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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.

 

 

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 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 hits the bullseye!

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WE’VE WAITED SO LONG, and it’s finally here.

It was over three years ago, in November 2014, when Husqvarna revealed the Vitpilen 401 concept at the huge EICMA show in Italy. It marked Husqvarna’s return to the street motorcycle segment, and the attention it received was massive.

The angular, fresh design helped: for many, it was a welcome respite from the endless focus on the retro scene. Then a year later, the bigger 701 concept was unveiled: another clean and modern design, built around the 690 Duke engine from sister company KTM.

Husqvarna Vitpilen designer: ‘We want to offer an alternative to the motorcycle market’.

Fortunately, the production Vitpilen 701 is very close to the concept, and the design is stunning in the metal. The tank is a piece of modern art, and so is the tail unit. It’s all very clean and sleek—very Swedish, pure and simple.

This is the DNA of the bike, and its vision too. It was not developed for a specific target group, and there is no stereotype that matches its philosophy. The Vitpilen 701 defines its own segment.

The new Husqvarna is a serious and ‘grown up’ motorcycle, and not just a style item.

It’s tempting to underestimate single cylinder bikes, but one shouldn’t. Especially not when the engine is the most powerful street single you can get nowadays. It’s derived from the KTM Duke 690 and delivers 75 hp at 8,500 rpm from 693 cc. It’s also worth noting the Vitpilen’s wet weight of only 166 kilograms, which is easy meat for this engine.

It’s a good setup and it’ll put a bright smile on your face. In Swedish Vitpilen means “white arrow” and the moniker fits well.

The urban playgrounds of Barcelona and the Catalonian backcountry are a good area to test performance, in both city traffic and on twisty roads. The chassis is quite firm, but it’s a dynamic and precise riding experience.

It’s super easy to bank the bike quickly from one side to the other, from curve to curve. The 43mm USD forks and monoshock—both from sister company WP Performance Systems—deliver exact feedback. You know exactly what’s going on, but the setup is also stable at speeds of up 160 kph (100 mph) on the highway.

For a single, the sound through the standard exhaust system is pretty good, especially if you’re accelerating at full throttle. If it’s not loud enough for you, you can improve it with a stunning titanium/carbon muffler from Akrapovič—which adds to the looks of the bike and doesn’t require a remap.

The seating position is comfortable and feels ‘just right’—even though it’s higher than you’d expect at 830mm. Everything else is where it needs to be, and gives you a good feeling of control.

The headlight is well made and looks very sharp, but the dashboard could have been finished a little better. It’s also not always easy to read the key information fast.

To sum up: the Vitpilen 701 is a fun and easy bike to ride. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. For US$11,999 (or £8,899 or €10,195) you can get one of the most desirable and stylish motorcycles on the market.

It’s a progressive design that fits the modern zeitgeist, with state-of-the-art componentry and engineering—and a dynamic riding experience. Well done Husqvarna. Your white arrow has hit the bullseye.


The full version of this review first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with explicit permission.

For the full review by Christoph Blumberg of CRAFTRAD and more photographs head on over to BikeExif.com

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Ride Review: We’d buy a Triumph Tiger 800 XC in an instant – If we had the money!

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We often speak about riding into the ‘middle of nowhere’ – that place where we’ve lost GPS signal, there’s no bars on the mobile phone reception and there isn’t a petrol station for miles around – but it’s usually a metaphor and doesn’t really exist.

Yet somehow, Triumph found us that place for the Tiger 800 launch and we can”t wait to return.

Our ‘middle of nowhere’ for the Triumph Tiger 800 test is in and around the wasteland of lake Lalla Takerkoust in Morocco. It’s a fitting location for the smaller bike in the Tiger range that Triumph hope is to become synonymous with adventure.

What kind of adventure chosen is up to the individual of course and everyone has to decide for themselves – it could just be a ride through the centre of the city at rush hour, or a trip through the African savannah. Regardless of your pursuits, Triumph say that they now have a very clear Tiger 800 range that should offer something for everyone. But even after speaking with Triumph’s Chief Engineer Stuart Woods it took us longer than we would like to fully comprehend the difference between the Tiger XR, XRx, XRxlrh, XRt, XCx and XCA.

For those who are of a similar mindset, the closest we could come to was this… The XR is for asphalt use and is available in a basic version (XR), the same bike but slightly more richer equipped (XRx with LED daytime running lights, handle heating, TFT color dashboard, etc) or as a luxury model (XRt with heated seat, full LED, extra driving modes, fully adjustable Showa suspension, etc).

The lrh version, or Low Ride Height, is considered a completely separate model because the engine not only receives a lower saddle, but also a lower suspension. It’s nice that Triumph takes into account a slightly shorter riders!

This logic is then extended out from the XR series to the more off-road orientated XC range. However, there isn’t a ‘basic’ XC version, just the XCx which is already reasonably well equipped and then the XCa which has all of the bells and whistles thrown at it.

