Long-term tests: Can Triumph’s Thruxton R go the distance?
Simon Relph’s nine-day odyssey through Europe sees he and the Thruxton bond like father and son
Most people look at the Triumph Thruxton R and ask Òis it comfortable?ó. My answer is quick and short: Òvery!ó It was one of the first things on my mind, too, when I was assigned the Thruxton for the year, as I wanted to spend my summer doing a lot of long- distance riding.
The best example of this was back in June when I went on a mammoth trip down to Triumphõs Tridays Festival in the Austrian town of Neukirchen. The event is a four- day Triumph extravaganza of bikes, bands and beer (in moderation, of course) in the stunning Austrian Tyrol.
Rather than riding down on my own, I went on an organised tour with Globebusters (www.globebusters.com). I met the group at the Eurotunnel terminal and riders on the likes of Triumph Explorers, Trophies and Tigers were sceptical about the suitability of the Thruxton for longdistance work.
Globebusters founders Kevin and Julia Sanders were our leaders and we were soon riding through France. The first leg was on toll roads in wet conditions as a quick (but slightly boring) way to get to more interesting roads through the Ardennes.
The Thruxtonõs lack of creature comforts and protection was starting to show, with both the bike and me covered from head-to-foot in road grime. As the group got to know one another the leg-pulling began. My five-inch flyscreen bore the brunt of it, but I found it easier to make the jokes myself and pointed out it was to keep the flies off of my belly button.
The ride through the rural back roads of the Ardennes made up for the dreary weather and we were soon at our first overnight stay in Bouillon, where it was time for some fine Belgium beers.
The first day had been a good start to settling into the ride. Each of us had been issued with a set of traditional maps with each dayõs route marked on it. We also had a sheet of paper with all the map references on and points of interest, and all this was backed up with routes uploaded on to my Tomtom 410, or alternatively you could follow Kevin or Julia.
By day two I felt comfortable with how the tour worked, the weather had improved and the roads were getting better and better. By lunchtime I was ready to cut the umbilical cord and ride in a smaller group to the next destination, which allowed me to travel at my own pace.
On an open road of hot winding asphalt through the northern Vosges Mountains I could concentrate on riding the Thruxton. Every bend instilled confidence, and with the Pirelli Angel GT tyres warmed up the fun really began. I enjoyed the bike more and more with each passing hour. The sheer torque of the 1200 twin propelled both me and my luggage effortlessly up into the hills. Ever-tightening switchback bends were a delight, leaning ever lower and my grin widening as I contemplated another two days of this.
Day three brought bright sunshine, temperatures over 30¡C and the infamous B500 through the Black Forest. A few miles in and I found myself questioning why IÕD never ridden here before. The smooth, swooping curves of the B500 were exactly what the Thruxton was designed for, and well worth the trip.
Each night on the way to Austria, there was great accommodation and some great towns to wander round, but this trip was really about the riding. Each dayõs route had been carefully chosen to give the best riding experience, with stunning views to match.
Finally down at Tridays we were all able to let off a bit of steam, sink a few steins and listen to some great live music, or just walk around the town and marvel at the delectable Triumph specials on trade stands. Or if you wanted a bit of adrenalin, there was the main arena with Kevin Carmichaelõs extreme stunt show, or the hilarious 24 Minutes of le Brže Ð a 125cc race with commentary by Steve Parrish.
A couple of days at Tridays is enough to relax and refuel your batteries ready for the ride home. Our route was via Lake Constance and the southern edge of the Black Forest to the lovely lakeside town of Titisee for an overnight stay.
The next day we were heading for Reims in the heart of the Champagne region. I spent the day riding with Simon Weir from our sister magazine RIDE. His knowledge of Europeõs roads is immense and he elongated our day to include the Ballon dõalsace and the Petit Ballon, which meant more monumental riding.
After a final night in Reims it was off to Eurotunnel, but not without Simon adding in detours to take in the remains of the circuit Reims- Gueux, which held its last motorcycle race back in 1972. The final part of our journey took in the battlegrounds of the Somme, which was a very moving experience as it was just three days before its centenary events were due to take place.
The Eurotunnel crossing gave me time to reflect on the last nine days. I have done longer trips in the past, but this for me was one of the best as I got to know the Thruxton R to the point where I felt I had ridden the wheels off the thing and we had become as one!
If you have never ridden in Europe before, a Globebusters tours is a great way to cut your touring teeth. With everything organised, you can just enjoy the ride with no worries about where to stay or what to do if your bike breaks down (Globebusters run a support vehicle that follows).
The Globebusters crew celebrate their final night together in Reims Amazing views, like this from the top of the Gerlos Pass, greeted Relphy at every turn