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Review: 2016 Triumph Bonneville Street Twin


Posted on March 17, 2016 by Andrew in Review. 33 comments

Tradition, it would seem, is a double-edged sword. While some Japanese bike brands would salivate at the thought of having a model in their line-up whose roots went back more than a few years, the likes of Triumph, Harley Davidson and Norton are in the challenging position of marching headlong in the 21st Century with baggage tagged ‘please return to 1900’. For these brands, a big new model design requires a deft hand to strike just the right balance between influences spanning more than 100 years and the always-fickle ‘modern consumer’. The perfect balance is a bike that will appeal equally to almost any age group. The latest salvo in this old-meets-new battle comes to us from Triumph’s 2016 Hinckley headquarters via a greasy British motorway cafe from 1959. It’s their new take on what has to be one of the world’s best-know motorcycles. So now, after their biggest-ever bike launch, how does the new model stack up and should you really spend your hard-earned shekels on one?

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It’s summer Down Under, and hot on the heels of our London trip to attend the bike’s global launch, we were invited along to Triumph Australia’s local launch, held in a pleasant but slightly wet Melbourne. With a vast array of Street Twins on display and all conveniently flanked by guys who probably know more about the Bonneville family tree than you’d know about your own family jewels, we were let loose. The fools…

First impressions

My first proper eyeballing of the bike sees me jotting down two all caps notes in my phone. The first says “TANK IS SMALLER,” (eloquent, I know) and the second, noting something I would ponder at length long after I had to give the keys back, says ‘NO CHROME?’ The side-by-side comparos of the incoming and outgoing models provided by Triumph in the pre-ride meeting confirm my second thought. While the original 60’s models were like a wild party in a mirror ball factory, and the outgoing models had their fair share of shine, this new model literally blacks out everything downstairs bar the cans and headers. The injector covers and headlight unit try to raise the metal quotient, but closer inspection reveals either a matte anodised finish or plastic doing its best chromium impression. While we were told that chrome turns off many owners due to its inherent cost and upkeep, the fact of the matter is that much of what was metal in the previous bike is now plastic.

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Slimmed down tank shape means less legs akimbo

My ‘look like an expert’ tap test revealed that there’s plastic on the engine, too. But don’t get your pitchforks out just yet. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a few good reasons for this – the foremost being that this is in fact the new range’s base model. Triumph’s own photos show that the upcoming T120 and Thruxton bin these polymers in favour of much more metal and shine. The other reason is probably a price consideration. The decision to keep the price down and target a younger, more urbane, and probably less experienced rider is a smart one on Triumph’s part. They now get to experience the brand at a much more reasonable price point, and the odd horizontal bike mishap won’t result in any wallet-destroying repair bills.

Then there’s that whole ‘tradition’ thing again. While many of us old-ish riders wet our pants and the thought of acres and acres of chrome, it’s probably fair to say that some (presumably younger) customers would turn their noses up at paying for the looks of some bygone era that they neither know of nor care about. So, as is the trend with many manufacturers, Triumph has elected to shift the majority of the billet into the accessories catalogue. They are ‘styled’ into packs that include a brat, urban and scrambler look. Sadly, none of these include any alternative wheel options. Boo. Indulging yourself here will take a toll on your wallet though – the packs (especially anything that includes new pipes) can set you back another 20% over and above the bike’s ride-away price.

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“The newly designed scrambler pipes are real lookers which will appeal to everyone but the legally blind”

Ironically, it’s the pipes that add the most ‘wow’ to the bike’s somewhat subtle stock looks. While the new Vance & Hines (bye-bye Arrow) peashooters are hard to distinguish from the stock pipes, the newly designed scrambler pipes are real lookers which will appeal to everyone but the legally blind. They also give the bike’s sounds a boost. This was evidenced by the journo’s mad scramble (pun fully intended) to grab this bike’s keys after each and every stop.

The scrambler pipes sport a carbon fiber tip (see below) that struck me as an odd, and very sportsbike-ish, addition to a design that seems tailored to a completely different crowd. My concerns fade as the sweet, sweet roar of the thing through the enclosed parts of our day’s ride is entered into my brains ‘great bike sounds’ filing cabinet.

On the Street

Once the all-new parallel twin lump was ticking over, blipping the throttle provided an interesting insight into the soul of the bike. That’s because it’s here that the new ride-by-wire electronic wizardry is most apparent. There’s an ever-so-slight delay between a twist of the wrist and the engine’s corresponding reaction; it’s only slight but it, combined with the instrument’s slick technical feel, remind you that this ain’t no cable-to-carby set-up from ye olden days. Of course, this observation is probably more to do with ‘the shock of the new’ than anything else, as once we’re out on the road the entire set-up proves to be eminently capable, smooth and without the slightest sign of snatchiness. Amusingly, I wasn’t the only rider on the day that noted the speedo’s needle seemed to waver ever so slightly while riding – almost as if the bike had been programmed by Triumph’s lab-coated boffins to mimic the old-school wobble of its predecessors.

