Triumph Bonneville Bobber Review
I suppose I could compare Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber to mushrooms. Not those naughty magic ones, just simple everyday mushrooms that provide unconditional taste sensations to billions of people around the world. Having spent years neglecting ‘shrooms through a bizarre trepidation, I eventually sampled the blighters well into my 20s and was stunned by their taste, humble yet handsome flavour and sheer versatility in the kitchen. Anyway, enough of the whimsical bullshit: what I’m trying to say is, the Bobber shocked me. It’s far more than a fashion statement in modern retro form, utterly shocking me with sporty and involving dynamics. It shocked me like mushrooms shocked me.
Pre-ride fears involved futilely narrating its quirky dynamics to an audience already sold on cosmetics. After all, this modern retro scene is all about looks, fashion over function and the majority of Bobbers sold would have been based on aesthetical pleasuring, not launch reports. But, by Jove, this thing is as stimulating to ride as it is to look at. And I LOVE the two-tone green/silver. Just look at it. I’m a die-hard superbike nut and yet I want it to have my babies.
As mentioned during the unveiling in London, Triumph has ensured this hard-tail lookalike carries genuine custom presence and one-off appeal, without the ownership aggravations of living with an unreliable classic: the sole contemporary giveaway is its registration plate. And for a bike that takes heed from the 1940s, there’s an extensive electronics suite garnishing the Bobber. Switchable traction control and two rider modes (rain and road) function alongside Triumph’s latest ride-by-wire trickery. There’s also a slippery clutch and an array of optional extras.
Traipsing towards the motorway and escaping Madrid’s suburbs was like a grim scene from the north of England. Temperatures bordered on sub-zero, thick, freezing fog filled the morning air and, of course, we were dressed accordingly. Praise the Hinckley Gods for installing the optional heated grips, which gave us time to ponder the rest of the bike. The first standout feature was the Bobber’s exceptional soundtrack, especially given its Euro4 compliancy. In a world of attenuated noise – mainly owing to emission laws and wanky tree huggers – the Bobber brags a comfortingly booming, deep and husky bark ensuring it’s the Dot Cotton of the custom scene and goes a long way to flattering those straight-thru lookalike exhausts.
Much has been made of the seat and it was the subject of the most commonly asked pre-launch enquiries. I certainly wouldn’t like to slip back and trust the mudguard to safeguard my crown jewels, but the saddle is far comfier than it seems. Initially, the cockpit felt cramped and slightly awkward (narrow-ish ‘bars and legs at roughly 90-degrees), as it’s a riding position so far removed from anything you’ve sampled, though it soon becomes an intuitive part of the ride.
It doesn’t take too long into the relationship to fathom how this motor functions. The (parallel) powerplant is your archetypal old-school v-twin, rich in torque, fairly lethargic to spin internally, yet hard-hitting in the midrange when everything aligns. The T120 lump features the same internals, with a dedicated map and new airbox to furnish the Bobber with an enhanced bottom-end, and Triumph has artificially engineered the sweet spot between 3,000rpm and 5,000rpm where it palpably prefers to party. Its headline figure of 76bhp means bugger-all: revs and meaningful impetus subside way before the redline, and you’ll soon figure out the spontaneous parameter for chucking gears at it.
Bobby still picks up pace with vigour, advocated by that booming soundtrack, and clocking illegal speeds come with minimal effort. An 80mph cruising speed is perfectly acceptable, even with the abysmal wind protection, and a friend of a friend told me it tops out at 110mph – probably the only time you’ll need top gear, as 6th is purely an overdrive feature.
It’s just as contented pootling along at 5mph. Despite the classic heritage, there’s a modern twist with a sumptuously smooth execution and soft throttle response, albeit occasionally direct from closed to open. I spent 99% of the day riding in ‘road’ mode, as ‘rain’ is largely redundant given its meek delivering, and ‘road’ will hardly get involved in any manslaughter.
It’s a bike that inspires confidence from very early on, although that assurance to push takes a while to muster – I’d certainly recommend more than a 30-minute test ride to explore its boundaries. At mediocre lean angles, the Bobber flicks from side to side with consummate ease and genuinely hustles, belittling its looks and bedazzling its pilot (no doubt a modestly slender 150-section rear tyre aids the agility rather than a willy-waving wide boy). After a bleak start to the morning, the sunshine made an appearance and coincided with the beginning of some sexy mountain roads. How this bike attacked such nadgery, technical sections is way beyond me.
In typical Triumph fashion, we rode the bike first before the press presentation, therefore relieved of facts, figures, technical guff and marketing jargon. Surprisingly, the geometry is damn similar to the T120’s. A longer swingarm and reduced trail give the Bobber its relaxed attitude, and it rides like a completely different bike to the T120.
Hard on the brakes, and the bike remains poised with very little dive or weight transfer – fairly bizarre but assuring nonetheless. With only 80mm of travel at either end, bump compliancy was hardly priority in Triumph’s design brief. However, there’s still a sense of elegancy to the ride, even if the bottom of the suspension stroke is very stiff – I guess it has to be stiff with such limited travel. And this stubby suspension protocol lends a taut, compact sensation to the chassis, which no doubt assists in sporting ability.
At 228kg, Bob is a big old boy, but it’s just another headline figure and its mass undeniably augments mechanical grip with a tangible sense of being sucked to the surface beneath at all times. It rides as low as it looks, with a low C-o-G that provides a planted stance. Save for some peculiar chassis flex under panic braking, the Bobber is virtually unflappable, and an honourable mention has to go to the Avon Cobras – even on wet roads, the pegs were kissing the Tarmac. Ground clearance is the obvious limiting factor, although hero blobs do a lovely job of coaxing you towards the limits and painting pretty gouges into the Spanish roads. That said, some of the exhausts had taken a battering too.
The only dynamic issue we have with Bob is his brakes. A single disc set-up – a la T100 – doesn’t provide enough stopping power during committed stints in the saddle and there’s always an inherent urge to apply rear brake as a back-up. And don’t be ordering a Bobber if you have an allergy to fuel stations: Triumph claimed a tank range of 138 miles. However, the Bobber’s chintzy 9.1 litre fuel tank could only supply us with roughly 80 miles before a refill. We were riding like ham-fisted twunts because Bob allowed such shenanigans, though.
By ditching the Daytona (for now) and focusing on modern classics, Triumph has seen 13% growth (year-on-year) and the Bobber will undoubtedly aid further progression. It was a three-year project developed alongside the T120 and it’s safe to assume it’s a model that will stick around for another three years and more. 450 Bobbers were originally allocated to the UK, although this entire initial batch has already been sold before the decision was taken to allow a second consignment for Blighty. And damn right too.
The Bobber has attracted stupendous hype worldwide and that hype now has to be believed. Now and then, we’ll ride bikes that surprise us but I honestly can’t remember a bike that’s shocked me like Triumph’s latest slice of magic. It may not be the fastest, it may not corner with superiority, but there’s something very special about the Bobber.
It’ll cost you £10,500 for the Jet Black version, £10,625 for the Morello Red and Ironstone, £10,800 for the two-tone green/silver, and will be available in January.
Video dropping imminently…
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