CRUISER CHOOSER

Tri­umph’s new Bon­neville Bob­ber has some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion – but is it sim­ply the best of all worlds?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Road Test - By Adam Child SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

Just a cou­ple of years ago the chances of a Bob­ber group test seemed about as likely as the UK leav­ing the EU, and Don­ald Trump be­com­ing Pres­i­dent of the United States – but here we are in 2017 with not only some­thing other than a Har­ley on test, but with a se­ri­ously di­verse range of op­tions.

At one end is In­dian’s Scout Sixty, a smaller-ca­pac­ity clone of their ac­com­plished Scout – and at the other is Du­cati’s Xdi­avel, a psy­chopath in a sharp suit. Filling the gap be­tween their per­for­mance and price ex­tremes are Tri­umph’s new Bon­neville Bob­ber, and Har­ley’s Street Bob – the most au­then­tic duo here, each copy­ing the path fol­lowed by own­ers when this style was pop­u­larised six decades ago. But should you be be­guiled by per­for­mance, price, or the ul­ti­mate com­pro­mise? There has to be a win­ner.

Tri­umph’s Bob­ber never fails to raise a smile, and it’s one of the best-look­ing bikes on the mar­ket. Even on a grey, dull, morn­ing I just love its au­then­tic post-war styling. The new Bob­ber is one of those bikes you take your time to look at be­fore throw­ing your leg over. You take it all in, and linger on the finer de­tails. The Tri­umph de­sign team re­ally have to be ap­plauded, be­cause the Bob­ber looks like a hand-built one-off, not a mod­ern-day pro­duc­tion bike that’s se­cretly hid­ing safety fea­tures like rid­ing modes, trac­tion con­trol and ABS.

The de­tail­ing is lovely, the more time you spend with the Bob­ber the more bits you no­tice. The old-school bat­tery box, the min­i­mal­ist ad­justable seat and

wrap-around rear mud­guard with loop-over hoop, the fake car­bu­ret­tors for throt­tle bod­ies, the way they’ve hid­den the shock to give it a hard­tail look – it’s all rather im­pres­sive. The clocks are neat and in­for­ma­tive, you can even ad­just the an­gle of the clocks to laid back or up­right, to match the rid­ing po­si­tion you’ve opted for via the ad­justable seat. I thought the Tri­umph may be over­shad­owed by the Har­ley and Du­cati, but it isn’t. The Du­cati is stun­ning, sexy and pow­er­ful, the Har­ley is cool and iconic, but they can’t di­lute the ap­peal of the un­der­stated Tri­umph.

That sense of au­then­tic­ity con­tin­ues when you fire up the par­al­lel-twin, which has a nice bark to it, giv­ing the Tri­umph ex­tra char­ac­ter. The en­gine is based on the T120 Bon­neville, but with peak power and torque ar­riv­ing at 4500rpm. This gives the Bob­ber ur­gency off the line (see speed stats) and it’ll smoke all but the Du­cati off the line. To 60mph the Bob­ber is im­pres­sive, and rolling on from 30mph in third gear it has some real gusto. Too much in fact for the poor sin­gle disc brake on the front that takes 61 me­tres to stop it from 70mph. That’s worse than the ‘bud­get’ In­dian, and not much bet­ter than the sig­nif­i­cantly heav­ier Har­ley.

De­spite the odd-sized wheels, the Bob­ber’s han­dling is im­pres­sive. It looks like it shouldn’t handle – but it does. Ground clear­ance is your lim­it­ing fac­tor, but if you use your body po­si­tion to force the bike up­right, get those pegs away from the road and you’ll be more than presently sur­prised.

So, is it all plain sail­ing for the new Bob­ber? Well, not ex­actly. Com­fort isn’t bad, the en­gine is strong and han­dling im­pres­sive but, just when you’ve started to re­lax and have fun the fuel light comes on. With a tiny 9.1-litre tank, even when rid­den fru­gally you’ll be lucky to reach 100 miles be­fore search­ing for a fuel sta­tion. On our test it was nor­mally around 80miles. By com­par­i­son, the In­dian and Har­ley will cover around 120-130 miles per tank, and the Du­cati over 160 miles be­fore fuel be­comes an is­sue.

