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The New Triumph Bobber – First Ride


Posted on October 25, 2016 by Andrew in Bobber, Review. 40 comments

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We’re just adding a new entry to our ‘2016’s most obvious facts’ list. Right below the lines that say “American elections go for too long,” and “David Bowie was pretty good,” we’ve just added a fresh entry. It reads “Triumph Motorcycles is having an amazing year.” Even if we disregard their triple cylinder and off-road offerings and just focus on their Bonnevilles, barely a month seems to go by without us receiving an invite for another big launch. The Street Twin. The T120. And now, little more than a week or four after their big Thruxton R launch, comes the global reveal of their top-secret Bobber project. We were there. We went to the launch. We visited the factory. And then we pushed our luck and asked to ride the thing. What was it like? Read on, dear bobberphiles, read on.

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Now we could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle, time and motorway miles by following pretty much all of our competitors by just cutting and pasting some press release text and photos on the launch night and be done with it. God knows we would have got much more sleep. But we didn’t see the point. Why not wait, do some of that old school journalism type-shit and get you more than their cookie cutter fluff? So we did. After an avalanche of late night emails and many games of telephone tag, we managed to secure quite the exclusive. What’s that? Would we like to visit the factory, see the bike in person and have a quick fang? Does the Queen like castles?

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But let’s start where the starting’s good. After a few rather awkward-looking spy shots did the rounds in February of this year, it became clear that Triumph were about to take things outside their comfort zone and release a bobber. And while some may have claimed that it’s only competition comes from Harley, those of us that did a little digging will realise that Guzzi’s new Bobber and Roamer models along with Indian’s Scout and Yamaha’s Bolt will more than likely be on the shopping lists of potential new Bobber owners. But as you can clearly see, Triumph’s taken a rather different approach than those of the maddening crowds. With an altogether more classic, more authentic ‘hot rod’ look, the bike takes what seems like a simple idea and provides us with a very different take. It seems distinctly like Triumph isn’t trying to create a bike that fits into the bobber space, but rather a bike that’s a part of the bobber ethos. And with heritage that goes back as far as theirs does, it very much seems to us like these are just the guys to get that particular job done.

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”And for my next song…”

The launch event, held last Wednesday at an East London warehouse the size of a small British colony, was a no holds barred ‘do’ of the highest order. Live music that didn’t suck. Food that didn’t blow, and a celebrity drag racing event that despite the clear safety issues, went off without any loss of life, or even spilt ales. Well, maybe there was a few spills, but I’d say they mostly happened when neither Carl Fogarty nor Freddie Spencer made it through to the final rounds. A little bird told us that there were some very unhappy little ex-racing campers backstage after the loss, but to be fair who in the hell has any experience racing on a 50 metre polished concrete track?

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Indoor drags and a tipsy crowd. What could go wrong?

Celebratory launch pleasantries aside, what exactly have Triumph pulled the covers off this time? A cursory glance shows what appears to be a T120 with a softtail-disguised-as-hardtail rear that features an underseat monoshock ala Yamaha’s classic Virago. But dig a little deeper and you’ll begin to see more. There’s pretty much nothing on the bike that’s come out of the parts bin. From the ‘bars to the rear fender, Triumph’s new bobber looks to be more bespoke than a Siamese twin’s Saville Row suit.

That fancy-looking floating seat is adjustable, but not in the four axis that some have reported. It’s height is not independently adjustable and is reliant on the unit’s fore and aft position. Bring it forward and it’s up. Move it back and it’s down. The pipes are clearly all-new, and its voice has been tuned with the addition of a split airbox. This ‘box is also a key part of the bike’s ‘bobber tune’ which sees revised torque and power curves over the T120 that shift all the fun lower in the rev range, and boost the torque too. We’re expecting to see about 110Nm at around 2,800 RPM and a healthy 85 horse powers to go with them.

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Seat has brushed metal pan and a brass logo plaque

Other noteworthy details include the adjustable dial that’s able to be tilted from almost flat to almost vertical to suit your own height and favoured seating position. The tank will hold around 11 litres of gasolina, which should get you about 210 kms (or 130 miles) down the road before you start looking for more. The wiring is nowhere to be seen and there’s obviously been a real effort put into keeping the thing looking spick and span. Other nice touches include the rear guard hoop, the front fork gators and the shapely gearbox-cover-cum-oil-tank, replete with filler cap, on the bike’s starboard side.

