TRI­UMPH TWINS

Tri­umph’s range of retro twins use qual­ity in­gre­di­ents that are well pre­pared and sim­ply pre­sented. Much like the Bri­tish break­fast sta­ple. We took nine of them (the bikes) for a ride to Jacks Hill Cafe. Sauce any­one?

BIKE (UK) - - CONTENTS - By John West­lake Pho­tog­ra­phy Ja­son Critchell

Tri­umph’s retro-ish twins (that’s nine bikes) im­press across the board.

UP AHEAD, FRAMED by the ape hanger bars of the Bob­ber I’m rid­ing, is a Tri­umph dream. Eight other Hinck­ley twins, rang­ing from the T120 you see be­low to the all-new Speed­mas­ter, are swoop­ing be­tween sum­mer hedgerows, head­ing for brunch at the Jacks Hill Cafe. From two en­gines – 900 and 1200cc – Tri­umph have cre­ated a di­verse range that made up 46% of all their sales last year, and from the Bob­ber’s sad­dle it’s hard for an old gif­fer not to get dewy-eyed at the achieve­ment. When the Hinck­ley Tri­umphs ar­rived in 1990, John Bloor made a de­ci­sion to steer clear of Bon­nevilles, for fear of taint­ing the new bikes with a leave-you-by-the-road­side, oil-leak­ing rep­u­ta­tion. And now we have this – nine dif­fer­ent Bon­nies, each sell­ing by the boat­load both here and abroad. But ex­actly how big are the dif­fer­ences be­tween them? Or are they, as scep­tics would have it, all ver­sions of the same thing with a cou­ple of en­gines and a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent han­dle­bars? A day get­ting lost in Northamp­ton­shire’s finest back-roads with a dis­parate group of testers, and a cou­ple of Tri­umph personnel, should pro­vide an­swers. But first, time for a spot of brunch…

The grand­daddy: Bon­neville T120

We’ve only rid­den 35 miles down the A5 from Tri­umph’s fac­tory to Jacks Hill Cafe but that’s enough for Pete Boast to form an opin­ion of the T120. Boastie spent the pre­vi­ous week­end lap­ping Spa Fran­cor­champs on a GSX-R750, get­ting on the podium with team-mate Guy Martin in a clas­sic en­durance race, so there’s a risk that the cen­tre­piece of Tri­umph’s mod­ern clas­sic range won’t set his slacks on fire. But no, he’s im­pressed: ‘What sur­prised me is how good the brakes are. I’ve rid­den Thrux­tons be­fore, but not a Bon­nie and although it’s got twin discs I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to stop as well as this does. The rid­ing po­si­tion is fine up to about 80mph and then you’re re­ally just hold­ing on rather than rid­ing it. But be­low that it’s great, I re­ally en­joyed it.’ The fact that the T120 can charm a racer within min­utes isn’t that sur­pris­ing. The lat­est 1200cc par­al­lel twin – in­tro­duced in 2016 – is a lus­ciously torquey de­vice, that hauls with syrupy ease

from 2000rpm and feels de­cid­edly sprightly by 3000rpm. There’s power at the top end – at al­most 80bhp, the T120’s en­gine tune is sec­ond only to the Thrux­ton R’s peak – but that’s not where most road rid­ers will live. The midrange is a far more in­ter­est­ing place to spend an af­ter­noon, rolling out of ev­ery cor­ner on a rum­bling swell of torque. In a way, the clever­est thing about the T120’s en­gine is what you can’t ac­tu­ally see – the ra­di­a­tor for the wa­ter­cool­ing is un­ob­tru­sive, there are no un­sightly hoses (all the wa­ter chan­nels are in the cylin­der block) and all the ride-by-wire elec­tronic gub­bins is hid­den away. True to form, Boastie has yet to ap­pre­ci­ate the aes­thetic ge­nius. ‘The only thing that an­noyed me was the gear­ing – the gap be­tween sec­ond and third is so big if you feel third is labour­ing a bit and you change down, sec­ond then feels like it’s revving too hard. I wanted closer ratios. That’s not to say it won’t pull high gears, be­cause it will, but if you want to be ready to ac­cel­er­ate at 30 or 40mph I was never sure what gear to be in. ‘But I would con­sider hav­ing one of th­ese – I could see my­self us­ing it as ev­ery­day transport. Ob­vi­ously it would strug­gle on hard rides be­cause the sus­pen­sion is soft and the 18in front wheel makes the steer­ing a bit slow, but for ev­ery­thing else it would be lovely.’

