Ridden: Triumph Thruxton review

Forward to the past

Posted: 4 July 2012
by mark forsyth

I have to admit, I struggled to like the Thruxton for the first couple of days we were together.

The environment didn’t help, though. I had two long motorway trips to do and, as is usual in my World, I was short of time and therefore in a hurry.

The fairing-less Thruxton is not at its best on a motorway but I guess you didn’t me to tell you that.

I ran out of fuel, too. With the sun behind me and a microscopic fuel warning-light that’s totally obscured by the speedo needle at 90mph, the outcome was inevitable.

The engine died in the outside lane. Quickly realising what’d happened I whipped in the clutch, indicated left and got into my best racing tuck on the hard shoulder. I managed to freewheel straight to the next exit, over the roundabout and onto the forecourt of a plant hire depot. The Gaffer sold me enough fuel to get to the next filling station. Thank you kind sir.

See? We weren’t off to the best start, were we?

For the rest of our time together I learned to avoid motorways and to ride the Thruxton more slowly.

I'll be honest - I’d been mentally wrestling with this whole retro engineering thing.

You see, I don’t really like riding ‘classic’ bikes unless they’re really well sorted (read: brand new) race bikes. What was good in 1957 or 1977 is usually and often utterly revolting in 2012. Things move on. Development forces change for the better. I enjoy progress. A friend of mine said recently: ‘I enjoy being a journalist as it’s all about searching out the truth. Unless you’re having to write about classic bikes, that is…’

But in the interests of searching out the truth I felt compelled to don a pair of rose tinted glasses to understand what the Thruxton was about.

It’s a bike, it seems, for people who perhaps view the aesthetic above the dynamic. A bike for people who aren’t interested in speed at all. A bike to chug around on during balmy summer evenings. A bike to engage random strangers in totally predictable conversations.

‘Have you restored that yourself lad? I used to have a Triumph in…’ etc, etc.

But it seemed, depressingly, like Triumph were making an old-styled bike for old men because that’s what the market has become. Old. I quizzed Triumph’s marketing people about this and they told me the classics market is an equal split between young (ish) hipsters and the doddering silver surfers. My words, not theirs, I hasten to add.

The Thruxton is pretty, I’ll have to give it that. Squint hard enough through your rose tinted glasses and the engine even looks like Edward Turner might have had a hand in designing it. The angle of the fins, the curve of the rocker boxes all hark back to the earlier pushrod Triumph twins.

Thankfully, a squint is as close as that parallel (twin) gets. The modern Hinckley twin is smooth, flexible, civilized, reliable and oil tight. The old ‘classic’ Triumph twins were shocking things - even when they were right they were wrong in so many different ways.

The Thruxton uses the same 865cc motor as the Bonneville but with higher compression pistons and a mild cam profile change. The performance difference is barely noticeable. Performance is adequate, I suppose – just like a W800 Kawasaki.

I’m not sure it handles and better or any worse than a good ‘old’ Bonneville, though. The new version is certainly heavier and it’s less willing to flick from one angle of full bank to the other than my horrible, old £700 T140V way back when.

But thanks to masses of trail it’s stable. Really stable. Through long weeping corners it tracks straight and true like an early Guzzi Le Mans. 

You feel the bumps, though. Those (by modern standards) spindly front forks and twin rear shocks convey every imperfection back to the rider. But without a rising rate linkage monoshock and catridge USD forks it would, wouldn’t it? Thankfully, the high aspect ratio Metzeler tyres have enough give in their fat sidewalls to act as secondary bump cushions. Recognize that front tread pattern? 1980 Mezeler Lazer ME99? That takes me back.

Having all that gubbins mounted on the front forks is a bit unsettling at times, too.

Plonking a headlight and clocks on the front forks is how they used to do it in the bad old days until someone realised that using the frame was a better idea. The Thruxton’s bracketry is gorgeous but, particularly at low speed, this extra steered mass makes plotting a straight path a bit of a chore. Personally, if I owned a Thruxton, the first thing I’d do is weld a tube to the front of the headstock to carry the headlight and clocks. 

Another nod to yesteryear are the fat-in-the-middle Lucas-style grips, the  ignition barrel on the left hand headlight bracket and fuel injectors that look like carbs – CV carbs, not Mk1 Concentrics.

The riding position is what you’d expect from ace bars and rear sets. It’s a bit of stretch and makes the peanut-style fuel tank feel suspiciously short and narrow. Bar end mirrors are wide and make filtering tricky but they do offer a good view behind. The seat is deeply padded and comfortable and for the few times I took pillion on the back, the comments on the rear seat were similar. Comfy. That seat cowling uses two allen blots to secure it.

And then, a week last Sunday after several days of black thoughts, I had a Thruxton epiphany. I was riding back along some warm, sunny country roads and I found – as MotoGP racers are always saying – a rhythm. 

Just leaving the Thruxton in top gear and pretty much leaving the brakes alone – I was rolling on and off the power and keeping up a speed of 70-80mph, flowing corners together with neat lines, avoiding visible bumps and admiring the view ahead. This was the Thruxton’s rhythm (not mine) and all of a sudden it made sense. It was, finally, fun.

And you know what? If I was going to be totally honest with myself this is the sort of speed that is acceptable to other road users and the sort of speed that wouldn’t even get you a bollocking from the old bill, never mind a booking.

Maybe a Thruxton is what my battered and tattered licence needs, after all. The past might just be my future.

