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|10-28-2015, 01:51 AM||#1|
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The Long-Awaited 2016 Triumph Bonneville is Here!
Few motorcycles are as tightly woven into our collective consciousness as the Triumph Bonneville. It was Triumph's most potent twin during the rise of motorcycle performance in the late 1950s. Although it was an evolution of the brand's parallel twins, the Bonnie captured the hearts and minds of enthusiasts like few others. It would be a desirable motorcycle even after the competition had eclipsed its actual performance. And since 2001, the Bonneville has come to be the most desirable simple roadster just aching for customization and personalization. It's fair to say that the current Bonneville line is a critical element of Triumph's success, a profitable, popular machine that may be all some enthusiasts know of this brand's lineup. It is the motorcycle that launched a thousand custom shops.
Now, 15 years after the modern Bonneville’s launch, Triumph trying to capture that magic again—or, more to the point, not trying to screw up the success of the current bike—with a fresh, all-new Bonneville built for the decades ahead. All it took was four years, an entirely new chassis, an entirely new engine family, revised styling, and a rethink of where the entry-level roadster market is going. Without the desire or, frankly, resources to redesign models every couple of years, Triumph had to get the new Bonnie right, the very first time.
2016 Triumph Bonneville Street Twin
For 2016, there are five new Bonneville models, broken down into three core groups: Street Twin entry-level bike, mid-line T120 (in two versions), and the up-spec, much-sportier Thruxton (also in two versions). The Scrambler? Triumph was surprised by the demand for the current machine and added production in 2015 to accommodate; it will continue to produce the existing bike through 2016. We weren’t shown drawings or told anything about the next Scrambler, but it’s a certainty to follow the new bikes closely, perhaps with a few new styling tweaks.
For now, all of the new Bonnevilles host larger engines so that meeting performance expectations and emissions rules (especially the new Euro 4 regs) would be just a little easier. All have new styling and better detailing. All have been built using as a backdrop the copious amount of owner feedback you get only from a decade and a half of making basically one motorcycle. All are intended to be built at the Triumph factory in Thailand, right from the start. “It’s our factory, really,” one Triumph official said. “We have no concerns about starting a new line, even with an important model, there. The prototypes were built here [in Hinckley], but all production will be out of Thailand.”
2016 Triumph Bonneville Thruxton R
Triumph is currently operating from a position of strength, having sold 54,000 motorcycles worldwide in 2014, up 12 percent year on year. According to Triumph’s Miles Perkins, “No question, the Modern Classics led the way.” Building in Thailand improves profitability, pure and simple, which makes the Bonnie’s popularity even sweeter.
The new Bonneville line, from left to right: Thruxton, Thruxton R, Street Twin, T120 Black, and T120.
Without a doubt, getting the look of the new Bonneville was one of the highest priorities. The previous bike manages to be evocative without exactly aping the original’s lines or proportions. And how could it? Today’s motorcycles are larger and heavier—something that’s immediately obvious when you park a current Bonnie next to an original, as Triumph had during the early press screening of the new model. Original Bonnies are lithe, simple, and almost wispy next to the blockier, more substantial modern version. The new Bonnie, twice the displacement of the original, could not return to that form, but it doesn’t mean Triumph didn’t try to visually lighten and simplify it.
Stuart Wood, head of engineering at Triumph, says, “We have a strong line that we can trace all the way back to 1959 and the launch of the first Bonneville. We started with a focus to build a Bonneville for the 21st century, not to create a pastiche but a real Bonneville for today that draws more from the styling DNA, particularly in the detail, to make it more beautiful. That said the Bonneville DNA we’ve carried through is not just about the details. It’s also very much about the stance and the line of the bike. One of the real challenges we faced almost every day in development was in how we packaged this equipment and capability whilst remaining true to the look and styling intent. As you can imagine there were some items we really struggled with, but the team won through in the end.”