Don’t mock un­til you’ve tried them: Bob­ber and Bob­ber Black

There’s an el­e­ment of sub­terfuge to all th­ese bikes, ra­di­at­ing olde worlde charm yet pack­ing ride-by-wire throt­tles and cut­ting edge en­gine de­sign. But the Bob­bers take this de­cep­tion to the next level. With a sil­hou­ette of a bobbed (ie rear chopped down) post war clas­sic, they even ap­pear to have a solid rear end, so you’d ex­pect them to han­dle with all the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of a turnip. Yet the be­spoke chas­sis works so well that on a smooth road they han­dle just as com­pe­tently as the rest of the range – which is say­ing some­thing. And the en­gine is a tweaked vari­ant of the T120’s 1200cc unit that has more torque in the midrange and a throt­tle re­sponse that’s as ag­gres­sive as a Thrux­ton R in Sport mode. They even have two modes – Road and Rain.

‘I wanted to stop and get beaten up by a giant monkey’

Af­ter rid­ing the stan­dard Bob­ber (this has a 19in front wheel, a sin­gle front disc, and 43mm forks – the Bob­ber Black gets a 16in front, two discs and 47mm Showas), Dave Martin (Tri­umph-own­ing Bike reader) is im­pressed, but wary. ‘The seat is com­fort­able, it’s a pleas­ant shape, but a bloke my size can’t move around on it, so it gets quite un­com­fort­able quite quickly. The pegs feel like they should be fur­ther for­ward too (that’s an ac­ces­sory op­tion) so you could lean back and re­lax. At the mo­ment they’re tucked up un­derneath you. It’s pow­er­ful enough though – I was at the back of the con­voy leav­ing Jacks Hill and had to go some to catch up and it re­ally shifts.’ Dave’s got a point about prac­ti­cal­ity – the Bob­bers’ trac­tor seat lim­its range, as does the nine litre tank, and the op­tional ape-hanger bars fit­ted to our other­wise stan­dard Bob­ber don’t help ei­ther. Stand­ing in a layby some­where in Northamp­ton­shire (we spent much of the af­ter­noon pleas­antly lost), art edi­tor Paul Lang is hav­ing no truck with such prac­ti­cal­i­ties. ‘I’m shocked to say this, but the Bob­ber with ape-hang­ers is my favourite so far. Maybe I’m go­ing through some mo­tor­cy­cling midlife cri­sis. I felt fan­tas­tic rid­ing it. When we were all in a group I wanted to stop off in a vil­lage, start a fight and get beaten up by Clint East­wood and a giant monkey, and then ride out of there. [For read­ers un­der 45, this is a ref­er­ence to the film Any Which Way But Loose, star­ring Clint, a chop­per gang and an orang­utan called Clyde]. Maybe I’ve been suck­ered into a bik­ing cliché but as a sports­bike fan and lover of fast nakeds, I re­ally en­joyed both Bob­bers.’ Dave is nod­ding, hav­ing just got off the Bob­ber Black. ‘The last time I rode any­thing like this was in the early ’60s. I even had the mous­tache to go with it. It’s a fun bike though – the throt­tle is so re­spon­sive af­ter some­thing mild like the T100 – you hit a bump, your wrist jolts and you’re up the road with a bark.’

Out Har­ley­ing Har­ley: The Speed­mas­ter

This is the lat­est vari­ant on the Bob­ber and feels noth­ing like them. Where the Bob­bers are firmly sus­pended – too hard for com­fort when we ac­ci­dently head down a farm track do­ing a