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Speedo is tilt-adjustable and includes more brass details

Always wanting to go a little deeper than the rest we organised an exclusive chat with Stuart Wood, Triumph’s Chief Engineer and probably their longest-serving employee. We kicked things off by asking him just how Triumph came to build their first bobber.

“With the bobber, it was definitely a ‘hey guys, you know what’d be cool?’ moment. It was too good an opportunity to miss. We decided that we could do this, and that we could do it well. The whole team understood and believed in it from the start, and the enthusiasm was huge for the project.” Stuart was clear that despite Triumph’s size, they were most definitely a company that was driven by good ideas over and above market research. “If you do any market research, you are only testing a proposition or idea anyway. Someone still has to generate the ideas and this is something that was such an obvious possibility with the Bonneville, we had the confidence to do it and do it well.”

“It was too good an opportunity to miss. We decided that we could do this, and that we could do it well.”

And what was the main form of inspiration the Triumph team used to guide the bike’s look? “The team area was completely covered with shots of cool customs, cool bobbers and cool chops,” says Stuart. Many Pipeburn images were apparently also included. “Remember that these are the type of guys who are building their own customs and checking out the blogs anyway, so it’s really part of the team culture. Also, we don’t see design and engineering as two separate things. Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s no way you can apply styling to engineering. It’s all just design. The team members all have to totally understand each other and often they will cross over completely from one discipline to another. There’s no hand-off from one team to the next. We’re all one team designing one bike with one ethos.”

And as many have already noted, there’s an obvious ‘American’ angle to building a bobber. So are they expecting it to be a big seller in the US? “We hope so. I think that the American market understands British bikes. They understand Triumph’s history. And they understand the Bonneville bike itself. Of course, the US is where bobbers started. It was returning G.I.s stripping bikes back to trying and get the sort of performance they were getting from the European bikes they’d been riding. So there’s an inescapable link there. But this isn’t a bike primarily aimed at the American market. We see this bike as being as much about Europe and the rest of the world as it is about the USA.”

For those who like to dwell on the details, Triumph’s choice of American off-road giant FOX for the rear shock might have seemed like a rather unorthodox one, but not for Stuart. “There are a great company to work with, and they make a really fine little unit that fits in very nicely with the elegance that we were trying to keep with this bike. The bike’s suspension is very important to the overall design, and we wanted people to be able to see it. And to have a beautifully finished, very elegant and competent unit in there is a nice thing, too. Of course there were broader considerations, but in the end FOX came out on top.”

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Note to self: full throttle acceleration in the Triumph car park isn’t received well

And we saved the best question for last. There were more than a few online comments regarding whether or not a factory could really make a bobber at all. After all isn’t ‘bobbing’ a bike all about taking away from what a factory has already built? “There are plenty of people out there that are making amazing bobbers,” Stuart notes. “Now some of those people will hopefully take this bike and push it further. But for an awful lot of people, this bike is much more elegantly and completely done than they would manage themselves. And with this bike, you will have something that will work well in every way. It’s not just about the aesthetics; the ride is good and the ergonomics are good, too. We think that people really want this, but a lot of them wouldn’t or couldn’t build it for themselves. So we’re offering something that they can now enjoy and be a part of.” Bobbers to the people? Right on.

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Ignition key is to the right of the airbox ‘Bobber’ logo. Steering lock is to the right of tank logo

Then at last, after many concerned looks and hushed conversations, I got my chance to ride the thing. Now make no mistake; this was about as much of a road test as Donald Trump is a feminist. No public roads, no decent corners and very conservative speeds. In fact, I never left the factory complex or second gear. And at the first sign of some energetic applications of the bike’s throttle, I was told to stick strictly to the 15mph speed limit. I was never very good at all that Health & Safety hoo-ha anyway.

