Triumph Speed 400/Scrambler 400X 2024 Review | First Ride

Affordable and beginner friendly but there’s plenty for experienced riders to enjoy as well...
14th February
Dan Trent



There are functional motorbikes for getting about, and fun ones to make you get up early on a Sunday morning and go for a blast just for the sake of it. Those that can do both are few and far between, especially those specifically designed for younger riders who may, by virtue of demographic and financial circumstance, be restricted in horsepower and spending power.

Into this void steps Triumph, with its new T-Series 400cc bikes and a newly affordable entry point to the brand’s Modern Classics range. Priced to sell but engineered to last, the Speed 400 and closely related Scrambler 400X are built around a punchy, all-new liquid cooled 40PS (29.4kW) single-cylinder engine.

Both combine alluring retro cool with some surprisingly contemporary components to plug a gap between budget retros from the likes of Royal Enfield, more serious modern machinery like KTM’s popular 390 Duke and even the more boutique options from the likes of Herald and CCM.

We like

  • Punchy single-cylinder motor
  • Quality parts and build quality
  • Great fun to ride

We don't like

  • Taller riders may find them a bit titchy
  • Maybe not retro enough for the purists
  • Outpaced on faster roads



From Speed Twins to Bonnevilles and Scramblers to Thruxtons you get the sense Triumph is in its happy place with its Modern Classics range, which has evolved over the years into an arch blend of old-school style and modern usability. Sure, the real purists can save money on more ‘authentic’ alternatives from the likes of other reborn British brands like Royal Enfield and BSA with their chrome and air-cooled engines. But Triumph manages to combine the appeal of classic bikes with proper modern engines, suspension and brakes, not to mention the performance to keep tabs with more aggressively modern-looking bikes. Until now you’ve paid for the privilege, though.

Enter the T-Series, designed in Britain but manufactured at potentially vast scale (if it all works out) in overseas factories in places like India and Thailand. While the style has plenty of retro gloss with the round headlights and trad accoutrements the construction is a bit more contemporary than the bigger bikes in the range, with fat upside down forks up front and modern rear suspension in place of the trad twin-shock set-ups seen on Speed Twins, Scramblers and the rest. Light, compact, easy to ride but with a power output not far shy of the 47PS (35kW) A2 licence limit there’s potential here to appeal to both newbies and more experienced riders.

Performance and Handling


Triumph hasn’t just downsized the looks of the bigger 900 and 1200 Modern Classics– it’s also done the same with the character of the new single-cylinder engine. Fake cooling fins and a fat exhaust sprouting from the head (it’s cleverly double-skinned so as to conceal the drinking straw look of other small capacity bikes) nail the retro aesthetics, the radiator, hoses, catalytic convertors, wiring and other functional necessities neatly concealed within the steel frame and minimal bodywork.

Just like the bigger parallel-twins it’s tuned for torque and flexibility, pulling eagerly from whichever of the six gears you’ve happened to select and exploiting the commendably light build (170kg for the Speed, 179kg for the Scrambler, both fully fuelled and ready to go) for strong acceleration up to the kind of speeds you’d want to be doing on a naked retro. Which is to say town or twisty B-roads, rather than faster and flowing A-roads or motorways.

Fair to say it has the grunt to keep pulling beyond 60mph and it always over-delivers on expectation for a bike of its capacity, third or fourth gear flexible enough to give strong acceleration out of even slow corners. But overtakes demand a bit more planning than a big bike, though the need to pin the throttle against the stop and run it out to the limiter in each gear is more fun than frustrating, especially on the slightly throatier sounding Scrambler.

While the bikes look fundamentally the same you start to notice meaningful differences when you ride them back-to-back on the same roads. On matched 17-inch wheels the Speed 400 is balanced and delightfully agile, the riding position putting weight over the front end without straining your wrists while slightly fatter rubber gives you more to lean on in the corners. The more upright Scrambler has a bigger 19-inch front wheel, another 41mm in the wheelbase and tweaked geometry to make room for the bigger wheel. It demands more meaningful inputs to tip into a turn as a result, but loses little in overall agility for the fact it’s not carrying a huge amount of extra weight.

