Since the wraps came off the new Triumph Bonneville range in October, we’ve had to plenty of time to digest the upgrades. But it’s only now that we can sink our teeth into the products.
To say we’ve been looking forward to saddle time would be an understatement. The first true redesign of Hinckley’s line of modern classics was long overdue, and the hype surrounding them has been huge.
So it seemed odd that Triumph only scheduled one day in Portugal for the press to ride the two flagships of the stable—the Bonneville T120 Black, and the Thruxton R. It made us wonder.
Is it because the cruiser and the cafe racer are still simple variations on a theme? The same bike, sold two ways?
The short answer is no. These are two very different beasts indeed. Each has been developed with its own rider in mind, engineered to exude its own performance nuances and individual character.
In fact, after riding them back-to-back, it’s hard to believe the two share more than a sales floor, let alone radiators and that 1200 cc, liquid-cooled engine.
Triumph Bonneville T120 Black, $11,500 (USA) Thrumming through the narrow and winding streets between Cascais and Sintra, the blacked-out T120 I’m riding feels like a breath of fresh Atlantic air.
It’s relaxed and easy to ride, has an engaging soundtrack and communicates better than any stock Bonnie I’ve ridden before. It’s the perfect way to casually take in the sights.
The seat is supportive and extremely comfortable. The suspension effortlessly soaks up wrinkled roads and the front end stays well planted in corners. Thanks to its ride-by-wire throttle, there are two rider modes—Rain and Road—as well as switchable traction control.
Anti-lock brakes are standard issue and there are now two large floating discs up front and six cogs to swap.
Familiarity grows, so the pace quickens after coffee and custard tarts. Pitching the T120 into a tightening right hand bend, my toes grind some asphalt before the drop-style pegs have a chance to surrender sparks.
Shocked, I pick up my feet for the next set, flick on the heated grips to take the chill out of my paws, and roll on the gas. A smile lines my helmet: The Bonneville is now a truly modern motorcycle.
That being said, the look remains classic and unmistakable. Triumph has taken pains to ensure this, squeezing the all-new parallel twin motor into the same dimensions as the outgoing unit.
That’s despite boasting a larger 1200 cc displacement and more power: 79 hp @ 6550 rpm, and 105 Nm of torque @ 3100. It finally gives the Bonnie the street cred its lineage demands.
Triumph’s engineers should be proud of their four years of development work here. The homage details are playful works of art: Like the twin throttle bodies, the hand painted accents on the standard T120, and the Bakelite-esque plug wire caps. It’s heritage done right.
Triumph Thruxton R, $14,500 (USA) Most of those same heritage pieces adorn the new Thruxton R, but its focus on performance trumps its allegiance to antiquated cues.
This is a cafe racer, to be sure. But it’s designed for the modern era—and draws influences from the customs we drool over here on a daily basis.