WORLD FIRST TEST TRIUMPH T120 BLACK and beautifully styled’
‘Refined to ride, comfortable, Continued over
ow on earth do you go about redesigning a machine is as evocative as the Triumph Bonneville? Well, for a start, you look very closely at the market and identify exactly who you are wanting the bike to appeal to. And it is this key decision that has formed the whole attitude of the new T120 Bonneville models.
Back in the day, the Bonneville was a sportsbike – and an extremely fine one at that, which is why its name has remained so highly regarded all these decades later. But that was yesterday’s Bonneville; today’s Bonnie is a very different motorcycle, bought by a very different sort of rider. It’s a time machine, bristling with modern tech, but
Hstylistically harking back the original’s halcyon days.
You have to hand it to Triumph, the styling job its designers have done on the T120 is absolutely top-drawer. Like the Thruxton we tested in last week’s MCN, every box has been ticked to ensure the T120s remain as faithful to the flavour of the original Bonnies as possible, while subtly incorporating the modern technology buyers expect. In silhouette the new T120 looks every bit the classic Bonnie, and that’s a major part of its appeal. But appearances can only get you so far, and Triumph have been clever in ensuring the new T120 more than meets expectations when it comes to the ride.
When you look at the Bonnie your brain will take mere milliseconds to form a mental impression on how it will
The conventional fork has no adjustment while the twin shocks are only preload adjustable. The rear wheel is a 17in item while the front is an 18-incher to keep the retro style. Both are shod in Pirelli Phantom Sports Comp tyres, which have been designed specifically
for the T120.
The two-piston Nissin sliding calipers grip solid mounted discs and are connected via steel braided lines to a conventional master cylinder. The set-up should work better than it does and we found it lacked feel during our test. ABS is standard
fitment and it is switchable.
The 1200cc parallel-twin is essentially the same as in the Thruxton, but is tuned for midrange and low-end torque, using a heavier crank for more inertia and different fuel maps. Triumph claim 63mpg, and it’s longer geared than the Thruxton for more relaxed
The T120 has the same rideby-wire, traction control and ABS systems as the Thruxton bikes MCN tested last week, but only has two fuel modes – Rain and Road. Heated grips are standard fitment, as is an immobiliser and USB
There are two solid colours – red and black – as well as two twotone schemes of black/white and red/ silver, each commanding a premium of £300. Metallic colours also cost a £150 premium. The T120 Black here comes in black, or graphite, with black details and a
The foundations of the T120’s chassis are the same tubular steel cradle as in the Thruxton’s, while the Bonnie gets a steel swingarm instead of the aluminium one used on the sportier café racers. Its wheelbase is also 30mm longer, resulting in
more relaxed geometry.
The T120 is inspired by the revered 1959 and 1968 T120s. Twin peashooter exhausts are dual skinned, meaning they look like a single pipe despite branching off into the under-engine catalytic converter. Rubber kneepads, retro plug caps, and bench seat – the T120 has the
The most noticeable difference is the High Performance engine on the Thruxton, which not only makes more power, it picks revs up faster. This sensation of speed is enhanced by lower gearing. The Thruxton uses an aluminium swingarm where the T120 has a steel unit. The Bonnie also has a 30mm longer wheelbase. Electronics are similar but the Thruxton gains an extra ‘Sport’ fuel mode, to add to
Rain and Road. feel. Those wide bars, large flat seat and the relaxed rider geometry all tell you that sitting on it will be a comfortable experience, while the effortlessly cool retro image reinforces its laid-back outlook on life. Where the Thruxton’s clip-ons and solo seat shout ‘sporty’, the Bonnie gently whispers in your ear that the sun is out and now would be a great time for a gentle exploration of some classic British B-roads. And that mental snapshot of the T120 is exactly how it rides in reality.
The new parallel-twin may boast 1200cc, but its output has been tuned for ease of use, not thrashing, and it’s one of the most effortless engines I’ve ever ridden. You don’t need to go hunting for an elusive well of torque – as long as the rev counter is above 2000rpm the T120 is ready to waft you forward with minimal fuss. It’s silky-smooth in its throttle response and transmits virtually no vibrations, certainly not enough to make the Mickey Mouse ear mirrors do anything so ungainly as to shudder. The gearbox, which does still exhibit a characterful clunk when it engages a cog, has the same internal ratios as the Thruxton – but thanks to longer final ratios it lacks the sportier bike’s frantic nature or rapid bursts of acceleration. And it is a similar story with the chassis.
You don’t really want to rush a T120. Its chassis is more than capable of carving through the bends, but it has far more limitations imposed on it than the Thruxton when it comes to cornering. For a start you only get 40-degrees of lean until things start to scrape, which isn’t a great deal, but more notably the bike has an 18in front wheel. While this helps keep the traditional looks on message, it does give it a slightly ponderous feeling from the front end. The Bonnie’s not bad handling at all, it just requires a bit more effort to get it into bends and hold it there, and will feel mildly odd to anyone more used to a 17in set-up. But few owners will find it of any concern, and nor should they. The same is true of the suspension.
On a bike costing just shy of £10,000 you might expect fully-adjustable units front and rear, but the Bonnie only