Triumph Thruxton R vs Bobber

It's the battle of the Bonnies

NOW then, they might seem less than natural rivals, one being a café racer and the other a bobber - but bear with us.

Because the Bobber gave journalists a surprise on the launch ride late last year.

At the first photo stop, after about 45 minutes’ riding, people said stuff like this: “Wow, that handles. I wasn’t expecting that.”

And by the end of the day, people were saying stuff like this: “Do you know what? I think I actually prefer that to the Thruxton R.”

Good as the Thruxton R is, there it was: the Bobber might be better, some said.

But not everyone agreed – and no doubt some of you have had the same debate. So we thought we’d settle it with a road test.

We brought along a special-guest road tester too, in the shape of one Charley Boorman, of Long Way Down and Long Way Round fame (that's him on the right in the main picture, while the bloke failing to look cool in his p**s-pot lid is the Editor, Steve Farrell). Because Charley’s got a Thruxton R, you see.

For his view you’ll have to wait for our video of the road test, which will follow imminently.

For now, here’s Visordown’s…

Engine

One of the things that gives the Thruxton R its irresistible appeal is its spread of torque, with plenty low-down in the range. Combined with the traditional air-cooled feel the engine manages to emulate, along with the satisfying exhaust note, it makes it a challenge not to ride the Thruxton R as fast as you can at all times.

So it’s a surprise to jump from it to the Bobber and find that it’s even stronger low down in the range. Given that it makes significantly less peak power and torque than the Thruxton R, you might wonder what you’re getting in return for the sacrifice, and of course this is it: more bottom-end punch. Just a twitch of the throttle and an overtake is done with a ‘baarp’, making you feel like Arnie squeezing past the lorry in T2. It’s just as delicious rolling out of corners. But of course it runs out steam where the Thruxton R surges on to a much stronger top-end.

That’s why the Bobber’s version of the 1200cc twin has an ‘HT’ on it, standing for ‘high torque, while the Thruxton R’s says ‘HP’ for ‘high power’.

Handling

Probably the thing that surprises most about the Bobber is its handling. It looks like a lump of cruiser that’s going to corner as well as a king-sized bed in a narrow hallway. But in fact it loves corners. The pegs touch down, but not too soon, and when they do it adds to the fun. They’re not as far out in front as on some cruisers, so the position feels like a more natural one for pushing on.

But jumping from it to the Thruxton R makes you realise that it is still a cruiser. The more prone riding position of the Thruxton R puts you much more in touch with the front end, instilling the confidence to push harder.

The Bobber handles really well for a cruiser. The Thruxton R just handles really well.

Suspension

And this could be the key to Bobber’s surprisingly good handling. With higher-spec components, the Thruxton R should feel much better suspended than the Bobber. In practice the Bobber feels about 90% as good.

On the launch, Triumph said the fact the Bobber is designed to never to carry a pillion has allowed the shock to have less travel than it would otherwise need, and this could be the explanation – there isn’t enough travel for excessive rebound. In fact sometimes you can feel the shock reach full extension with a jolt. It feels taut. 

Brakes

Here the Bobber begins to fall short, with its single front disc compared to the Thruxton R's two. In town, when a car did something unexpected, the Bobber’s set-up felt low on power. If you brake with two fingers, you’ll want them to be near the end of the lever.

The Thruxton R’s four-piston radial Brembo calipers in contrast are exceptional, with masses of bite and feel.

Equipment

Both have riding modes but the Bobber only gets two – Road and Rain – while the Thruxton R also has Sport.

Both also have switchable traction control and of course ABS.

The Thruxton R has a much nicer dash; twin chrome-framed clocks compared to the Bobber's single clock with a black plastic surround.

But Bobber does benefit from adjustable ergonomics. The seat slides backward and forward by the undoing of a bolt, and the clock tilts to ensure it’s still readable.

