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Ride Review: Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2017

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Can there really be such a thing as a ‘factory custom’?

Okay, before we get started, I feel that I should offer some full and frank disclosure. I have an awkward relationship with Triumph Bonneville-based machines. There, I said it.

I’ve always found the modern Bonneville to be underwhelming when ridden, a little flighty at the front end and – if I’m being perfectly honest – just a little boring. And then there was that time that I wrote off a 2014 Triumph Bonneville Scrambler in a field at Goodwood Revival whilst pretending that I was Steve McQueen. In fact, the less said about that moment the better.

But something about Triumph’s new for 2017 Bonneville Bobber has made me forget all about my previous experiences. It is – in a word – fantastic.

Before it was first introduced at the trade-shows towards the end of 2016, we had already known that a Bobber-style motorcycle based around the Bonneville platform was on the drawing board at Triumph HQ in Hinckley, Leicestershire. In fact, Triumph had already run a small, in-house competition as far back as 2014 that saw a ‘bobbed’ bonnie take away the prize, and ever since then spy shots had been popping up in our feeds revealing iteration after iteration of what would become the Bobber. It felt like there weren’t any surprises left.

So how was it then that we all felt so driven to comment when it finally broke cover?

In a word, it’s because Triumph’s Bobber design is ‘divisive’.

First off, there were those who instantly questioned why an old, revered British firm such as Triumph were producing a machine based around a style of bike almost exclusively popularised in America – conveniently forgetting that Triumph in it’s current incarnation have produced a whole range of ‘cruiser’ motorcycles that already fit into this category.

Then, on one side of the thin, Twitter fence came the old guard of custom motorcycle aficionados who flat-out refused to acknowledge that a ‘custom looking’ machine could ever be produced within a manufacturer’s factory and be regarded as legitimate. On the other side, peeking out from within their Instagram-filtered bubble visors, were the ‘new wave’ custom heads who felt that their aesthetic had simply been pilfered and pillaged for corporate gain.

The rest of us stood somewhere in-between, acknowledging the new machine for what it aims to be – a pleasing to the eye, laser focused, single-seat motorcycle that somehow manages to straddle the line between both form and function perfectly.

If the traditionalists spent time getting under the skin of this machine then they’d perhaps realise that Triumph have done everything possible (within this modern world of rules and regulations) to keep both the old guard and the older custom biker happy – with their nods to traditional componentry and a ‘hard-tail’ look that harks back to the golden-age of motorcycling across both sides of the pond.

And the newly-nurtured custom builder, having studied the bike for a moment or two, will see a solid base for future customisation that – whilst borrowing heavily from an already popular style – shows great promise for further exploration and for building upon.

And – again – for the remaining middle ground, there’s the promise of a brand new, modern machine with that excellent Bonneville T120 engine; equipped with all of the latest technology such as ABS and switchable rider modes.

So that’s the design and market positioning sorted then. But how does all of that translate to the road?

First feelings prove positive. Even with the fully-adjustable seat back in it’s farthest notch, the riding position isn’t as ‘foot forward’ as you may expect from a machine leaning so heavily into a cruiser-ish vibe. There’s none of that foot-fumble that so often arrives when first straddling a cruiser and the bars feel natural and well-placed. A quick moment to get familiar with the controls (yep, everything is where it should be) and then it’s a slight reach down, underneath the fake carbs that actually house the fuel injectors, a turn of the key and we’re ready to go.

The engine note – channeling the exhaust down through the twin, slashed tips of the steel pipes –  is throaty enough to be pleasant without being anywhere near obnoxiously too loud to annoy the neighbours. But what really hits home is how comfortable and inviting the Bobber engine feels at tickover. Often a bike in the bobber mould can feel intimidating on first sight; not necessarily in a bad way, but sometimes there’s an ‘exciting kind of scary’ that arrives with the first burble of a machine. This nervous anxiousness isn’t present here. There’s no momentary pause as I compose myself for the first twist of the throttle, the Bonneville Bobber already feels like home.

A turn of the right hand and the re-tuned T120 engine burbles further into life, providing plenty of low-down torque that makes setting off a breeze. For those people considering a Bobber for a commuting machine, you’ll be pleased to know that its characteristics from the engine department are more than suited to that specific task; as long as you’re comfortable flicking up and down the short, earlier gears.

But we didn’t come here for stop-and-go jams, or to spend our few hours with the machine stuck between the German whips and double-decker buses of town traffic, we came here to stretch out.

