First Ride Review: 2016 Triumph Bonneville Street Twin

Triumph’s long-awaited Bonnie replacement is smooth, easy to ride, and surprisingly high tech.

They say: The perfect balance of authenticity and modernity. We say: And the right balance of performance and accessibility.

The significance of Triumph's all-new Bonneville lineup for 2016 is evident in the all-out media blitz put on by the good men and women from Hinckley. Spy shots, long-lead introductions to journalists, roll-out parties for enthusiasts all predated our chance to actually ride the new machines. But now the teasing is over. We've finally ridden the entry-level model in the range, the Street Twin.

2016 bonneville street twin, triumph
Triumph offers the Street Twin in Jet Black for $8,700, and Matte Black, Phantom Black, Aluminum Silver, and Cranberry Red for $8,950.©Motorcyclist

Triumph's engineers knew immediately after the last generation Bonnevilles were released in 2000 that they wanted to make significant improvements. Instead of simply updating their already successful Bonneville, they decided to tackle a complete redesign from the ground up. All new chassis, with a narrower design, more efficient engine, slightly sportier riding position, along with a slew of new technology and factory accessories, the new Street Twin is designed to be their most accessible new Bonneville.

The newly designed engine’s capacity has increased to 900cc—up from 865cc in the previous model—but in a more fuel efficient way. New ride-by-wire throttle with a single throttle body allows for faster fuel/air mixture, creating a cleaner burn and increase of fuel economy by 36 percent. Triumph claims as much as 73 mpg, which allows for a smaller 3.2 gallon fuel tank (down a full gallon from before). The new engine pumps out 55 hp (down 18 percent from the previous gen), and increases torque to 59 pound-feet (18 percent over its predecessor.) The torque is most apparent between 2,750 and 4,750 rpm, though you won’t see that indicated anywhere on the bike, since it lacks a tachometer. The ride by wire provides finessed responses to the twist grip,  with a smooth and linear power output, nary a hiccup in delivery. Appreciating the Street Twin as the target of lesser-experienced and even brand-new riders, Triumph’s engineers gladly chose smooth torque over high horsepower—that’ll come later with the up-spec 1,200cc versions of this powertrain. Those engineers also claim the new engine design’s cooling fins are functional, to assist the newly added liquid-cooling system. All this contributes to increased service intervals from the previous 6,000 miles to now 10,000 miles.

street twin review
Functional cooling fins, neatly mounted radiator, and streamlined exhaust with hidden cat box create a clean new look.©Motorcyclist

One of the key elements to making this Bonnie so accessible is a favorable seat height of 29.5 inches. This combined with a narrow parallel-twin engine allow for most vertically challenged riders to throw a leg over and flat-foot it at a stand still. Triumph engineers admitted to having designed the low narrow chassis with the female customer in mind, as there are few options out there to accommodate a shorter inseam. I found the seat height accommodating not just for both feet planted firmly on the ground, but a bend in the knees as well. The rider triangle also pivoted forward with a slightly lower handlebar moved forward and lower foot pegs moved slightly back. I have to wonder how comfortable this more compact seat and footpeg set up will be for the taller riders out there, as our test ride was only in hour-long increments with photo stops, coffee, or lunch break in between.

bonnie first ride
Catalytic converter is cleverly tucked under the engine, as seen in the underbelly here.©Motorcyclist
Black cast wheels come with coordinated stripes for Cranberry Red and Aluminum Silver tank colors.©Motorcyclist

Front KYB  fork offers  120mm of suspension travel, as do the dual preload-adjustable KYB shocks. The suspension felt soft at first perch in the saddle, but the damping rates are surprisingly firm , transferring more of the Valencian road flaws to the seat than I would have otherwise expected. It’s not a harsh ride, per se, but certainly not as plush as such soft springing  might imply. I suspect more sophisticated suspension will be available in higher-spec Bonnies down the road. The ride comfort of the Twin is aided by 25 percent thicker foam than last generation’s seat.