If you fancy the idea of a reliable, brand new Classic bike (with two year unlimited mileage warranty) the Thruxton is a viable option if you don’t fancy a snail-pace Royal Enfield or a Japanese W800.

But, for now – I shall continue to risk my licence and liberty on modern, state-of-the-art equipment, thank you.


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Triumph, Thruxton review, 2012
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Discuss this story

Not being old enough to remember the original Triumphs i don't think i'll ever be old enough to buy/ride this one either!.
Thankfully i'm young enough to remember that the front tyre in the 4th picture is a Metzeler Lazer ME33. The ME99 being the matching rear. Great write-up achieved via your rose tinted specs for those that are months away from a zimmer frame i feel.

Posted: 05/07/2012 at 09:18


MF
Ten points Tenchman. Bit of 33/99 confusion there. It's my age, y'see...

Posted: 05/07/2012 at 10:09

keeping up speeds of 70-80 mph along country roads? I'd like to know what country roads they are mate, where you wont get yourself pureed at those speeds.

Posted: 05/07/2012 at 12:17

I had a 2009 Scrambler and it was a blast. These engines are just great. I upgraded both suspensions for about 500$ and I could follow sports bikes in the twisties. After having had many bikes, I finally realized that the best way to keep your license is to have a bike that is fun at "reasonable" speeds. Try enjoying an R6 in the city or any road for that matter below 7000rpm...it's just not possible, like most inline 4s they are just boring unless you on full throttle and illegal speeds. These classic remakes are really fun to ride!

Posted: 06/07/2012 at 12:44

I love my Thruxton but it is way more fun with the TPUSA big bore kit, hot cams and FCR carbs. This bumped the HP at the rear wheel to 81hp from 51. I picked the bike up cheap so even with mods it came in thousands less than buying one new. I know this bike is not racebike but I do feel that with the current mods the power nicely matches the looks. Stock it felt sorely lacking in acceleration.

Posted: 06/07/2012 at 17:07

The first thing I would do if/when? I get me a Thruxton is slap on a pair of Goldies [anyone old enough to know what they are?] second thing would be get a pair of stick on rubber knee grips for the tank. sorted. I'm 62 and owned a 1968 Bonneville when I was 18 and loved it. Later on in life I made the mistake of getting one of those God awful oil in frame Bonnies from I think 1973, terrible thing with those awful conical hub brakes mind you slapping on a pair of Goldies just like I did to my 68 one made it better. Now I own a 790cc Bonnie from 2007, it's the last of the carbureter models and with, yes you guessed it, a pair of Goldies [mini version] it goes and sounds like a Triumph should, bloody great. Riding round at 70-80 mph is something I leave to the youngsters, I'm more happy pottering about at 50 or less these days but I still manage to piss off a good few peds as I blast past them. Crazy old fart. lol

Posted: 10/07/2012 at 14:07

Id have one for sure
I agree not practical or safe to do rocket ship speeds these days around London - a bar hopper would suit me fine

Posted: 10/07/2012 at 14:28


MF
Hugh Janus 2, London is a massive 30-limit. Buy a scooter

Posted: 10/07/2012 at 21:41

I like the cock on the wall composition, it fits most of your disposition in the article at least until you found your rhythm. It is what it is and at the price point Triumph offers it, it's a great second or third hand bike in the shed for a mellow ride to a concert or festival were you don't have to sweat it being molested buy the hurd. plus when a mate pops in to town and needs a put put, well there you go.

Posted: 11/07/2012 at 03:17

Bobby Good says,

"keeping up speeds of 70-80 mph along country roads? I'd like to know what country roads they are mate, where you wont get yourself pureed at those speeds"

erm......oooooohkay....(snigger)

Posted: 11/07/2012 at 10:21

Remember, we are looking at this from our perspective. most riders now (unfortunately) go out for a near death experience on a Sunday morning. That’s it! They can ride in a spirited way knowing that modem tires, brakes, power and handling will get them out of the scrapes they shouldn’t have gotten into in the first place.

Retro bikes like this are based on the image but not the reality of life in the last century. 50’s and 60’s bikes were usually bought to go to work on, not a a weekend toy. Work is not something you would speed towards under any circumstances! The bike was your everyday transport, it carried a sack of spuds from the corner shop and your family on holiday if needed.

I have a classic 650 BSA. In its day it would do getting on for a ton, but not now. In her day my gran would be able to run a mile but she wouldn’t entertain that thought now.

Just give it some thought, adapt your style, and enjoy it for what it is.

Posted: 12/07/2012 at 13:33

I've had a Thruxton for six weeks. At the price point, it s a really nice and convincing package. The motor and gearbox are remarkably refined, suspension a bit of a let down. If you can live at less than 90mph...and let's face it, we alll do for 99.99% of the time.....it's a nice piece of kit that evokes all the good things about biking, without the bluster or chintz.

Posted: 13/07/2012 at 22:12

I can't help but notice the graffiti in the second picture. I'm quite unsure if you've included it intentionally or what...

Posted: 02/08/2012 at 11:43

I'm 20 and so definitely in the hipster bracket, absolutely love them.

Posted: 21/03/2013 at 00:13

The 2004-2007 carbed Thruxton weighs 50 pounds less than this current version and it can absolutely be scraped through twisties and hammered near the ton all day long in the big spaces of the western US. It also has a reserve so when you gasp to a halt sans fuel you just turn the lever and off you go (however, MPG is terrible, especially if ridden hard). This article makes me think the current version has lost a lot of sporting ability from the prior version.

Posted: 12/11/2013 at 22:41

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