The first roundabout leading out into the Cambridgeshire country roads would provide the earliest opportunity to really open up the throttle and to raise the smile quota. So after a quick check behind to make sure that nobody has mistaken me for an fat man on a bumbling, empty throated classic, I drop the wrist.

I am now very much a fat man on a modern motorcycle. And it’s glorious.

The ride-by-wire throttle provides excellent control of the power delivery – speed is instant and smooth and I’m soon moving through the lower gears before settling into a nice cruising speed. The truth is that if you’re riding this in town, you’ll probably be making a lot of use of the lower gears – and a feathered clutch – to maintain your trajectory, but once onto the open road it’s a case of finding your groove and settling down for the ride…

…and what a ride!

Having read a few of the early test reviews that appeared immediately after the international launch, I was already more than prepared for a soft and comfortable, yet nimble motorcycle. But secretly I had also thought that a lot of this early feedback had come from riders that weren’t all that familiar with the more foot-forward, knees-to-the-breeze style of riding that a bobbed bike usually provides, and I had wondered if it was just a case of the bike being an unexpected and pleasant surprise that had garnered such praise.

After the first sit down, and having noticed that the pegs and bars were far more ‘regularly’ placed than most of the cruisers I have ridden, I should have been ready for a change of perspective, but it was only after the first few sweeping bends that it dawned on me; those early road testers weren’t impressed because it rode better than their lowered expectations, they were impressed because it handles excellently. Not just for a Bobber, but for any kind of motorcycle.

The ride feels incredibly planted, instantly dismissing my earlier recollection of Bonnevilles feeling too light at the front, and as I head into a set of long, sweeping corners I take advantage of the open road ahead, grab another handful of throttle and attempt to scrape the pegs. Flicking from right to left, the amount of ground clearance on a machine as low down as this is unexpected. Switching from left to right, my heel reaches the road before there is any sign of metal scraping. With a long straight ahead of me I continue at a pace and settle down for a good few minutes of comfortable cruising.

Only this is Britain and the potholes on the road ahead have far more nefarious intentions.

The rear suspension – which has been cleverly situated underneath that beautiful, floating seat unit – takes the bulk of the undulations without issue, but with my considerable frame loading up the rear there are occasions when the 3″ of suspension travel fails in keeping me from jarring out of my seat. Whilst I’m not totally willing to disclose my exact weight to you in the pages of this website, I do think that it’s fair to say that I am slightly heavier than the average UK male, and that most people riding the bobber down the same stretch of road would have received less movement than gravity dictated for me. As I contemplate the need to lose a few pounds, I notice that the long straight of road is closing down into a smaller, even more bumpy track and I begin to brake.

Stopping the Bobber is taken care off by a twin-piston, floating Nissin caliper seated over a single, 310mm disc, and whilst it’s certainly enough for most riding, the way in which you feel encouraged to throw the Bobber around isn’t backed-up with confidence in the braking department. There were just a few too many times on my ride where a squeeze of the brake migrated into a full-on, four-finger grab, and whilst the single disc may fit in with the minimal aesthetic that Triumph have aimed for, a little bit of extra help upfront wouldn’t have gone amiss.

But this almost feels like nit-picking at this juncture, because given fifteen minutes of familiarity, any decent rider worth their salt would know to minimise the issues by anticipating the holes in the road and compensating for any shortage of stopping power. Maybe Triumph have done too good a job of raising expectations that I’m just assuming perfection by this point?

As we stop by the side of the road to shoot some more video, I wander around the bike a while looking for tiny, little details that I may have missed. It proves ridiculously easy to overlook a lot of the work that has gone into the Triumph Bobber, especially where their designers have looked into cleaning out the lines and hiding away all of those fiddly little pieces of electronics and machinery that you just assume need to be untidily housed within a modern motorcycle.

Triumph have managed to hide specific parts of electronics behind fake bits and bobs that do the job of looking like an older machine whilst still providing all of the modern conveniences.

A second – and then third – look at those sweeping, metallic tubes reveal that the pipes actually get rerouted into the catalytic converter underneath the engine block before finding their way out back through the rear; all without at any point ruining the single, tubular style of the exhaust system. This is clever stuff. If it had been built by a small team of builders in a shed outside of Somerset we’d be calling them custom motorcycle geniuses.

Clever too is the master cylinder for the rear brake, hidden behind what looks like an engine cover, also cunningly crafted is the battery box (although plastic) that looks as if it’s come straight out of a 1950s workshop. And are those carburettors on either side just behind that sculpted tank? No of course they’re not, they actually hide the fuel injectors.

Which all brings us to the biggest unanswered question of all.