Bringing the Street Twin to a stop is a Nissin dual-piston floating caliper on a single 310mm disc up front, and the same on a single 255mm disc at the back. Brake feel was sufficient for the 478-pound (claimed, wet) Bonnie, engaging early enough in the lever action to make their presence known without causing any surprises. This is not a leading-edge brake setup, but, again, Triumph is aiming at the more casual crowd and will have much higher-spec systems on the other Bonneville models. Should you encounter surprises on the road, needing a quick strong stab at the breaks, ABS comes standard on the new Street Twin, and never felt like a jarring intrusion when activated. Traction control also comes standard on the Bonnie, coming in handy a few times as we crossed over high gloss painted crosswalks mid turn when exiting Valencian roundabouts.

Additional modern features include a catalytic converter neatly tucked under the engine and well hidden by an exhaust cover plate between the exhaust headers. These were so artfully incorporated into the exhaust that from the side view, you’d never know they were there. This along with the 270-degree crankshaft gives the Bonnie a polyphonic exhaust note, a deep throaty V-twin-like rumble with a subtle yet charming chirping overtone. Aside from the wonderful growl, the stock brushed stainless silencers add to the Street Twin’s classic look, with a tapered shape and upswept angle.

Clutch lever action is lightened by the slip assist clutch. Info button on left handlebar toggles through multiple menus on the single dial gauge.©Motorcyclist

Other styling cues worth noting: the visual minimizing of wiring and electronic systems. Everything has been neatly tucked away under the tank or seat (including an under-seat USB port), along a centrally routed wiring harness. One particularly stealthy inclusion of modern features is right under the rider’s nose. The tastefully understated pancake dial houses an analog speedometer with a small digital inset screen. Toggle through the menus with the “i” button on the left handlebar, and you’ll get odometer, two trip meters, instant and average fuel economy, remaining fuel range, clock, and traction on/off option. The gauge is also equipped to reference optional heated grips and tire pressure monitor, when installed. Fuel level is indicated by a vertical bar graphic on the left end of the screen next to the small numerical gear readout. In all, a well designed, compact panel with a lot of information.

Headlight features signature Triumph bulb cap cover badge, and a stylish headlight bracket.©Motorcyclist

Riding through the foothills above Valencia, Spain, gave me a chance to take the Street Twin through some fun twisties. Third gear provided plenty of thrust through all but the tightest hairpins, the Twin’s torque grunty enough to pull me out of those situations when necessary with little lag. Tossing the Street Twin through the turns was relatively effortless thanks to its neutral steering. I wouldn’t call it flickable in, say, a Yamaha FZ-09 sense, but at the speeds most Bonneville customers would expect to ride their bikes through the twisties, the steering responses are appropriate. Five gears were plenty, too, taking the Bonnie easily from in-town lower gears to freeway speeds in fourth and fifth. A slip/assist clutch makes for light clutch feel, keeping left hand aches at bay, even with lots of in-town shifting. The minimal clutch packaging also contributes to the narrower engine profile. Cruising at 75mph in fifth still kept the engine in its ideal power band, but without feeling overly revved for longer distance. Without an accessory windscreen, though, the only thing crying uncle at those speeds was my neck.

2016 street twin, bonneville, accessories
The Urban "inspiration kit" comes with bigger bore Vance & Hines silencers, "Ace" style handlebars, waxed cotton and leather panniers, compact LED indicators, and short tinted fly screen.©Motorcyclist

At a base price of $8,700, the new Triumph Street Twin delivers a solid package of classic style with modern features. The base price gets you a bike in Jet Black, but if you want Phantom or Matte Black, Aluminum Silver or Cranberry Red, it’ll cost you an extra $250. Should you be a member of the customizing crowd, you’re in luck: Triumph offers more than  150 accessories that include bodywork, detailing, exhausts, and luggage, all factory tested for performance and fit. From color matched fly screens, to quilted bench seats, to Vance & Hines exhaust, the customer gets a plethora of opportunities to make the bike their own.