pass­able im­pres­sion of an en­duro stage – the Speed­mas­ter is plush. Where the throt­tle re­sponse on the Bob­bers is hair-trig­ger sharp, the Speed­mas­ter is al­most as chilled as the T100. Grant Evans, who usu­ally rides a T120, found the Speed­mas­ter changed the way he rode: ‘The rid­ing po­si­tion is so re­laxed it makes you feel that way – you sit there and chill, feel­ing the en­gine rum­ble away be­tween your an­kles. I was imag­in­ing my­self cruis­ing down an in­ter­state in Cal­i­for­nia – apart from when we went down that farm track.’ Boastie was next on the Speed­mas­ter and had a few prob­lems ac­cli­ma­tis­ing: ‘It took me a while to get used to the footrests be­cause they’re so far for­ward. And the han­dle­bars… as soon as you’re do­ing about 60mph you have to hold on be­cause it feels like it’s go­ing to blow your hands off the bars. It’s not my kind of bike, but I can see the ap­peal – that en­gine has so much torque.’ The for­ward-con­trol pegs caused prob­lems for Langy too be­cause he’s closer to the ground than proper hu­mans. ‘It’s a lovely smooth mo­tor­cy­cle but I found the pegs too far away for my legs – it was a stretch. I love the han­dle­bars though. When you re­ally go for it your hands start pulling off the bars and you get that same thrill of hang­ing on for grim death on a roller coaster.’

The café rac­ers: Street Cup and Thrux­ton R

We pho­tographed th­ese to­gether be­cause they’re both café rac­ers, but there are more con­trasts than sim­i­lar­i­ties when you ride them. The Thrux­ton R is in the outer or­bit of planet Bon­neville, its en­gine tuned for power, track-qual­ity sus­pen­sion set-up for cor­ners not com­fort and a price that re­flects ex­clu­sive com­po­nen­try. Look­ing for­ward from the back of our twin con­voy, you can spot the Thrux­ton rider a mile off – he’s the one who looks like he’s joined the wrong ride-out, hunched over the bars while ev­ery­one else sits bolt up­right. When we hit the oc­ca­sional main road, the rest of us are sit­ting up, pot­ter­ing along, en­joy­ing the sun­shine and the bark of ex­hausts while Thrux­ton R man looks like he’s con­serv­ing en­ergy for his qual­i­fy­ing lap. The Street Cup has the cafe racer look, but the rid­ing po­si­tion is nowhere near as ag­gres­sive as the Thrux­ton R’s.

Miles Perkins (Tri­umph’s mar­ket­ing direc­tor) is most taken with the R’s 1200cc en­gine, which at 96bhp makes 17bhp more than any­thing else here, and close to twice the Street Cup’s 54bhp: ‘It’s just lovely – get the R into Sport mode and off you go, it rolls on from medium revs so nicely. I’ve not rid­den one for a while and I’d for­got­ten about the view over the front end with the pol­ished yoke… it’s so classy.’ But for much of the af­ter­noon, the Thrux­ton is not the bike to be on. Af­ter yet an­other break to swap bikes, we turn onto an ar­che­typal Bri­tish B-road which squirms ma­ni­a­cally in no par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion, its sole pur­pose be­ing the en­ter­tain­ment of mo­tor­cy­clists rather than go­ing any­where. While ev­ery­one else is hav­ing a ball, I’m tol­er­at­ing it on the Thrux­ton R. Its sus­pen­sion is too firm, there’s no room to let the en­gine off the leash and the speeds are so low my wrists are be­gin­ning to ache. The Street Cup, on the other hand, is in its el­e­ment, with sup­ple sus­pen­sion tak­ing care of the bumps and a mild rac­ing crouch en­cour­ag­ing the rider to get his head down and go for it. ‘Next to some­thing like a T120, the Street Cup has an ag­gres­sive look but it’s ac­tu­ally not at all in­tim­i­dat­ing to ride,’ says Langy. ‘And it feels so lively con­sid­er­ing it’s got the smaller en­gine – you can use all that torque to keep up with the Thrux­ton R down roads like this, no prob­lem.’ Dave Bent, who has done 4000 miles on his own Thrux­ton R, could also see the ap­peal of the Street Cup, but was more aware of its lim­i­ta­tions: ‘It’s such an easy to ride bike – your feet touch the floor eas­ily, the front brake is good, and the sus­pen­sion is very soft and for­giv­ing com­pared with the Thrux­ton R. Mind you, ev­ery­thing tends to feel soft com­pared with that. Com­pared with my Thrux­ton it lacks power and torque be­cause it’s a 900 ver­sus a 1200, and I’m sur­prised that it only has five gears. I kept go­ing for a sixth… but it wasn’t there. It feels like an ideal step up from a smaller bike.’

