycle.” It sounds tight and felt perfectly tuned.

One tester was so impressed with the performance of the 2012 Triumph Americas engine that she said it felt like a mechanic went through with a microscope to check the precision of all the moving parts.
Testers felt the 2012 Triumph America would have no problem keeping up with bigger displacement bikes.
The Triumph America’s Parallel Twin impressed test riders, sweeping perfect 10s in Engine Performance scorecards.

Out of nine subjective categories, the Triumph’s motor is the only recipient of perfect 10s across the board. It is also one of two scores (out of 36) where every single test rider gave it the same score.

Jody puts it best: “The Triumph simply outruns and out powers the rest.”

One speedy rider who will remain nameless at this juncture says, “I was doing 80 mph on the freeway and I still had plenty of reserve power.”

Tania concurs with the high-flying claims, promising that, “keeping up with the bigger displacement bikes won’t be a problem on the Triumph.”

The Triumph registers as the quietest bike, which left some riders disappointed that its bark does not match its powerful bite. “It’s a fat monster cruiser, but the attitude disappeared as soon as you turned it over,” confirms Jody.

“With a bike that has the best power output in the group, I expected the sound to be comparable. I would think Triumph riders would be stoked if their bikes sounded more in tune with the power this bike cranks out!” adds Vickie.

Test riders enjoy the Triumph’s smooth transmission when shifting up or down. A couple of the riders did notice some fueling oddities, as the bike slightly lurches when the throttle was released momentarily. “It was still very pronounced in the higher gears where you might expect it to be less noticeable,” explains Vickie.

I did not notice this characteristic; maybe because I have ridden a ton of Japanese sportbikes that are designed to part your hair when you take off. I’m not sure why I didn’t feel it. The bottom line is that I think this bike wants to be ridden hard. If you like smooth and easy take-offs, keep shopping. This bike has a lot of ponies under the hood, more than 13 over the least powerful model in our group, and that I could appreciate.

Our testers agreed that the 2012 Triumph Americas seat was comfortable and supportive.
Some testerst didnt prefer the 2012 Triumph Americas stiff suspension.
Some testerst didn’t prefer the 2012 Triumph America’s stiff suspension, but the seat was comfortable and supportive and both the front and back brakes got the job done.

There are mixed scores for the Triumph and how it handled. It’s great on the hills and winding roads, with predictable steering and no surprises. The stiff suspension, especially at higher freeway speeds, is not preferred by some of our testers.

The brakes on the Triumph are plenty adequate “providing the power necessary to dissipate the higher energy required to stop a heavier bike,” shares one seasoned pilot. “I enjoyed the predictable response to both the front and rear brakes,” she continues.

When it comes to comfort, everyone agrees on the “comfortable ride, soft and supportive seat, ergonomically sound set-up and controls within reach.” I am especially pleased with the bucket-style feel to the seat which under even the most aggressive acceleration testing, keeps my butt from trying to leave the scene.

“The handlebars have a low and back bend which compliments the whole feel and ride of the motorcycle,” Tania explains.

Sarah says the Triumph feels like it is the tallest bike, and definitely has the highest center of gravity. The riding position is comfortable, with the seat not too wide.

When it comes to instrumentation and features, all are perplexed by the placement of the various indicator lights on top of the gas tank. None of us could see if the lights were on or off during our day ride. One of these lights is the turn signal indicator. This meant that no matter who was riding the Triumph, the non-cancelling turn signal was likely to be left on.

While the Triumph scores perfect 10s in engine performance, the inability for any of us to see the lights on the control panel during the day translates to the lowest single category score of the day.

The 2012 Triumph America was one of the first British rides for many of our testers.
The classic looking Triumph America was one of the first British rides for many of our test riders.

I think the ignition key is located in a strange place. It seemed to be hidden from me under my left leg, every time I looked for it.

And speaking of looks, the Triumph gets kudos for its British lines. “I thought the Triumph was fat, solid and awesome looking. The look of the engine block is cool, too,” says Jody.

“Where as the Vulcan was the chopper, the Triumph looked like the classic car with its bright blue and white paint scheme gleaming next to the bright chrome,” says Sarah.

Vickie thinks the Triumph is a terrific looking bike, especially for those looking for something a bit more imposing. It wouldn’t look out of place next to a row of Harleys and she says she would be proud to park it anywhere during bike week.”

I totally agree with Vickie’s thoughts and hope to have more time with this model before long.

Jan Plessner

Contributing Editor| Articles | A former PR/marketing maven for Kawasaki, Jan has long been an advocate for women riders and now turns freelance writer. With more than 20 years in the motorcycle industry Jan serves as editor of LadyMoto.com.