2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

Editor Score: 86.25%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 12.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.75/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 8.75/10
Value 8.5/10
Overall Score86.25/100

By now you must’ve heard the bobber backstory: Restless GIs home from WW2 self-treated their PTSD by bobbing the fenders off their heavy old motorcycles to make them lighter, faster and generally more obnoxious to the populace. Triumph was right there from the beginning, supplying Marlon Brando’s bike in The Wild One, and now it’s back with the brand-new 2017 Bobber, the stripped-down, elemental variation on the new Bonneville theme the company’s been furiously rolling out for about a year now.

Unlike all the other dual-shock Bonnes, the Bobber gets a distinctive hardtail-looking frame that actually has 76mm (3 inches) of rear-wheel travel controlled by a single shock under the solo seat – and a solo seat is all it’ll ever be. There aren’t any optional passenger seats in the catalog (though there are more than 150 other things), since the rear fender’s going to be moving up and down with the wheel. Given that there will never be a 150-pound passenger added onto the rear of the bike, the rear shock doesn’t even have preload adjustment; Chief Engineer Stuart Wood says it just isn’t necessary and in fact there are no suspension adjustments (though a Fox shock with adjustable rebound is an available accessory).

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2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber seat

The non-adjust rear monoshock uses its 60mm of stroke to produce 76mm (2.99 inches) of rear wheel travel.

He could be right. Triumph says its authentic pure minimalist Bobber also had to make no compromises in the comfort department, and after a day bobbing around the outskirts of Madrid on it, I didn’t hear any complaints from myself or anybody else: Those three inches of travel out back do an excellent job smoothing out rough pavement, and so does the 90mm in front controlled by the 41mm fork, complete with gaiters.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber action

From the looks of the Bobber and its mission statement, I was kind of expecting a bit more of a raw-boned ride, but like every new Triumph we’ve ridden lately, this one has zero rough edges. The temperature the day we rode the bike never got above 48 degrees or so, so it was nice all our bikes were outfitted with optional heated grips. Another available option on this fully ride-by-wire Bobber is cruise control. This authentic historic relic is fully up to date; ABS is also standard, along with traction control and Rain and Road ride modes.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber action

To me, this one says dragracer more than roadracer, but again the Bobber surprises with better-than-expected backroad chops. In addition to cold on our ride day, the road was also patchy damp, but the Bobber was perfectly capable of dealing with the curvy sections of road that were dry. With only 88mm of trail, via 25.8 degrees rake, the Bobber steers light, quick and reassuringly in spite of its stubby flat handlebar. Custom tires from Avon, a 19-inch bias-ply front and a 16-in radial rear Cobra, seem well-matched to the bike and its suspension. (They contain inner tubes.)

It’s not an overly firm ride at all, but a well-controlled one. The only limiting factor is cornering clearance; once you learn to ignore the peg feelers, the exhausts on both sides will drag when you get to about 8 on the backroad aggression scale, and then it’s time to be careful. Usually, we would dial in a bit more preload to keep the rear of the bike riding higher. Not an option here.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber action

Despite all the stripped-down minimalism, the Bobber winds up weighing nine pounds more than a T120 Bonneville – about 503 pounds dry, claimed.

Buy hey! Dragging pipes is largely a motojournalistic complaint that’s never hurt Harley-Davidson’s sales of Sportsters, so we’ll give the Bobber a break – especially since the Bobber leans way further than H-D’s worst offenders. Triumph says the seat is 27.2 inches from the pavement in its low position, and an inch higher in the high forward one. For 5-foot-8 me in the high forward position, it’s still a little bit of a reach to the handlebar; I’d find a way to scoot the seat forward another inch. There’s room. My taller compadres, on the contrary, seemed to all really like the Bobber ergos; it didn’t fold them up like some bikes in this class do. (Triumph says the Bobber is in a class of one, but when pressed they say H-D 48, Yamaha Bolt, Indian Scout might be its competitors.)

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

She’s nice and thin between the knees, but the comfy seat can accommodate wide (and tall) loads…

The seat itself is a very nice piece of engineering, an excellent foam layer cake on a molded aluminum tray that nicely cosseted every butt on the ride I surveyed. Jeff Holt, our friend from Hot Bike, seemed to be in shock: “This is the first time I’ve ridden motorcycles all day and my ass doesn’t hurt.”

