There are numerous reasons to get excited about the new Triumph Bonneville family and we’ll cover some of them during this launch report for the Street Twin. The key thing that got my juices juicing while I sat in on the presentation was the simple fact that this is a British bike. More than that, it turns out that it’s a bloody good one. I’m not new to this job and I’d have no problem at all in letting you know if this bike was a bit of a let down, but it wasn’t and as a proud English man, that makes me feel good.
The Bonneville is a bike that is synonymous with café racer culture. The first time round in the late fifties, it was a bike that youth culture could identify with. It wasn’t pitched as the perfect commuter bike. It was a sports bike, born on the salt running flat out and ridden by a Texan flat tracker called Johnny Allen. The story is a fascinating one. A group of Yankee hot rodders stripped and tuned a 650 Triumph Thunderbird. Without the budget for wind tunnel testing, the bullet shaped streamliner outcome was developed by hanging scale models out the window of a DC-6 airliner mid flight. The result was a bonkers 193.7mph, in 1955. Triumph quickly picked up on the success and the Bonneville name found its way onto showroom bikes in 1959. If you thought that clever marketing was a modern phenomenon, you’d be wrong.
The salt flats bike eventually became the Texas Cee Gar and managed 214.5mph, check out this brief footage of the bike in action on the salt.
Over the following decades, the Bonneville grew in size. The modern era bikes were launched in 2001 and ran 790cc parallel twin motors. They too grew in size over the following years, Triumph added a Thruxton and a Scrambler model (among others) to the range. The silhouette of the bike hasn’t strayed much in more than fifty years. Standing in the room with this all-new Street Twin, I’m happy to report a faithful pastiche rather than a parts bin Bike Exif mash up. What I’m getting at is that of all the manufacturers trying to find some kind of toehold on heritage when they trot out their current retro models, Triumph can hold its head up high. Bar the fantastic triple cylinder models, Triumph is a brand that has perfected the art of having one foot in the past and the other in the future.
There’s little point talking about the new Thruxtons, or the T120s that are coming early in the New Year, for now we’ll stick to this Street Twin. You might find it hard to get excited about this first model, especially if (like me) you’ve been making goo goo eyes at the new Thruxton R since it emerged, but the Street Twin is a different proposition and is a model that deserves your attention in its own right.
The list of changes over the outgoing Bonneville is huge. The bike isn’t just all-new, it’s all-new and genuinely, massively improved. Percentages are hard to get excited about, but in the case of this new 900cc eight-valve parallel twin High Torque engine, they go some way in explaining just how much mechanical work has been carried out. Fuel efficiency is up 36%, torque is up 18%, power is up a healthy 22% and service cycles have increased from 6000 to 10000 miles. The Street Twin benefits from ride by wire through a single throttle body. Fancy modern tech also means traction control (that you can switch off at the bars) and ABS will both come as standard. Despite the liquid cooled nature of the Street Twin motor, it still retains an elegant (yes, I just used that word to describe an engine) look. Those fins on the head and on the header clamps look ace, as does the finish on the casings, the little 900HT stamp and the faux carbs. This is sensitive modernization, think Rolex Submariner rather than Romford Mock Tudor.
Visually, you’ll have already made your mind up. If you don’t get this style of bike now, there’s little chance I’m going to be able to talk you round, but it’ll be your loss as in the flesh the Street Twin is a lovely looking bike. The lines are just right. The tank is slightly smaller than the outgoing bike and the proportions from bar tips to LED taillight are on the money. Each area that you look at compliments the next and by the time your gaze is drawn to the headlight-mounting bracket, you’ll have made your mind up on which of the 150 plus accessories you’ll be putting on your Christmas list. The seat should also look a little more appealing than the old version, thanks to it being 25% thicker than the outgoing model. Its one handed removal is simple and reveals a handy USB charger underneath. There’s an extender in the accessory book that’ll allow you to relocate the charger up to the bars, but I was happy with it where it is.
Our test route began in a deserted Valencia city centre. Despite being the third largest city in Spain, we encountered zero traffic on our way out of dodge. It was a Bank Holiday so we had the wide roads to ourselves. My bike for the day didn’t need a jot of adjustment, the mirrors mirrored and the brake levers were already where I wanted them to be. I thought I might end up aping the bike thanks to that low seat height (750mm), but once underway, everything felt like it fitted just right. There’s a little bit more of a reach to the bars over the old model and the pegs are slightly lower and further back as well. It’s a comfortable place to ride.