If you have trouble deciding where to start, Triumph offers three “inspiration kits” to get the customization ball rolling. The Scrambler kit includes a Vance & Hines high level exhaust, mudguard removal kit, compact rear light, brown ribbed bench seat, brown barrel grips, compact LED indicators, and brushed alloy sump guard. The Brat Tracker kit comes with Vance & Hines slip on silencers, mudguard removal kit, black barrel style grips, black ribbed seat, compact LED indicators, and brushed sump guard. And the Urban kit features bigger bore Vance & Hines silencers, “Ace” style handlebars, waxed cotton and leather panniers, compact LED indicators, and short tinted fly screen. Triumph watched the aftermarket closely with the previous Bonneville and has made sure to start off well with the latest machine, so these are all excellent starting points to creating a custom bike all your own.

With the Street Twin, Triumph’s aim is to broaden the range of customers, with a strong focus on those leaning more toward style and customization. It’s a great place to start, especially given the upscale T120 also in the lineup and the much sportier Thruxtons to come. Given the success of the previous Bonneville, it wouldn’t be untoward to wonder if Triumph had somehow mucked it up. Not here. More sophisticated, modern, and handsome than ever before, the radically updated Bonneville, at least in Street Twin guise, is exactly what’s needed. The classic Bonneville DNA is apparent in the new Twin, and is appealing to new and experienced riders alike. It’s great when the motorcycle itself actually lives up to the hype.

Softly sprung rear is preload adjustable, but compression is set a bit firm.©Motorcyclist

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION  
The latest iteration of Triumph's classic street bike, fully redesigned and offering more power, more safety features, and more retro style.
RIVALS  
[BMW RnineT][], [Ducati Scrambler][], [Honda CB1100][], [Moto Guzzi V9 Roamer][], [Yamaha XSR900][]
TECH  
PRICE $8,700
ENGINE 900cc, liquid-cooled parallel-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 5-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 55.0 hp @ 5,900 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 59.0 lb.-ft. @ 3,230 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 41mm fork; 4.7-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shocks adjustable for spring preload; 4.7-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin two-piston caliper, 310mm disc with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin two-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.1°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE 56.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 29.5 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.2 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 478 lb. wet
AVAILABLE January 2016
CONTACT [triumphmotorcycles.com][]
VERDICT  
Smooth, accessible, refined: Precisely what the new entry-level Bonnie needs to be.  
2016 street twin, review
The new Street Twin is happy in town and in the twisties, even dragging pegs here and there.©Motorcyclist
Headlight features signature Triumph bulb cap cover badge, and a stylish headlight bracket.©Motorcyclist
bonnie first ride
Catalytic converter is cleverly tucked under the engine, as seen in the underbelly here.©Motorcyclist
Softly sprung rear is preload adjustable, but compression is set a bit firm.©Motorcyclist
2016 bonneville street twin, triumph
Triumph offers the Street Twin in Jet Black for $8,700, and Matte Black, Phantom Black, Aluminum Silver, and Cranberry Red for $8,950.©Motorcyclist
2016 street twin, bonneville, accessories
The Urban "inspiration kit" comes with bigger bore Vance & Hines silencers, "Ace" style handlebars, waxed cotton and leather panniers, compact LED indicators, and short tinted fly screen.©Motorcyclist
2016 street twin, vance and hines exhaust pipe, scrambler
The Scrambler "inspiration kit" includes Vance & Hines high level exhaust mudguard removal kit, compact rear light, brown ribbed bench seat, brown barrel grips, compact LED indicators, and brushed alloy sump guard.
Clutch lever action is lightened by the slip assist clutch. Info button on left handlebar toggles through multiple menus on the single dial gauge.©Motorcyclist
Black cast wheels come with coordinated stripes for Cranberry Red and Aluminum Silver tank colors.©Motorcyclist
street twin review
Functional cooling fins, neatly mounted radiator, and streamlined exhaust with hidden cat box create a clean new look.©Motorcyclist