We know that the Triumph Bonneville Bobber is a good motorcycle. In fact, having spent a day or so with it, I’d go so far to say that it’s a great one. After my experience of it on the road and after riding it through both sun and rain, I can attest to it even being a comfortable bike that I’d happily take on longer road trips (although one point of note here, at just over nine litres, the tank is bloomin’ tiny. And we reckon you’d be lucky to get any more than ninety miles between fill-ups if you’d been doing anything close to the spirited riding that it encourages you to do).

But…

Does it matter that it’s not really a custom in the purest sense? Absolutely not.

It certainly looks like one. There is no way on Earth that this bike would look out of place at either a local biker’s cafe or the poshest, trendiest restaurant in Shoreditch (we’re looking at you Bike Shed), and it would be a particularly, pedantic person that would eschew your choice of motorcycle at either of these establishments based simply on the fact that it was ‘new and fresh from the factory’.

So where does that leave us?

The honest-to-God’s truth is that if I was offered £10,500 to spend on a custom motorcycle, and was concerned that didn’t have the time nor technical ability to care for, and lovingly nurture along, what would almost undoubtedly be a temperamental – albeit ‘characterful’ – bike then I’d seriously consider putting down that list of builders I had collated from months of browsing Bike Exif and taking a look at the Bonneville Bobber and its accessory catalogue instead.

The way I see it, I’d then have a respectable machine – with warranty and dealer support – and I’d also have the opportunity to ‘make it my own’ over the coming months and years. And I can’t help but remember that Dutch from the Bike Shed once said to us at Motofire that ‘there is nothing less cool than a broken down motorcycle’.

If that’s true then I honestly don’t see why anyone would not choose a Triumph Bonneville Bobber for their ride and to arrive at their destination in style.


SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE

Type Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Capacity 1200 cc
Bore Stroke 97.6 / 80 mm
Compression 10.0:1
Max Power EC 77 PS/ 76 bhp (56.6 kW) @ 6,100 rpm
Max Torque EC 106 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
System Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Brushed stainless steel 2 into 2 twin-skin exhaust system with brushed stainless silencers.
Final drive Chain
Clutch Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox 6-speed

 

CHASSIS

Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Wheels Wire 32-spoke – Steel Rims. 19 x 2.5in
Rear Wheels Wire 32-spoke – Steel Rims.16 x 3.5in
Front Tyres 100/90-19
Rear Tyres 150/80 R16
Front Suspension KYB 41 mm forks, 90 mm travel
Rear Suspension KYB monoshock with linkage, 76.9 mm rear wheel travel
Brakes Front 310 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Brakes Rear Single 255 mm disc, Nissin single piston floating caliper, ABS
Instrument Display and Functions LCD multi-functional instrument pack with analogue speedometer, odometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, range to empty indication, service indicator, clock, 2x trip, average & current fuel consumption display, traction control status display, Cruise control & heated grip ready – controlled by a handlebar mounted scroll button.

 

DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT

Width Handlebars 800 mm
Height Without Mirror 1025 mm
Seat Height 690 mm
Wheelbase 1510 mm
Rake 25.8º
Trail 87.9 mm
Dry Weight 228kg
Tank Capacity 9.1 l

 

FUEL CONSUMPTION

Fuel Consumption ** 4.1 l/100km
CO2 figures ** EUR4 Standard: 98 g/km**CO2 and fuel consumption are measured according to regulation 168/2013/EC.  Figures on fuel consumption are derived from specific test conditions and are for comparative purposes only. They may not reflect real driving results.

 

 

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Steve fell in love with motorcycles at an old age. Call it a mid-life crisis, call it fate, but nothing can keep him away from feeding his two-wheel addiction.

REVIEWS

Ride Review: The Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE will have you planning an Autobahn or Nürburgring trip immediately!

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What do a Suzuki Hayabusa, Yamaha VMax, Honda Fireblade and a Screamin’ Eagle Stage 3 tuned Harley-Davidson all have in common? They’re all now humbled at the lights by the touring Kawasaki H2SX!

SUPERCHARGER! It’s a word that belongs in the Fast & Furious movies, next to Turbo Boost, NOS Injection and Intercooler. But since the introduction of the bonkers Kawasaki H2R three years ago it’s a word that motorcyclists can no longer ignore. Now, in 2018 you can add a whole dollop of Supercharge juice to your vocabulary because the more ‘ordinary’ H2SX is here.

Let’s get real for a second, a supercharged engine sounds cool and impressive in promotional material, but at €25,000 the shine could quickly be lost towards what is essentially a motor that’s built to just go in a straight line.

Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

Now that the hype has died down a little bit though – and with the introduction of the supercharged H2SX tourer – Kawasaki are hoping to profit from bringing the same engine to a wider market and with a reduced price. Could this be the sweet spot the big green machine?

We were invited over to Estoril in Portugal to find out.

At first glance, all of the necessary elements are there… Take the block out of the H2, bring in the knowledge gained from the competent and much praised ZZR1400 and the Z1000SX, throw in a couple of panniers and you’re onto a winner. Right?

It’s not so simple.

At a ‘performance workshop’ the project developer, Watanabe-San explains that Kawasaki have had to completely redesign the H2 block for the new H2SX; adding lower consumption and more torque to the low and mid-range areas.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas.

And then there are the electronics.

From the moment you come face-to-face with the new H2SX, the LCD display strikes as something completely new for the famous green marque. The buttons on both left and right bars are extensive enough to feel initially overwhelming and the functions that they enable are extensive enough to put the most technologically advanced of all modern tourers to shame. There’s no electronic suspension but with multiple dashboard layouts, adjustable driving modes, three levels of traction control, switch-off’able quick-shifter, cruise control and launch control there’s enough to get to grips with.

We start the test in the usual, gung-ho way; full-power, giving it everything, and immediately discover that going from zero to full in freezing temperatures on wet asphalt is not the greatest of ideas. Couple this with fresh Bridgestone Hypersport S21s that have yet to be ‘scrubbed in’ and the drifting from both tyres and buttocks is enough to send a shiver of fear up the spine.

So traction control on medium and riding mode put back firmly into the ‘middle’ it is then.

It’s a motion that doesn’t take as long as I had first feared – the controls are intuitive enough to be done on the fly, and help to settle the nerves.

It’s really not the greatest of conditions in which to test the H2SX’s abilities to be honest and after 250kms of riding in ice cold wind and rain it’s all that we can do to keep going. Riding comfort wise everything is fine and with a nice, wide tank and spacious seating position there’s nothing to complain about. But that cold wind?!

The windshield is large enough to hide behind and take the edge off of most of the buffeting and heated grips coupled with electronic ‘castration’ tools mean that we make it to our destination as relaxed as possible.

But a sunny day at Estoril circuit the following day is all that we can think about to keep us going towards our destination.

Finally, we give it some gas.

It’s an early morning start, but we don’t truly wake up until we put the supercharged engine into the limiter at the beginning of the first, Estoril straight. Launch control for the win!

The electronics ensure that everything goes to plan and all you need to do is to find first gear and then open up the throttle.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

‘The braking point is just around the third bridge’, is the advice offered by the PR-man before we start. In truth that’s about one bridge too far for this rider and the double-disc brakes have trouble scrubbing the incredible speed from my H2SX and the gravel is just about avoided.

After a while of careful measuring and balancing, the potential of the engine is realised and it’s striking just how much more powerful the motor is at the bottom end when compared to the H2. It just doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or what speed the engine is running at; whatever power you need is available, seemingly on tap.

The brakes struggle a little on track after a while, but there is nothing to suggest that there won’t be more than enough stopping power for even the most spirited of rides on a public road.

‘Watatatatataaa!’ then the whistling of the wastegate before letting the clutch lever rise. Bam!

The suspension in this regard is excellent. At 256kgs the H2SX isn’t exactly svelte and in chicanes the fat rolls take some effort to tuck back in, but it’s smooth and managed. And there is always that throttle response to aid in allowing the extra gas needed to get you back onto the riding line.

It never ceases to be breathtaking ;the 200 horses coming out of that 998cc four-cylinder beast is something that will never get old.

And this is a tourer don’t forget. So once all of the modern touring equipment is back on the machine and the sporty underpinnings are still available, what’s not to get excited about?

So where exactly is the catch? It’s a question that is asked of us throughout our time with the machine. And the only real issue with the Kawasaki H2SX is one of compromise.

Do you want an super-comfortable Grand Tourer? Or do you want the world’s fastest sportsbike? The H2SX is not going to be the best in class when compared to pure machines in each of those segments. But if you want an engine that is at home on all roads, across all markets and is unbeatable in a straight line, then you can start planing your first Autobahn or Nürburgring trip now.

