Bonneville T120 Black/Thruxton R ride review

Photography: Costa Mouzouris, unless otherwise stated. Feature Image Credit: Barbanti, Cavadini, Barshon, Kim

Triumph has invited us back to Portugal to ride the new big-bore Bonnevilles (if you remember we were here just a few weeks ago to ride the new Explorer XC). Perhaps what is becoming the norm in Europe, the morning temperature was in the single digits Celsius, which is why I was glad to begin this two-part test ride on the T120 Black.

If you want to familiarize yourself with the technical aspects of the T120 and Thruxtons, then you can read my Pre-Ride report, otherwise let’s get on with the ride.


The T120 Black shares identical specs with the T120, except that it sports a blackout treatment throughout. But it’s not the finish that I’m glad about; it’s the fact that T120 models come standard with heated grips, as springtime in Portugal is still decidedly chilly.

Before embarking on the ride I give the bike a good visual once-over, and I’m impressed with what I see. I’d read a comment in the CMG news item on the bike’s spec sheet from reader Rui that the price increase of these new Bonnies was even more unjustified because these new Triumphs are built in Asia.T120-beauty

Well, any qualms about build quality are completely unfounded, because the finish and attention to detail are beyond reproach. Aside from the faithful reproduction of the classic Bonneville silhouette, it’s the fine touches that grab my attention. Although not openly obvious, a closer look reveals little details like high-quality fasteners throughout, throttle bodies that mimic old Amals, unique heated grips with an incorporated switch, and even the rubber cable ties that include the word Triumph in relief.

Hopping onto the bike reveals a traditionally upright riding position, with a rather firm, flat seat, though I didn’t spend enough time in the saddle to assess long-term comfort. Clutch effort is beginner-bike light, and the gearbox is so light I’m sure you could ride the bike barefoot all day and remain blister free, though I wouldn’t recommend it.T120-FI

Rolling away, the first thing I notice is how smooth the new engine is. Power pulses are barely perceptible, to the point where some purists might find the bike too subdued. But with the new bigger engine comes plenty of pulling power once you roll on the throttle, especially if the engine is spinning at the peak of its torque output at around 3,000 rpm.

Credit: Barbanti, Cavadini, Barshon, Kim

The T120 is by no means a rocket ship, but it does move forward in a forceful manner, with a broad, flat powerband that somewhat belies what the speedometer is actually reading. Throttle response is direct, yet without any abruptness. The bike does come with a Rain mode, which I tried, only to be left with a sluggish throttle. I’m not sure the bike even needs a Rain mode since the power delivery is so fluid in Road mode, and besides, traction control is there to save the day anyhow.

Handling is on the relaxed side, with modest steering effort required through tight turning transitions, and the bike needed a bit of effort at the handlebar to maintain a lean. The trade-off is unwavering stability regardless of speed or road conditions.

Being that this is more retro-standard than sport bike, the suspension is tuned for comfort, and comfortable it is. If you decide you want to ride at a peg-scraping pace (and they do touch down early), the bike remains composed enough to handle it, but push the bike further and the softly-damped suspension will wallow around a bit. Overall I’d rather have this setup for everyday use than firmer, sportier settings.

And anyhow, this isn’t a bike designed to carve canyons like a scalpel; it’s designed for managing the demands of everyday riding in comfort, and with a fair measure of style. If you want to chase your sport-riding buddies, then you’re better off looking at the Thruxton.

Thruxton RThruxton-beauty2

After our morning romp on the T120, we traded saddles for the Thruxton R. Unless you ride the two bikes back to back, you really won’t grasp just how much effort Triumph has put in to distinguish these two Bonnevilles. While the previous Thruxton and T100 mostly differed stylistically, these new bikes are entirely different machines.

Despite its café racer profile, the riding position is less aggressive than expected. The clip ons actually rise well above the top triple clamp, so the riding position is more relaxed than the first-generation Thruxton, which boasted unusually aggressive ergonomics. There’s plenty of legroom, too, though comfort is hampered by the firm seat, which made me begin squirming after only about 30 minutes.Thruxton-mirror

As we noted in the pre-ride piece, chassis components, engines, suspensions and wheels are different from the T120, with the Thruxtons on the sport-bike side of the spectrum. This came through within two turns of the hotel parking lot, where the Thruxton felt lighter, sharper, and much firmer than the T120. The engine is much more responsive too, snapping to life with a modest throttle blip. It feels more visceral and alert, and even transfers more vibration to the rider, though the bike still remains remarkably smooth.

Credit: Barbanti, Cavadini, Barshon, Kim

The R’s Showa/Ohlins suspension is set Euro-bike firm, which really helps on winding roads at speed, but doesn’t do much for rider comfort when the roads get rough. This is exacerbated by the hard seat, which is only available in solo form as standard. A pillion seat and passenger footrests are optional.

The R’s sporty nature actually surprised me after just a brief time on the road, as I still had the previous generation Thruxton stored in my memory bank. Despite its classic lines, the Thruxton R handles more like a modern sport bike — not R6 agile, of course, but responsive, precise, and a bunch of fun. It even felt nervous at times, but not disconcertingly so — just enough to keep me on my toes. Snapping the throttle in second gear lifts the front wheel instantly, making this the liveliest Bonneville to ever leave the Hinckley factory.

Oh, and its reverse-megaphone silencers emit a pleasant burble, and although I usually abstain from swapping exhaust systems on any of my bikes, I’d certainly like to hear what the Thruxton sounds like uncorked.

Thruxton-tankFit and finish are as good as on the T120, and the Thruxton did garner much more attention from bystanders than the more subdued T120. Now here’s a bit no one wants to hear, especially if you’re keen on signing up for a new Thruxton: According to Triumph, they’re already sold out.

My preference? Call me old fashioned — or just old — but I find the Thruxton R a bit too compromising to be my first choice (I didn’t get to ride the standard model, unfortunately). I think it would make a great second or third bike in my garage … if I could afford such frivolities. Having just one Bonneville in my household, it would be the T120 Black.


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  1. As someone who considered a Thruxton as an extra bike / runabout (it’s really wasn’t a serious motorcycle then, nor is it now), I’m quite appalled by the fake carbs and fake fins – they say they’re functional but we all know once you have a rad they’re not needed. It’s a Lola bike, great silhouette but once you get closer – diks aplenty!! And at this new price point, those tank seams are completely unacceptable.

  2. And the standard Bonneville T120 with chromed pipes presses my button. No hooliganism or any unseemly antics required or allowed. Just drifting off into the sunset with my favorite girl on the back… Perfect.

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