Triumph T120 Bon­neville vs BMW R ninet Pure vs Honda CB1100EX

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Jon Urry MCN Guest Tester

Some­times it is the sim­ple things in life that bring the most plea­sure. The ping of an air-cooled mo­tor, power fig­ures that don’t look like a darts score and good old-fash­ioned torque. If you han­ker after those good old days, then help is at hand as the modern retro scene is alive and kick­ing as th­ese three bikes prove. Built with re­laxed rid­ing in mind , each achieves this goal while also ad­ding a flavour of yes­ter­year through el­e­gant styling and sim­plic­ity. When it comes to a bike for en­joy­ing a chilled ride, one or two-up, through coun­try lanes, modern retros sim­ply can’t be beaten. But which of­fers the best over­all ex­pe­ri­ence? Noth­ing says retro bet­ter than a Bon­neville and the T120 Black cer­tainly looks the part. The at­ten­tion to detail that Triumph have lav­ished on their new Bon­nie is sec­ond to none and ev­ery­where you look there are nods to 1960s models such as the fake carbs, peashooter pipes, rub­ber knee pads, the list goes on. Yet be­hind this retro façade is a thor­oughly modern ma­chine. So you would im­age it would ride like a modern bike as well. But it doesn’t, it rides like an older Bon­nie.

If you are used to a modern ma­chine, dy­nam­i­cally the Bon­nie feels very weird. The front end ap­pears to be steer­ing through trea­cle and it re­quires a lot of rider ef­fort and in­put to get it into bends and then hold it there. If you hadn’t rid­den any of the com­pe­ti­tion, and had grown up on older ma­chines, you would be for­given for as­sum­ing this was just how all retros han­dled. But they don’t, as the Honda and BMW demon­strate, and this fact doesn’t win the Bon­nie any friends. And to be hon­est its mo­tor is also a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment when com­pared to its ri­vals’ per­for­mance.

Triumph have two vari­ants of the wa­ter-cooled 1200 mo­tor – the HT (High Torque and the HP (High Power) - the Bon­nie has the HT and the Thrux­ton the HP. The prob­lem is that where the HP is en­gag­ing and spir­ited, the HT is a bit flat and lethar­gic. The power is de­liv­ered in such a lin­ear fash­ion that it sucks the soul out of the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, leav­ing it des­per­ately need­ing a shot of zing. It’s very pleas­ant, and ticks the smooth and torque-laden box very well, but it could be so much more with a bit of char­ac­ter. And that kind of sums up the Bon­nie.

Styling-wise, you can’t fault the Triumph, it’s stun­ning and is the bike that passers by will stop and stare at. But on a ride it re­quires ef­fort to get it to com­ply and then doesn’t re­ward your ex­er­tions with any kind of ex­cite­ment, ul­ti­mately leav­ing you feel­ing a bit short-changed and disappointed. And as the Honda and BMW demon­strate, retro doesn’t have to be dull.

The looks are bang on the money but some­how the en­gine lacks that X-fac­tor

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