Editor Score: 90.0%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 7.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.25/10
Appearance/Quality 10.0/10
Desirability 9.5/10
Value 8.5/10
Overall Score90/100

The cover came off and sunlight struck the red and silver paint of the late sixties Bonneville for the first time in a quarter century. Only 1,300 miles after purchasing it, the original owner gave his life in Vietnam, and the bike has since sat in the corner of his mother’s garage. I should have bought it then and there, but didn’t. The memory haunts me still, like an old girlfriend I should have married but never asked. Nineteen years later I’m standing in front of a 2016 Bonneville T120 wondering if I’ll make the same mistake twice.

The new model Bonneville is stunning, looking more like the original than should be allowed. Gone is the small kink in the exhaust pipe (a loathed attribute of the outgoing T100 Bonnie), and in its place a beautifully unbroken double-walled pipe exiting spent gases through iconic pea-shooter pipes. The new EFI throttle bodies are so cleverly disguised as carburetors you’d think Triumph contracted Amal to construct them. Fork gaiters and rubber tank knee pads complete the illusion.

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Of course, there are concessions to modernity, chiefly a new radiator cooling the juices circulating the Euro 4-compliant 1200cc Twin. I don’t find the radiator too distracting from the overall handsomeness of the motorcycle. Others may disagree, but regardless, we’re stuck with it, and the tradeoff for the increased performance makes the radiator oh so easy to overlook.

Converting newton meters to pound-feet, we see that Triumph claims the new "High Torque" parallel-Twin outputs 77.4 lb-ft of torque at 3,100 rpm. More importantly, the engine is producing almost as much torque at 1,800 rpm. Triumph claims 78.9 hp @ 6,550 rpm.

Converting newton meters to pound-feet, we see that Triumph claims the new “High Torque” parallel-Twin outputs 77.4 lb-ft of torque at 3,100 rpm. More importantly, the engine is producing almost as much torque at 1,800 rpm. Triumph claims 78.9 hp @ 6,550 rpm.

Triumph refers to the new parallel-Twin motivating the T120 as the “High-Torque” version, the “High-Power” model found in the more sporty Thruxton and Thruxton R (reviewed here). Triumph claims the “High-Torque” Twin produces 54% more torque than the 865cc T100 Bonneville it’s replacing. The feeling from behind the bars of the new Bonneville confirms this claim. The rush of acceleration right off of idle is exhilarating. A small amount of off-to-on throttle abruptness can be felt, but otherwise the Twin lurches forward with a smooth rush of user-friendly torque.

Triumph Announces Three New Engine Configurations and Five All-New Models For 2016 Bonneville Line

The engine naturally wants to be around 3,000 rpm, right in the thick of its torque production. When it comes time pass another vehicle, or pick up speed for any reason, the Twin obliges with surprisingly willingness. The flywheel of the Bonneville is a little heavier than that of the two Thruxtons, but the T120’s Twin quickly picks up revs. There’s a pleasing amount of thrum keeping the rider aware this is no electric bike, but there’s no vibes emanating through handlebars, seat or footpegs to numb an all-day outing.

t120 bonneville

It needs mentioning that traditionally the Bonneville utilized a 360° crank, whereas the new T120 has a 270° crank. Note the coolant reservoir tucked out of sight behind the 6-speed transmission. There’s a hidden evap canister in there too. Footpegs are designed to provide more legroom while decreasing cornering clearance. Street Twin pegs, without the downward bend, can be swapped for those desiring more clearance.

To make the most of the Bonneville’s new levels of engine performance, Triumph engineers included a Torque Assist Clutch, which does the double duty of lightening clutch lever pull as well as decreasing the amount of reverse engine torque during deceleration. Engineers also constructed a stronger frame. Where the Bonneville previously flexed its way around corners when pushed beyond its meager limitations, the new T120 maintains its composure even while grinding away footpegs. The 18-inch front wheel slows down right-to-left transitions, but if quicker handling is what you’re looking for, the Thruxton will suit you better.

bonneville black

Thanks to the 18-inch front wheel, stability is as much the name of the game as quick handling, the new Bonneville wonderfully balancing both. Bonneville Thruxtons wear 17-inchers, front and rear, and enjoy a shorter wheelbase.

