2017 cruiser of the year: Triumph Bonneville Bobber
With so many bikes wowing us in 2017 it’s easy to forget the new Bonneville Bobber was one of the most-eagerly anticipated. The Triumph is styled to mimic those pared-to-the-bone 1940s-style bobbers, with its single seat, cut-down front mudguard, flat bars, hardtail-style rear end and a riot of classy detail touches.
The Bobber actually goes, corners and steers like a sweet-handling roadster. The clutch is light and accurate, the throttle response flawless and the six gears slip in effortlessly. Shorter riders will love the 690mm seat, but taller ones can still enjoy all day comfort.
Everyone will appreciate the plush ride quality, the uncluttered view in the snazzy bar-end mirrors and neatly-hidden electronics. Two riding modes, traction control and ABS offer a fat slice of 21st century safety to this Dad’s Army poster bike.
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Borrowed from the Bonneville T120 the High Torque motor has 10% more power and torque at 4500rpm. It purrs around town, is almost silent off the throttle and cruises at just 3500rpm at 70mph, but the Bobber reveals a tougher side when you poke it.
With more revs comes a harder engine note and a satisfying rumble. A bike with a 100-section spoked 19in wheel up front and a 16-incher at the rear (150) shouldn’t handle this well. Especially one that weighs 228kg dry and has just 80mm of suspension travel, which could bottom-out at the drop of a hat.
It may look unbalanced with all its bulk ahead of the rider and the rear wheel somewhere in another county, but it feels short and squat. It steers lightly and carves through corners and over bumps with the precision and easy poise of a Thruxton R. Put simply, the new Triumph is the slickest bobber ever built.
5 things you didn't know about the Bobber
It’s the best bobber ever built.
Of course, there are ways you can get your off-the-peg bobber kicks for less: there’s the £9845 Harley Davidson Forty-Eight, £8699 Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber, £7199 Yamaha XV950 and £10,499 Indian Scout. They all ooze style and character, but the Bonneville Bobber is the classiest, most capable and easiest to live with - packed with lots of cool design touches.
Post-war styling meets modern day civility
Creating a classic shape that rides like new is a well-learned trick Triumph have carried over from the rest of their brilliant Bonneville range. The slip-assist clutch is light and accurate, the throttle response flawless and the gears slip effortlessly through the six-speed box. Shorter riders will love the low 690mm seat, taller ones like me will enjoy all-day comfort and everyone will appreciate the plush ride quality the uncluttered view in the bar end mirrors and the neatly hidden electronics. Two riding modes (Rain and Road), traction control and ABS offer a fat slice of 21st century safety to this Dad’s Army poster bike.
Cruise control and super-hot heated grips, to suit the chills of a British winter, are also available as official accessories.
More meat and potatoes grunt than the Bonneville T120
The 1200cc parallel twin-cylinder ‘High Torque’ motor is lifted from the Bonneville T120 (with its 10,000-mile service intervals), but it makes 10% more power and torque at 4500pm.
The tweaked motor is more flexible and urgent on the throttle than the T120, but still unthreatening and smooth. It purrs around town, is almost silent off the throttle and cruises at just 3000rpm at 70mph. It might only have a 9.1-litre fuel tank, but Triumph claims 69mpg, which should give you range of 138-miles, although the fuel light will come on around 100-miles.
But the Bobber reveals a tougher side when you poke it and it drives out of corners with such unfettered urgency you’re glad it has traction control when conditions are tricky. With more revs comes a harder, deeper engine note and a satisfying rumble from the new slash cut, pea-shooter exhausts.
Handling to match like a finely-honed roadster
Traditional bobbers were cut-and-shut customs, but the Triumph isn’t a hacked Bonneville T120. The Bobber has a new tubular steel cradle frame and bespoke KYB suspension.
A bike with a 100-section spoked 19” wheel up front and a 16-incher at the rear (150) simply shouldn’t handle this well. Especially one that weighs 228kg dry and has just 80mm of suspension travel, which could bottom-out at the drop of a hat.
But it does. It may look unbalanced with all its bulk ahead of the rider and the rear wheel somewhere in another county, but it feels short and squat. It steers lightly and carves through corners and over bumps with the precision and easy poise of a Thruxton R. It’s more fun than it has any right to be and rest assured, you’ll never get left behind by your sportsbike-riding mates on the road.
Ground clearance is limited on such a low bike and you’ll sometimes graze pegs on tarmac, but only occasionally when you’re pushing hard and taking advantage of the superb grip from the bespoke Avon Cobras.
You need a hard dose of back brake to complement the single disc twin-piston front when you’re pushing on, but dabbing the rear keeps the Bobber more settled mid-bend and the ant-squat effect improves ground clearance.
And finally…two new Bobber Inspiration Kits.
As well as offering over 150 official performance, touring and cosmetic accessories, including a full LED headlight (a first for the British firm) and a new Bobber clothing range, two Inspiration Kits will be available, which can be dealer fitted or by yourself.
Old School Bobber £1610: Includes: ‘Ape hanger’ bars, brushed stainless silencers, short front mudguard, leather seat, ‘gummy’ grips, swingarm bag.
Quarter Mile Bobber £1500
Includes clip-on bars, blacked-out silencers, headers, intake covers, headlamp bezel leather seat, ‘gummy’ grips, short front mudguard.
Pictures by Alessio Barbanti, Paul Barshon
Engine 1200cc 8v parallel-twin
Dry weight 228kg
Tank capacity 9.1-litres
Frame Tubular steel twin cradle
Seat height 690mm
Suspension KYB 41mm forks and single rear shock. Non-adjustable.
Front brake Single 310mm disc. Nissin twin-piston caliper.
Colours Satin Ironstone, red, green/silver, black