Ignition is located on the bike’s right side, directly beneath the Amal-esque throttle bodies. Moving it from the bars is sweet idea which adds even more clout to the bike’s attention to detail arsenal. My plonked buttocks reveal an amount of travel on the rear shock that wasn’t too hard nor too ‘jumping castle.’ Kicking it over and giving it some, the exhaust note is immediately impressive yet quite different to what I remember emanating from the other bikes in the Bonnie range. While it might have just been my imagination, it seemed distinctly more complex and chord-like than the beefy yet pure tones of the other bikes. A result of the twin airbox, maybe? And then to the ride. The comfort concerns raised by the awkward look of that widely discussed spy shot are banished from the get-go. My average-sized frame slotted nicely into the bike’s shape, with a very neutral, ‘comfy chair’ posture and no obvious muscular niggles.

“the Triumph guy was yelling something about ‘Aussie lunatic’ and ‘not killing someone.’ Embarrassed, I set off again, sans the tire smoke.”

Into first, and then I’m tooling all around Triumph Manor. The signs were good, and with Triumph’s 2016 track record, you’d be kidding yourself if you even entertained the thought that the thing might be majorly flawed in some way. This is a team that is so far beyond the basics, most of us would need a deep space probe to catch them up. Fuelling was smooth as. The ride was solid and sure. I was able to turn it around on a pence piece with zero feet down and as for that brief moment I dared to kick it in the guts, it took off right quick. The brakes were also there in spades, allowing me to come to a quick stop before hitting the Triumph guy who was now standing on the road waving and yelling something about ‘Aussie lunatics’ and ‘not killing someone’. Embarrassed, I smiled awkwardly and set off again, sans tire smoke. My inner wanker then turned my head so I could catch sight of the reflection in one of the Triumph building’s many tinted glass fronts. The bike and I looked good together. Real good. And we felt good, too.

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“Everyone’s watching you,” says the Triumph guy. Time for a burnout, then…

Satisfied that I had managed to be one of the first non-company peeps on the planet to ride the bike AND that I had ensured much H&S paperwork would now have to be processed, I parked up Triumph’s latest creation and stood back to stare. The seat and the bike’s whole rear set-up are clearly it’s crowning achievements. The pipes are as unique as they are shapely and overall its a very British, very impressive take on the well-known bobber theme. Nothing stood out as awkward or ill-conceived. Everything was in it’s right place. But with that said, I’d definitely be trawling through the encyclopaedic parts catalogue to replace the plastic battery box, mirrors and to reduce the size of the factory indicators a little.

But with such a brief ride, there’s still many questions to be answered. Checking the long-distance comfort is probably top-most on my list, along with just how that monoshock performs through the bendy bits. While I’m still intrigued about the choice of rear shock, there’s little doubt in my mind it will be good. With that said, I can’t help but wonder if the bike’s rear suspension design will impart an overly modern feel to a bike that is quite clearly trying to bring a retro and characterful vibe to the new bike party. In short, is it in fact a real bobber, or merely a modern impression of one? And what’s it like to ride (and hear) at speed? Watch this space for more soon.

[Thanks to Triumph for putting up with us and our crazy requests. Special thanks to Nigel, Natasha, Miles, Peter and Stuart for all their help]

The fine print: In an effort to keep things as legit as possible, we feel it’s probably best to mention that Triumph paid for our trip to London 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; manufacturers bearing gifts and delicious English beer included.








  • rorymilton

    Great write up. I’m not the World’s biggest bobber fan but this has tickled my fancy. You should have given us a shout whilst you were over here 😉

    • It was all very last minute. I literally had six hours notice before I had to leave, and pretty much zero free time while I was there. Maybe next time…

  • A V

    What height and inseam does the rider in the pictures have, if you don’t mind me asking?

    I’m 189cm with an 84cm inseam, and I’m curious as to how I would fit on the thing.. It looks Sportster-sized, and I look.. funny.. riding one of those 😀

    • I’m 180cm with an 84cm inseam. Ish. And who cares how you look? It’s how you feel…

      • Larry Kahn

  • Adam Rykos

    It’s just so cheesy and the seat is so awkward looking. I’m never going to understand why anyone would want to be seen on something like this.lol It just screams poser as much as any of Harley’s “outlaw” nonsense, the Honda Fury or any of the other ill conceived attempts at production customs that have been released over the years.

