MCN Fleet: Triumph Thruxton R’s Beauty secrets

When it comes to designing one of the most exquisite bikes of the year, Simon Relph discovers no bolt was left unturned.

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When I first saw a picture of Triumph’s all-new Thruxton R, it was love at first sight. When I found out it was going to be my long-term test bike, I was over the moon!

The night before I went and picked it up, I was like a small child on Christmas Eve, my excitement was utterly unbearable. 

Personal handover

I’d arranged to collect the bike direct from the Triumph factory in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and had also organised to meet one of the main men behind the new model. Triumph Chief Engineer Stuart Wood, who had just spent four years of his life on the Thruxton R project, was going to give me the key to my bike for the year.

I couldn’t have asked for a more in-depth guided tour of the Thruxton than the one I got from Stuart. His knowledge of modern engineering combined with an appreciation of Triumph’s rich history to create a bike that’s aesthetically pleasing yet packed full of the latest technology, albeit cleverly hidden.

Inspired by history

I have recently finished building a 1955 Triumph Tiger 110 engine, which I behold as a thing of beauty. Some of this beauty has been kept alive on the Thruxton – like the spark plug nestling neatly between the two rocker covers, flanked by a pair of chromed nuts keeping the cylinder head firmly in place. The old one-piece Amal carburettor body is there, complete with knurled brass top ring. Though it’s a dummy, because the new bike is fuel-injected, the only thing they are lacking is a pair of dummy throttle cables (it actually runs a fly-by-wire throttle).

The water-cooling system is a work of art on its own, keeping the radiator small and compact – it’s barely thicker than the frame downtube and only as wide as the duplex frame. A small fan is squirrelled in behind, leaving a clear view through the frame and engine to neatly reflect the look of the original. I wondered if it was a sealed system, but Stuart pointed out the maximum and minimum levels on the reservoir secreted behind the drive sprocket, which is very neat!

At last, the ride

After being blown away by the attention to detail on the bike, it was time to ride home and find out if it’s as good as it looks.

For something that looks so sporty, it is surprisingly comfortable – I am 6ft 1in and I did not feel cramped in the least. The controls are lovely and light, especially the clutch, which was so light I looked down in anticipation of a fluid reservoir, but no it’s a traditional cable-operated one. The fly-by-wire throttle has three settings – Rain, Road and Sport and changing them only alters the speed with which it operates and not the amount of power produced.

If I had to fill out a questionnaire on what I would want from a bike and its engine, then this 1200c motor would definitely tick all the boxes – except one, but I will come back to that.

As I got a few miles away from the Triumph factory I discovered my two favourite things about this bike – going round corners and going up hills. The ultimate was going round a bend on a hill, where the smooth and torquey engine just pulls like a steam train. Part of the smoothness comes from the fact it has twin balance shafts and Triumph have moved away from the traditional 360° crank in favour of a 270° one, which can be heard in the exhaust note. The tone reminds me of a Moto Guzzi V-twin.

Light stops play

After riding for a few hours and having covered just over a hundred miles the fuel light came on. This is the box I spoke of earlier, the one that’s missing a tick. I stopped at the nearest fuel station at 102.9 miles and managed to squeeze in 10.2 litres of fuel, indicating there were 4.3 litres still in the tank, which equates to about another 40 miles of riding. It’s not the best fuel range, but after about 120 miles on a naked machine that’s essentially a sportsbike, most people are ready for a short break. Even if it’s only a quick splash and dash, its always good to stretch your legs.

My first day with the Thruxton R has been an absolute delight. Now I just can’t wait until tomorrow when I will be back on it. Or shall I go out for a quick ride now?

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Simon Relph

By Simon Relph

MCN Senior Designer - loves bikes old and new, from building them to riding them on and off road