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2017 Triumph Boneville Bobber review, test ride

25th Jan 2017 8:00 am

Is the Bonneville Bobber more than just its retro charm? We swing a leg over it to find out.

  • Make : Triumph
  • Model : Bonneville

Hipsters are just about everywhere these days, aren’t they? And motorcycle manufacturers really seem to be pandering to these bearded, plaid-shirt-and-skinny-jeans-wearing types as well. You need to look no further than the marketing material of all these retro-modern bikes which have been launched recently to get my point. Heck, even Triumph’s new Bonneville Bobber virtually screams “hipster” and the advert for the bike just reiterates that. But this Bobber is based on the company’s new Bonneville T120 platform, and that’s a bike which had us really impressed. So maybe there’s more to the Bobber than meets the eye.

Bob cut

Actually, even what meets the eye is quite remarkable. The styling is reminiscent of the stripped-down ‘bobbers’ or ‘bob jobs’ that entered the American custom motorcycle scene in the ’30s. In fact, barring the engine, there’s no way to tell that this is based on the T120. Triumph managed this by taking the T120’s chassis and completely modifying it to the point where it’s technically now an all-new frame. Even the steering geometry is quite different as the Bobber has a slightly higher rake angle than the T120, with its larger 19-inch front wheel making for a much shorter trail. In fact, to keep the whole ‘bobber’ look going, both wheels are wire-spoked and the rear is 16-inch shod with chunky 150-section rubber.

The Bobber’s real party piece is its rear end. It might look like a hardtail, like bobbers of yore, but Triumph has very cleverly designed a ‘swing-cage’ with a monoshock hidden under the seat to give it that look. Speaking of the seat, it’s pretty ingenious too. The rider-only floating seat is mounted on a rail that allows for adjusting its position from up and forward to down and back, depending on the rider’s profile or what kind of riding they are looking to do. The seat isn’t the only adjustable bit on the Bobber though. The single instrument pod up front features a simple quick-release mechanism that allows its viewing angle to be changed in a jiffy.

There are a number of design touches all around that make the Bobber really distinctive. It gets a newly sculpted fuel tank that has some attractive colour schemes, along with some minor detailing on the engine casing and instrument cluster. Some classic touches include a heritage-inspired battery cover with a stainless steel strap, a rear-wheel hub that resembles an old-school drum brake and even an ignition barrel that’s located near the right side panel. On the whole, Triumph has struck a wonderful balance between modern and classic with the Bobber and this ‘factory custom’ is sure to entice even those who have no love for old-school motorcycles.

 Hot rod

This Bobber might pack the same 1200HT motor from the T120, but it is in a slightly different state of tune. The 1,200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin motor now makes 77hp of peak power, which is a little bit less when compared to the Bonneville T120, but its power curve has been altered so it makes about 10 percent more power at 4,500rpm. It’s sort of a similar story with the torque as well. With 106Nm on tap, not only does it make 2 percent more peak torque than the T120, but manages a significant 10 percent more at 4,500rpm.

What does all this mean, though? Well, out in the real world, this gives the Bobber a healthy dose of grunt in the usable rpm range. While the motor has no problem if you rev it hard, the mid-range is where it really shines. Coming out of turns, as soon as you get the motor to about 3,000rpm, the Bobber shoots ahead in a manner that’s almost uncharacteristic for such a classic-looking motorcycle. And with its ‘sawn-off’ twin exhausts, you’re greeted by a wonderful noise reminiscent of old-school hot-rod motorcycles, every time you open the throttle. Triumph, in fact, maintains that how the Bobber sounds was an important part of the engineering process, and the goal was to surround the rider with not just the meaty exhaust note, but also the roar of its twin intakes located right under the seat.

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Motor borrowed from the T120.

Low rider

In a straight line, the Bobber is an absolute hoot. It accelerates hard and reaches triple-digit speeds in no time at all. And the properly old-school, slightly feet forward, yet leaned over and low riding position (the seat height is just 690mm) makes the bike feel even more thrilling at speed. While the bike itself has no problems cruising at triple-digit speeds, the rider might have some. With nothing to shield them from wind blasts, high speeds then tend to get limited to short bursts of throttle-wide-open action.

Now looking at the Bobber, you’d expect it to not have much cornering prowess. But you’d be quite wrong to assume that. Out in the twisties, the Bobber proved to be quite a delight as it handled the corners with utmost ease. The low-slung nature and the larger 19-inch front wheel and flat, wide handlebar mean that steering it into turns requires a bit of effort. However, once turned in, it’s absolutely planted, providing plenty of confidence for you to get on the gas as soon as the corner exit is lined up. The bespoke Avon Cobra tyres it comes shod with play a crucial role in the terrific levels of grip the bike has, as does its low centre of gravity.

However, as you’d expect, being this low-slung has its problems too. Lean over beyond a certain angle and the foot pegs tend to ground quite hard. Almost all of us on the ride managed to wear down the feeler bolts on our respective foot pegs. But while lean angles are a bit restricted, it’s really surprising how the Bobber never feels unsettled even when you’re dragging foot pegs over the tarmac, with sparks flying in your wake.

The other downside to this low-set design is low-suspension travel. With just 90mm of travel up front and 76.9mm at the rear, the KYB shocks are understandably set up slightly on the stiffer side. Now all the roads we encountered on our ride, through the hill roads around Madrid, were fairly smooth, so the stiff suspension wasn’t a huge concern for the most part. But, on a couple of speed breakers, with my 100-plus kg frame on the seat, the rear did bottom out as it sent a fairly painful jolt up my spine. So how the Bobber handles Indian roads really remains to be seen.

One seriously weak link in the Bobber’s otherwise fairly strong suite is braking. The Bobber trades in the T120’s twin-disc setup for a single 310mm disc at the front. With dry weight of 228kg, the brakes simply aren’t adequate to bring this bike to a quick stop. It’s a shame considering just how quickly this bike accelerates and just how much fun it is when going fast.

Two cents

This Bonneville Bobber is set to hit Indian shores in a couple of months with pricing expected to be between that of the T120 and the Thruxton R, which means in the Rs 9-10 lakh range. It’s undoubtedly one of the most beautiful bikes in Triumph’s line-up at the moment, but the best part is that it’s not just a pretty face, it’s genuinely fun to ride and can even hold its own in corners. Heck, out in the twisties around Madrid, we managed to outpace some locals on sport bikes, or “victims” as the blokes from Triumph liked to call them. It also exudes a sense of high build quality that’s become synonymous with the company’s motorcycles.

To top things off, Triumph offers some incredible customisation options in the form of ‘inspiration kits’ to make the Bobber feel more retro or even set it up like an old-school drag bike. Hipster or not, the Bobber is one motorcycle that’ll be a fine addition to anyone’s garage.

ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 77hp at 6100rpm - - - -
Max Torque (nm @ rpm) 106Nm at 4000rpm - - - -
Type 1200cc, parallel twin 4-stroke, liquid-cooled - - - -
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
No of Gears 6-speed/1-down, 5-up - - - -
Dimensions & Chassis Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Length (mm) NA - - - -
Width (mm) 800mm - - - -
Height (mm) 1025mm - - - -
Wheel base (mm) 1510mm - - - -
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Brake Type 310mm disc - - - -
Rear Brake Type 255mm disc - - - -
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Suspension 41mm telescopic forks - - - -
Rear Suspension Linked monoshock - - - -
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Weight 228kg - - - -
Wheels (F/R)19/16 inches - - - -
Tyres (F/R)100/90-19/150/80-16 - - - -
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Tank size 9.1 litres - - - -
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