Key styling elements remain from the previous-generation Bonneville, but in general every line has been touched, massaged into a new form without looking out of place. From the faux Amal carburetors hiding the new ride-by-wire hardware to the clever way Triumph’s stylists tried to hide the radiator for the newly liquid-cooled engine: That is, they didn’t try to. A simple, unadorned radiator takes up residence ahead of the twin down tubes—no covers, minimal piping. In fact, that’s where the genius is. By remotely locating the radiator cap and placing the coolant connections to the engine out of sight, the entire system disappears before your eyes, lost in the gleam of the header pipes, the detailing of the exhaust flanges—barely hiding twin oxygen sensors, very near the ports—and other brightwork.
Styling mimics classic Bonnies. Note the Amal-style covers on the ride-by-wire fuel injection.
Special mention for the new exhaust system. While the pipes appear to make an unbroken run from the heads to the reverse-megaphone mufflers, in fact they come together just ahead of the lower engine cases to feed a catalyst/expansion box. Flow then comes out of the canister and continues aft to the mufflers, their routing obscured by heat shields. Unless you know where to look, you might not even see the catalyst.
In myriad other ways, Triumph clung to a familiar profile while updating the motorcycle under it. For example, consumer research says seat height is a primary concern, so the new models have been narrowed at the seat/tank junction and the frames carefully altered to place the rider closer to the ground, all without breaking up the traditional seat/bar/peg relationship or making the sleek stamped-steel tanks look too humpbacked.
ENGINE OF CHANGE
Triumph didn’t need radical solutions to advance the Bonneville’s powertrain. For the vast majority of its customers, the air-/oil-cooled parallel-twin engine’s modest output, which put torque production over sheer horsepower, was sufficient. With a pair of basic configurations, one with a 360-degree crank and the other with a 270-degree arrangement, there were different personalities for the platforms involved. A smoother engine could be had with the 360-degree crank—where the crankpins rode right next to each other—and one with more texture came from the 270-degree design, where the crankpins were offset by 90 degrees.
Slim cylinder fins near the base mimic classic Bonneville styling. Rest assured, though; it's a modern, liquid-cooled engine under all that.
In designing the new engine, Triumph’s engineers listened to the market, which said that given a choice we’d all prefer the 270-degree layout, so all three versions of the new engine are that way. Of course, with torque production a key design feature, displacement grew. The base engine is a 900cc design, distinct from the 1,200cc variant used in the other four models.
Wood again: “As it’s been over 10 years since the last model was launched and legislation has moved on considerably—notably Euro 4—we saw this as a great opportunity to develop the Bonneville and make it better in every way. One key part of this was working hard to package a new 1,200cc engine into a very similar space to the old 900cc engine and to keep that Bonneville ‘look’ on all of the bikes, maintaining the basic line of the bike, especially where the tank runs through to the seat—we didn’t want bigger Bonnevilles.”
With that in mind, the engine is noticeably more compact, especially the cylinders, one key advantage of liquid-cooling. In order to maintain the right look, though, the cylinders are still heavily finned, which also assists cooling. Hidden in the cases of all three versions are a new six-speed gearbox (still chain final drive), a slip/assist clutch (still cable operated), twin counterbalancers, and a hybrid cam drive with a central chain running up to idler gears, which then drive the twin cams. While the engine qualifies as “all new,” it’s a familiar kind of new.
Low-profile cam covers embrace twin overhead cams that operate four valves per cylinder. Yep, just like the old Bonnie.
For the Bonneville line, all the versions benefit from improved performance, with an emphasis on torque. “On a modern classic it’s all about having lots of torque and the character of the riding experience,” Triumph engineer Rob says. (Triumph won’t give us his surname, saying that only chief engineers get the honor. But we wonder: Do they have witness protection in the UK?) “On the Street Twin with the new 900 engine, we’ve got 18 percent more torque than on the previous Bonneville. This comes in much lower down and is higher across the whole rev range, which makes the Street Twin feel more exciting and lively.” Compared to the 2015 Bonnie, which makes 50 pound-feet of torque, the new one should make 59 at the crank.
