Opinion: Breaking in a New Bike

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There are few things as exhilarating as the feeling of purchasing a new motorcycle. I’ve lusted over the Thruxton for years, particularly since the family of 1200s was unveiled which seemingly rectified all of the gripes riders had with the previous generation. I’ve sat on each model at every motorcycle show I’ve attended since their launch and I’ve never missed an opportunity to get familiar whenever I’d visit GP Bikes in Whitby to grab gear or accessories. It became a bit of a joke when the sales staff would come by to offer assistance. “Not today,” I’d say, “Just dreaming.”

After years of dreaming and drooling, I finally decided to pull the trigger and do it. This moment reminded me of the scene from Wayne’s World where guitar shop staff are accustomed to Wayne Campbell asking them to remove a white Fender Stratocaster from its case so he can play Stairway to Heaven. After signing a television deal, he decides that he must have it. When the music store employee asks Campbell to return the guitar he responds, “Not today my good man, I’m feeling saucy.”

Disclaimer: This motorcycle was purchased without financial assistance or discounts provided by the manufacturer or dealership.

In a strange turn of events, my first time riding a Thruxton occurred only after I purchased it with my own money. Sure, I get to ride a different new motorcycle every week from May to September, but my requests for Triumph press bikes over the years have gone unanswered. So, I did exactly what everyone else does – I did research online. I read every credible review and head-to-head comparison I could find then watched virtually every Thruxton test ride video on the Internet. I felt as confident as one could be without actually test riding one.

All smiles – Dustin picks up his brand-new 2019 Triumph Thruxton R.

I like the look of the base Thruxton, but felt that the step up to the R was worth the cost of admission to get the fully adjustable Showa “big piston” forks and Öhlins shocks, plus variable riding modes, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires and the four-pot Brembo monobloc callipers binding to 310 mm front discs. The new RS gets even more aggressive, but its price tag was a little too steep for my pocketbook. That, and it seemed a bit aggressive for daily riding duty on the bumpy streets of Toronto.

Along with the novelty of a shiny new motorcycle comes the responsibility of properly breaking in the engine. You want to ensure that all of the newly assembled parts play nicely together. The owner’s manual recommends the rider not wind up the engine past 4,000 rpm until the bike has travelled at least 480 kilometres, at which point you can then hit 5,000 rpm until 960 km then 6,000 rpm until 1,280 km are on the odometer. And so on and so forth until you’ve logged 1,600 km. It isn’t set in stone, but it is a good guideline to follow.

Experts often also recommend avoiding quick bursts of acceleration or staying at one speed for too long until everything gets seated properly. Triumph even put a sticker on the tank as a reminder to keep the right wrist under wraps until all of the engine’s internals have had a chance to sufficiently intermingle.

There are those who will say that the need to break-in a new motor is a myth and its benefits are unfounded. Well, after five years of saving my pennies and patiently waiting to finally get the chance to buy my dream bike, what’s the harm in treating it nicely until we’ve become properly acquainted? Besides, new tires also require riding time to get scrubbed in. Same for the brakes to get properly bedded.

Like removing a Band-aid, I decided to get the discomfort out of the way in one swift pull. Rather than making it a painfully slow, grueling process over the following weeks or month, I chose to take the Thruxton on a long weekend getaway with friends to explore the many beautiful roads around Barry’s Bay, ON. Riding among a large group of friends who were mostly aboard heavily packed cruisers, staying below the 4,000 rpm limit didn’t present an issue, aside from my own frustration. Short term pain for long term gain.

Trial by fire. The Thruxton R had no issue keeping up with the heavily laden cruisers during the break-in period.

Closely monitoring the tachometer when passing or merging onto the highway, I did break the recommended barrier by a small margin several times for the sake of keeping up with the pace of traffic. As it happens, 4,000 rpm comes just shy of 120 km/h in sixth gear. The moment I hit 480 km, I dropped a gear and slowly rolled back the throttle, watching the revs quickly climb to 5,000 rpm before letting off. Each stage brought forth a new feeling of excitement as I unlocked more potential from the deliciously smooth parallel twin.

Contrary to the weather forecast, the skies darkened, and the temperature dipped. Caught out on a ride without anywhere to seek shelter, we were bombarded with torrential rain. Undeterred and already soaked, we continued on. As I suspected, the Thruxton remained competent and well balanced despite the reduction in visibility and traction. Remaining confident in its capabilities, my only concern was the road grime and water spots that were accumulating on my previously pristine motorcycle. It was bound to happen eventually.

Arriving home after four long days of riding, the Thruxton is sufficiently broken in and ready for its first service appointment. Not only do I take comfort in the fact that the process was done properly, I feel like it was a bonding experience and I’d made the right choice in motorcycle. Now I’m looking forward to our next ride where I can see how she feels at redline.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Have seen inline 4s go from a couple hundred km on street, then on to the racetrack. In fact one 600 went straight to track, 0 km. These bikes went on to live normal lives after 1-2 years as track machines. Engines are so well built now that “drive it like ya stole it” may do less harm than we think. I could be wrong.

  2. 1 hour heat cycles give or take. The revs not above the 50% portion of the rpm range. Lengthy cool down between heat cycles. Rolling terrain various speeds and gears. 1000k service is always a good thing.

  3. I wonder the difference in break in styles with a single versus v twin vs inline etc? I used to work at a honda dealership with an old experienced mechanic and he swore by the “drive it like ya stole it” break in method, as the warranties were unlimited but only a year. Great article!

  4. I also had my eye on a new, silver Thruxton at GP Bikes for a while, but decided it leave it up to younger folk like you. Glad to see it found a good home. I’m in the process of breaking in a new BMW R nine T/5. There’s no tach, so the break-in instiructions revolve around keeping within a certain speed range for each gear. There’s also advice to ride on long, uphill roads (I guess to put the engine under some stress), but it’s pretty flat where I live so that’s been more of a challenge.

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