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Scrambler pipes really add to the looks. Sound great, too

These tech updates hit up your ears as well. The mechanical whirl of the motor has lost some of its old-school agriculturalism and now produces that high-pitched, electro-mechanical whine that’s an ever-present feature in most of Triumph’s new work. This is, of course, largely due to the new engine’s tighter, water-cooled tolerances. Thankfully, the 270˚ crank’s character pulls the party back into Funsville with a liberal dose of character and, with the addition of the high pipes, some unexpectedly retro tunes. Weeks later, and on Triumph’s loaner bikes in an open-faced helmet, I also notice there’s also a rather pleasant, bird-like chirp to the sound that’s not dissimilar to the ‘ping’ of an air-cooled VW.

Single dial works well, despite lack of tacho. Mirrors are nicely vibe-free

After planting my not insignificant backside on the bike a few times, I decided that the rear shocks were compressing a little more than I was expecting. While this didn’t translate to an overly pillowy feel on the road, it’s clear the bike’s tuned for comfort and not ten tenths apex hunting. There was, however, the odd moment or two when an awkward set of bumps would catch the rear shocks off guard. The result was a noticeable kickback through the bike’s rear and into, well, mine.

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Back in black. There’s a lot less chrome than before

Also noticeable is just how slender the rear half of the bike’s tank is. What ends up between your legs (don’t go there) once onboard is very slender indeed. A quick peek underneath it reveals all sorts of nooks and crannies that steal away space from the petrol for all the bike’s new electrics. The upshot is a 12 litre (3 gal.) tank. This is something that, on paper at least, seems way too small to be practical outside the city. It certainly raised a few journo’s eyebrows when mentioned. The reality is a useful 300km (180 mi.) range, which drops to around 250km (155 mi.) when you try a little ‘spirited riding’ as they say. This is clearly one of the upsides of Triumph having to jump through hoops for the Euro 4 emissions regulations – a more torquey motor than the retired unit that also needs less juice, too.

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Rain dampens the fun of a deserted Melbourne backstreet

Once the city’s limits have been breached, overtaking happens with a minimum of fuss. A twist of the go stick summons an impressive wave of torque that picks up the bike and pushes it forward, easily consuming the stray family SUV and local tradesman’s ute. There’s absolutely no doubt that this bike has more torque than the previous generation. It’s important to note that the bike is slightly down on power from the old 2015 model, but it manages to surprise us all with its clearly improved get-up-and-go. Besides, if it’s face-stretching, reality-blurring power that you really want, the top-shelf Thruxton is much more likely to be you ride of choice.

The lack of a tacho and the wealth of low-down torque sees me bounce off the rev limiter earlier in the day until I realise that the engine isn’t one that needs, or likes, to be beaten with the rev stick. The old model showed a much flatter torque curve, which sat at a consistent 60Nm (44 ft lb) throughout its entire rev range. The new power plant improves on this by about 20% up until the 6000rpm mark, after which it drops off quickly. Most of the urge is to be found between 2000 and 4000 revs, which is where the bike and I happily agree to play.

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New water-filled radiator manages to keep a nice, low profile

For a moment, my mind is drawn away from the bike and to the fact that the rest of the press pack seems to be buggering off. A complete lack of local road knowledge combined with the fact that I’ve been throwing a leg over way too infrequently in the last 12 months brings me to a harsh conclusion. My riding is rusty as all hell. Having a few ex-racers up front doesn’t help things, either. Note to self: all blog and no bike makes Andrew a dull rider.

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Note pipe covers under crankcase that hide gases’ detour through catalytic converter

“The bike drinks up the cool forest air and thunders forward through the continually supplied set of on-camber corners”

So with the press pack long gone, it was now just the bike, the breathtaking Black Spur forest and little old me. Famous in Australia, the road consists of nothing more than the perfect piece of tarmac weaving its way through a never-ending grove of ancient rainforest ferns and Mountain Ash Eucalyptus. The trees are impossibly tall and my more vivid imaginings turns them into some kind of ancient, rust-stained columns design to keep the sky in place. The bike drinks up the cool forest air and thunders forward through the continually supplied set of on-camber corners using its newly angled crank with glee. This road is often cited as Australia’s best, and today the Bonnie and I are rather inclined to agree.

It’s now that it all comes together. As with all good bikes, the Bonnie both shines through and yet never overwhelms the ride. The pipes autograph the experience with a sweet exhaust growl while the rest just happens as you know it should. Everything about the bike is in its right place and there’s pretty much nothing that takes you away from your flight through the forest.