But that’s just the beginning. The top four models get larger versions of the new twin in two states of tune. The more “civilised” T120 gets a boost of just more than 50 percent, meaning 75 pound-feet max (again, at the crank) from an engine just 40 percent larger. Where the Street Twin uses a single-throttle ride-by-wire system, the 1,200cc engines get paired intakes and other (undisclosed) changes to engine tune. “The extra torque makes for a very strong ride. You can stay in high gear longer; you can just roll on the throttle. It’s got all the oomph you need,” Engineer Rob says.
We’re salivating for the up-spec Thruxton, also a 1200, that benefits from a higher compression ratio, freer-flowing airbox, and different RBW mapping. So says Engineer Rob, “Basically, it means that we’ve taken mass and inertia out of the crankshaft and out of other components through the driveline. In turn, this means that the engine is more responsive, it will rev and ‘blip’ quicker, and you’ll get up to speed more quickly.” It’s also more powerful, delivering 55 percent more torque than the previous Thruxton, putting it at 79 pound-feet at peak. If we read the tea leaves correctly and the bike keeps 80 percent of its peak torque near the power peak, we’re looking at better than 80 hp, quite the jump up from the current bike’s 68 hp.
“The increase in responsiveness is a function of the ride by wire, engine mapping, and the tuning combined, and on the 1200s selectable rider modes dictate the throttle response,” Rob says. “What we were aiming for was to achieve a really fun and responsive engine character for the Street Twin engine, a sharper and more immediate feel for the Thruxton engines, and a more refined behavior for the Bonneville T120 and T120 Black.”
No one ever accused the old Bonneville of having a state-of-the-art chassis. In fact, it was considered conservative back when the original “modern” Bonnie arrived in 2001 and hasn’t grown any more advanced over time. There was, naturally, a good reason for the design emphasis, which was simply to preserve as much of the 1960s Bonneville profile as could be done. Forget about an aluminum-beam frame and single-shock rear suspension. No, the Bonnie would have—and needs to have—a simple steel-tube chassis, twin shocks, a standard fork, and as much of a recognizable silhouette as the Triumph engineers could manage while providing modern levels of chassis rigidity and up-to-date handling. Oh, and it’d be great if the frame were cheap and easy to build, given the budget nature of the whole Bonneville lineup.
Stuart Wood says that “the way we all viewed [chassis development] as a team was that, just because the new bike has classic styling, it certainly shouldn’t be compromised in how we developed the chassis. From the chassis’ dynamics point of view, we targeted the character, feel, and performance we wanted for each of the five new Bonneville models—especially to get that agility that we’re famous for and to get the neutrality and stability that riders want.”
Chassis specialist Gavin Hardman: “The chassis development absolutely had to be tailored to each model and what the bikes should be. The brief we developed for each Bonneville directed the need for more flexibility to the parts each chassis should consist of, so we could give them the separate characteristics needed to really be the bikes customers were wanting. We focused on making the Street Twin more accessible and fun and the Bonneville T120 slightly more comfortable but still neutral and usable, and with the Thruxton we aimed for a little bit more ‘edge’ in its dynamics to make it a more exciting ride, a little bit more involving.” Triumph got there by subtle changes in steering geometry, weight distribution, tire choice, wheel sizes, and suspension calibration.
FIVE BONNIES, NO WAITING
Of the five versions, the Street Twin is the low-cost alternative. (Triumph has not yet set prices, but expect the Street Twin to be competitive with the current base $8,099 Bonnie.) It’s distinguished by cast wheels, a single-disc brake up front, and simple suspension from Showa, with adjustable rear preload the only tweaking you’ll do. As with all Bonnies, though, the Street Twin comes with ride-by-wire fueling, traction control, and two-channel ABS. Chief Engineer Stuart Wood describes the Street Twin as more contemporary: “When we started work on the Street Twin, we’d already started on the Bonneville T120 and T120 Black, and we really wanted to contrast their classic looks with a more stripped-back, cleaner, and accessible motorcycle—with a smaller, more elegant fuel tank, contemporary upswept silencers, minimal body work, and single clocks.”
