I’m being seduced. We’re bounding down the coast of Portugal, the Atlantic glistening in the distance with the sun grinding the horizon line, being hypnotized by a British supermodel with a smoker’s voice and curves for days. As tail sections ebb and flow along the road, burbling to the songs of Britain’s superbike past, I’m beginning to understand the new Thruxton’s vibe, while still holding onto some initial concerns. But for right now, I’m cruising.
Joining the Street Twin, T120, and T120 Black, are the tip-of-the-spear Thruxton and Thruxton R. Natural successors to the bikes of the same name that debuted back in 2004, racy-looking throwbacks that are the firmest connection to vintage-racing fury and Triumph history.
The Thruxton has been a vain motorcycle, with marketing awash with older men far richer than you, slumped over its tank looking like the whole world rests on their broad shoulders and company’s IPO. It has always been a pretty motorcycle, and sold really well largely based on its cool image. However, it was still a high-value, fun motorcycle with a reasonable entry cost for those that wanted a sportier cruiser alternative.
The Thruxton and Thruxton R are edgy and yet attractive motorcycles, taking vintage racing cues and maximizing the volume. The tank is a different unit than its Bonneville siblings, with distinct cutouts on its flanks to harken back to racing machines of old. The standard seat is a strictly one-person affair (passenger seat and pegs are optional), capped with a streamlined haunch on the R. The fenders are better integrated into the design, as well, while the Monza-style flip-cap-fuel filler took some engineering time and effort to get the look just right. Overall, it’s more muscular than lithe. The stance is athletic. The vision is pure British racing muscle.
The Power Play
One hardly recognizes the radiator: Like the other Bonnevilles in the line, the Thruxton is now watercooled. In both the Thruxton and R, the engine is the new “High Power” 1200cc unit. A high-compression head, 45-percent lighter crank, new airbox, and tuning, put an emphasis on top-end horsepower instead of the T120’s focus on torque.
The results are 41-percent more horsepower than its predecessor (peaking at 98), and 83 pound-feet of peak torque. Both figures offer a much larger spread throughout the rev range. It’s no longer a cheerful little engine; this is respectful power for a “neo-retro,” placing it near the top of the class. The technology suite is enhanced compared to the other Bonnevilles, as well, with three riding modes instead of that bike’s two (Sport mode is specific to the Thruxtons), and standard ABS. Service intervals have been extended to 10,000 miles.
The Thruxton and Thruxton R received a slew of chassis changes over the other Bonnies including a reduction in wheelbase, and improved handling. A new aluminum swingarm is shorter, and lighter. Rake has been steepened to 22.7 degrees on the standard model and 22.8 on the R. Sitting perched on the Daytona rearsets, my knees on more than one occasion fought with the edges of that scalloped tank. True clip-ons are standard on the R, but aren’t too low; overall posture is similar to a traditional sport-riding position without being a torture rack.
Both versions are lighter than than the bikes they replace, with the Thruxton at 454 pounds dry (17 pounds lighter), and 448 for the R (23 lbs. lighter).
Suspension has been overhauled on both models, as well. The regular Thruxton gets a Kayaba cartridge fork and shocks with rear preload the only adjustment. While the R gets fully adjustable suspension: a Showa big piston fork, and Öhlins shocks with external reservoirs out back.
The two models also have different braking setups. The standard Thruxton has the same twin Nissin two-piston calipers and 310mm discs as on the Bonneville T120 up front, and a 220mm/two-piston setup at the rear. The Thruxton R ups the ante with big anchors up front– twin Brembo four-piston, radial-mount monobloc calipers and 310mm floating discs, and the same Nissin combo as the standard bike out back.
Triumph has developed a wheel and tire package specifically for the Thruxtons as well, sticky-as-sin 17-in. Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires for the R, and Pirelli Angel GT’s for the base model. These are mounted on spoked aluminum wheels on both models.
So yes, it has an impressive jewelry drawer. But none of this is revolutionary tech. What it is, however, is a swing toward more performance than we’ve seen on a “neo-retro” bike. Triumph is out to prove that you can have looks, and use them too.
So How is the Ride Affected?
I was settled into the clip-ons for the second leg of the day, and with a crack of the throttle, my doubts were replaced with giggles as the front wheel went slack with a wee-little power wheelie. The Thruxton R is here to play. What a handshake and first impression.
The route chosen would be your classic “weekend riding route” the ideal playground for such a machine–tight and winding curves, gravel slowing your pace, and reams of imagery for your ocular nerves. Here, we would see if your average weekend warrior can really take advantage of the Thruxton’s new goodies.
Throttling up, you first notice that the redline is lower than on the previous Thruxton (7,500 rpm on the new one), but the power and torque are there in larger quantities; they run headlong like two elephants rushing for the same door, and then it’s time to shift. The power isn’t on the hooligan side, but it is nicely balanced on the side of troublemaker.