That seat’s surprisingly comfortable too. Although it’s firm, it's also bum-shaped. Neither bike is made for the long haul but the Bobber is the one that will stay comfortable for longest, with its upright riding position.

We like

Both machines benefit from very nice styling detailing. You will find yourself looking at the metal Triumph badge riveted to the back of the Bobber’s seat. Likewise the polished top yoke of the Thruxton R. And that engine! Both sound terrific too.

We don't like

Oh but come on! Keep it up. Look at those black plastic indicators. And what is that hideous, incongruous tail light unit stuck on the Bobber’s rear mudguard. It’s like a historical continuity error in a bad film.

Probably it’s to motivate people to buy better looking parts from Triumph’s extensive accessory range.

But what do you do about the handlebar switchgear? Both have switches that could have come from any modern motorcycle.

CLICK NEXT FOR OUR VERDICT

Verdict   

Okay, were going to come clean. This was a bit of a silly comparison. One is a café racer, the other a bobber, so it’s a bit like comparing a fork to a spoon.

But if you are deciding between the two, as we’re sure some people will be, here’s what you need to know: if you want to go fastest, the Thuxton R is the one for you. Any day.

But if you want to feel like you’re riding a bike faster than it should have any right to go, your proximity to the ground enhancing the sense of speed, then it’s the Bobber.

Model tested: Triumph Thruxton R

Price: £12,200

Engine: 1200cc liquid-cooled eight-valve SOHC parallel-twin

Power: 97hp @ 6,750rpm

Torque: 82.6lbft @ 4,950rpm

Dry weight: 203kg (Thruxton 206kg)

Frame: tubular steel cradle, aluminium swing-arm

Suspension: Showa 43mm USD big piston forks, fully adjustable with 120mm travel. Fully adjustable Öhlins twin shocks with piggyback reservoir and 120mm rear wheel travel. (Thruxton: Kayaba 41mm cartridge forks, 120mm travel; Kayaba twin shocks with adjustable preload, 120mm rear wheel travel)

Brakes: Brembo twin 310mm floating front discs and Brembo four-piston radial monobloc calipers. Single 220mm rear disc with two-piston Nissin caliper, ABS as standard (Thruxton: twin 310mm front discs with two-piston Nissin calipers, single 220mm disc rear disc with two-piston Nissin caliper, ABS as standard)

Tyres: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsas, 120/70-17 front, 160/60-17 rear (Thruxton: Pirelli Angel GTs)

Seat height: 810mm (Thruxton 805mm)

Fuel capacity: 14.5 litres

Colours: red, silver, matt black (Thruxton: black, white, green)

Model tested: Triumph Bobber

Price: £10,600

Engine: 1200cc liquid-cooled eight-valve SOHC parallel-twin

Power: 77hp @ 6,100rpm

Torque: 78lbft @ 4,000rpm

Dry weight: 228kg

Frame: tubular steel cradle, tubular steel swing-arm

Suspension: KYB 41mm fork with 90mm travel, KYB mono-shock with linkage, 77mm travel.

Brakes: Single front 310mm disc with two-piston Nissin floating caliper, 255mm rear disc with single-piston Nissin floating caliper, ABS.

Tyres: Avon Cobra AV71 100/90-19 front, Avon Cobra AV72 150/80-16 rear

Seat height: 690mm in lowest position

Fuel capacity: 9.1 litres

Colours: black, red/silver, green/silver, red, ‘Ironstone’ grey

Comments

Jamo 2's picture

Both really nice rides. I've had and loved Triumphs.

Two problems with the new 1200 Bonneville I tested that run throughout the line. IMO, disfiguring tank seam and really cheap switch gear kill it. Sorry if you don't like my opinion, but that's what it is.

Steve Farrell's picture

Hi Jamo 2. The opinion's fine by us. The Bobber should definitely have a seamless tank and that switchgear could be off a Honda Integra. Not that there's anything wrong with an Integra but, you know, that's not what you want if you're buying a Bobber.