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Com www.motorcyclenews. R See the new Thruxton go head to head with its retro rivals ‘Turn the electronics off and the Thruxton becomes a wheelying, skid-tastic supermoto’ Continued over
The new 1200cc parallel-twin cylinder motor burbles beneath you and tremors with feel-good vibes. Twist the electronic throttle and you’re rewarded with big dollops of British meat-andpotatoes power and grunt.
It’ll scratch a sports rider’s itch, steers with pin-sharp accuracy and has such well-tuned suspension it glides from corner to corner with minimal effort. Whether you hang off like Marquez or wedge your knees together like Surtees, the Thruxton R rewards like a lithe, perfectly-balanced sportsbike.
Powerful Abs-assisted Brembo brakes are a tactile dream, the clutch is light, and the new six-speed gearbox snicks from cog to cog with soft, mechanical, oily grace.
Lines are sleek and uncluttered, but beneath the Triumph-badged retro skin it has a computer-controlled ride-bywire system and is loaded with ‘get out of jail free’ riding aids, which is handy when the roads are slippery. There’s switchable ABS, traction control and three riding modes to choose from: rain, road and sport.
But turn the electronics off and the Thruxton R turns into a wheelying, skid-tastic supermoto – a bit like Ducati’s brilliant Sport Classic used to.
For your £11,700, which is a lot less than the best of the similarly technopacked super-nakeds, superbikes and adventure machines, you also get Brembo monobloc brakes, Öhlins shocks, Showa Big Piston Forks, a torque-assist clutch, LED lights, a USB charging socket, an immobiliser, 160-section Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rear tyre, a Mo nza-style filler cap, aluminium tank strap, polished top yoke, clear anodised aluminium swingarm and a set of analogue clocks with a full digital display discreetly buried within.
And if all that wasn’t enough you can choose from a dizzying array of official Triumph accessories and ‘Inspiration Kits’ (see next page).
If your budget doesn’t stretch quite as far you can still get your Thruxton kicks with the £1300 cheaper base model. It has the same chassis, engine and electronics, but has slightly lower-spec twin-piston Nissin brakes, Kayaba rear shock and forks, Pirelli sports-touring Angel GT rubber, a less racy steering angle and it weighs 3kg more. It also forgoes the R’s seat cowl, polished top yoke and clear anodised aluminium swingarm.
But back to the Thruxton R and we catch fellow MCN tester Emma Franklin in the corner, drooling over the detail. She swoons: “I love how the modern Showa BPF tops mix with that lovely classic top yoke, the throttle bodies that look like old-fashioned carbs, the old school filler cap and even things like the spark plug caps have Triumph logos on them.
“I’m really impressed with the way it goes, too. It’s got ‘little bike’ agility, feel, manageability and racing genes, with big bike torque and attitude. The suspension is smooth and doesn’t crash over bumps. I preferred the smooth throttle response of the middle ‘Road’ mode – I found ‘Sport’ is too snatchy for normal riding.”
Bruce Dunn is equally enamoured with the machine that’s actually built
as standard in Triumph’s Thai factory. He says: “We could spend an hour talking about the detail, but the suspension and ride quality is outstanding. It holds the road well at any speed and comes with decent tyres.
“Like the old Thruxton it still feels heavy to push around, but it doesn’t when you get going. The faster you go the better it feels. I’m impressed with its power and that engine matches the chassis really well.”
Of course, you don’t need to spend nearly 12 grand for your retro kicks. Yamaha’s classy and achingly cool XJR1300 costs just £8599 making it by far the cheapest bike here.
You get a lot of Yamaha for your money, but not in a cutting-edge Triumph sort of way. No, weighing a beastly 240kg it’s the heaviest bike here, but don’t panic because it suits the XJR’S character perfectly. That extra weight gives it a solid, unflappable ride and it simply steamrollers any bumps that dare to get in your way.
The XJR1300 takes its retro inspiration from the superbikes of the early 80s, so it’s less David Beckham and more Eddie Lawson. The only irony is Yamaha never actually had a bigengined, flat-barred superbike like this back then, but it’s still cool just the same.
