On the road MOTORWAY
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Bobber puts style firmly at the top of the agenda. Its silhouette is pure hot rod: the seat is low, hung back from the main frame and suspended over the 16in rear wheel, which itself appears to be bolted into a rigid chassis. Up front, flat bars sit atop a conventional fork that holds a 19in wire-spoked wheel. All this sounds rather alluring but years of road testing have confirmed time and time again that heavily styled bikes usually lose their appeal as soon as they’re ridden. The dynamics of a motorcycle are fairly fragile and straying away from conventional geometry generally causes serious handling issues.
Not so the Bobber. Despite its rather extreme-looking stance, the dynamics are simply brilliant and it handles as well as a nicely set-up conventional roadster. It swings through the bends with no hint that there’s a 19in wheel with a tall 100section tyre up front. Triumph has made the Bobber impressively agile with none of the vague feedback and slow steering that mars most cruisers with this kind of set-up. The handlebar feel is light and well balanced, with beautiful stability throughout the speed range. On the backroads, the Bobber can be hustled through bends in a way you wouldn’t expect from such an out-of-balance looking bike and the grip from the Avon Cobra tyres, with its Bobber-bespoke 150/80 16in rear, is impressive too.
In spite of its post-war styling, the Bobber is no stranger to modern electronic rider assists, with two preset throttle modes (Road and Rain), as well as traction control and ABS. Road mode gives full power with traction control ready to step in if the rear wheel spins up on unseen hazards. In Rain mode, the engine has softer power delivery and slightly more traction control.
The Bobber’s 1200cc parallel twin has plenty of straight-line potential, though when you’re charging through the gears the rev limiter stops the engine spinning beyond 6900rpm. And if screaming neck muscles don’t stop you first, the ECU limits top speed to an indicated 115mph. Nevertheless at these higher speeds the Bobber remains astonishingly stable, the handling doesn’t decay, it stays manageable and it still responds perfectly to all of your inputs.
What really helps is that while the bike looks like a hardtail, there is a rear shock cleverly smuggled beneath the seat so you don’t have to worry about your spine taking a pummelling. However, the ride starts to feel a bit choppy if the road surface becomes uneven,
“It swings through bends with no hint of its 19in front wheel”
especially when pushing on and there’s no way to dial this characteristic out as both the shock and forks are nonadjustable. But for kicking back and cruising, which is what this bike’s really all about, the ride quality is spot on. Wide bars and nothing in the way of bodywork don’t stop the Bobber offering a comfortable 75mph cruising speed. At this velocity, the impressively smooth 1200cc Bonneville-derived parallel twin is just topping a lazy 3000rpm in sixth gear. The big twin has a slightly different tune in Bobber form, with more power at low revs than the T120. Torque has been increased to 78lb·ft too, so it stays responsive in spite of the tall gearing. In fact, the engine’s so urgent that you’d swear there was more than just 76bhp on offer.
The fact that the engine is unstressed means it returns decent fuel economy too, at around 60mpg. This is just as well because the length of any run is dictated by the tiny 9-litre fuel tank, the reserve fuel warning light illuminating at only 65 miles from full when ridden in a spirited fashion. Riding such short distances between fuel stops is a bit of a pain because the Bobber is actually quite comfortable, that big, scooped saddle cupping the rider’s bottom just so, with enough adjustability to tailor the reach to the bars and pegs for the perfect fit. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t have any anxiety about running low on fuel, you can press the ‘I’ button on the handlebar to display the remaining fuel range on the clock and push on… Doing this on test took the Bobber to nearly 115 miles with less than five miles remaining on the indicated range.
At night, the analogue speedo illuminates with a soft, off-white glow. The headlight gives an adequate spread of light with the dipped beam cutting the beam off cleanly ahead of the bike.
Considering that the Bobber is, by definition, a stripped-down bike with no bodywork or rear sub-assembly, it’s surprising to see a fairly hefty 228kg dry weight on the spec sheet — but that weight isn’t noticeable when riding. At low speed around town it feels impressively light, frisky and agile — helped by its low centre of gravity and wide bars. Filtering past slowmoving traffic is easy, the ‘Slip Assist’ clutch giving the lever excellent feel and a light action.
At the other end of the scale, the clutch is tough enough to hook up the ‘High Torque’ version of the 1200cc Bonnie engine and hot-rod it away from traffic lights like a sportsbike. With a good portion of the torque available from low down, the Bobber’s capable of breathtaking acceleration.
The feel and power of the single piston caliper rear brake is a good match for the bike’s weight and performance, helping with low-speed riding. Unfortunately, the single-disc front brake lacks outright power for hard stopping at higher speeds. The feel is fine but it takes a really hard squeeze of the lever to coax enough power from it.
The Bobber is surprisingly adept on B-roads as well as motorways
690 800 WHEELBASE 1510MM RAKE 25.80 TRAIL 87.9MM
Single seat is comfortable and adjustable for fit Lack of bodywork doesn’t mean it’s unusable at speed
Traditional speedo and LCD multi-function trip computer