The non-adjustable Kayaba fork and preload-adjustable twin Kayaba shocks are one area where Triumph saved some money. I’m not saying the Bonneville’s suspension is bad, just that the units don’t exhibit the ability to absorb and comfort as well as higher-end suspension does. The right aftermarket pieces could really transform the Bonneville’s stock suspension behavior.

2016 Triumph Street Twin

To rein in this Bonneville freight train Triumph saw fit to add another disc and caliper up front. The twin 310mm discs are squeezed by Nissin 2-piston floating calipers, providing the stopping power the new 1200cc Twin demands. While they don’t provide the same feel at the lever compared to the Brembos affixed to the Thruxton R, the extra stopping power is a welcome upgrade over the T100’s single front disc brake set-up.

t120 bonneville

Attention to detail comes in more ways than just snazzy historical packaging. Check out the handgrip heater switch – cleanest design for this technology we’ve ever seen. The “i” button toggles through the digital information viewable on the LCD screen of the analog tachometer.

ABS is standard electronic equipment as is TC, ride modes (Road, Rain), and heated handgrips. TC is switchable on the Bonneville but ABS is not (it is on the Thruxton). Choosing between the two ride modes doesn’t increase or decrease available engine power, it changes the aggressiveness of power delivered to the twistgrip. The stock heated grips are a nice touch with two levels of temperature plus off. We rode around Lisbon in high 50-degree weather and kept the grips turned to Low, almost scared to experience the heat of the High setting. “Made in Great Britain, for Great Britain,” is how one Triumph engineer explained grip temperature.

For 2016 the T120 Bonneville is available in two different styles: the standard model you’d expect with the beautiful paint colors/schemes and chrome, as well as a new “Black” series. No performance differences exist between the two versions, just aesthetics. The T120 Black a much more subtle motorcycle with blacked-out components replacing chrome ones on the standard Bonnie. We rode the Black models in Portugal, and I really came to appreciate the Jet Black Bonnie I was aboard with its blacked-out everything and dark brown seat.

t120 bonneville

No bling here, just the back-in-black version of the T120 Bonneville ($11,500). The other Black model comes with a Matt Graphite colored tank for an extra $250.

Helmet: Bell Bullitt Matte Metallic Titanium
Jacket: Roland Sands Design Zuma Timber

Triumph is really going to town with available options for both the T120 Bonnevilles and their Thruxton counterparts – 470 of them, according to Triumph. Triumph is also making it easy for customers by assembling some of these accessories into prearranged kits such as The Prestige kit which includes a set of Vance & Hines pea-shooter slip-ons for that authentic Bonneville sound.

2016 Triumph T120 Bonneville
+ Highs

  • Better acceleration & deceleration
  • God is in the details
  • Blending heritage with modernity
– Sighs

  • Slight throttle abruptness
  • Okay suspension
  • $2k jump in price over old Bonnie

No matter what your flavor – traditional T120 Bonneville, Bonneville Black or Thruxton – Triumph has created a modern iteration worthy of the namesake. The new liquid-cooled 1200cc parallel-Twin is a hoot, complimented by impressive handling and braking performance that culminate into a Bonneville that’s a real blast to ride. Some may find the bump in price a little hard to swallow ($11,500, $11,750, $12,000 depending on color scheme), but once ridden the new Bonneville is very good at convincing you it’s worth the price. For more information go to triumphmotorcycles.com.

2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 Specifications
Type Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Capacity 1200cc
Bore/Stroke 97.6mm x 80mm
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Maximum Power 79 @ 6550 rpm
Maximum Torque 77.4 lb-ft. @ 3100 rpm
Fuel system Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Standard T120: Chromed 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin chrome silencers
T120 Black: Black 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin black silencers
Final drive X ring chain
Clutch Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox 6-speed
Emissions EURO 4 Compliant, CO2 – 103.0 g/km
Fuel Consumption 52.3 mpg (claimed)
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Wheel 32-spoke 18 x 2.75in
Rear Wheel 32-spoke 17 x 4.25in
Front Tire 100/90-18
Rear Tire 150/70 R17
Front Suspension Kayaba 41mm cartridge forks, 120mm travel
Rear Suspension Kayaba twin shocks with adjustable preload, 120mm rear wheel travel
Front Brake Twin 310mm discs, Nissin 2-piston floating calipers, ABS
Rear Brake Single 255mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating
caliper, ABS
Length 2170 mm (85.4 in.)
Width (Handlebars) 785 mm (30.9 in.)
Height (Without Mirrors) 1125 mm (44.3 in.)
Seat Height 785 mm (30.9 in.)
Wheelbase 1445 mm (56.9 in.)
Rake 25.5º
Trail 105.2 mm (4.1 in.)
Dry Weight 494 lb. (claimed)
Fuel Tank Capacity 14.5 L (3.8 gal.)
Standard equipment ABS
Traction Control
Riding Modes
LED DRL headlight
Heated grips
Centre stand
Passenger grab rail
LED rear light

