2020 Triumph Thruxton RS Review – First Ride

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

The highest-performing Triumph Twin in the brand's history

The Thruxton namesake is one that has described Triumph’s racing efforts throughout the middle of the past century. Now, the name designates a model that harkens back to those days that’s thoroughly modern while being meticulously designed to look the part of cafe racers from the 1960s. This new Thruxton RS continues to refine and develop Triumph’s factory cafe racer into a machine that will properly haul the mail and look smashing while doing so.

2020 Triumph Thruxton RS

Editor Score: 90.5%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.0/10
Appearance/Quality 10.0/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 8.75/10
Overall Score90.5/100

For me, the Thruxton is to sport riding what the Scrambler 1200 is to adventure riding. These machines do a fantastic job at their true intended purposes while delivering the cool retro vibe that make these motorcycles appeal to the general public. These are motorcycles that anyone would walk by on the street and give a second – or third – glance. Though the uninitiated may be unsure whether they’re looking at something from the 60s or perhaps something more modern, the word cool is on the tip of their tongue.

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The Thruxton RS looks unequivocally cool, sure, but for us heavy-handed performance-minded (cafe) racers, the RS delivers the highest performing Bonneville in the brand’s 118-year history. As Evans surmised in his review of the 2019 Speed Twin, the Speed Twin’s engine updates that “may out-Thruxton the Thruxton” have indeed trickled up into the Thruxton RS, delivering more power and performance with efficiency.

Triumph says its latest Twin cranks out 104 hp @ 7,500 rpm and 83 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm, making it the most powerful production Twin ever produced by the British brand.

The Thruxton RS’s 1200cc Parallel Twin features a 270-degree firing order as well as a full host of internal upgrades and weight savings that I’m told amounts to a 20% reduction in inertia, allowing the RS to spin more freely all the way to its 500-rpm higher redline. Triumph claims 104 hp at 7,500 rpm, which means the RS is making peak power 750 revs further into its rpm range than the Thruxton R. What delivers the slight bump in performance is mostly due to the 12.1:1 compression ratio boosted from the previous mill’s 11.0:1. Much like the Triple family of RS models, the Thruxton’s motor spins up quickly into its powerband allowing you to keep revving it out longer than its siblings. This feature I was quite happy with after only bouncing it off the limiter a few times during our spirited test ride around the Portuguese countryside.

Metzler Racetec RR tires are now factory fitment, delivering sure footing to the 2020 Triumph Thruxton RS.

Roderick mentioned in his review of the 2016 Thruxton R that it’s not so much the horsepower that provides the Thruxton with its surprising performance, but the torque. Although the torque figure claim hasn’t changed from Triumph’s Thruxton R at 83 lb-ft, that torque is now available 700 rpm lower at 4,250 on the 2020 RS (that’s also 700 rpm lower than the Speed Twin). North of that number the Thruxton will launch out of a corner like it’s been shot out of a cannon, but one can also be lazy with the throttle because 74 lb-ft of that torque is available at approximately 2,700 rpm. Of the three ride modes, Sport delivers the snappiest throttle response with Road smoothing things out a bit while still giving all she’s got. Rain… well, who cares. Kidding! The ride modes also affect traction control intervention, with Sport receiving the least and rain keeping things more than a little reined in.

One of the things I appreciate most that Triumph has done across its model range is the crispness of its fueling and feeling at the throttle. There is little free play, and any on/off throttle abruptness that the previous model was plagued with has been worked out. Though I kept the RS in Sport mode during most of our ride, Road mode delivers full power with progressive smooth throttle response that will do just fine for commuting or any other daily activities. Traction control can be disabled entirely should one find the need to loft the front wheel, while ABS is now a permanent fixture due to Euro regulations.

Radially-mounted Brembo M50 calipers, as well as a Brembo master cylinder, now provide superbike levels of stopping power and feedback at the Thruxton RS’ lever.

Forward thrust is great, but being able to match that acceleration with braking performance is equally or perhaps more important. Radially-mounted Brembo M50 calipers are standard issue on the RS, delivering powerful stopping power to dual 310mm rotors while being easily modulated from feedback at the adjustable lever. On the other side of the bars, lever pull is now made even lighter with the torque assist clutch, which uses a reduced-size clutch package, allowing engineers to make the entire engine narrower. Shifting is equally positive and without slop at the foot lever. Spoked tube-type 17-inch wheels are wrapped with Metzeler Racetec RR rubber, a welcome addition providing the Thruxton RS with befitting rubber for its performance ability.

Geometry and suspension remain unchanged from the R model. A nice steep 22.8-degree rake and short 3.62-inches of trail coupled with a relatively short 55.7 inches of wheelbase make the Thruxton eager to handle a set of curves. We were lucky during our ride to have a sampling of tight switchbacks, long fast sweeping curves, and everything in between, all of which the Thruxton RS could be tossed into with stability and ease. The only niggle I found whilst snaking through the Portuguese bends, was when trail braking, the motorcycle had a tendency of wanting to stand up while leaned over in a curve. A fully-adjustable Showa 43 mm big piston fork provides 4.7 inches of travel up front while the Öhlins twin shocks with piggyback reservoirs provide the same amount of adjustability and travel in the rear. The up-spec suspension does a good job of handling the Thruxton’s girth which is probably somewhere around 470 pounds at the kerb (Triumph says 434 dry) a figure we’re told is 13 pounds less than the R.

I was quite pleasantly surprised at the end of our eight-hour ride that I hadn’t a sore back, knees, wrists, or bum. The Thruxton RS’ sporting rider ergos aren’t so extreme to cause discomfort, at least for my 5-foot 8-inch self.