    • the watcher

      Not so long ago I’d have agreed, but oddly the H-D V-Rod made me think “no Harley guy is gonna buy that!” but then I realised that that was the point – H-D wanted different/extra punters. These days, brakes, suspension, tyres and motors are all so good, and speed cameras are so ubiquitous that we really have reached a point where you can buy whatever turns you on and know it’ll be a decent ride. So, the more the merrier, eh?

    • rurhrurh

      I’m with you on that. The stretched out, actual garage built custom bobbers (usually metric) can be interesting bikes – this thing looks horribly “try hard”. And frankly it detracts from the Triumph lineup and brand.

    • Hans Erik H.

      I also agree with you – the photos of the rider in motion are beyond awkward looking. It’s just wrong.
      Looks like Triumph is attempting to start their own marketing driven poser cult.

      • the watcher

        I’m sure that’s true because it’s what all manufacturers do. I want to wear a leather weskit and engineer boots; if I buy a Hog it’ll seem appropriate. Alternatively, I’d like a full-body leather onesie; a-ha, Panigale it is then. Piss-pot, fringed leather and sea-boot socks? Yeahh! Thruxton or V7, hmm? Modern motorcycling is seriously aspirational, and, like all good hobbies, is never short of something to spend your money on.

  • Mike Johnson

    110 @ 2800!!?? This will be a LOT of fun to ride on the street in a relatively stealthy manner. Low RPM torque motors are a blast at subsonic speeds!

    • Well, that’s my guesstimate – we’ll know for sure in December.

  • Robert Henry

    She’s a beaut, Clark.

  • Erin

    I think it is beautiful and I love the seat. Anybody who says this is poser is just not into bobbers or this style. Everybody has there thing and this is definitely my thing. I love the size. They have somehow managed to make a very classic looking bike and unique all at the same time. Can’t wait to take one for a spin.

    • Adam Rykos

      That’s a pretty broad claim. I personally love bobbers and choppers. I’ve built many over the years from a variety of american and british donor bikes and this does nothing for me. The seat and rear section are particularly poorly executed and the whole thing screams trying way too hard to me. I definitely don’t see anything unique about a manufacturer’s cheesy attempt to feed off the custom scene.

      • Tippy

        couldn’t disagree more- the seat and rear section are brilliant. The hard tail look hides a mono shock while looking authentic and and the sliding seat and tilting instruments means there is adjustment to cater for different body shapes- great engineering and cant wait to test ride one!

  • Giantsfan

    Well done. ‘Specially the burn out.

  • Nick

    Too my eyes it looks more like a Pre Unit pre swing arm model British bike than a true bobber. I ride a pre war sidevalve and this looks like a beefed up totally modern take on that. Its a lovely thing from the pics and all the better for being a trad Brit bike than some American pastiche.

    • Larry Kahn
      • Davidabl2

        So sad that it doesn’t look a little more like that SpeedTwin..

        • John Doubleday

          ….to me it does

    • guvnor67

      Agree with you there! If I were to buy one I’d rip off the ‘Bobber” decal, ‘cos, well technically It’s not bobbed, It’s built that way, but it is nice, in that old-British-Twin-with-solo-seat kinda way. They’ve done a good job. Is like to know how price will compare with Bolt, Scout etc?

      • Pretty sure it’ll be T120-ish in price.

        • Anders

          My dealer say it will be just above.

  • As the former owner of a ’79 Bonnie and a Meriden fan of the highest order, I’ve tried desperately to hold onto my bigoted, irrational prejudice against Hinckley twins. But these guys are making it really, really tough not to love them.

  • Lowflying

    When I first saw this, I was confused. Although I like lots of styles, I’ve never really been into bobbers, so I didn’t know what to think. But then, I let go of all my judgy, pre-conceived motorcycle thoughts and thought about what this would be like to ride. I think this would be awesome based on the specs alone, and it looks like they’ve really done the details beautifully. Doubtless, a lot of riders would want to customise it, but I think it looks great as is. They’ve managed to merge an older look with plenty of modern details, and it works for me.

