'Old-school' Triumph with modern perks

Posted4/23/2017 6:00 AM
  • Prices for the 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 start at $11,500.

    Prices for the 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 start at $11,500. Photos Courtesy of Ken "Hawkeye" Glassman

  • The dual gauges have an LED screen for clock, gear indicator and a trip computer for distance-to-empty information.

    The dual gauges have an LED screen for clock, gear indicator and a trip computer for distance-to-empty information.

As I parked my Triumph America in front of Woodstock Triumph, I saw the new Bonneville T120 sitting outside the front door. Matthew Thrun, the general manager at Woodstock Triumph, had it all dealer-plated, gassed up and ready for me to take a test ride.

The T120 is one of the new generation of Triumph Bonneville models that also includes the Street Twin, the Scrambler, the Thruxton and Thruxton R. They are all powered by a new engine family with more torque, more immediate power delivery and a richer sound. And a new chassis and suspension design, unique to each model, offers better handling, comfort and control.

All of these new models blend thoroughly modern running gear with the styling cues from past Bonnevilles, creating a new standard for what a classic British motorcycle should be.

As soon as I threw my leg over it and sat on the flat, ironing board seat, the T120 and I were like old friends. The ergonomics felt just right: easy reach to the bars, pegs just where I like them, upright seating position and a seat (which looks like it should be uncomfortable) that felt just right.

Push the start button and the new 1,200-cubic-centimeter parallel twin fires up and quickly settles into a pleasing lope. The crank arrangement is now 270 degrees instead of the old 360 degrees for a better primary balance and a throatier sound from the pea shooter silencers and dual-walled pipes. It now sounds more like a V-Twin engine.

With an easy clutch pull, the six-speed transmission snicks into gear and I'm off. The new motor puts out 80 horsepower near the redline of 6,500 rpm, and 77 foot-pounds of torque down low at 3,100 rpm.

With electronic fuel injection, the T120 really takes off, and the power comes on smoothly all the way up to the top of the rev range. Each shift is smooth and crisp. You can be in fourth or even fifth gear, and lug the engine down below 2,000 revs, and still have plenty of torque to move ahead without needing to downshift. And with the transmission having a torque-assist feature, even ham-fisted downshifts will keep everything settled.

It's a hoot to play around with the engine in all street situations. Passing on two lanes is a breeze, as is merging onto the highway. This Bonnie moves out with the slightest twist of the ride-by-wire throttle. While cruising at 70 mph in sixth gear, the engine is loafing along at 3000 rpm, so sixth gear is only needed for highway use.

Braking chores are handled well with dual 310-millimeter front discs and Nissin two-piston calipers up front, and a single 255-millimeter disc with the two-piston caliper out back. And anti-lock braking (ABS) is there to make sure you don't lock up the wheels in slippery conditions or panic stops. Both the brake and clutch levers are adjustable for reach.

The chassis and suspension are up to the task of taking on challenging roads. Both the front and rear offer 120 millimeters travel, and the 41-millimeter cartridge forks soak up bad pavement with ease. Out back, the twin shocks with adjustable pre-load are also able to keep things composed and comfortable. Lean the Bonnie into a turn and it tracks easily without the need to correct in mid corner. There is good lean angle for clearance and the responsive power makes you want to ride aggressively.

The T120 weighs only 494 pounds (fuel dry) so the light weight and balance of the chassis makes it easy to initiate turns, and side-to-side transitions are quick and easy. The 100/90-18 front tire and the 150/70-R17 rear offer plenty of grip. So this is a nimble bike with the power to make point-and-shoot maneuvers in around-town traffic, too.

Now the T120 isn't meant to be a race bike, but any experienced aggressive rider will still get a helmet full of smiles putting this bike through its paces, and I think it would also make an entertaining mount for the occasional track day.

The round mirrors allow for good rearward vision and are rock steady at speed. The dual gauges are easy to read, and each have an LED screen for clock, gear indicator, the traction control switch (did I mention traction control for wet conditions is standard?) and it has a trip computer for distance-to-empty information. It even has heated hand grips.

The 3.8-gallon fuel tank, coupled with fuel mileage surpassing 50 miles per gallon, means you can squeeze out nearly 200 miles before you have to refuel.

Triumph makes saddlebags and windscreens for this Bonneville, and the passenger portion of the bench seat offers plenty of room to bungee another piece of luggage. This T120 can easily handle a long weekend getaway with ease and comfort.

So anyone looking for a fun, comfortable, all-around motorcycle for commuting to work, Sunday rides or the occasional overnighter should check out this motorcycle. Modern power, handling and reliability in an "old-school" styling package doesn't get better than this. Riding it kind of makes you feel like the "King of Cool," Steve McQueen. The Bonneville was his preferred street machine back in the day, and he modified Bonneville's for off-road racing, as well.

The whole Bonneville family has received dozens of awards from the motorcycling press, including Rider Magazine's Motorcycle of the Year award. The T120 starts at $11,500 with everything I've mentioned above. It's a lot of value and a lot of bike.

• Contact Glassman at KGHawkeye650@aol.com.

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