Triumph Bonneville: The British legend through the ages

A Triumph Street Scrambler parked on a street outside a cafe

The Triumph Bonneville is arguably the most famous ‘classic’ British bike of all and today’s modern incarnation remains the definitive ‘retro’. Launched in 1959 as a performance roadster, it became a ‘60s and ‘70s icon before being recreated as a heritage machine in 2001 and going on to even greater success.

Today’s nine-model strong ‘Modern Classic’ Bonneville family retain the twin cylinder, twin shock layout, and range from the entry level, 900cc Speed Twin, Scrambler and T100, to cruiser-style Bobber and Speedmaster and potent 1200cc Speed Twin, Scrambler, T120 and café racer Thruxton, providing a retro Triumph Bonneville for every taste and budget.

History of Triumph Bonneville

2001-2016Bonneville 800Roadster790-865cc62-66
2003-2016Thruxton 900Café racer865cc69
2006-2016Scrambler 900Scrambler865cc54-59
2016-dateBonneville T120Roadster1197cc80
2016-dateBonneville T100Roadster900cc54-64
2016-dateThruxton 1200Café racer1197cc96-103
2016-dateStreet Twin/Speed Twin 900Performance roadster900cc54-64
2017-dateStreet Scrambler/Scrambler 900Scrambler900cc54-64
2017-2019Street CupCafé racer900cc54
2017-dateBonneville Bobber/Bobber BlackBobber1197cc77
2019-dateSpeed Twin 1200Performance roadster1197cc96-98
2019-dateScrambler 1200Scrambler1197cc88

The 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120

Triumph Bonneville T120 2016

The Bonneville T120 is the flagship of Hinckley Triumph’s current Modern Classics family and was all-new in 2016 as a 1200cc replacement for the old 865cc version. The larger engine is liquid-cooled, has riding modes and is fruity and effective. Chassis is traditional twin shock but with quality suspension and twin disc brakes while ancillaries include classy twin dial instruments and lots of authentic and premium period-inspired details.

The 2021 Thruxton RS added cruise control and extra refinement, while there has also been a series of variants including a Black edition and Bud Ekins and Diamond editions.

The 2017 Bonneville T100

Triumph Bonneville T100 2017

Launched a year after the T120, the 2017 Bonneville T100 is a smaller capacity (900cc), less powerful, more basic and affordable version of the T120, although its overall proportions, except weight, are unchanged.

Initially conspicuously less powerful than the 1200, with 54bhp, although still pleasant this was uprated to 64bhp in a 2021 makeover. The rest of the bike is more basic, too, with just a single front disc brake, less chrome and no riding modes, but it is significantly cheaper than the T120.

The 2008 Triumph Bonneville T100

Triumph Bonneville 2001-2015

The new Hinckley Triumph’s first recreated Bonneville proved a category-defining ‘retro’ with authentic heritage air-cooled twin cylinder 1960s British style delivered via modern engineering and design. Its charm, easy manners and affordability proved such a success it inspired a whole family of spin-offs to create Triumph’s ‘Modern Classics’ family.

The 2003 T100 was a higher-spec model equipped with an 865cc engine. Then, from 2008, it gained fuel injection and, slightly controversially, production moved to Triumph’s Thailand facility. 

Special editions include the 2009 Bonneville SE and 2014 Newchurch.

Related: Top 10 Triumph Bonnevilles of all time

The 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber

Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2017

Triumph’s retro-themed, ‘bobber’ style cruiser (as inspired by the ‘bobbed’, or chopped-down, ex-military surplus Harleys which proved so popular in post-WW2 America), is based on a detuned Bonneville 1200 engine but with a bespoke low seat frame that still delivers signature Triumph excellent handling.

Launched as the Bonneville Bobber with a 19-inch front wheel, it was joined in 2018 by the 16-inch, ‘balloon’-tyred Bobber Black, which in turn replaced it as the Bonneville Bobber in 2021. 

The 2018 Triumph Speedmaster

Triumph Speedmaster 2018

The Triumph Speedmaster is effectively a twin seat version of the Bonneville Bobber, which only comes with a single seat. As such, it’s a US-targeted, cruiser version of the Bonneville roadster using a detuned version of the 1200cc engine with fat tyres, low seat and more laid-back attitude.

Apart from the pillion/luggage provision, there’s cruise and traction control riding modes, while a 2021 update brought a Euro5-compliant engine, new forks and saddle.

A limited edition Triumph America

Triumph America/Speedmaster 2002-2016

Hinckley Triumph’s original America and its Speedmaster sister model were launched in 2002 as US cruiser style variants of its revived Bonneville.

The America was the more conventional cruiser with kicked out front forks and 18-/16-inch wheels, the America more of an aggressive ‘hot rod’ styling. Both were more convincingly styled in a major 2011 update.

The 2019 Triumph Scrambler 1200

Triumph Scrambler 1200 2019

Triumph’s latest premium-specification, ‘big-engined’ Bonneville-based 2019 Scrambler 1200 was launched in two forms, the more road-orientated ‘XC’ and more hardcore, off-road and genuinely dirt capable ‘XE’ with longer travel suspension and more high spec components. 