Your wrists don’t get much of a workout either; the torque-assist clutch is very low-effort. The like-buttah gearbox didn’t miss a shift all day, and the single 310mm front disc brake works fine also, even if it’s not quite as powerful as the dual discs Triumph puts on the other 1200s. It is a dual-disc setup when you remember to mash the rear brake along with the front, which is easy enough to do since ABS won’t let you lock it up like in the bad old days. One disc is a style thing here, and there is enough power to snap the ABS to attention with two fingers. Still on a bike with so many nice components, the slide-type two-piston front caliper does look a tad déclassé.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber action

Anyway, if the chassis had any faults you’d be tempted to forgive them once you twist the (also low-effort) throttle; a new airbox, located right under the seat, and those shorter dual exhausts let the engineers massage the 1200 HT (high torque) engine from the T120 Bonneville into a new “Bobber tune”, which is claimed to produce even more torque down low. All the internal engine hard parts are the same, but revised ignition and fuelling aid the bump in lower-rpm power. Triumph says the Bobber’s making 10% more torque and power than the T120 at 4500 rpm, and maxes out with 77 hp at 6100 rpm (as opposed to the T120’s claimed 80 at 6550). A soft limiter begins kicking in at 6800 rpm, and it’s no mas at 7k. In normal use, you’ll never rev the torque-rich Twin that high. There is a little abruptness rolling the power back on at about 3000 rpm sometimes, but I don’t think it’s enough to register a legitimate complaint.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber dyno

“Bobber tune” sacrifices a few peak hp, which most of us will never miss, for more midrange.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber dyno

With this one, the torque’s the thing: Triumph says 106 Nm at 4000 rpm, which my online calculator says is 78.2 lb-ft in Amurican.

All that Bobber tune stuff aids in the “hot rod attitude,” too; you really are marinated in your own sound waves on this bike, just enough to be a minor jerk without having everybody on your street hate you.

It’s also a Euro 4 engine, which Triumph says got 57 mpg on our own EPA test, which is amazing and believable since we got nearly as much with Triumph’s Street Twin earlier this year. Excellent fuel mileage is a requirement, since the tank only holds 2.4 gallons of fuel.

2016 Retro Roadster Gaiternational Shootout

Used for transportation, the Bobber is, again, better than its retro look would lead you to believe. At 80 mph on the Spanish motorway, the engine’s turning over at half its peak revs, 3400 rpm (you can scroll to a digital tachometer), and it’s calm and smooth enough that you’re glad cruise control is an option. The wind nicely offset the weight on my limp wrists at that speed, the bike’s perfectly stable even with its steep geometry, and from there, quick blasts up to 100 mph have the Bobber barely breaking a sweat. Stuart Wood says there is no speed governor. You could go places on the Bobber, quickly and alone…

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

You might have to ride solo, but you’ll never be alone when you stop on this bike.

In town, it’s hard not to treat all of Madrid’s traffic roundabouts as chicanes, lining the Bobber up and shooting out of them in second gear, with a one-finger clutch fan, on another wave of that 270-degree crankshaft racket. You’d think we’d outgrow it. Overall, it’s a thin motorcycle that would make a great L.A. lanesplitter.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

Chief Engineer Stuart Wood knows his Triumphs.

As functional as it is, you get the impression this one’s really about the looks. Stuart the Engineer gets a little misty describing the places the designers found inspiration, stretching back to the original Speed Twin of 1938, which had a hardtail frame and that distinctive rear fender stay. The rear hub mimics a drum brake, the shape of that gas tank, the single round headlight…

The stainless strap on the battery box is another nice period touch, one of many.

The stainless strap on the battery box is another nice period touch, one of many.

At $11,990 in Jet Black, it’s not an an inexpensive motorcycle, but it’s a really nicely finished one given that price and its performance. The thing bristles with satin-finished aluminum, bronze-looking plaques and details. Both fenders are real steel, and in fact beyond the airbox and sidecovers, there’s no plastic to be found. Triumph’s also proud of how well-concealed the modern bike is hidden within this one: the radiator’s inconspicuous and the rest of the cooling system’s almost invisible. You’ll have to crawl under to see that the dual headers actually feed a “cat box” under the sump before diverging again into the dual mufflers. There’s ABS, TC, heated grips, but there’s nary a stray wire connector in sight.

Unscrewing that round deal lets you check the coolant level; the rear brake reservoir is hidden behind that screen thing.

Unscrewing that round deal lets you check the coolant level; the rear brake reservoir is hidden behind that screen thing.

It’s historically reassuring in the Trump era and more than a little ironic to see Triumph turn out motorcycles like this one, that out-Honda Honda almost half a century after the CB750 put the English OEM out of business. And it’s more than a little concerning to suffer through a four-hour delay in Atlanta while they try to fix an electrical problem on my Boeing 767, en route to riding an English motorcycle on which all the gremlins seem to be banished: “Ladies and gentlemen, we changed the battery and charger, and that didn’t fix our problem. So now we’re going to try swapping out some relays… we’ll let you know as soon as we know…” Oh man. Who knew they fix airplanes the way I fix cars?

Triumph says its worldwide sales are up 30% since it introduced the Street Twin last year, and that deposits for the Bobber are running twice the number they were on the very popular Thruxtons. If you need one, and I would not talk you down, you probably shouldn’t hang around.