The 2016 Bonneville lineup, left to right: T120, T120 Black, Thruxton R, Thruxton, and Street Twin. Notice the vintage-looking Pirelli rubber on the non-Thruxton models.
Moving up from the Street Twin are the T120 twins, the T120 and T120 Black. Both get the larger 1,200cc engine and additional features, including ride modes (there are two, Road and Rain, that influence throttle response). Spoke wheels—using the same 100/90-18 and 130/80R-17 tire sizes as the current bike and the Street Twin—are stylistically different, while a second front disc adds stopping power. Calipers are the familiar twin-piston, sliding-pin devices we’ve seen for some time.
Wood again, “The T120 is definitely the most authentic of the new family—with the most direct line back to the original 1959 Bonneville, so the styling obviously has to reflect that. As such, the majority of the styling decisions were made early on: the engine proportions, the fuel tank size, the overall stance of the bike, the wheel sizes. The 1968 Bonneville, which was considered the pinnacle of the Bonneville styling line, was actually the model that influenced us most—and that’s plain to see in the peashooter exhausts, the fuel tank, where you could remove the badges and it would still be instantly recognizable as a Bonneville.” Expect the T120’s price to be close to, but likely somewhat above, the current T100, which starts at $9,300.
Without a doubt, the model that gets us going is the Thruxton, now in two distinct versions, a base and a surprisingly upscale R. Each gets an even hotter version of the 1,200cc engine, a third ride mode—Sport, Street, and Rain—plus upgraded styling and suspension. While the base Thruxton gets a Showa conventional fork and two-piston brakes, the R goes all the way, featuring Brembo Monoblock brakes riding on a Showa Big Piston Fork, while out back a pair of Öhlins shocks work on the aluminum swingarm (shared with the base Thruxton), for what we expect to be much improved ride quality and a sportier mien. What’s more, the bike now rolls on more modern rubber, a 120/70-17 front and a 160/60-17 rear, with Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIs as the OE choice. Taking an inch out of the front wheel’s diameter gives the Thruxtons more aggressive steering geometry.
Wood on the Thruxton’s styling: “The Thruxton brief was very much about evoking the spirit, attitude, and aggressive poise of the café racers more overtly and beautifully. With the iconic looks of a classic café racer and the geometry and capability of a completely modern motorcycle, we set the ambition for the Thruxton to be the most desirable modern-classic sportsbike in the world.” He’s quick to point out the Thruxton’s “polished aluminium” top triple clamp, saying, “You won’t see a top yoke on another motorcycle that’s as beautiful,” and the Monza-style filler cap replete with locking mechanism. “It’s a very direct link to the original Thruxton racers.”
For this introduction, Triumph invited a few journalists to visit with the factory techs and see the bikes in advance of their general release. From that experience, we can say that the styling of the new Bonnies is even better than they appear in photos, where the side-on shots tends to emphasize the tank seam. Even these, as pre-production models, had excellent fit and finish, smooth paint, delightful details, and a totally finished appearance about them.
Triumph invited a handful of journalists to the factory for an early preview of the new Bonnevilles. The company's engineering staff was, as they say, chuffed at the styling and proud of the development effort that went into them.
The MC EIC, sampling the new Bonnie, probably making "vroom vroom" noises in his head.
Moreover, Triumph allowed us to sit on and start a couple of them. The new engine sounds great and, especially in the Thruxton trim, feels really responsive. Vibration, at least as much as we can test by blipping the throttle in neutral, seems very well controlled. From the saddle, the Bonnies feel tight and compact, with relaxed riding position on the Street Twin and T120 and a none-too-aggressive slouch over the long fuel tank of the Thruxton.
We’re more than eager to get our hands on the new Bonneville, especially the up-spec Thruxton R, which looks to not only update the model technically without becoming too far removed from its roots but also dramatically extend the machine’s performance capabilities. Cool looking and potentially a hoot to ride: Where do we sign?
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