Triumph Bobber Black is retro sleek

Triumph Motorcycles has made a corporate decision to stop making its large cruiser bikes, like the Thunderbird, Rocket III and America, in favor of expanding its "Modern Classics" built around the Bonneville line. With Triumph's post-World War II Bonneville styling, combined with updated and modern technology, the company has created some outstanding motorcycles.

Triumph sells eight versions, with a couple of different models within some of them, so there is a Bonneville for everyone.

One variant, the Bobber, is reminiscent of the café-style bikes that would race around London, from café to café, during the 1950s and '60s trying to reach 100 mph (or "doing the ton" as they called it) to see who could complete a route the fastest.

Bonneville Bobber Black

The new Bobber became Triumph's best-selling model. Now there's even a more potent Bobber: the Black. A recent trip to my friends at Woodstock Triumph had me salivating over the newest model, so they set me up with a Bonneville Bobber Black for a test ride. It didn't disappoint.

Outside of the obvious black color, there are many upgrades and weight-saving measures to make the Black a real hooligan on the street.

A 1,200-cubic-centimeter, liquid-cooled, single overhead camshaft, parallel-Twin engine with four valves per cylinder and a 270-degree firing interval is the heart of the Black. This engine puts out more grunt than a Bonneville T120.

Horsepower is rated at 77 at 6,100 rotations per minute, and monster torque of 78.2 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm. With only 524 pounds to push around, the Black is a powerful bike that will get your pulse up while riding down the road.

Bonneville Bobber Black

The power is delivered smoothly with a linear power band that comes on at low rpm and pulls nicely all the way up to the redline at 6,900 revs. For aggressive rides, keep the tachometer needle above 4 grand and you will be rewarded.

Modern electronics offer two riding modes, for Wet and Dry, so all that torque won't get you into trouble when the road gets slick. And the traction control can be turned off if you wish.

The power gets to the pavement via a slick-shifting six-speed gearbox with a torque-assist clutch and a precise ride-by-wire throttle. Everything feels well sorted, and when riding aggressively, the slipper clutch comes in handy for aggressive downshifts.

You also get a great sound from dual slash-cut pipes. Low and grumbly at idle, when you crank it hard you get to a delightful full song, until you reach speed and back off the throttle.

One of the Bobber Black's upgrades is a beefy front, nonadjustable, 47-millimeter Showa cartridge fork with 3.5 inches of travel. A nonadjustable mono-shock with 3 inches of travel is hidden beneath the floating solo seat. Ride quality is firm but not harsh, and the Black soaks up some hard bumps and bad pavement without getting upset.

With increased "go," you need more "whoa." The Black features large, 310-millimeter, dual disc brakes, with two-piston Brembo calipers. Also, instead of a 19-inch front tire, the Black has a chubby 16-incher shod with 130/90-16 tires in front and a 150/80-16 Avon Cobra out back.

Bonneville Bobber Black

The brakes are excellent, with an adjustable-for-reach lever (like the clutch). You need a firm squeeze for initial bite, and then increased pressure slows the bike quite nicely, with good feel. The large contact patch up front adds to braking performance and stability. Anti-lock braking is standard.

One thing to remember is this Bobber Black is a sport cruiser, rather than a true sport bike. You'll know that because the lean angle is more cruiser-like, and very aggressive riding will cause the foot pegs to scrape ground before the suspension runs out of capability. But the Black's handling is very sporty and it feels light and athletic and will handle the twisties confidently.

The ergonomics suited me very well and provides a comfortable, upright riding position. The seat height is a very low 27.2 inches, great for an inseam-challenged rider like me, and it adjusts about an inch forward or back. The seat is comfortable but not designed for riders to move or adjust positions. The reach to the bars is very comfortable and offers good leverage to push it into the turns. The bar-end mirrors could offer a better look behind you, however.

Unusual for a bike like this is the standard cruise control. Just push a button to activate the system, and another push to set your speed. Another push will cancel the cruise, or a touch of either brake or throttle also shuts it off.

There is a single, round dial with LCD digital tach. A button toggles through dual tripmeters, clock, average miles per gallon, etc. The rain or road mode is controlled by another switch on the hand grip. There is also a flash-to-pass button. Alas, the turn signals are not self-cancelling.

The small tank holds only 2.4 gallons, so cruising range is limited. In relaxed cruising, you can expect around 50 miles per gallon, and low 40s when riding hard.

Fit and finish is what you'd expect from a Triumph. The paint is flawless. The necessary wires are well routed to hide as many as possible. With the throttle bodies disguised to look like carbs, the rear brakes made to look like a drum, plus the hardtail look for the rear suspension, the front fork gaiters and the bar end mirrors, these visuals all work together for that throwback, retro style.

And Triumph has a huge accessory catalog to outfit this bike to make it your own.

The Triumph Bobber Black sells for $13,150 and another $250 for the Matte Black paint. For that price you get a comfortable, sporty, retro performance cruiser with very nice amenities, and a lot of attitude. It will do double duty as a daily commuter and a weekend hooligan.

Stop in for a test ride at Woodstock Triumph, or Windy City Triumph in St. Charles.

• Email Glassman at

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