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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ||– Sighs |
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|
|Bore/Stroke||97.6mm x 80mm|
|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|
|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|
|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 |
|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.)|
|Trail||105.2 mm (4.1 in.)|
|Dry Weight||494 lb. (claimed)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||14.5 L (3.8 gal.)|
|Standard equipment||ABS |
LED DRL headlight
Passenger grab rail
LED rear light