It’s been a minute since I’ve sat on a Triumph Thruxton. After a full day of riding without sore wrists, knees, back, or bottom, I was thoroughly impressed that the sporty ergos didn’t take the toll a modern sportbike would on the body after eight or more hours of riding. The wide-ish clip-on handlebars are comfortably placed, the footpegs aren’t too high and provide ample ground clearance (though I did drag them on the pavement a few times), seat to handlebar isn’t too much of a reach, and the seat itself was one of the more comfortable ones that I’ve sat on for some time despite being somewhat slim. The tank shape was the only thing that provided any kind of pause when considering the bike’s ergos. Having gotten used to modern motorcycles’ ergonomically engineered fuel tanks, I realized that the Thruxton’s tank’s form over function design prevented me from using my thighs to brace myself against the tank as much as I normally do. Even then, it’s easy to get used to.

A thing of beauty. The RS’s dual clocks, polished triple tree, Monza-style fuel cap, and brushed aluminum tank strap are a callback to British racing touches of a bygone era.

The RS keeps the R’s dual clocks up front with a small LCD display in each offering trip info, rider mode, fuel level, gear indicator, and average fuel consumption among other standard information. This touch combined with the RS’s polished triple tree, a Monza-style fuel cap, and brushed aluminum tank strap lend a handsome elegant British racing authenticity to the Thruxton RS. Tucked away under the seat is a USB port and case for charging whatever device you may find yourself needing to charge.

The Triumph Thruxton RS is now the most expensive edition of the trio at $16,200. That makes the RS just $800 more than the R model, and $3,200 more than the base Thruxton. From the R model to the RS, for me, the upgrades to the engine are worth the $800 alone, while those considering the base model will need to decide whether the sportier suspension is worth it for their needs and expectations. Without the chance to ride the base model back-to-back with the R or RS, I can’t comment on the base suspension setup.

The Track Racer inspiration kit for the Thruxton RS consists of the front fairing, lower clip-on handlebars, rear mudguard removal kit, compact rear light, and turn signals (market-specific).

During our presentation Triumph had a couple of kitted out Thruxton RSs in the conference room, one of which had the “Track Racer” kit, which included, among other bits, the gorgeous factory fairing that’s available as one of more than 80 accessories for the bike. We’re told the color-matched front fairing has been the most purchased accessory and it’s easy to see why. It would be first on my list of upgrades, or maybe second after replacing the massive DOT-mandated turn signals.

Triumph says they’ve sold more than 16,000 Thruxtons since 2016 and over 40,000 since 2006. If the trend continues, the market seems hot for the old school repli-racer. Triumph NA says we can expect the Thruxton RS to be landing in dealerships in April 2020. The new model is available in a gloss Jet Black and Matt Storm Grey and Silver Ice, both of which look fantastic. Also, don’t fret, if you have a special someone you’d like to bring along with you, Triumph will offer an optional pillion seat accessory for non-EU markets such as North America.

There it is, another modern classic from Triumph brimming with modern performance in an exquisitely vintage-style motorcycle. I’m liking this trend of properly performing modern classics from the British bike maker. Thanks, Triumph, the Thruxton RS takes the company’s Bonneville line to a sporting level it has yet to see, and we couldn’t be more stoked about it.

2020 Triumph Thruxton RS

+ Highs

  • The Thruxton comes correct with impeccable vintage styling
  • Looks good and performs just as well
  • Surprisingly comfortable ergos for a sportsbike

– Sighs

  • She’s still heavy
  • Tube-type tires
  • There’s still a key that you insert into an ignition? How quaint.

2020 Triumph Thruxton RS Specifications

Engine TypeLiquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel-Twin
Bore/Stroke97.6 x 80 mm
Compression Ratio12.066:1
Maximum Power104 hp at 7500 rpm (claimed)
Maximum Torque83 lb-ft. at 4250 rpm
Fuel systemMultipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
ExhaustBrushed 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin silencers
Final driveO-ring chain
ClutchWet, multi-plate assist clutch
FrameTubular steel cradle
SwingarmTwin-sided, aluminum – Clear anodized
Front Wheel32-spoke 17 x 3.5 in, aluminum rims
Rear Wheel32-spoke 17 x 5 in, aluminum rims
Front Tire120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire160/60 ZR17
Front SuspensionShowa 43 mm USD big piston forks, fully adjustable, 4.7 inches travel
Rear SuspensionFully adjustable Öhlins twin shocks with Piggyback reservoir, 4.7 inches travel
Front BrakeTwin 310 mm Brembo floating discs, Brembo M50 4-piston radial monobloc calipers, ABS
Rear BrakeSingle 220 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Width (Handlebars)29.3 inches
Height Without Mirrors40.6 inches
Seat Height31.9 inches
Wheelbase55.7 inches
Trail3.6 inches
Dry Weight434 pounds (claimed)
Fuel Tank Capacity3.8 Gallons
Fuel Consumption48 mpg (claimed)
ColorsJet Black
Matt Storm Grey and Silver Ice
Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

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3 of 81 comments
  • Higgs Boatswain Higgs Boatswain on Jan 24, 2020

    Where is the tank seam/Thailand build discussion shortcut?

    • Born to Ride Born to Ride on Jan 27, 2020

      If the build quality was shit on these bikes, you’d hear nothing but hate for the Thai factory. The fact that nobody is complaining is a testament to the capability of that facility.

  • William Buffton William Buffton on Feb 03, 2020

    Some journalist bitched because he would have to put a key in the ignition and turn it; REALLY?? OH YOU POOR THING!!! Man up, ride the damn thing and stop acting like a spoiled 6 year old girl!