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If you ever have the chance to ride the Black Spur, do it

Conclusions

Now it’s weeks later and I’m back into the daily grind – coffee and/or otherwise. Scott, who’s ridden the new bike, also has the previous model Bonnie as his daily rider. Realising that I’d probably be best to get his thoughts on this whole she-bang, I call him up to pick his brains. ‘It’s better in pretty much every way than the old bike,” he says. “Straight away it feels lighter and more nimble. And while it’s slightly down on power, it manages to be quicker despite it. It’s better on fuel, too.” Not wanting it to be all wine and roses, I prod him by asking if there’s anything he thinks they should have kept from the old bike. “I’ll miss the metal,” he replies. “But let’s face it, the new plastic stuff will be the first pieces you’d chuck once you start customising it.”

And, unwittingly, the man’s hit at the very heart of the bike’s reason for being. When you’re designing something that, by you own company’s words, is “an entry-level model that was inspired by the new wave custom scene”, you’re gonna want something that’s a solid platform to customise on while keeping prices down and younger riders happy. And what could be better than that?

So, while tradition may indeed be part pleasure and part pain, it’s hard not to admire what Triumph’s done to this, the linchpin bike of their entire brand. The Street Twin has emerged as a new bike for a new age of riders while still managing to remind us of everything that’s great about riding motorcycles, whether it be now, or 100 years ago. You really can’t ask for better than that. And if the range’s new T120 and Thruxton models follow the same lead, I think we’ll find them just as impressive. Congratulations to Triumph for a job well done.

 

what_we_liked_01
– An all-round better bike than before
– Sounds superb in all guises
– Beautifully easy to ride

what_we_didnt_01
– More plastic than before
– Looks a little plain without add-ons

[Photos by Jeff Crow. Helmet from Arai. Jacket from Pagnol. Pants from Tobacco. Boots and gloves from Icon]

The fine print: In an effort to keep things as legit as possible, we feel it’s best to mention that Triumph Australia paid for our trip to Melbourne to see their new bikes. Rest assured that if the bikes weren’t up to scratch, we’d have no problems in saying just that, and that we will always endeavour to give you guys the best reviews possible without fear or favour; sponsors bearing gifts included.








  • LeChatNoir d’Tobac

    great review- spot on. i keep wrestling with dumping my old Carb’d CB750, it just is not as good a bike as anything new anymore. even a half hearted entry level triumph is just as real a motorcycle, this really got my juices flowing, a good simple honest real motorcycle.

    • big dingus

      Hey bro I ride old bikes too they are long paid for and I have 4 . I’m 60 and don’t need fancy bikes . I’m use to my old bikes and after a shower I blast though the neighborhood with no helmet and dry my hair LOL

    • Thanks black ciggie cat!

  • guvnor67

    I have a feeling that Triumph will sell ridiculous amounts of these things, and plenty of bank cards will be crossing the counter for some personalisation bits n pieces. In an ideal world I’d have one of the Street Twins as a daily hack, and a Thruxton for the weekend. Great report by the way.

  • that would be a perfect little bike for the wife

    • It’s def. aimed at that type of rider. Didn’t mention it in the review, but there’s ABS and switchable traction control, too.

  • Barry Pringle

    I really like the look of this bike as is, but some wire wheels would finish it off

    • Terry Leach

      Amen. A pity you couldn’t just pay a smallish premium and order a bike standard with spoked wheels instead of the rigmarole and cost of buying the spoked wheels as an accessory and then negotiating a buy back price with the dealer for the stock wheels.

  • big dingus

    I’d ride the piss out of it LOL but not in my budget at the moment so i’ll ride my 20 year old junk its paid for

  • Glenn Gauld

    I’ve just gone from a 2014 T100 Bonneville to a 2002 Bonne. Not by choice (2014 written off with me being Evel Knievel) any way, I have to say having stepped back to the carby model I’m incredibly impressed with it. I checked out the Street twin and came to the same conclusions as Andrews review. The bike has a lot of plastic but as a totally one eyed Triumph guy its a smart move by the boys at Hinckley. A fantastic entry level bike not out of reach of the young 20’s market (which get so many offerings from the Jap boys) but not a learners bike either so you don’t feel like a light weight when you ride with the lads. Of course the customising options are the master stroke. Who needs Deus (sorry Dare, love your brand mate but I’m on a budget) when you can buy the kits and do it yourself. This is a sensational way to compete with the likes of the Yamaha SR and lift the appeal of the Bonne to the sports bike crowd too.
    I have to say following the old rule of how many bikes is enough N+1 (N=the amount of bikes you have now) I’d buy the Street twin as a cheaper everyday run around and have a ball customising it while keeping my pride and joy for the showboating with the Rockers. Great review Andrew perfect amount of info versus opinion. Cheers.

