Something I’ve always believed is that company-made café racers are somewhat of a misnomer. The whole point of a café racer is to take a production bike, strip it down, add lightness, make it go faster and do it all yourself in your garage. But the idea of mass production versions of these shed-built machines is something that has gotten into the heads of few bike makers, and it’s an idea that’s here to stay. Generally, I wouldn’t be too excited about one of these motorcycles, but ever since it was unveiled last year, Triumph’s new Thruxton R has sent me off on quite the tizzy. So riding the motorcycle through the winding hill roads near Cascais, Portugal is just what the doctor ordered to calm my nerves.
Just like the Thruxton before it, this is the café racer version of the Bonneville. But now that the new Bonneville range includes the larger engine T120 (with a 1,200cc parallel twin no less), it served as the perfect platform to get an extra bit of dash out of the Thruxton. And in its ‘R’ specification, this new bike comes with some top-notch equipment that can even put a few modern sportsbikes to shame.
A classic round headlamp, twin analogue instrument pods, aluminium bar end mirrors, a slim sculpted tank with a ‘Monza’ style filler cap, single seat with a cowl-like tail, all riding on 17-inch wire spoke wheels – this café racer looks more authentically classic than ever before. Then there are those twin throttle bodies designed to look like a pair or carburettors, bits of gold detailing around the engine, brushed metal crank covers, new mudguards and a centre panel that really make this bike look like a 1960s racing motorcycle made using 21st century metallurgy and technology.
As mentioned before, the Thruxton R gets the same larger capacity engine as the T120. But unlike the T120’s ‘High Torque’ specification, the Thruxton’s motor is designated ‘HP’ for ‘High Power’. Though the dimensions of the engine remain the same, the boffins at Triumph have been able to bump the compression up from 10.0:1 to 11.0:1 on the Thruxton, and lighten the engine components by a fair bit. The end result is a freer revving motor that can spin at up to about 500rpm more. Peak power is now bumped up to 96bhp and even peak torque is higher than the T120 with 11.4kgm. The engine sounds properly sporty too, thanks to its two upswept reverse cone megaphone exhausts.
Given the motor’s ability to make over 10kgm of torque barely past 2,000rpm, pootling around at slow speeds is a breeze. From that point on, as you open the taps, there is a steady increase of torque when the bike really begins to hustle. Cracking the “ton” (100mph or 160kph) barely takes any time, but honestly, this isn’t a bike built with top speeds in mind; it’s all about the riding experience.
All what the motor does would be for nought if a café racer can’t deliver on what it’s supposed to do best – handling. And just by the looks of the bike, it was clear that Triumph was serious about delivering on this aspect. Triumph’s chassis engineering guru pointed out, there was a lot of work put into the chassis to deliver the best possible handling package without going out and actually making a modern-day sportsbike. The T120’s frame was tightened and its wheelbase was reduced for the Thruxton. The sub-frame assembly too was revised to make for a slightly increased seat height to assist in the more aggressive riding posture. With all the structural changes, the dry weight has come down from 224kg on the T120 to just 203kg on the Thruxton R.
So with the shorter wheelbase, higher centre of gravity and lower weight, you now get a very nimble bike that just loves to change direction quickly. And its modern day sportsbike suspension, featuring 43mm upside-down big-piston Showa forks at the front and a pair of Ohlins shocks at the back, really keeps the bike planted through the turns. Both front and rear suspension units are fully adjustable too, letting you set up the bike for a variety of riders over a variety of conditions. The cherry on top are the brilliant Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tyres (120/70 ZR17 front and 160/60 ZR17 rear) which really inspire an endless amount of confidence even with ridiculous lean angles. The Thruxton R is certainly stiffer than the T120, but it still manages to absorb all that the road throws at it without breaking your back.
The twin 310mm floating discs with Brembo four-piston monobloc calipers combined with a single 220mm with a Nissin caliper do a fantastic job of bringing the bike to a standstill from high speeds. You also get ABS which works quite well and can even be switched off if you find yourself on a race track.
In a time when classic-designed motorcycles are making a serious comeback, Triumph seems to have poised itself to be at the head of this movement. The entire new Bonneville range is rather special and the Thruxton R, especially so. It offers oodles of old-world charm, performance and handling that’ll even put a few modern sportsbikes to shame, and also endless customisation options. Triumph hasn’t announced pricing for the bike yet, but we expect it to be somewhere around the Rs 10.50 lakh mark. Does that make this bike good value for the performance it offers? Of course not! But you can’t just look at the Thruxton R through purely practical glasses. What it is, is a big heart decision with a big dose of speed and fun as a reward.
In association with the Autocar India