Specifications:

Kawasaki H2SX 
Engine: 998cc, 4 kl./cil., Liquid-cooled 4-in-line with compressor
Max. power: 200 hp / 11,000 rpm
Max. torque: 137.3 Nm / 9.500 rpm
Transmission: zesbak, chain
Frame: steel lattice frame
Front suspension: 43 mm UPSD, fully adjustable, suspension 120 mm
Rear suspension: monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 139 mm
Front brake: 330 mm discs with 4 piston calipers
Rear brake: 250 mm disk with 2zuigerremklauw
Tires Front / rear: 120 / 70-17 / 190 / 55-17
Wet weight: 256 kg
Seat height: 835 mm
Tank capacity:19.0 l.
Colors: Emerald Blazed Green / Metallic Diablo Black (SE)


This review first appeared on MaxxMoto ; It’s translated and republished here with explicit permission.

 

 

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OPINION

Ride Review: The Kawasaki Z900RS really does have it all

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The Z900RS is a pretty amazing bike.

Literally, everyone that spoke about it to me on the launch was unanimous about the way it looked and how pretty it is when looked at up close. And then, after the ride, not a single person felt the need to nag about the lack of stereo-suspension in the back, spoke wheels being missing, or even grunt over the chrome bits and fenders. Why?

Because quite simply, the four pot engine is stunning – because of it’s massive torque down in the rev range – and it pulls through nicely to the limiter. Even though the RS feel heavier than the Z900, I’m pretty sure it accelerates faster. It’s a beauty.

After spending some time with the bike, it’s clear that Kawasaki have spent some serious effort on the design of this bike and even though you might be tempted to think that it’s just a reworked Z900, it’s not.

Frame, engine, suspension, brakes… Basically everything got a complete overhaul and the result is truly impressive.

I know that our friends here at Motofire have had reservations about the machine, but actually – in my opinion – it’s genuinely the very first bike that combines actual, real 1970s heritage (there are soooo many small hints of the original Z1) with modern day ride qualities.

Yes, there is the BMW RnineT,  the Yamaha XSR or the Honda CB1100, but the first two don’t really have a link with bikes from the seventies and the latter is overpriced, under-powered and not nearly as beautiful as the Z900RS.)

After spending some time with the bike, it’s clear that Kawasaki have spent some serious effort on the design

The Z900RS really does have it all… Radial four-pot brakes, adjustable suspension, adjustable levers, traction control (3- stage) and it’s quite clear that Kawasaki wants to present it as a premium bike. And here in Belgium where MaxxMoto are based, the pricing is competitive too, starting at €11.599 which is about €4k cheaper than the average BMW RnineT. So it’s fair to say that you get a lot of bike for the money.

Now, before I completely come away sounding like a Team Green press representative, there are a few, minor flaws.

First of all, the throttle response is quite ‘twitchy’ with an on/off feel that can initially seem disconcerting; possibly because of the transmission, the injection, or a combination of both. It’s not as bad as on a Suzuki GSX-S1000 or the first gen Yamaha MT-09, but even though the 4 cylinder engine is very smooth, the pick up of a closed throttle is rather abrupt.

Basically everything got a complete overhaul and the result is truly impressive.

The same thing goes when you close the throttle – for example when entering a hairpin corner. In that situation you get a bit too much off the engine brake delivered back at you, which can get the bike a bit off balance at times. This is a minor issue and it gets better when the bike warms up, but it never really disappears.

Speaking of things that get better after they’ve warmed up: let’s talk tyres.

On the cold Catalonian asphalt (7° and less) it took forever for the Dunlop Sportmax GPR 003 tires to warm up, and it was a good thing that the bike had traction control. It’s a rather typical Kawasaki thing to put cheap ass tires on a good bike here in Belgium – the Z1000SX, Ninja 300, Versys… All of these come on less than desirable rubber – and for a bike that feels so premium elsewhere, this is a bit of a shame.

Apart from that, it’s a struggle to come up with much more by way of criticism. I think the seat is quite high – if you are smaller that 1m 75 this might become an issue, especially if you’re a less experienced rider, and the transition from the seat to the polished, slippery tank is rather, too smooth. So when you brake hard during some spirited riding, you better squeeze your knees hard to help in holding on.

Oh, perhaps you could argue that despite the retro dials looking nice, the lettering on the analogue clocks (‘the same as on the Z1 in 19-seventies’ blah blah blah…) is just too small and hard to read. But now we’re literally nitpicking.

So the takeaway conclusion from our couple of days riding the Kawasaki Z900RS around the Catalonian roads?

The Z900RS has an excellent looks/performance/price-balance and really takes the whole neo-retro thing to a higher level than anything else before it.

For more photos from the launch – including lots of images of the details on the new Kawasaki Z900RS, visit MaxxMoto.

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