Triumph Bobber vs Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber: Which one’s the cooler cat?

Comparing the Triumph Bobber with the Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber was an interesting affair. On one hand, there’s the clean British lineage and, on the other, there’s the exotic Italian.

autos Updated: Jun 10, 2017 17:44 IST
Sherman Hale Nazareth
Sherman Hale Nazareth
Autocar India
Triumph Bobber,Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber,Triumph
On one hand, there’s the clean British lineage and, on the other, there’s the exotic Italian. (Autocar India photo)

The inception of bobbers, or ‘bob-jobs’ as they were originally called, goes as far back as the 1930s. They were basically motorcycles stripped down to their bare essentials to make them lighter, easier to handle and perform better. Fast forward to present day, and retro-styled motorcycles are becoming the rage; it could just be the nostalgia of getting back to the roots of motorcycling or simply making a style statement. Either way, Triumph and Moto Guzzi have taken a crack at this concept and no one’s complaining.

One look at both bikes and you’ll realise the heritage that is embedded deep within. On one hand, there’s the clean British lineage and, on the other, there’s the exotic Italian. Both stand tall and proud, as testaments to the long and rich history of motorcycling and how far it has come. Triumph’s Bobber embodies the quintessential styling of the bobbers of yesteryear, while Moto Guzzi has crafted its Bobber in a rather unique way; trust the Italians to allow beauty to surface even in a minimalistic motorcycle.

The charming Brit

The Triumph is quite diminutive and non-intimidating in its proportions. It’s low-slung with large 19-inch front and 16-inch rear tyres that sit on spoked rims. There’s a small, round headlight that stays true to its retro styling and fits quite snugly between the front forks. There’s a straightish, drag-like handlebar that flows into a lovely bulbous tank that takes you back to the motorcycles of the 1950s. The round analogue speedometer is nestled just above the headlight and is quite easy to read. It has a small digital display within itself for odometer, riding modes, traction control, tachometer and trip readouts.

Even the engine design is well thought out. Despite having liquid-cooling, it retains the fins for air-cooled engines and even has faux carburettor shrouds that encase the actual fuel injectors. And authenticity being the name of the game here, the adjustable single seat is again reminiscent of the original bobbers, with its minimalistic design and well-finished brushed aluminium base. The colours, textures and finishes are all fantastic, ranging from the brushed metal tailpipes and gearbox casing to the bits of bronze badging on the seat, engine and speedo. Since the original bobbers were made out of rigid frames (no suspension at the rear), the cage-type swingarm here bears some resemblance to this. However, there is a single monoshock that sits concealed under the seat.

Italian beauty

The Moto Guzzi looks quite unlike a traditional bobber. With its stunning and rather sinister-looking, all-matte paint scheme, the V9 Bobber has a stance that’s more low-slung race bike than a cruiser. Despite having a relatively small 16-inch front rim, it’s got this gigantic front tyre that more than makes up for it. Like on the Triumph, there’s a large, circular headlight and a round analogue speedometer both of which are trailed by a wide, straight drag handlebar that gives the V9 Bobber quite an aggressive seating position.

The tank on the Moto Guzzi really is quite a gem. With a flattened and rounded diamond shape, it quite resembles the tanks of Japanese motorcycles of the 1970s and ’80s. Sticking out ostentatiously from under the tank is the transverse-mounted V-twin motor that looks both delectable and outlandish at the same time. There’s also the flat seat that provides decent enough cushioning for the rider but is a tad small to comfortably sit pillion.

Pumping iron

Although both the Bobbers have strong, two-cylinder engines, the layout is typical to each manufacturer’s heritage. The Triumph gets a parallel-twin, 1,200cc engine from the T120. This motor is known for its high levels of tractability and refinement. The motor, however, has been tweaked to make it better suited for cruising duties. It churns out 76hp and 106Nm of torque, and that’s ample to get your spine tingling.

Staying true to its heritage, Moto Guzzi has kept its V-twin engines transverse-mounted on its recent offerings. With the Bobber, it’s not about speed anymore, but about being as aesthetically pleasing as it can be. This V9 Bobber shares its 853cc, V-twin motor with the V9 Roamer and it’s a very relaxed engine. It puts out a modest 55hp and 62Nm and that’s just enough grunt to keep you entertained.

Cruisin’ around

These motorcycles are good for little jaunts around the city and an occasional, short blast into the hills. That’s because their aggressive seating postures make long-distance runs a bit hard on the spine. Especially the Triumph, with its low-slung seat and stiff rear suspension will definitely leave your back a bit harder for wear. But show it a set of good roads and it really impresses; the throaty rumble from the twin exhausts creating a symphony that takes you back to the older Triumphs. The Bobber gets ride-by-wire throttle that makes power delivery smooth, sharp and precise in Road mode; it can be dulled a bit for relaxed riding in Rain mode. Also great is the slipper clutch that helps lighten the clutch lever while keeping the rear wheel from skidding under hard downshifting. Handling is very neutral and the Bobber feels perfectly composed around corners. The grippy, bespoke Avon Cobra tyres also help.

Switch over to the Guzzi Bobber and it’s a completely different animal. Although it features a slightly aggressive riding posture, with a bit of a forward lean into the straight handlebars, its upright seating is more forgiving of the two. The foot pegs, however, are rather forward-set and are almost right under the engine’s cylinder heads. This may not be an issue for most, but taller riders might find themselves sporting bruised shins after every ride. However, you don’t feel much heat from the engine despite your knees almost resting against them.

The Guzzi also deploys a shaft drive, unlike the conventional chain drive on the Triumph. This results in a slight delay in power delivery during quick gearshifts. And because of the large front tyre, the Moto Guzzi feels overly eager to change direction, but once leaned into the corner, it feels steady. What’s really worth mentioning is the Guzzi V9 Bobber’s brakes. Despite it having only a single disc in the front, there is ample stopping power; an area where the Triumph Bobber falls behind. Despite it getting the 1,200cc from the T120, it misses out on the twin disc brakes and only gets a single one. This means the braking is slightly sluggish and you will have to really clamp down on that brake lever.

Riding in style

Both motorcycles will have you take a step back and admire them for what they are. Sure, the Guzzi costs a lot more than the Triumph and doesn’t perform or handle as well, but the amount of soul and uniqueness it has transcends logic. This is a motorcycle you buy with your heart and not your mind. That isn’t to say the Triumph Bobber has any less soul – it’s got the unmistakable underpinnings of a classic British motorcycle with extremely cleverly-crafted bits that remind you of original bobbers. These are modern machines that are a hoot to ride, deliver a generous serving of nostalgia, and grab eyeballs in any situation. But if it were down to picking between the two, the Triumph would come out on top for its authenticity, engine, and handling.

(In partnership with Autocar India)

First Published: Jun 10, 2017 17:44 IST