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  • Scott

    Strange that we’re in a place where reviewers are apologists for radiators, but refer to purely decorative items like those embarrassing fake carbs as “cleverly disguised”. Not to mention that uncircumcised “iconic” muffler, but at least it can be replaced easily.
    I’d still like one, but probably not enough to deal with my local BMW/Ducati/Triumph “experts”, though (Chattanooga TN). I think the Starbucks 1200GS’s are the only thing keeping them afloat. It’s not Triumph–they still have a street triple I test-rode a couple years ago, and are offering about 500 off retail with a 1K freight charge and a 1k setup fee..lol.

  • Douglas

    Exchange the peashooters for megaphones, and the Bonnie, to me, stands as the best looking, most functional, neat sounding scoot ever built. Perfectly balanced, everything in proportion, nothing there that doesn’t need to be. (‘Course a belt drive would be icing on this cake, but that would upset many purists). Anyway, an iconic masterpiece…..styling hasn’t been improved on, and can’t be, much like an original Cobra or a Cisitalia.

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, looks like I’ll have to get demo rides on the Bonnie and the Thrux. Didn’t you say the Thruxtons are all pre-sold already? Damn, I think the Thruxton R is the one I want.

  • Randy Pancetalk

    Tom, thanks for the nice review. Did you get a chance to ride the Street Twin? I know they’re a bit different, but I was wondering which one was more fun to ride around town.

  • Auphliam

    How come the “High Torque” engine makes less torque than the “High Power” engine?

    • Old MOron

      I always find gems by reading MOronic articles more than once.

  • Starmag

    A bit of alright that is. Bonnevilles will continue to be Triumph’s best selling bikes.

    Old new Bonnevilles are falling in price as we speak.

    Thankfully timeless styling is making a resurgence,( Scrambler, R nine T, etc. ), I don’t want my bike to look pre crashed. There is still far more choices in new or modern styled bikes.

  • Ulysses Araujo

    Does the tires run with tubes inside? I was in doubt in the Thruxton review and here too.
    Also, where is the d*wm canister??? It’s killin’ me! 🙂

    • The T120 and Thruxton will NOT have tubeless tires.

  • Starmag

    Tom, that was a nice memory. Had you bought that old Bonneville long ago you certainly would have gotten more exercise back then from the kicking and well…..the walking. Here’s your chance for reliable revenge on the past.

    • The year was 1997 and Hinckley Triumph had just launched the T595 Daytona. It was a tough choice but I had been riding a vintage bike for a little while and was wanting another sportbike. The Strontium Yellow bike won.

  • SRMark

    At that price I’d like the fenders to be chromed. Gray paint looks like primer. Still, this is a beautiful motorcycle. Now hows about finding a way to put a triple in the Thruxton and paint it deep orange like the ’95 Speed Triple. Call it a Rocket. Make up for that pig of a Rocket III.

  • Starmag

    You note slight throttle abruptness. How was drive line snatch? The transmission? The seat? The instruments? Is factory cruise control available given that it has traction control?

    • I gave the Transmission/Clutch category in the ScoreCard an 8.5 and not better because, as excellent as the Torque Assist Clutch is, the transmission was a little notchy. Could be a new-bike problem, and will smooth out over time. Otherwise, the transmission, shifting and clutch work well.

      Ride mode, TC, ABS and all the regular information you’d expect to find are located in the twin clocks with beveled analog readouts for speed and rpm, while digital windows inside each also provide information including gear position, dual tripmeters, and average fuel economy.

      Cruise control is an available accessory through Triumph.