‘Next to some­thing like a T120, the Street Cup has an ag­gres­sive look but it’s ac­tu­ally not at all in­tim­i­dat­ing to ride’

Team hum­ble: T100, Street Twin and Street Scram­bler

By midafter­noon we’re some­where in War­wick­shire and need to head back to the fac­tory. With 20 miles of de­serted B-roads and the oc­ca­sional swoopy A-road thrown in be­fore we hit the con­ges­tion south of Rugby it’s time for one last thrash. You might think the T100 would be over­whelmed by the task, but far from it. The T120’s baby brother feels like it’s been set up for th­ese coun­try lanes – the nar­row tyres make it feel nim­ble, the wide bars make it easy to chuck about and the soft sus­pen­sion floats over bumps with­out get­ting too out of shape. Like the Street Twin, Street Scram­bler and Street Cup, it’s a bike that ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers can rel­ish push­ing to its lim­its with­out hav­ing the ca­su­alty depart­ment on standby. Ob­vi­ously with only 54bhp and a chunky 213kg to haul about, the T100 is ul­ti­mately not that fast, but you only no­tice that when the roads open up. Along the tan­gle of B-roads we’ve been rid­ing, it’s a gig­gle. ‘You say it feels set up for th­ese roads,’ says Miles as we chat at some tem­po­rary traf­fic lights pro­tect­ing a mys­te­ri­ous un­manned hole, ‘and it is. Th­ese are Tri­umph’s test roads round here – this is the kind of place our chas­sis guys will be run­ning around. And though the T100s and Streets have lower power, the en­gine de­sign is just as ad­vanced as the big­ger twins. The work

‘The 900 and 1200 twins are the most ad­vanced en­gines in the Tri­umph range’

that went into them to in­cor­po­rate the cool­ing and the ride-by-wire throt­tle and to get all that torque be­tween 2500-4500rpm where most peo­ple ride, with­out com­pletely killing the top end… that’s dif­fi­cult. You could eas­ily ar­gue that the 900 and 1200 twins are the most ad­vanced en­gines in the Tri­umph range.’ The Street Scram­bler shares the same en­gine as the T100 but Tri­umph have worked hard to give it a dis­tinct feel. Han­dle­bars are higher and wider, the seat is taller, pegs are fur­ther for­ward, there’s a 19in front wheel, more sus­pen­sion travel and up­rated front brakes. There are plenty of off-roady ex­tras too to fin­ish the job – sump guard, chunky tank pads, large clawed foot­pegs with re­mov­able rub­ber in­serts and a chunky brake pedal. Of all the bikes here it’s the one that’s eas­i­est to sneer at though – you could ar­gue it’s a fat bloke who’s squeezed into his son’s mo­tocross out­fit in a laugh­able at­tempt to get down with the kids. But it’s hard to main­tain that at­ti­tude from the sad­dle as the Scram­bler charges down B-roads, its longer travel sus­pen­sion ren­der­ing pot­holes ir­rel­e­vant and its ex­tra seat height mak­ing the lanky lads feel more com­fort­able and giv­ing ev­ery­one a bet­ter chance of seeing over hedgerows. And it han­dles – the Met­zeler Tourance tyres work well up to peg-scrap­ing lean angles and those wide bars make it hi­lar­i­ously easy to throw about. ‘I was to­wards the back of the group when I was on this,’ says Langy, ‘and I could see John and Boastie at the front push­ing on, hav­ing a laugh and I re­ally wanted to shove past one of the slower guys and get in­volved. It eggs you on.’ If any­thing though, it’s the Street Twin that’s the most sur­pris­ing bike here. As the cheap­est mo­tor­cy­cle Tri­umph make, it’s lack­ing frills – there are no rid­ing modes, no sus­pen­sion ad­just­ments and no pol­ished yokes. But it shares all the en­ter­tain­ing, easy-to-ride at­tributes of the T100, is 15kg lighter and still gets trac­tion con­trol and ABS. Parked next to some­thing like the Street Scram­bler it might look plain, but that’s not how it feels to ride. ‘I thought I’d feel a big­ger dif­fer­ence be­tween the 900s and 1200s,’ says Langy. ‘Ob­vi­ously there is one, but it’s not night and day. And the Street Twin has been the big­gest sur­prise for me. It’s so smooth and easy that I was think­ing about my rid­ing rather than what gear I was in. The sus­pen­sion is sup­ple and it holds its line beau­ti­fully. If some­one was wa­ver­ing and test rode one of those, they’d buy it.’

