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Modern Rockers: Triumph Motorcycles' Reinvigorated Classics

With the arrival of a new Bonneville fleet, British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph smartly injects new life into its range of classic models

The trend of retro-inspired motorcycles has taken the two-wheel world by storm in recent times, and few have been as eagerly anticipated as the new Triumph Bonneville range – hardly surprising really, as the Hinckley-based brand essentially invented the genre.

In addition to the lucrative but ageing touring segment, European manufacturers in particular have answered the needs of a new breed of biker. Style conscious and often under 30, the new/old school breed is less obsessed with the need for speed, but drawn instead to the more emotive and undeniably attractive life on two wheels as projected by heroes of yesteryear. Think ‘King of Cool’ Steve McQueen.

With the arrival of stiff competition from BMW’s slick R Nine T and Ducati’s seemingly evergreen Scrambler, it was high time that Triumph’s charming but outdated air-cooled 68bhp 865cc Bonneville entered retirement. In early 2016, Triumph launched a range of all-new replacements, complete with two new engines and available in five different derivatives, from entry level Street Twin to range-topping Thruxton R. All bikes feature a ride-by-wire throttle, ABS, slip-assist clutch for an easier lever pull, traction control that can be switched off, an immobiliser with a chipped ignition key and a USB charging socket.

The Street Twin features a liquid-cooled 900cc parallel twin that produces 54bhp and, more importantly, 59lb ft of torque – an increase of 20 per cent over its predecessor. Combined with a new drive-by-wire throttle, it’s also leagues ahead in terms of everyday performance and refinement which makes it ideal for new riders – smart move Triumph.

On the congested streets of London, it makes for an agile and handsome commuter with a healthy turn of acceleration to boot. Fitted with purposeful cast wheels and neat, high quality detailing, the Street Twin comes in red, silver and three shades of black, and is offered with a range of exhausts and accessory options. It all adds up to a brilliant value package that just begs to be ridden.

For riders looking for perhaps a little greater road presence and a little more comfort, the T120, with its more relaxed geometry, makes a fine case for itself, too. Powered by a beefed-up, 1200cc version of the new liquid-cooled twin, power climbs to 79bhp whilst torque is an impressive 77.5lb ft. Refined, comfortable and with a healthy surge of get-up-and-go in all gears, the T120 is the bike the original Bonneville should always have been – especially in handsome ‘Black’ spec with traditional spoked wheels.

Despite its muscular, macho feel it rarely feels cumbersome in traffic but is at its most charming on balmy evening cruises to your favourite viewpoint or watering hole. Just don’t forget to attach your pillion for your favourite passenger.

For those after a taste of Triumph’s colourful competition history, the new Thruxton and highly spec’d Thruxton R should more than fit the bill. Originally named after a small run of 1960s homologated racers for the road, power is provided by a tuned version of the T120’s 1200cc twin, developing 96bhp and 83lb ft of torque – good for around 135mph flat out. On open, twisty A-roads, where the Thruxton R positively excels, you’ll also enjoy the brilliant Brembo brakes, Showa big piston forks and Ohlins twin rear shocks, all of which combine to ensure this retro cafe racer has the performance and handling to back up the stunning looks.

Although far less comfortable than its more relaxed siblings due to the dropped bars and raised seat height, the Thruxton carries many of the cheaper bike’s practicalities. The same handy USB port is located under the seat in order to charge your phone and the digital display continues to deliver useful information such as gear indicator and fuel range. There’s also an optional ‘Sport’ mode for faster throttle response when the mood takes you. Once again then, Triumph’s designers and engineers have demonstrated some very modern thinking in the new Bonnies, and in turn, proved they know modern retro buyers better than most.

In order to tempt new buyers, Triumph has activated an impressive PR and marketing drive that has widely embraced the burgeoning custom motorcycle scene; after all, it is no accident that the entire range of Bonnevilles can be fully accessorised and personalised to your heart’s content. The firm also continues to support London’s Bike Shed Motorcycle Club and its annual London exhibition, while the backing of the global phenomenon that is the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride – a hugely popular charity event now in its fifth year that invites ‘dapper’ riders of retro-inspired machines to ride in convoy – is a motorcycle marketeer’s dream. Keen to sample the fantastic atmosphere and do our bit, The City Magazine took part in the London ride aboard a Street Twin in 2016 along with nearly 1,500 other riders. Raising awareness in over 500 cities around the world, the organisation raised more than $3.5 million for men’s health causes last year alone.

Triumph Street Cup Café Racer

Unveiled at the Intermot bike fair in Cologne in October 2016, Triumph added three new bikes to the existing Bonneville line-up. Leading the pack of 900cc twin-cylinder machines, the Street Cup (above left) is a lighter, more accessible café racer based on the Street Twin. Taking inspiration from the range-topping Thruxton R, styling includes a removable bullet seat cowl, fly-screen, drop bars and bar end mirrors. The Cup also receives unique twin upswept silencers. Two other Street Twin-based roadsters will also be available in 2017, the T100 and the T100 Black, which are both inspired by their T120 siblings.