The suspension is sublime. What a change real components make. Turn in is quick: boom, boom, boom, you’re flowing. Not quite Street Triple sharp, but much quicker than you’ve ever experienced on a retro/modern bike, other than perhaps a Ducati Sport Classic. The old bike was lazy, this bike is a prize fighter.
The brake’s bite and feel is well balanced. So you could easily set a pace that will get you in trouble, but it can be a much more casual affair, the chassis not creaking beneath you like on the old model, and the brakes inspiring confidence. The lower rev ceiling means more shifting, but that only gives you a chance to hear the motor cackle and spit as you can pile on the speed.
It’s a rewarding ride, but not an intimidating one. The experience has characteristics of multiple other bikes, ones that had heaps of character and could handle, such as the Ducati 900 Supersport or Sport Classics, H-D XR1200, and even Triumph’s old Thunderbird Sport–there’s even some Buell tossed in there. These are all very divergent bikes; the new Thruxton is especially difficult to pin down.
What it has little in common with is the old Thruxton. Besides sharing styling and an engine configuration, this new bike is on a whole different plane. Where the other new Bonnevilles are thoughtful evolutions, the Thruxton is out to prove it is so much more. This was Triumph’s aim. When pushed on the matter, they wouldn’t budge. No bike, they claim, could match the Thruxton’s heritage, balance, aesthetics, and performance. This is true. But then again you will have to pay a pretty penny to “have it all.” The regular Thruxton costs $12,500. The Thruxton R, with its better brakes and suspension, rings in at $14,500. For reference, Triumph’s own Street Triple R costs less than both at $10,400.
I know, I know, one’s a neo-retro, the other a fully modern, pointy, gauche naked sportbike, thoroughly disinterested in the patina of the past. And that’s how Thruxton owners view modern machinery. That’s how my girlfriend views them when polled. That’s how I viewed them when I bought a Bonneville four years ago, “Too sharp, too complex, no soul.” We all have our opinions.
Factually, the Thruxton R is the ideal bike to show up to a yuppie bar on, shred your local roads, and your track days, and fits in with your catchall lifestyle activities. You can easily surprise a poorly ridden sportbike on a Thruxton R, but still want to turn around and look at it every time you turn off the key.
This bike shies away from direct comparison, whether that’s a Monster 1200S, FZ-09, R-NineT, or Street Triple. The riding equation negates any straight comparison, which is a toast to Triumph’s engineering and design department. And besides, Thruxton owners don’t care. Why? The Thruxton is successful enough to have created Thruxton-loyal owners, with their own unique needs and wants.
I can’t recall a bike that sufficiently nails the target audience with such perfection… that doesn’t have a bar and shield on it. The fact is this is the perfect second act for existing owners–the ultimate Thruxton. It has the same affable personality of the previous bike, with all the requisite go fast bits to make it quick enough to be fun and to truly exploit track days. It’s also improved dramatically enough over the previous model that you can’t just bolt Öhlins on your old bike and call it good.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter what I say. All dealer allotments are accounted for, and the bikes are well on their way to being sold out. My hot take rings hollow, my crow grown cold. To those owners, they will be nothing but pleased.
But to me, the Thruxton R takes a good thing and takes it slightly outside the realm of sanity, It’s a $500 pair of blue jeans. Yes, it looks the part, and it has heritage, a story, and a back catalog of men and women much more rugged and courageous than you, and even if an ounce of that washes off you’ll be the mountian man in your marketing department.
Its most impressive engineering feat is that it has made nostalgia a reality. This is a love letter to British superbike history, the burbling parallel twin bursting with character, the communicative handling, and the responsive brakes, without the leaks, creaks, and kickstarts of old.
This is not a trip back in time, but to a parallel dimension where the Bonneville never became retro, but became the standard.
|2016 Triumph Thruxton R|
|ENGINE TYPE||Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin|
|BORE x STROKE||3.84″ x 3.15″|
|MAXIMUM POWER||96 hp @ 6750 rpm|
|MAXIMUM TORQUE||82.6 ft.-lbs. @ 4950 rpm|
|FUEL SYSTEM||Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection|
|EXHAUST||Chromed 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin chrome silencers|
|FINAL DRIVE||X ring chain|
|CLUTCH||Wet, multi-plate assist clutch|
|Tubular steel cradle|
|SWINGARM||Twin-sided, aluminum – Clear anodized|
|FRONT WHEEL||32-spoke 17 x 3.5 in.|
|REAR WHEEL||32-spoke 17 x 5 in.|
|FRONT TIRE||120/70 ZR 17 – Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa|
|REAR TIRE||160/60 ZR17 – Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Showa 43mm USD big piston forks, fully adjustable 120mm travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Fully adjustable Ohlins twin shocks with piggy back reservoir, 120mm rear wheel travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Brembo twin 310mm floating discs, Brembo 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||Single 220mm disc, Nissin 2-piston axial floating caliper, ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||31.9 in. (810 mm)|
|WHEELBASE||55.7 in. (1415 mm)|
|TRAIL||3.6 in. (92 mm)|
|DRY WEIGHT||448 lb. (203 Kg)|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.8 gal.|