Anyway, enough letters and versioning, as motorcycle journalists we get to feed our egos with only the best models, so the XRt and XCa are presented to us and the heated seats are immediately welcomed as we set off towards the Atlas Mountains.

The addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better

The first few kilometres are enough for us to determine the marked differences between this and the previous Tiger 800. Of course the most immediately visible from a rider’s view is the new colour TFT dashboard screen and handily adjustable windshield. From an aural perspective the new 800 has a narrower exhaust damper that sounds a lot deeper in low revs and roars louder as you open the throttle. It’s the perfect amplifier for that wonderful, triple engine.

The Triumph engineers will say that there are more than 200 improvements made to this new Tiger 800, but whilst the changes made may be many, the bike still feels comfortably familiar. This is no bad thing either, as the Tiger 800 was always a relatively light and fun bike that didn’t shy away from the task of tackling heavier roads.

Certainly during the first test drive on the road with the XRt it is noticeable how smoothly the three-cylinder picks up from the bottom and still pulls hard up to the red zone at 10,500 rpm. The sports mode with it’s 95hp isn’t the most potent of machines on the market, but this just means it’s a machine that we reckon everyone would be able to handle. In this respect the gearing has been tweaked too – enabling a shorter first gear that means that riders should now benefit from better control of immediate torque when compared to the previous version – especially when off-road.

Where the Tiger 800 really shines through is with it’s balance of components, comfort and riding characteristics. The wide handlebars offer a solid lever, the tank is well-formed and offers a lot of ‘grip’ and it’s interesting to note that the larger 21″ front wheel on the XCa is almost as neutral and familiar as the XR.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately

All of the Tiger 800s (with the exception of the base model XR) come with Brembo front brakes too, and these do a fantastic job of offering balanced bite in well-managed doses. And of course there is the adjustable ABS that really handles itself well in even the most treacherous of circumstances.

After a whole day of touring, we become convinced that the new Tiger 800 isn’t so much a revolution of the previous machine as opposed to a measured and balanced evolution of it. The engine was already great – it still is – and the addition of new toys and electronics make an already good ride even better.

The next day sees us on the XCa’s equipped with Pirelli Scorpion Rally studs and playing some more on the Moroccan trails.

Even more so than on the road, it strikes us just how well balanced the XCa is and how smoothly this engine comes out to play.

Who ever thinks that an 800cc three-cylinder is too heavy to play in loose sand, between the rocks or on jumps, must revise this opinion immediately. Admittedly, it doesn’t take long before the bottom plate has claps,the soil underneath, but that’s what it’s for!

We do wonder if the plastic hand caps and tank parts would survive a slight crash just as quickly though.

After just a short ride in the sand, it dawns on us that this is the real, natural habitat for for the Tiger 800. The XRt is undoubtedly the more thoughtful option for the busy road traffic, but given a choice we would buy an XC in an instant, slip on the off-road studs and drift, slip and jump my way along any dirt I could find, powered by that sumptuous three-cylinder soundtrack.

If we had the £12,500 to spend on such a machine that is! And that’s before we’ve even added the cost of the panniers.

The Tiger 800 is a beautiful machine and the equipment is as top-level as a rider can get, but secretly we dream of a Tiger 800 XC with as little bling and glamour as possible. Forget the iPad like dashboard, the 27 rider modes, electronic aids, heated grips or Brembo brakes and give us a basic XC package for around £9,500.

Sure the ride won’t be quite as pleasurable, but then the tent we would have strapped to the back wouldn’t come with air-conditioning either and we’d be ok with that!

Specifications

Triumph Tiger 800 XRt
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm Showa fully adjustable suspension 180 mm 
Rear suspension:
  Showa monoshock, fully adjustable, suspension 170 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires: 
 100 / 90-19 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
 199-208kg, depending on model 
Seat height:
  810 – 830 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Silver Ice, Crystal White, Matt Cobalt Blue

 

Triumph Tiger 800 XCa
Engine:
  800cc, 4 kl./cil., Water-cooled 3-in-line  
Max. power:
 95 hp / 9,500 rpm 
Max. torque:
    79 Nm / 8.050 rpm 
Transmission:
  zesbak, chain 
Frame:
  steel trellis frame 
Front suspension:
  43 mm WP fully adjustable travel 220 mm 
Rear suspension:
  WP monoshock, fully adjustable, travel 215 mm 
Front brake:
  305 mm discs with Brembo radially mounted four-piston calipers, ABS 
Rear brake :
  255 mm disc with Nissin twin piston caliper, ABS Front 
/ rear tires:
 90 / 90-21 / 150 / 70-17  
Dry weight:
  199-208kg, depending on model
Seat height:
  840 – 860 mm 
Tank capacity:
      19 l. 
Colours:
  Korosi Red, Crystal White, Marine


This review was first featured on MaxxMoto. It’s translated and republished here with permission.

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