You won’t find riding modes, or rider aids here (but it comes with a couple of tasty fully adjustable Öhlins rear shocks), or even ABS - it’s just two wheels, an engine and somewhere comfortable to sit. It’s a simple for- mula, but one that never fails to make you feel good.
As you’d expect from a big Japanese inline four, the creamy motor is long–revving and delivers relentless acceleration, compared to the punchier twins. The throttle is smooth and the five-speed gearbox slick, if a little short-geared, so you’re often searching for that elusive sixth cog.
Pegs are set quite high and there’s a long stretch to the aftermarket flat bars fitted to our test bike, but the riding position is still cossetting, especially for a six-footer like me. Out of all the bikes here it’s the one I don’t feel too big on. The Triumph and BMW are still roomy, but they’re low and small.
It’s a fast bike, despite its weight, but with a soft suspension set-up and
OE Dunlop D252 tyres that missed the queue when grip was given out, it lacks the poise and confidence of the R ninet Sport and Thruxton R when you push on. But the Yamaha is such a joy to ride at normal speeds that you never feel like you’re missing out. Fit decent tyres, like we did when we tested the XJR1300 on the track against an R ninet last year, and the Yamaha covers ground extremely quickly.
Emma agrees: “The Yamaha is the king of smooth and it even sounds like a big fat trombone just purring away. It’s just a lovely bike to float along on – big, brutish and comfortable. The clutch is heavy and it’s not as much as a rider’s bike as the Thruxton and doesn’t give you the feel from the front end - which is probably down to the tyres - but that’s not the point of this bike. It’s a big power cruiser and I love the styling, too. I can relate to it growing up around my parents’ muscle bikes in the early 80s.
“The brakes go a bit soft under hard use and you could say the clocks don’t have the functions of the BMW and Triumph, but I think that all adds to the Yamaha’s simpler character.”
‘The Yamaha is the king of smooth and it even sounds like a
big fat trombone’
Bruce adds: “It’s the archetypal muscle bike. The engine is flexible and it has more than enough power, but the forks are soft, the back brake lacks feel and the tyres let it down, especially in the wet.”
Sitting between the Yamaha and Triumph in terms of technology, but not in price, the £12,990 BMW R ninet Sport is the most expensive retro here. But remember this is the Sport model with its handmade ali tank, heated grips, flashy high-rise exhaust, and seat hump. The £1090 cheaper base model is more in line with the Triumph.
We love how the BMW delivers an intoxicating mix of old meets new. Blasting along your favourite road is like seeing the world rush by in black and white. It has the most character here – it’s slightly raw, a little quirky, but utterly mesmerising.
It’s light, has crisp steering, a firm ride, powerful brakes and a thrappy, raw, brutish, hard-revving 110bhp engine that delivers serious acceleration. Wide bars help you muscle the Beemer through the corners and grippy Metzeler Roadtec Z8 tyres and ABS keep it on the straight and narrow in all weather conditions. But it lacks the Thruxton R’s traction control and riding modes, not that you ever miss them.
It has the style to ride the café racer catwalk, but it feels more like a hardedged race bike compared to the Triumph and Yamaha. You get the feeling it’s happier gnashing its teeth than checking its reflection in café windows. The real character comes from its rock and roll, slightly oilscented boxer engine and a pitching shaft drive system. It’s unconventional but it all works brilliantly.
Little wonder demand outstripped supply when the R ninet came on to the scene two years ago.
Bruce is a fan of the racy BMW and exclaims: “It feels really light, wellbalanced and sporty. I love the firmness of seat and the taut suspension, but on the flipside it’s harsh over the bumps at low speed. The whole bike revolves around the characterful engine – the noise, feel and vibes that scream boxer twin.
“The faster you go the better it feels… to the point you’re scraping the cylinder heads.”
Emma loves the reassurance of the BMW and says: “It feels like it’s looking after you. It feels more like a modern interpretation of an old bike, rather than just a copy of a classic machine.”
‘The Thruxton R is a special machine and Britain’s best