    Triumph is definitely hitting it out of the park these days.

  • sam

    IMO Triumph have absolutely nailed it apart from the slash-cut exhausts,
    bit too Harleyesque for my liking, I think the standard exhausts fitted
    to the T120 would look much better. Looks like I’ll have to have one
    parked next to my Thruxton, decisions decisions!!! I

  • Dana C. Morris

    Why did they have to put a radiator on it and ruin a perfect look?

    • Radiator has zero visual impact in the flesh. Most people who aren’t trainspotters like us wouldn’t even know it was there unless you pointed it out to them…

  • sheridanb

    Good write up and the first good pics of someone riding one to give us a better idea of dimensions and that seating position. Being someone who builds and rides vintage Triumph Bobbers with rigid hardtails, this bike has really grabbed my attention. Sure the floating seat looks out of place to me, but that’s an easy fix. I’m sure within a few months of release an aftermarket parts company will release a kit to replace the rear shock with a rigid strut, and a seat positioned down on the frame and against the rear fender. I think this bike will be very very popular and a big seller.

  • Jefferson

    Man…some people are never satisfied. “Poser?” “Try hard?” Poorly executed?” Do you guys realize what a victory for We the People this bike is? For the last two decades, the big manufacturers have been trying to force us to buy bikes that looked like hungry aliens and angry insects. Now, finally, they are beginning to give us what we really want – machines that actually look like MOTORCYCLES. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see bikes like these on showroom floors, and may all you naysayers inherit Honda Pacific Coasts from your great uncles.

    • What he said.

    • Anders

      I agree 100%. I do not know, nor would I have the “know how” or balls to tune and cut up (possibly ruin) a perfectly good T120 to make this kind of great look. To get a cool-looking bike with ABS, rider modes and theese specs takes a rather new bike. This as a base for further personalization with a basic tool set is for me a dream come true.

      That said, I am glad the different stock-range are expanding in all directions. From jet-ski and angry bees, to fake-customs and classics. I don’t mind. I respect people being different and I am glad not everyone wants what I do.

  • amaximus167

    I love clean lines. I also love my spine and kidneys. This hidden mono-shock does a great job of cleaning these lines up while taking my physical health into consideration. I wonder if the haters would lighten up a little if Triumph just called it something other than Bobber?

  • The Bike Breaker

    In all this” good news” is there any word of Triumph entering the fray in American Flat Track? Indian is back big time, H-D is hustling to regain their former dominance , Yamaha has the 700 twin to work with and Kawasaki won the overall for the first time ever in 2016.
    Triumph had a pretty strong team will they be back with the new Bonneville ?

  • Morgan

    Love the write up, love the bike. I would though rather see springs under the seat. But sure I could custom some springs on that bad boy. And the exhaust sure they will have some sweet after market goodies for it. Saw this bike, I was like about Damn time some one gets the hint. That we customers are tired of the factory hum drum look. And spending an arm and leg customizing. If you ride some thing with two wheels I’ll ride with ya. Regardless of make model. Its both about the feel and the look and riding with friends with the same interest. Ride safe, ride hard love happy. Enjoy life.

  • Mike McLeod

    My wife has totally banned me from even going to the dealership at West Gosford, let alone test riding it! Do you know when it gets here (to Straya, of course)?
    This looks like the bike that I will finally trade my Tiger 800 in for (but preferably her Monster). It is simply so beautiful to look at. I loved my 2012 Bonnie, but it lacked grunt and handling. Hopefully this has both issues sorted.

  • andrew1953

    Looks very dry weird but comfortable to ride.

  • Anders

    I was never in to the look of bobbers or the custom scene, but this is attractive. At first glance I did not like it, but the more I look at it – the more I love it. My guess is that if Triumph did not call it “the bobber” (which I do agree is a bit cheezy and cheap), but something else – critics would be kinder to her. If this was a one-off custom build from a T120 I guess a lot of the haters would love and praise it.

    But, as a base for further customization this should prove extremely interresting for the future. Of that I think most people can agree.

  • Davidabl2

    Good Lord, that seat looks dreadful if there’s not a bloke sitting on it 🙁