Both are extremely capable bikes that just happen to have retro styling. They were updated for Euro5 in 2021 and the XE has even featured in the James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ and in Guy Martin’s TV reincarnation of Steve McQueen’s jump from The Great Escape.

The 2017 Triumph Street Scrambler

Triumph Street Scrambler/Scrambler 900 2017

The Triumph Street Scrambler, which was renamed the Scrambler 900 in 2023, is both the British firm’s ‘second generation’, all-new successor to its original 2006 Scrambler and is also the smaller, more basic, 900cc junior version to the Scrambler 1200 – all being derived from the Bonneville retro roadster. 

As such, it’s essentially a 900cc Bonneville T100 but with classic scrambler features such as an upswept exhaust, semi-knobbly tyres, larger 19-inch front wheel, wider trail handlebars and other cosmetic differences. As with the other 900s, power was improved from 54 to 64bhp in 2019, while the 2021 Street Scrambler was Euro5 compliant and renamed two years later. 

The 2006 Triumph Scrambler 900

Triumph Scrambler 900 2006-2016

One of the best of Triumph’s early Bonneville variants, the original 2006 Scrambler 900 was a trail-style variant of the Bonneville roadster inspired by the Steve McQueen-era early 1960s Triumph TR6 Trophy.

Accordingly, it gained higher trail bars, a larger 19-inch front wheel (both making it slightly roomier than the Bonneville), the latest 865cc engine and impressively authentic styling. 

Further improved with fuel injection and a larger tank in 2008, it proved so successful it helped spawn a new fashion for retro scramblers. Triumph created limited edition versions including the 2011 Steve McQueen Edition and the Triumph Scrambler lives on today as a three-bike family of its own.

The Triumph Thruxton R

Triumph Thruxton 1200 2016

The café racer-inspired Triumph Thruxton has evolved to become the most powerful, sophisticated and exotic of all the bikes in the Triumph Bonneville family. After the original, 2003 version, Triumph completely reworked the Thruxton when it launched its all-new Bonneville family in 2016. It got the most potent ‘high torque’ 96bhp version of the new 1200cc engine, racy low bars and extended tank and came in two versions: a ‘base’ version and an upspecced Thruxton ‘R’ with Brembo radial brakes, Showa inverted forks and Ohlins twin rear shocks. Both went and handled almost like a super naked – but with added retro style.

Both were replaced in by the even more potent 103bhp 2020 Thruxton RS, with lighter components and new Brembo M50 brakes.

The 2003 Triumph Thruxton 900

Triumph Thruxton 900 2003-2015

Triumph’s first model variant of its new 2001 Bonneville 800 was a fairly natural one – a ‘60s Rockers inspired café racer called the Triumph Thruxton – and also one of the most successful.

One-piece drop bars and a seat hump delivered the café racer look, an enlarged 865cc version of the 790cc parallel twin gave a little more power – 69bhp. But although hardly transformed or particularly fast, it was good-looking, fun to ride and affordable.

Fuel injection came in 2008 when production moved to Thailand and a few special editions, including the 2015 ‘Ace’, maintained interest until the all-new 2016 versions arrived.

The 2017 Triumph Street Cup

Triumph Street Cup 2017-2019

The Street Cup was launched in 2017 as the affordable, junior Bonneville café racer (next to the new Thruxton 1200) and as the spiritual successor to the old Thruxton 900.

As such its powered by the 54bhp, 900cc version of the new Bonneville parallel twin engine and has a fairly basic spec intended to keep prices down. Even so, its racy style is appealing and it’s accessible and affordable, although it wasn’t the success hoped for and was dropped in 2019. 

2021 Triumph Speed Twin

Triumph Speed Twin 1200 2019

The Triumph Speed Twin – a revival of a famous 1936 model name – is the ‘street sleeper’ of the British marque’s Bonneville Modern Classic range. 

Effectively a Bonneville T120 but with the engine and uprated chassis of the Thruxton 1200, it has the more upright comfort and sedate style of the retro roadster but with nearly all of the performance of the café racer. The 2021 Speed Twin was improved further with new USD forks, grippier tyres and uprated brakes.

The 2016 Triumph Street Twin 900

Triumph Street Twin/Speed Twin 900 2016

The Street Twin was introduced in 2016 as the most affordable, entry-level model in Triumph’s all-new Bonneville range. As such it has the lower performance, 54bhp 900cc engine and fairly basic chassis including cast wheels, although its output was increased to 64bhp with the 2019 Street Twin, which also received a few other updates including improved brakes and rider modes.

For 2022 it was renamed the Speed Twin 900 and, although not as cheap as it once was, it is also conspicuously higher-quality with a special ‘Chrome edition’ also offered. 

What to expect from the next Triumph Bonneville

As the heart of Triumph’s best-selling ‘Modern Classics’ family, the Bonneville is certain to remain a Triumph mainstay for years to come with repeated cosmetic and technical updates likely in the future.

Special limited edition versions prompted by events such as The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride have become almost annual occurrences, while the recent Chrome editions are a great example of how Triumph continue to make the Bonneville stand out from the crowd.