Reviews: 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber | Motorcyclist

First Ride Review: 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

The Bobbed-out Bonneville is more than just a stylish package.

To say I had hesitations would be an understatement. When every other manufacturer is putting out scramblers and modern-retro standards—two styles that Triumph Motorcycles helped create—the British company goes and creates something like this: a custom-styled, solo-rider bob-job on the new T120 platform. Sure, Triumph had bikes with similar styling in its history, but they were always “bobbed” from stock. The idea of a production Bobber seemed absurd. There’s no way market research would have ever told them to build this bike. None of it made sense until I had the chance to see, feel, and ride the bike myself. After spending some time on the 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber I can tell you to forget your market research and squabbles over the name, because this thing rules.

Morgan Gales reviews the 2017 Triumph Bobber for Motorcyclist

Cruiser staffer and Motorcyclist contributor Morgan Gales on the 2017 Bonneville Bobber outside Madrid, Spain.

Photo: Triumph

The styling of the bike was as polarizing as a good custom. While I was attracted to it right off the bat, it’s a pretty radical redesign on the Bonneville platform and any change on something so timeless and classic can be scary to some. This change, however, was not taken lightly by the team at Triumph. More than three years were spent building and refining this bike before coming to market, and it really shows. While the lines of the Bobber are still classic Triumph, it’s the details that give this bike the sense of rugged refinement that I was so attracted to.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber review

The Bobber holds classic lines in the exhaust and chassis, despite thoroughly modern technology.

Photo: Triumph

I was worried that this would be another “style bike,” like so many we have seen come to market lately, meaning it has no real purpose or specific function other than for the rider to look cool. Often times these types of exercises leave a bike severely impaired, and there’s no question that a 2.4-gallon tank, 3 inches of suspension, and no passenger could be considered impairments. But, we can look the other way on that stuff considering it was all deliberate, and is backed up with strong brakes, an excellent engine, and a solid overall feel. This bike makes a statement, but you’re not just riding a fashionable toy.

2017 Bobber dash and gauges

Clean and classic. Triumph is all about the bar-end mirrors these days (the new Speed Triple R has them).

Photo: Triumph

Factory after factory have put out motorcycles with components that feel flimsy and cheap to cut costs and hit an approachable price point. That isn’t this bike. From the steel fenders to the tank badge, to the machined bronze details scattered throughout, nothing feels flimsy or cheap about this bike at all. And not just the fancy trinkets, but little things that aid in maintenance and rideability as well. Rear brake fluid and coolant are quickly checked by removing a small metal cover in what was designed to look like a pre-unit transmission, for example, but are neatly tucked out of sight the rest of the time. The clutch and brake levers are adjustable and the Bobber comes stock with 1-inch bars, again adding to the sturdy feel.

Triumph Bobber side view

High-end paint and details go an extra step to set the Bonneville apart within it’s price range.

Photo: Triumph

The seat, while it looks thin and daunting, is actually rather comfortable. I am a skinny guy with little-to-no butt, and I went a full day of riding with no discomfort. Not in my butt, anyway. As a taller rider at 6-foot-4, I was anticipating some awkwardness with the ergonomics. It wasn’t until I took advantage of the seat’s adjustability options that I started feeling strained. The seat slides down and back about an inch, and in that position I started to get stiff in the shoulders. Most riders seemed to prefer to leave the seat in its forward, higher up position, as it was more conducive to the twisty roads we were hitting.

Triumph Bobber ignition switch

The ignition is located below the back of the tank. It’s where all the cool kids put it.

Photo: Triumph

The same 1200cc engine that powers the Bonneville T120 pushed the Bobber down the road, however Triumph says it’s been tuned for a different style of riding. While the T120 was designed to portray a sense of refinement, the Bobber is much more about attitude. In other words, more torque. It comes on strong, I would always want to shift before the rev limiter, and never found myself hungry for more than I was getting. The Twin Skin exhaust system sounds throaty and rich, while looking like true duals and hiding the catalytic converter underneath the bike. It’s all there, it all works very well, and it’s all hidden wonderfully so all you see is a clean, cool bike.

2017 Triumph Bobber rear fender

Triumph cleverly hid the Bobber’s rear shock so that the bike looks like a hardtail, and the bobbed, steel rear fender completes the look.

Photo: Triumph

Aesthetically, Triumph has done a truly amazing job at tucking away all of the wires and hoses to give you a real raw, mechanic look. The radiator in the front is the only somewhat unsightly thing on the bike, but even that is blacked out and easy to look past.

The big test was to see how the new chassis and monoshock design would handle, and we had the perfect route for it. Through twisty mountain roads, we explored the countryside outside of Madrid, Spain. The chassis held stable, and the shock did its job exceptionally despite its limited travel. The ride was comfortable and smooth and efficiently damped big bumps, all without ever feeling springy or loose. It was unanimous, the new design is awesome.

2017 Triumph Bobber handling

The Bobber dropped easily into the turns, though the bike’s low stance means it drags its footpegs pretty early. Even so, the Bobber handles very well.

Photo: Triumph

Passenger options are going to be non-existent on the Bobber, but for a reason. In order to get the “slammed” look, without compromising performance, they had to basically eliminate the possibility of someone putting an extra 150 pounds on the back. There are several pretty good looking luggage options from the factory, but if you’re looking to take a partner with you, this ain’t the bike.

At $11,900 for the black, the Bobber hits the market at the higher end of the segment, while remaining approachable. Just a few hundred dollars more than the Sportster Roadster, you get more engine and finer attention to detail on the finish of the Bobber. Although, if you’re looking for a basis for your own customization, the price tag might be a little steep to start off with.

2017 Bobber fake trans cover

That’s not a transmission case, it’s just a cleverly designed cover that lends the Bobber’s engine a classic, pre-unit look.

Photo: Triumph

A classic feel is not something easily achieved on a motorcycle with this modern tech, but Triumph pulled it off. The single clock unit and relocated ignition switch keep everything at the bars neat and tidy. Dual throttle bodies were designed to look like vintage Amal carbs. And while the Bobber does come standard with ABS and traction control, both of which can be switched off, they were not invasive. I was hard on the gas and wasn’t cut off or interrupted. The monoshock system screams modern performance when you get up and look at it, but from profile it holds that hardtail line almost perfectly (better when compressed with a rider on it, in my opinion).

It’s the personality of this bike that makes it special. You can see the designers in it and feel the passion they had for what they did. They made a unique, factory custom cruiser that has some serious soul, style, and guts. Triumph swam against the current, they took a risk, and came up with something exceptional.

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
Triumph took its new T120 Bonneville and ran it through a time machine. The result is a classically styled yet still functional factory custom with that traditional bobber look.
RIVALS
Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight, Indian Scout, Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber, Star Bolt
TECH
PRICE $11,990
ENGINE 1200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 78.0 hp @ 6100 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 78.2 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 40mm fork; 3.5 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock; 3.0 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin two-piston caliper, 310mm disc with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 27.8°/3.5 in.
WHEELBASE 59.4 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 27.2 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.4 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 503 lb. dry
AVAILABLE Spring 2016
CONTACT triumphmotorcycles.com
VERDICT
A risky move on Triumph’s part, but a risk worth taking! The Bobber delivers a unique custom style while retaining the performance and (most of) the functionality of the standard T120.
Morgan's riding gear and helmet

Morgan’s Gear

Photo: Triumph

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