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Triumph Bonneville Bobber First Ride Review

26 May 2017, 05:30 PM Charles Pennefather

What is it?

The Triumph Bonneville Bobber, aka the Triumph Bobber. It is a retro-looking motorcycle based on the Bonneville series of motorcycles, but only the engine and gearbox are obviously similar. The one draw to the Bobber is its looks, and for the Indian market that’s both a good and bad thing. 

How does it ride?

Like a Bonneville, one would expect… but it doesn’t. Let’s start with the seating position: you’re sitting with your feet in front of you, like they would be if you were sitting on a Bonneville. Then you’re supposed to reach way forward to the lowered ‘bars, and if you’ve got a tummy, this is going to be a problem. (I would know.) There is only one comfortable spot to be in, on the seat; too far forward and it narrows way too much to be comfortable. The tank is too narrow to hold comfortably with your knees, and there aren’t any comfortable anchor points for your legs on the motorcycle. The rear suspension is a monoshock-type thing that is hidden away under the seat and doesn’t have enough travel for our roads. As a result, you’re continuously bobbing about on bad roads (oh, the irony) or the suspension bottoms out too easily. Oh, and in our summer, the new liquid-cooled engine does a marvelous job of roasting your legs. A city motorcycle this isn’t, that’s for sure. 

Triumph Bonneville Bobber [2019-2020]

Triumph Bonneville Bobber [2019-2020]

  • Displacement1,200 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)74.6 bhp
  • Kerb Weight228 kg
  • ;

Last known Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 10,29,344

Out on the highway, the vibrations can get to you – they aren’t substantial, but they’re just enough to be annoying. You’ve got six speeds to choose from, in the gearbox, and the odd riding position means that you can’t lean comfortably in front to balance the windblast. Show it a curvy road, however, and it transforms. It is so eager to tip in and go from side to side thanks to that stiff setup, you forget that you’re riding something that looks like it came out of the 60s. Then reality strikes with the grinding of a foot peg – the Bobber does have a few things from the 60s, one of them being cornering clearance. Another is the front brake; you can’t deny that it has the ability to stop the Bobber in a hurry, but the bite and feel is all but nonexistent. 

However, that 1200cc parallel-twin engine is a gem. It doesn’t have output figures to be proud of, at 78bhp and 106Nm, but that torque is laid across the rev range is thicker than the butter in a fat man’s sandwich. Twist your wrist in any gear, and an invisible giant hand pushes you forward – first firmly, then urgently. You then become thankful that the Bobber has traction control and ABS brakes – no fancy stuff, just ‘on’ or ‘off’ – and a ‘Rain’ mode for the throttle that makes it gentler and offers less shove for the same amount of throttle travel in ‘Road’ mode. 

Anything else I should know?

Despite its size, you’ll still manage 200km on a tank of fuel. The simple-looking clocks have a full trip computer, including DTE, twin trip meters, a tachometer, and the ability to switch the traction control on and off. Finally, that clutch is a work of art – light, progressive and always positive. 

Why should I buy one?

Because you’re a fan of retro-styled motorcycles with modern reliability and handling, and there is nothing quite like the Triumph Bobber out there at this point of time. Sure, there are a few Harley-Davidsons that pull off the ‘neo-retro’ look quite well, and we’re bound to give a nod to the Ducati Scrambler as well, but the Bobber seems to have had a design brief that said ‘function is secondary,form is paramount’ and let their design and engineering teams have at it. 

But one should buy a Bobber mostly because you’re a fan of Steve McQueen, one of the coolest people ever. He rode a similar Triumph in the 1963 movie, The Great Escape, and you’ll always imagine yourself looking as cool as him while riding it. Heck, he’s so cool, Sheryl Crow wrote a song whose title is his name!


Where does it fit in?

The Harley-Davidson Forty Eight (₹ 10.3 lakh) is the nearest competition to the Bobber (₹ 9.5 lakh), and there are street bikes like the Kawasaki Z900 (₹ 9.6 lakh) at a similar price. 

Gear Check

1. Arai Astro-IQ Second in the Arai street models hierarchy, the Astro-IQ is a comfortable, stable helmet at any speed. Price: ₹ 50,000 

2. Scorpion Hat Trick Mesh/Textile jacket Although not on sale for a while now, the Hat Trick is a jacket that is protective yet allows decent airflow. The fleece liner keeps you warm enough, and the waterproof liner makes it truly impermeable, even in a Mumbai monsoon. Drying it out takes a while, though. Price: ₹ 15600 (Scorpion Phalanx) 

3. Royal Enfield Spiti riding gloves Made for comfortable touring, these short-cuff gloves offer a lot of comfort right from the first ride. Price: ₹ 3200

4. Joe Rocket Phoenix 2.0 pants Mesh is a wonderful thing in our heat, and the Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh pants manage an ideal combination of protection via the removable armour and airflow. Price: ₹ 9600 (Phoenix Ion)

5. Royal Enfield long riding boots With a little inspiration from both off-road boots and touring boots, the RE long riding boots are comfortable and yet protective. Price: ₹ 11,000

Photos by Kapil Angane

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