  • Ray Boone

    I know Triumph worked hard to hide that radiator, but it’s all I see on all the new Bonnevilles. Wish it weren’t. Of course, I’d still buy a new Thruxton R if I had the money.

  • DickRuble

    “To reign in this Bonneville” — you would have to be a king in a tiny kingdom. To rein it you just need brakes.

    • Old MOron

      Okay, that was funny.
      But why would you have to be a king in a tiny kingdom?
      Why not any kingdom?

      • DickRuble

        Because this Bonneville (Good town in French) is rather..small. With 1-2 occupants at most.

    • Born to Ride

      Heh, you are such a dick Ruble. I was amused.

  • Tod Rafferty

    Purty, but the seamed tank is still unseemly.

  • DickRuble

    500lbs dry??? 560lbs ready to go?

    • Claimed dry weight of the T120 is 494 lbs. Claimed dry weight of the Thruxton is 454 lbs, and Thruxton R is 448 lbs.

      • DickRuble

        They’re all too heavy .. but I wonder what makes the T120 40lbs even heavier.

        • The Thruxtons wear lighter weight wheels, but that was the only mention of significant weight savings between them and the T120s. I’ll ask Triumph where the rest of the weight is coming from.

          • Triumph’s official response regarding the weight difference between the T120 and Thruxton:

            What adds weight to the T120
            Eight main areas:
            1. High torque crank shaft
            2. Centre Stand
            3. Grab rail
            4. Twin skin downpipes
            5. Larger fuel tank
            6. Wheels
            7. Steel mudguard
            8. Swing arm

        • May be you’d like a Schwinn Varsity better.

    • Martin Buck

      The whole raison d’être of the T120 is to provide all day comfort and ease of passage as the owner tours through the district of his/her choice. The extra weight provides important convenience items, and adds to the stability of the 18″ wheel and relaxed steering geometry. The whole point is to lower your blood pressure and provide the kind of satisfaction only a mature rider knows. The lighter Thruxton is for the sports minded, who will be happier riding in shorter, faster bursts. Only you will know what sort of rider you are.

  • Martin Buck

    This, to me, is what a motorcycle should look like. A superb interpretation. I’m sorry, I just can’t find any faults. An aftermarket tank with seams removed might appeal, otherwise it floats my boat.

    • Montana dave

      Agree with you on that ugly tank seam. The 60’s classic had the most beautiful tanks & paint ever. It mars the beauty of everything else and sticks out like a sore thumb. How much does Triumph save? At least they got rid of the exhaust kink. Nice job Triumph,(excluding the tank seam).

  • gjw1992

    This does look and sound very good – might be less exciting but I prefer it to the Thruxton.

    I’m hoping Triumph do a Harley with the Bonneville range – lots of new variants including mixing & matching within the range. A Thruxton R with the T120 bars would be nice. Better yet for me, a T120 with the ohlins suspension and brembo brakes of the Thruxton R, keeping the T120’s hi-torque motor. A T120R.

  • Razor Hanzo

    All I know is that T-120 Black is going to look fabulous next to my Street Triple.

  • JMDonald

    I remember seeing my first Bonneville as a kid in the 60’s. It was the best looking motorcycle on the planet in my grade school opinion. This version though not perfect is close. If it had the Thruxton brakes it would be even closer. Regardless it is so much better than than the version it replaces. I’d rather have a Tiger Sport but I wouldn’t mind putting one of these in my garage. You never know.

  • Sentinel

    I think the entire new line of these Modern Classics is priced about $1,000 too high.

    • spiff

      On a 3 year note that is less than $.92 a day plus interest. You maybe correct, but if I wanted one that would’t be a deal breaker.

  • GPAltaBob

    Anyone interested in buying my 2010 Thruxton so I can buy one of these?? Here is a link to my Kijiji ad! http://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-details.html?requestSource=b&adId=1104784902

  • Rod

    I had a three hour test ride on a T120 yesterday. It is a brilliant machine, the acceleration provided by the torque is wonderful. It is quite high geared, which means that the running-in period is no real hassle, it is possible to reach the national speed limit in 5th gear without exceeding 4000 r.p.m. Even with standard pipes the low revving engine sounds just like a 60’s bike.

    The suspension set up seemed softer and less jarring than the T100, without detracting from the handling. The only reason for not buying one is that my aging hips took exception to the riding position after an hour or so in the saddle.