2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber
+ Highs

  • Goes as good as it looks
  • Looks really good, with great detailing
  • 150+ accessories in the Triumph catalog
– Sighs

  • No passengers allowed
  • More fuel capacity wouldn’t be a bad thing
  • You’ll get to learn to patch inner tubes
2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Specifications
MSRP  $11,990 (Jet Black)
Engine 1200cc, Liquid-cooled 8-valve, SOHC Parallel-twin
Bore and Stroke 97.6 x 80.0mm
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Rear Wheel Horsepower 77 hp @ 6100 rpm
Torque 78.2 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed
Final Drive Chain
Front Suspension KYB 41mm fork 3.5 in. travel
Rear Suspension KYB mono-shock with linkage, 3.0 in. travel
Front Brake Single 310mm disc, 2-piston Nissin floating caliper ABS
Rear Brake Single 255mm disc, single-piston Nissin floating caliper ABS
Front Tire 100/90-19 Avon Cobra AV71
Rear Tire 150/80 R16 Avon Cobra AV72 radial cruiser
Rake/Trail 25.8° / 3.5 in.
Wheelbase 59.5 in.
Seat Height 27.2 in. (low position)
Curb Weight (Claimed) 502 lb. (dry)
Fuel Capacity 2.4 gal.
Colors  Jet Black, Morello Red, Ironstone (matt) and Competition Green/ Frozen Silver

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Triumph Communities

  • Buzz

    I dig this. It could make The List.

    The Boeing issue was the ghost of KPaul JB.

    • Old MOron

      PS: Just for the record, I upvoted the KPaul joke. The bike? Never.

      • SerSamsquamsh

        The fact you posted so many times to tell us you hate it proves the design is just as successful at annoying geezers as it was 60 years ago. Perfect!

  • halfkidding

    The riding position looks so weird.

  • Gabriel Owens

    I just can’t.

    • john burns

      shut up and do it you’ll be dead soon.

  • Jon Jones

    Not feeling it. Answers the question no one asked.

  • Born to Ride

    I get that they are trying to do a cruiser without building a cruiser. But I still think its funky.

  • SRMark

    Like a Limburger and onion sandwich, it might be tasty but…Damn.

  • JMDonald

    It is safe to say that this bike does not make any of my top lists. I have a top five,ten and twenty. The T120 and Thruxton are all I need in the Bonneville department. But on the other hand, to each his own. The helmet completes the ensemble.

  • Ian Parkes

    I’ve never noticed bobbers before and while I was surprised to find the Speed Twiin tickled my want one nerve I’m downright hornswoggled to find that nerve now properly jangled. If it was as rough as it’s primitive looks suggested it would be meh, but this looks pure fun, riding “marinated in your own sound waves”. And the riding position looks fine. Do I want one more than a Nine-T? That’s a better all-rounder but if you are buying ‘extra’ bikes they might as well be purer niche bikes.

    • john burns

      for me, I like this one better than the 9T, which I was not all that impressed by. Heated grips and cruise control for Godssake, and a better smoother less vibey ride… the only negative for me is inability to carry the occasional passenger.

      • Buzz

        The Triumph probably goes with cigarettes better. With the BMW you would have to take up pipe smoking or something.

        • Ian Parkes

          Onanism.

    • Ian Parkes

      Woops – meant Street Twin, not Speed Twin.

  • Jens Vik

    Looking at the charts, I don’t get why this engine config is not in all of the Bonnevilles. The T120 would also benefit from the extra midrange. Most riders have shifted gears long before the T120 catch up.

    • Born to Ride

      If they made the street twin with this motor and the suspension/brakes off the thrux, I would buy one. Maybe even full sticker.

  • Martin Buck

    Reminds me of photos of my Dad’s early post war Triumph Speed Twin. I much prefer the T100 for looks and function, but this looks like Bobber done right. I wouldn’t moan if one ended up in my possession.

  • Larry Kahn

    Very appealing to me, just a bigger tank. Question for me is would I like it anymore than my 2007 Bonneville, and I like that a lot.

  • kenneth_moore

    You mentioned using it for transportation. Does the accessories catalog have any storage solutions? With the entire rear end of the bike moving up and down, and no subframe, a top box or saddlebags seem difficult to implement.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    I understand the problem bobber fans, who most enjoy the custom aspects and unique features of the builds, will have with thisbike… But there’s only so much to say about something this cool! They nailed it, and I mean NAILED it. Never has a bike needed less to be cool. This bike could make an Aerostich Roadcrafter look good, and that’s not easy! http://www.obairlann.net/reaper/motorcycle/images/img_4641-md.jpg

    That said, I would have to put mine on 180mm and 240mm tires with an inch more travel, and definitely the Thruxton motor because it makes more power at a lower RPM, but then I’d probably need a bigger tank.

  • Ron Vaughn

    John, thanks for a great and comprehensive review. I just sold my Rocket and have owned a Tiger Explorer XC. So, my question is this . . . How much will I miss the torque and power that I have gotten accustomed to? I REALLY like what I see with this Bobber and think it is my “next” . . .

  • Metropolis Fellow

    I’d like to see the accessories catalog on this bike.