I ac­tu­ally rather like the Har­ley. I think it looks great, the paint­work is qual­ity and just the fact that it says Har­ley on the side makes it cool. No mat­ter how hard ev­ery­one else tries, Har­ley have a lot of power re­sid­ing in that tank badge. I like the styling, the sim­plic­ity and even the ape bars, which to be hon­est could do with be­ing a lit­tle higher – if you are go­ing ape, go big.

‘Rolling on from 30mph in third gear the Bob­ber has real gusto’

The Har­ley has the most cubes on test, 1690cc to be pre­cise, which gives it some se­ri­ous grunt. There’s no trac­tion con­trol un­like the Tri­umph and Du­cati, and the true top speed of 125.9mph sur­prised us all. The han­dling is a lit­tle way­ward at times, but way bet­ter than I was ex­pect­ing. That power and speed can get you into trou­ble though, as the brakes are truly shock­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter hop­ping off the Xdi­avel. Com­fort isn’t aw­ful but I’d pre­fer the pegs to be a lit­tle fur­ther for­ward; there isn’t enough room be­tween the pegs and the seat, and on full lock it’s a strug­gle to reach the out­side bar. Even so, there’s a lot to like about the Har­ley.

Du­cati’s Xdi­avel S is play­ing a very dif­fer­ent game to ev­ery­thing else here. It’s on an­other level in terms of per­for­mance, elec­tron­ics and han­dling. But that all comes for just shy of £20,000. It smokes the com­pe­ti­tion in terms of speed, a 155mph cruiser with a stand­ing quar­ter-mile time only 0.5s be­hind a cut­ting-edge su­per­bike. And the list of rider aids is im­pres­sive, in­clud­ing cor­ner­ing ABS, launch con­trol, trac­tion con­trol, rider modes, cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and even anti-wheelie.

How­ever, in terms of looks, ap­peal and brand aware­ness it’s very sim­i­lar to the rest. We car­ried out a twit­ter sur­vey and the Du­cati came out on top as the most ap­peal­ing. Our group of test rid­ers voted on the most de­sir­able, and it was also the one they wanted if price wasn’t an is­sue. The quick-quick­est, the best-han­dling, the strong­est brakes, com­fi­est, largest tank range, and most ad­vanced elec­tron­ics, the Du­cati is win­ning all cat­e­gories, but it is £20,000. You could buy a Scout Sixty and a Bob­ber for the same money and nei­ther would give you third de­gree burns on your left an­kle!

Yes, you read that right – the Xdi­avel’s new mid-po­si­tion foot-peg as­sem­bly will cook your right foot. When you ride even in the most neu­tral of foot po­si­tions, the ex­haust ex­its straight at your an­kle (see page 10 for the full story). To add in­sult to in­jury, the new foot­peg as­sem­bly is also unattrac­tive and poorly de­signed. We’d take the feet-for­ward orig­i­nal ev­ery time.

We thought the 999cc In­dian would feel out-classed, but it re­ally wasn’t. It’s the cheap­est of the bunch by over a grand, and less than half the price of the Du­cati, but it’s com­fier than the Har­ley and Tri­umph, the feet-for­ward ris­ing po­si­tion feels more nat­u­ral and the soft set-up is like rid­ing a magic car­pet. Speed-wise there’s noth­ing to be em­bar­rassed about either, with a higher top speed than Tri­umph’s Bob­ber and not far be­hind the much big­ger Har­ley on ac­cel­er­a­tion. The brakes are im­pres­sive too, stop­ping in the same dis­tance as the Du­cati with its rac­ing Brembo ra­dial items.

How­ever, up close you no­tice the touches that rob it of some ca­chet. The wiring hasn’t been hid­den as well as the oth­ers, there are no rider modes or rider aids. Although the han­dling is com­fort­able, it’s lack­ing a sporty edge and there isn’t much damp­ing con­trol­ling the spring at either end. But over­all we were im­pressed, and it was the one ev­ery­one wanted to ride for its com­fort at the end of the day. If you want a laid-back cruiser that isn’t go­ing to break the bank bal­ance, easy to ride and isn’t in­tim­i­dat­ing, then look no fur­ther.

‘You could buy a Scout Sixty and a Bob­ber for the same money’

It’s the cheap­est but the Scout Sixty still oozes qual­ity Note how close the rider’s foot is to the Xdi­avel’s ex­haust Chad reck­ons those ape hang­ers should be taller (yes, re­ally)

For power and han­dling the Du­cati is king The Bob­ber is more than just cute retro styling

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