Triumph’s retro Bonneville Bobber review


There is something rather gloriously retro about the latest offering from classic British motorcycle brand Triumph.

Entitled the Bonneville Bobber, it is a chunky, low-slung individual that brings to mind images of James Dean or Marlon Brando in all of their moody, leather-clad, 1950s pomp.

For the uninitiated, the term ‘Bobber’ dates back even further than The Wild One or Rebel without a Cause. Such bikes can trace their roots to the 1930s, when they were termed ‘Bob-Jobs’ ­on account of the way in which their owners would reduce their length to create a ‘bob-tailed’ appearance.

The aim was to reduce weight and drag and improve performance. Hence, the front mudguard was discarded and any bodywork deemed surplus to requirements was scrapped.


Bonneville basis

The basis of the Bobber is Triumph’s Bonneville T120, with whom it shares a liquid-cooled, eight-valve, 1200CC engine.

Where the former has classic Triumph styling, however, the latter is clearly inspired by American history and tastes – presumably with one eye firmly fixed on the export market.

Triumph’s head of engineering, Stuart Wood, bats away such musings, however: ‘The Bobber is all about elegance, it has to look right and be a true bobber,’ he says, ‘some of the very first bobbers were based around Triumphs. But this is very definitely a Bonneville that has been bobbed, and not Americanised in any way.’

So, outside of that capable engine and authentic-looking exterior, what are you getting for your money?

Well, unlike a Bobber in the 1930s sense, there’s a smooth ride. Back in the day, when riders customized their bikes they pretty much just bolted the back wheel onto the chassis. It looked good and comfort could be ignored. Triumph sidesteps any such issues by hiding away the Bobber’s suspension to keep the classic look while keeping its riders in comfort.


Ups and downs

Another departure is an adjustable saddle, capable of being moved backwards or forwards depending on the height of the rider.

Wood explains: ‘It’s about allowing the rider to experiment. On its forward setting it is a more of an engaging riding position and you will change your riding attitude a bit. These bikes are all about feel and attitude and this allows you to change how you ride it.’

Are there any major downsides to the Bobber? The general consensus appears to be ‘not many’. A plastic chain guard has been included for obvious health and safety reasons, but any rider with even the tiniest hint of Brando about them will take the spanner to that within about five minutes.

Buyers beware, however. This is a single-seater machine – so any thoughts of pillion passengers have to be abandoned – handy to know for any bikers who are in the habit of offering lifts – just in case someone near and dear to you should ever be left behind.



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