Triumph worked hard to push peak torque into the optimal ‘real world riding rev range’, which is 2750-4750 rpm. At 3200rpm, there is 80Nm (59ft-lbs) of torque available. What that means is drive, useable and excitable drive away from lights and off roundabouts. The bike weighs 198kg dry, which means with fuel and oil the Street Twin weighs around 219kg. On this gearing, 59ft-lbs of torque is more than enough to make for lively getaways from the lights and traffic leading pace. I’ve seen a few forum superheroes talking about the lack of power this bike has, clearly based on looking at the specs, rather than actually swinging a leg over one and riding it in real life. I’d be more than happy to bet my own money that I’d be just as quick on this Street Twin across a busy central London as I would on a BMW WSBK. I know because I’ve ridden both. Trust me, this bike isn’t slow in town riding scenarios and city dwellers that are looking for a new commuter will really benefit from the new motor. That real world riding range came in useful on the motorway as well. Despite the lack of rev counter to show me how many revs I was using, top gear (five-speed) delivered unstressed 70mph cruising. I flicked through the easy to use dash and found that I was getting between 64-70mpg at that speed as well, which is handy. Wind protection came courtesy of my beard and Oakley’s and I felt fine. There is a screen available if sir has dainty skin and likes to moisturize.
Away from the motorway and up into some fairly challenging roads, second and third gear shone as the Street Twin fired itself off corner after corner. It wasn’t quite as warm as we’d hoped, but after the recent XSR700 launch I was felt confident placing some trust in the Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp rubber and got stuck in. Direction changes were fluid and the bike showed a really neutral and easy to figure out riding dynamic. There are no hidden pockets of power when you gas it, the brake feel is consistent all the way down to a standstill and it holds a line well unless you’re carrying a touch too much front brake on the way into corners, when it wants to stand up and run wide. When I wasn’t riding like a dick it didn’t do this, so don’t ride like a dick and it wont do that to you either.
As the temperature and pace warmed up, I found that second gear was useful all the way through the rev range and right up to a very soft rev limiter just under 70mph. The sound, even from these stock pipes, is lovely. Raspy and bubbling in a tone that the outgoing bike could never match on stick pipes, the work that Triumph has done to improve the sound is clear for everyone to hear. We did get a chance to hear a Street Twin with the hi level Vance and Hines pipes as well and I think they’ll be a popular choice for buyers, but in stock form I was more than happy with what I heard.
The road we stopped on for pictures was clearly popular with local bikers and as we worked a section of corners lines of sports bikes howled past. When an R1 and a GSX-R 750 on local plates buzzed past during my go, it made complete sense to try and make a few moves on them. I probably ruined one of my photography passes, but the idea of flying up the inside of two locals on their turf was too good to miss. They seemed to really appreciate my open face helmet and silly brogues because I could see them waving a lot in the perfectly stable mirrors once I’d stuck a death or glory move on them. Like I said, this is a capable bike and more than up to a bit of peg bashing if that’s your thing. I made a point of slowing my corner entry speed slightly and was able to make the most of the torque available on corner exit. We had great fun, you will too.
After lunch and the tech presentation, we struck out on a different set of roads. More motorway miles bagged in comfort and another chance to enjoy the local twisties gave us another opportunity to enjoy the bike. I made notes about how capable the Street Twin is at this kind of biking and although it’s sure to be a hit with fashion conscious city riders, it’d be a shame not to see these bikes not getting out at weekends for a leg stretch on some proper roads. They’re more than up to the job and I can offer a no money back guarantee you’ll come back with a smile on your face after a decent ride. I also made a note about the lightweight clutch, which is a slip assist design. It made for easy modulation on the way into corners and really complimented the five-speed gearbox in both directions. Triumph deserve a pat on the back for the amount of work they’ve done on this bike, they’ve managed to go from having a new bike that was made from aging parts in the outgoing model and now have a bike that feels future proof, yet it retains the classic appeal that Bonnevilles need to have.
Like I said at the beginning, I’ve seen the Thruxton R in the flesh and although it’s sure to be a fair bit more expensive, I can’t help feeling that I’d want to hang on and at least see if the riding experience on the more expensive version justifies the extra cash before opting for the Street Twin. In isolation, this is a lovely bike to ride and I’d be proud to have one in my garage. That said, the neo retro sector is hotting up and there are plenty of options to consider. The trendy bikers reading this will have already made their minds up on whether they want one or not. The rest of you will need to go down the old school route and get a few test rides booked before you make your mind up. If you’re in the market for a retro machine, the Triumph Street Twin has to be on your list. It’s cracking to ride, looks ace and is priced really well from £7300. You wont be disappointed.
Engine: 900cc liquid-cooled 8-valve parallel twin
Power: 55hp at 5,900rpm
Torque: 59lbft at 3230rpm
Weight: 198kg (dry)