Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
JAN 06th 2017
The Goodwood Test: Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Triumph’s Bobber takes its name and look from the “bob-jobs” or bobbers built in the States from the Thirties and Forties. These were American V-twins that were lightened by removing the front mudguard, trimming (bobbing) the rear, and removing unnecessary parts to reduce weight, for racing or high-speed road use.
Most early bobbers were Harley-Davidsons but some were Triumphs, based on models including the 500cc Speed Twin, or 650 Thunderbirds like the one that Marlon Brando’s character rode in The Wild One. In recent years Harley has adopted the theme for models such as the Fat Bob; now Triumph has gone a stage further with a more authentic looking production bike, based on last year’s Bonneville T120.
This Bobber, which shares the Bonnie’s 1200cc parallel twin engine, is a bold and brilliant piece of design, its key element a “pivoting” aluminium single seat that gives the bike a unique look. The single rear suspension unit is sufficiently well tucked away to give the impression of an old-style unsuspended or “hard-tail” rear end. Up front, the wide, near-flat handlebar sits above a pair of gaitered telescopic forks.
Few production bikes have been as imaginatively conceived or as thoughtfully detailed. The instrument panel is a large, round analogue speedo with digital insert, and can be pivoted to optimise the view. Below the shapely fuel tank is a battery box with stainless steel strap. The rear mudguard stay also looks suitably period. Components such as the rear brake master cylinder are hidden behind brushed aluminium engine covers.
The SOHC, liquid-cooled engine is mechanically unchanged from Bonneville spec but new intake and exhaust systems boost low-rev torque while cutting top-end output slightly, to 76bhp. It’s a deliciously strong powerplant, pulling cleanly and hard from low down, changing sweetly through its six-speed gearbox, and revving smoothly towards a top speed of about 110mph. The Bobber’s no speed king but it’s flexible, rider-friendly and fast enough to be fun.
And its handling is outstanding, especially for a low-slung, not particularly light bike with a narrow 19-inch front wheel and fatter, 16-inch rear. The suspension is firmer than the Bonneville’s, giving the Bobber an improbably taut and sweet-steering feel, backed-up by adequate tyre grip and ground clearance plus a traction control system. The single-disc front brake lacks the bite of the T120’s twin-disc set-up but the ABS-enhanced rear disc is a useful ally.
Triumph looks to have hit the spot perfectly with the Bobber: judging by advance sales it could become one of the Hinckley firm’s most popular models yet. It’s easy to understand why. Drawbacks including its small, 9.1-litre fuel tank and sub-100-mile range, single-seat and lack of luggage-carrying ability are easily ignored given its unique style, high-quality finish, characterful power delivery and invigorating chassis performance.
The Bobber is also wieldy around town, helped by its low seat, and it’s impressively comfortable given its firm ride and limited suspension travel. As a roadster it works far better than could be expected of such a radical machine, at least for riders who don’t need to carry a pillion. It’s easily enhanced and personalised, via more than 150 accessories, from “apehanger” bars to a leather swing-arm bag. More than half a century after those American riders started trimming their V-twins, the Bobber looks set for centre-stage.
Price tag of our bike: £10,650 (in deep red or matte grey. Basic black bike costs £10,500; two-tone green and silver is £10,800)
Photography by Alessio Barbanti, Paul Barshon, Matteo Cavadini and Freddy Kirn.
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