Form over function, style over substance – these words can pretty much be used for most retro styled motorcycles these days, with manufacturers feeding the trend for nostalgia, and charging you a pretty penny for it. Of late, Triumph Motorcycles, the eponymous British brand, has been going great guns with its “Modern Classics” range.
The latest addition to its stable of British steel is the 2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black, at RM74,900, excluding GST. Oh no, not yet another retro bike, you say. Have we not had enough, you cry.
Well, as a wise man once said, the correct number of motorcycles to own is n plus one, and we now have a Bobber variant in the Triumph catalogue. The one nice thing about motorcycle engines is that they tend to lend themselves to a variety of installations.
In the case of the Bobber Black, the rider effectively has a “custom” motorcycle straight out the box, as it were. No welding or cutting, no trial fitting, no sourcing components, everything fits from the get-go.
But is a Bonneville Bobber what you want? Triumph Malaysia did not actually give us this bike for review, but let’s just say we’ve spent enough time on it during various occasions to make it so.
Now, some bike purists might bemoan the availability of a “custom” motorcycle directly from the manufacturer. We’ve spoken about this before, but, for the majority of riders in today’s online, interconnected world, well, nobody has time for that.
This is simultaneously both sad and welcome because it means a random rider can have the bike they want with a minimum of fuss and bother. And, for some, the answer is the Bonneville Bobber Black.
Getting the numbers out of the way, what you get is a the classic Triumph parallel-twin, displacing 1,200 cc, with 76 hp at 6,100 rpm and 106 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. As can be surmised from the numbers, the Bobber Black is torque-happy, and shows this by eagerly shooting forward every time the ride-by-wire throttle is whacked open.
Styling is very minimalist on the Bobber Black, which, as its name suggests, comes with blacked out everything, from the engine save the cooling fins, to the spoked wheels. While the Bobber Black carries over the “floating” seat pan from the first model Bobber, some major changes have been made to the Black.
Giving the Bobber Black a bulky front profile are the 47 mm diameter Showa telescopic forks, an increase of 6 mm over the Bobber’s 41 mm KYB units. Wheel size has also changed, the Black running a 16-inch front wheel with a 130/90 tyre compared to the 19-inch hoop and 100/90 rubber on the Bobber.
Feedback from Bobber riders that the bike was a little under braked was taken into account by Triumph. For the Bobber Black, it sports twin 310 mm diameter brake discs in front clamped by Brembo two-piston calipers, against the single unit with Nissin calliper on the the Bobber.
Suspension, braking and rear wheel specifications for both the Bobber Black and Bobber are identical, a KYB monoshock with 77 mm of travel and single 255 mm diameter disc grabbed by a Nissin single-piston calliper, mounted on a 16-inch spoked wheel. ABS is, of course, standard equipment.
Settling down into the low 690 mm seat, the rider’s feet are placed on mid-mounted controls, giving a fairly relaxed “sit-up-and-beg” posture, with hands placed on the flat 760 mm handlebars and torso leaning slightly forward. The seating position places the rider’s upright and is suitable for cruising and dealing with urban traffic.
That the Bobber Black is designed for city cruising is a given, due to the nature of its design. We would hesitate to call it a “Bangsar Bike” though, because there is enough character in that twin to make the Bobber Black somewhat… interesting.
Clicking the six-speed gearbox into first, engagement is positive but needs a firm foot. Lever throw is reasonable wearing engineer boots but we would recommend giving lightweight sneakers a miss unless you want to quickly tear a hole in the shoe.
Setting off on the Bobber Black, clutch lever effort was light with the Torque-Assist clutch and plate engagement was linear, making the bike easy to control. Acceleration was swift but not quick – you don’t rush the Bobber Black through the paces.
Instead, you gradually increase the throttle to the 5,000 rpm or so point on the rev range, snap the clutch in and then let it out progressively. This lets you enjoy the torque of the engine as it builds up speed.
Out on the highway, the Bobber Black would move, and move well. Suspension action was acceptable but on rough roads, the short rear wheel travel limited the amount of compliance available in soaking up the bumps and ruts.
Notching back a little on the right wrist, the Bobber Black quickly settled into a smooth highway cruise of about 130 km/h, the engine turning over just shade over 3,000 rpm. The Black felt most relaxed in this mode, and quickly swallowed up the miles.
Which is not the only thing it swallowed. Fuel for the Bobber Black is carried in a 9.0-litre tank. Not a lot, considering how huge it looks physically from the outside, and this gave us some 160 km in range before the little amber warning came on.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, giving the rider a little time to stretch out while fuelling. The seat is somewhat limited in the number of positions it can give the rider, with the butt basically placed in a saddle pan.
While not being terribly uncomfortable, we felt a little pressure on the hip bones after an hour or so. This means having to ride to the bike, rather than pressing it into multi-mile epics.
The tank capacity would not allow it anyway. So, if riding into more remote regions, plan your fuel stops and rest breaks carefully.
After some time on the highways, we took the Bobber Black into our usual test route up the hill. Handling on the Bobber Black was nice within its envelope, keeping it at about 100 km/h or so diving into corners.
Riders should take note ground clearance on the Bobber Black is at a premium, with the pegs grounding out readily even at moderate angles of lean. The exhaust pipes on the left or right would follow shortly after, and will leave the rider on his or her ear.
To get the best cornering performance on the Bobber Black, take the classic cornering line – outside-in entry, clip the apex and out again. Take care to keep a steady speed throughout, the Bobber Black is not a big fan of point-and-squirt throttle action with its 237 kg dry weight not liking being thrown about too much.
Instead, stick the gearbox in fifth, let the torque of the twin carry the Bobber Black in and out of the corner, and you can enjoy the scenery along the way. As a solo setup, like the Bobber, riding the Bobber Black means it is you and your thoughts inside the helmet but Triumph does have you covered with the two-seat Speedmaster, if you feel so inclined.
The rest of the fit out on the Bobber is sparse, but enough. Inside the cockpit is a single multi-function pod with analogue speedometer and a smaller LCD panel displaying the rest of the necessary information, plus the Road and Rain ride modes along with the switchable traction control.
Up front an LED headlight with LED DRLs can be found, bringing the Bobber Black up to date. An added rider convenience is cruise control, activated and controlled with a single button.
So, who needs a 2018 Triumph Bobber Black? At this price point and engine capacity, the obvious competitor is the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight, priced at RM93,761, with ABS an option while omitting traction control and ride modes.
As a cruiser, the Bobber Black will do short trips around the city and between towns with ease. Longer trips will need a little planning ahead for fuel stops but given the cruising nature of the Bobber Black, this need not be a negative, making this machine suitable for the rider who takes the time to smell the roses and enjoy the ride.