While lacking in any adjustment the 43mm, upside-down cartridge forks on both mean more precision than the flexier, old-school units on cheaper retros, the Scrambler getting a smidge of extra travel at 150mm. A remote reservoir monoshock at the rear is adjustable for preload only, and gets 130mm on the Speed and 150mm on the Scrambler. Bumps were notable by their absence on the Spanish roads we tested both bikes on, but damping support seems good with no unpleasant wallowing or diving with a 75kg rider onboard.

Classically styled or not, it feels both bikes have the handling to keep pace with more modern looking alternatives from KTM, Husqvarna and more, the sense they’ll happily punch above their weight (and price) always putting a grin on your face.



With that target audience of urban dwelling beginner riders in mind Triumph has worked hard to make sure both bikes are easy and unthreatening to get along with. The slim single-cylinder engine makes the seat heights – 790mm on the Speed and 835mm on the Scrambler – feel lower than the numbers suggest and the lack of weight is confidence inspiring when weaving through city traffic. It also helps ride comfort, and while we did most of our city miles on the longer-travel Scrambler both deal with speed humps, potholes and the rest without drama.

For a supposedly sporty bike the Speed’s riding position is geared more for comfort, perhaps leaving the door open for a more extreme version in the future – the modular construction with the bolt-on rear subframe has potential on this score. But back in the here and now we suffered no aches or pains even after a couple of fairly hard-ridden hours, the only complaint being the cockpit will feel a little cramped for anyone much taller than your near six-foot tester. If that’s you the Scrambler is worth further consideration, the fraction more space in the wheelbase, wider bars and repositioned pegs making it feel a little more substantial.

While you may fear a bit of single-cylinder fizz running through the bike at higher revs a balancer shaft makes the engine smoother than many of its type without totally isolating you from the characteristic vibes many associate with the format. It’s sufficient to get the mirrors buzzing at certain revs, but not enough to get your wrists or backside aching. A more luxurious quilted seat is also available if you do intend to spend longer hours in the saddle but we didn’t find our backside wishing for that, even with a long day of riding behind us.  

Technology and Features


It may look old-school but this is a modern bike underneath, with a ride-by-wire throttle, switchable traction control, ABS (also switchable for off-roading on the Scrambler) and proper brakes, the front four-piston calipers radially mounted and sourced from Brembo sub-brand ByBre with braided lines for more precise lever feel. Nice touch. So, built to a price but using sensibly chosen and high-quality bits. The analogue speedo fits with the look of the bike and includes a small LCD screen for additional information – if you need more than that you’ll need to attach your phone to the bars, though there is at least a USB-C port for keeping it charged as you go.

Triumph identified that for the target audience starting price is a primary buying consideration, meaning the rest of the kit is on the options and accessories list. This includes functional stuff like engine protection bars, skid plates, a luggage rack and fly screen, luggage options including a top box we’d argue ruins the looks somewhat and more flexible soft bags that won’t. While nice touches like bar-end mirrors on the Speed and hand guards on the Scrambler are standard there are, inevitably, plenty of other ways to dress up your baby Triumph, be that with rubber tank pads, fancier ‘bullet’ indicators or more.



While there is plenty to enjoy in these little Triumphs for riders of all ages and abilities the novelty of ringing a single-cylinder engine to the limit in every gear may wear off eventually, even one as punchy and refined as this. Meaning those with a full licence may yet be better served by an approved used example of the bigger parallel twins from further up the Modern Classics range for similar money.

Where both these new bikes really work is by offering an accessible first step into Triumph ownership for younger riders, without ever feeling like a budget option such is the quality of fit, finish and detailing. The rough charm of some of the cheaper retros may feel more faithful to the cause, but if you want a dependable, usable bike that will start on the button, keep up with the traffic on the commute and look good while doing so both 400s feel like proper bikes, not just small ones.

The fundamental similarities in looks, performance and character are such that the choice between the two really comes down to personal preference, though taller riders may find the fraction of extra room on the Scrambler a little more attractive.


Engine 398cc single-cylinder, liquid cooled
Power 40PS (29.4kW) @ 8,000rpm
Torque 37.5Nm (27.6lb ft) @ 6,500rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
Kerb weight Speed 400 170kg, Scrambler 400X 179kg (fuelled and ready to ride)
0-62mph N/A
Top speed N/A
Fuel economy 80.7mpg
CO2 emissions 83.8g/km
Price Speed 400 £4,995, Scrambler 400X £5,595