Lean, mean speed machine

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 earlier Thruxton, 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), and 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, and tonnes of café racer charm.

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 bits like the gold detailing around the engine and brushed metal crank covers that really make this the best-looking Thruxton ever. The end result literally looks like a 1960s racing motorcycle made using 21st century metallurgy and technology.

Since the new Thruxton R is based on the Bonneville T120, it now gets the same larger capacity engine. Despite the engine retaining its dimensions, the boffins at Triumph have been able to bump the compression up on the Thruxton. In the end, what you get is a motor that not only revs more freely, but goes higher as well (about 500rpm more). Peak power is now bumped up to

96bhp and even peak torque is higher than the T120 with 11.4kgm. All this has made the engine peakier than before (much like a proper sportsbike) and it sounds properly sporty too, thanks to its two upswept reverse cone megaphone exhausts.

On the move, the Thruxton R is a completely different experience from its street-focused cousin. Its motor makes over 10kgm of torque barely past 2,000rpm, so it is easy to pootle around on at slow speeds. Thanks to ride-by-wire technology, there are three riding modes– Sport, Road, Rain – that change power delivery without affecting total power output. ‘Sport’ works best on twisting mountain roads or race tracks by offering cracking throttle response, ‘Road’ rubberbands power delivery a bit for a more comfortable ride in traffic, while ‘Rain’ dials down everything a few notches for slippery surfaces. There is traction control as standard too, but it’s the sort of non-interfering system that only cuts in if there’s some serious lack of grip.

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. Just by looking at the pictures, it was clear that Triumph was serious about delivering on this aspect. Its wheelbase has been shortened, the riding posture has been made more aggressive, and the bike’s frame has been lightened.

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. 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.

And even when you need to bring it to a stop, the twin 310mm floating discs with Brembo four-piston monobloc calipers combined with a single 220mm with a Nissin caliper do a fantastic job.

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. 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.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 1:00:34 AM |

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