Making a good bike great
It's different they said, but at first glance we couldn't see it. Then we got up close to the 2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black
THE 2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black has had an overhaul. But at 50-paces you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the 2017 model variant, and that’s a good thing, because it already had fantastic styling.
The biggest and most easily spotted difference is the front wheel – down from 19-inch diameter to 16-inch – and fitted with a chunky 130/90 Avon Cobra tyre. At a glance this makes the front and rear wheels look almost the same size.
That change alone gives the bike a much more aggressive stance than the previous model. Further alterations at the front come in the form of fatter 47mm Showa cartridge forks that replace the smaller and slightly lower-spec 41mm KYBs of the standard bike.
The Black also benefits from twin 310mm discs, which are equipped with Brembo two-piston calipers. The new bike also features a very cool looking LED daytime riding light that is permanently on; it’s a nice touch that lifts the front end.
Styling wise it still looks great. The black paint and that fat front tyre completely change the look of the bike; it’s more aggressive and suits a younger, edgier and more urban rider, perfect for the current boom in café-racer culture and custom bikes.
The Black has coated black engine casings, air-box cover, fuel-tank and mudguards. The only brushed metal is the cooling fins on the head and some tiny engine details. Almost everything is, you guessed it; black.
The engine covers, exhausts, handlebars, foot controls, levers, risers and wheels hubs have all been blacked-out. Yes, even the gearshift linkage and the aluminium seat pan have gone midnight.
A couple of parts have selectively been left alone, to add just the right amount of contrast. As for that 9-litre tank and the fenders, you’ve got two choices: the base model jet black gloss, or the slightly more costly matte jet black as tested.
It’s priced from $21,790 plus on-roads by the way. But what’s it like to ride? The ergonomics are exactly the same as the previous Bobber. Triumph have left the drag-style bars, mid-mounted pegs and solo seat exactly where they are.
That non-change makes perfect sense as it’s actually already a surprisingly comfortable ride. There’s a few changes to the cockpit though, with the left switch gear now including a cruise control button, while the headlight is LED now too.
The cruise control is a basic setup; hit the button to activate it, then hit it again to set your speed. Tap it once more or grab the throttle or brake, and it’s off.
The Bobber’s analogue/digital combo speedo, and the amount of info that it packs in, including a fuel gauge, gear position indicator and consumption info, is great, and the adjustable levers, slick bar-end mirrors and easy-to-use switches are all huge advantages.
The engine is more potent than the T1200 it replaces, with the 1200cc HT engine up 10 per cent for power and torque delivering 106Nm of heady torque and 77hp. As you dial the motor up, you can definitely feel and hear that peak torque kick in.
Even though we’d love to hear the Bobber with the optional Vance & Hines cans, the stock setup delivers an addictive growl. More importantly, unleashing that torque makes shooting off the line or firing the Bobber out of corners an absolute pleasure.
There is a lot of tech here for an ‘old-school’ bike, but you really can’t fault any of it. The ride-by-wire throttle is responsive, the torque-assist clutch is feather light and the ratios through the six-speed box are damn near perfect.
The rider aids also do little to detract from the Bobber’s retro feel. You don’t notice the traction control until you switch it off (which can only be done when stationary) and really abuse the throttle.
You can also switch between ‘Road’ and ‘Rain’ modes on the fly, which are both full power; ‘Rain’ just smooths out the delivery. ABS is standard, and behaved well during a couple of hard brake checks.
The Black, as we came to nickname it, really turns in quick and holds its line well, although it suffers from the same ground clearance woes as before. You can kiss your pegs goodbye.
The Avon tires are grippy and predictable, and the 47mm Showa forks feel planted and precise. The overall suspension setup feels pretty stiff, which is great for hustling the bike through corners. But it can punish your back a bit on longer stretches of bad tarmac.
The twin Brembo brake setup is a massive improvement. But it’s not just the raw stopping power on the Black that’s impressive; it’s the way you can shave speed off quickly with just a subtle squeeze of the lever. That upgrade alone is worth the price of admission.
The Bobber Black transformed from back road blaster to urban runabout, with zero complaints. At 237 kilos dry, it’s content shuffling along at town pace. It’s an extremely well engineered bike and a cool ride, and although it’s single-minded it’s also remarkably versatile.
Our test bike was supplied by Triumph Motorcycles Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black, contact your local Triumph Motorcycles Australia dealer. This article was first published on Exhaust Notes Australia.