Motorcycle.com

Editor Score: 90.0%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 7.5/10
Instruments/Controls4.25/5
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Gear
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
Ride-by-Wire
Riding Modes
LED DRL headlight
Heated grips
Centre stand
Passenger grab rail
Immobiliser
LED rear light

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