Ver­dict

Tra­di­tion­ally, this is the point at which a finick­ity road tester picks holes in the bikes. But this test is dif­fer­ent. It’s very odd, be­cause af­ter the ride there was an un­nerv­ing ab­sence of neg­a­tiv­ity among the testers. Why? Two rea­sons. Firstly, each bike has a tractable, char­ac­ter­ful en­gine, en­ter­tain­ing han­dling and de­cent brakes. They’re good road bikes. And se­condly, ev­ery one is a charmer. Even the most hard-bit­ted testers came back smil­ing af­ter ev­ery ride, whether be­cause of the thud­ding speed of the Thrux­ton R, or the happy-go-lucky vibe of the Street Twin. No doubt some will still write off Tri­umph’s twins as faux clas­sics de­signed by a mar­ket­ing depart­ment, and if so we’d like to is­sue a chal­lenge: ride one and try not to smile.

TRI­UMPH BON­NEVILLE T120Price £10,350 otr En­gine 1200cc Power 79.4bhp @ 6550rpm Torque 77.4 lb.ft @ 3100rpm Dry weight 224kg Wheel­base 1450mm Rake/trail 25.5°/105.2mm Front brake 2x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper

Langy on the Bob­ber: en­joy­ing his midlife cri­sisTRI­UMPH BOB­BERPrice £10,650 otr En­gine 1200cc Power 76bhp @ 6100rpm Torque 78 lb.ft @ 4000rpm Dry weight 228kg Wheel­base 1510mm Rake/trail 25.4°/92mm Front brake 2x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper

TRI­UMPH BOB­BER BLACKBob­ber Black: the sporty Bob­ber Price £11,650 otr En­gine 1200cc Power 76bhp @ 6100rpm Torque 78 lb.ft @ 4000rpm Dry weight 237.5kg Wheel­base 1510mm Rake/ trail 25.4°/92mm Front brake 2x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliperTRI­UMPH SPEED­MAS­TERNew Speed­mas­ter: im­pressed with its com­fort Price £11,650 otr En­gine 1200cc Power 76bhp @ 6100rpm Torque 78 lb.ft @ 4000rpm Dry weight 245.5kg Wheel­base 1510mm Rake/ trail 25.3°/91.4mm Front brake 2x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper

TRI­UMPH STREET CUPPrice £8800 otr En­gine 900cc Power 54bhp @ 5900rpm Torque 59 lb.ft @ 3230rpm Dry weight 200kg Wheel­base 1435mm Rake/trail 24.3°/98.7mm Front brake 1x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper Racer Boastie at home on the Street Cup

Thrux­ton R: by far the most ex­treme bike hereTRI­UMPH THRUX­TON RPrice £12,250 otr En­gine 1200cc Power 96bhp @ 6750rpm Torque 82.6 lb.ft @ 4950rpm Dry weight 203kg Wheel­base 1415mm Rake/trail 22.8°/92mm Front brake 2x 310mm disc, 4-pot caliper

TRI­UMPH STREET TWINPrice £7800 otr En­gine 900cc Power 54bhp @ 5900rpm Torque 59 lb.ft @ 3230rpm Dry weight 198kg Wheel­base 1415mm Rake/trail 25.1°/102.4mm Front brake 1x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper Best value bike here? Street Twin is the lead­ing con­tender T100: a sur­pris­ing joy to thrash down B-roadsTRI­UMPH BON­NEVILLE T100Price £8750 otr En­gine 900cc Power 54bhp @ 5900rpm Torque 59 lb.ft @ 3230rpm Dry weight 213kg Wheel­base 1450mm Rake/trail 25.5°/104mm Front brake 1x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper

If you’re 6 4in the Scram­bler makes senseTRI­UMPH STREET SCRAM­BLERPrice £9000 otr En­gine 900cc Power 54bhp @ 5900rpm Torque 59 lb.ft @ 3230rpm Dry weight 206kg Wheel­base 1445mm Rake/trail 25.6°/109mm Front brake 1x 310mm disc, 2-pot caliper

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