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