    • Cheers Glenn!

      • Glenn Gauld

        Take a ride down the South Coast Andrew and we can go to Cupitts winery and discuss riding with a cape in the stars and stripes and all things motorbikes!

  • Hardley T Whipsnade III

    To be honest you wouldn’t catch me on this or any other Hinkley Triumph for love or money . Between abysmal customer service here in the States , less than admirable reliability , more Chinese than British content , suspect manufacturing and quality at best . price tags approaching BMW and Ducati , handling that on the best of days barely able to keep up with the competition etc there are far too many other more desirable as well as viable options out there that can wipe the floor with anything the new Triumph is making . The ‘ new ‘ Triumph being ‘ Triumph ‘ in name only playing off a heritage long since lost to the ravages of time . And that gentlemen is genuine , factual and investigative reporting in the spirit of of LJK Setright and Robert Hughes : with just a touch of Hunter S. Thompson thrown in for color .

    • Troll Stalker

      I’d say your style is more in league with Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, with Joseph Goebbels for flavor.

    • Don’t quit yr day job…

    • Oldroadie

      Less than admirable reliability? Not in my experience, in a decade I’ve had exactly one part failure over 10s of thousands of miles. I don’t recall any Chinese parts either but there are liberal doses of Keihin and Kayaba; my only failure was Gill (British electronics, go figure).

  • Andy Rappold

    Never liked chrome anyway… And the plastic actually has a weight advantage. Triumph really pulled it off for me with the scrambler… Beautiful!

  • Liked the review, and looks like another winner for Triumph. As a reviewer I’d like to see better ATGATT for you Andrew – set a good example etc. That phone in the rear pocket looks like it could easily get trashed along with your shoes & ankles if your lack of recent riding experience resulted in a tumble.

    • Boots are ICON Truants with full ankle protection. Full Tobacco kevlar jeans. Pagnol jacket with full back, elbow and shoulder armour. Aria full face helmet. Not really sure I’d call any of that SOTGSOTT…

      • Apologies for making the wrong assumptions. I stand corrected.

        • No need to apologise, and thanks for your concerns. I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts re: AOTGAOTT. The phone shot was taken in a laneway at slow speed and yes, it shouldn’t have been there. I was trying to text the misses when I got the thumbs up to ride by the photographer. It was stowed in my inside jacket pocket on all the other photos. Promise. 😉

  • So what’s the general consensus? Who you consider one, or is the T120 & Thruxton more your speed? Thoughts?

    • Grendel Medlord

      I can’t wait to pick up a used one of these in 10 years!

      • It’ll be interesting to see how we handle dealing with the CPUs in them…

        • Grendel Medlord

          I’ve wondered for a while how long it will be before we all start throwing away vehicles that are mechanically ok but we can’t get ECUs for them.

          40 years from now will there be a Vintage scene for cars/bikes from the mid 90s on?

          • We shall overcome. If there’s a will…

          • Barry Pringle

            One of my bikes is a Yamaha RD350LC which is probably one of the first bikes with an ECU, ECUs are available second hand and also there are after market ECUs too from the likes of Zeeltech. I expect that to continue for the foreseeable future unless manufacturers start playing the copyright card i.e. Honda with Decal kits

  • Terry Leach

    A very smart bike all round…not only as a bike in itself but also the way Triumph have positioned it as a pretty duckling to be converted to your favourite swan. (Apologies for the metaphors…if that’s what they were). My only gripe is that “entry level” pricing seems to be a bit of a misnomer…especially in NZ!!!

  • Terry Leach

    Nice bike and your negative comment in the summary about the bike being a little plain w/o some accessories is no accident on Triumphs part as they’ve seen how much coin H-D make in the accessory after market and simply decided they’d like a piece of that. Ironically it’s the relatively high entry price of the Street Twin coupled with the steep price of “must have” add-ons that made me shy away from buying. I can buy a naked 2016 model SV650 for $8k less and while obviously not (quite) in the same class as the ST they’re both sub 1000cc, twin cylinder, naked street bikes and it’s pretty hard to see why one should cost that much more than the other.

  • greenmiles2go

    A disagree re: comments like calling it a “perfect little bike for the ‘wife'”… Bit of a slap in the face of Triumph if you ask me. Maybe the seat height IS lower than the usual T100, Thruxton, etc., but not everyone has a 30″+ inseam and afterall- it’s still 900cc’s of Thumpin’ British Twin Art! BRAVO TRIUMPH !! Building mine into something similar to this one (see pic). Ain’t nothing ‘girlie’ about this build.