Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black
Words: Peter Elliott Photos: Geoff Osborne
There I was zapping down the motorway to town, the 3:30 pm traffic had come to a crawl, swollen to corpulence with trucks and SUVs on school sports drops, and I was blinded.
Silverised as I call it, that moment when you are riding in winter, the roads are wet and the sun has just come out, low and blinding, and the wet surface glares like a tin foil mirror.
So it was coffee and wait time. I got off the motorway and sat at a small roadside diner, ordered a long black and watched the ominous clouds of the same colour descend on me. Long swishing veils hung beneath. Blinded, soaked, and cold. It wasn’t looking good.
Then I leaned back as my coffee arrived and reminded myself what I was riding. The new Black Bobber from Triumph. Hell yeah. It is an uncompromising look – it’s black on black on black and it is a style that requires a certain fortitude of character; you have to ride the Bobber like you actually mean it.
If you don’t look the part, or don’t have the attitude and ability to match, it’s going to be like wearing your brother’s ‘too big’ jeans. I toughened up. I had wet weather gear; I had a very cool bike with amazing ability and a great look.
So I downed the coffee and went riding. Through the traffic with the throaty Vance and Hines letting everyone know there was a proper motorcycle nearby. I threaded the lanes, keeping the bar ends in sight as I slipped between a thousand or more cars. Hell, they were all stuck; late and worried, while I cruised past with a big smile inside the carbon full-face.
I was even playing ‘Back in Black’ on the Sena headset. Yeah, I went there; couldn’t believe my luck actually. And that’s the thing with the Black Bobber, you kind of have a good time every time, but you have to consciously accept it.
There are no plastic decals or zaps of colour, in fact there’s bugger-all in the way of artifice.
Nothing overstated or precious, just fabulously developed Hinckley styling genes, and that glorious 1200 HT twin, which is a great piece of work. It hauls like a train, has depth and reach like few other bikes – torque up the wazoo, and a seemingly endless supply of pull.
New for this premium iteration of the Bobber, apart from the blackness, is a new cartridge front fork from Showa that’s out to a stout 47mm, rather than the 41mm KYB on the standard bike.
There’s also the addition of twin Brembo brake calipers and 310mm discs, rather than the single Nissin setup on the lower-spec’ machine. At last, stopping power that matches the ride.
The front wheel is smaller at 16 inches too, with a fatter 130/90 Avon Cobra front tyre and there’s corresponding head angle tweaks to suit. As a consequence, the bike’s agility and front end turn-in is improved.
However, the single rear shock can impart a message to the back on larger bumps. Two or three times I was reminded sharply of the expected delivery of a new Fox Shock, rumoured to deal with this problem a little better.
The existing shock may impact the aluminium ‘tractor seat’ base in very bumpy terrain, given its location, but in general road riding this isn’t much of an issue. Only on rough B-roads, and a too quick approach to traffic humps makes it apparent.
Another feature of the Bobber Black is the one-touch cruise control button. This is simple to use and does not require taking one’s eyes off the road. One push on, push to set speed, and push for off. It is so simple and clever, why hasn’t everyone done this?
I also particularly like the lower bars and the slight lean into the riding position, and with the pegs and controls slightly forward of centre the riding position is really comfortable for quite long periods of time, and seemed an improvement from the original, which took a bit of juggling with seat placement to find a workable set up.
It won’t give you street-racer feel, however the bike still invites you to enjoy time on the road. Hurtling through some coiling hill roads I chased a Thruxton R, it wasn’t a fair fight, but the Bobber held its own very well, and the new brakes certainly help impart more confidence in the attack.
Off the motorways however, the long loping gallantry of the Bobber comes into its own and makes you smile. There’s something special about the way cold, dense, winter air improves engine performance. Those who shun winter riding because wet weather deters them, miss out on some important riding lessons.
Braking distances need adjusting, watchfulness over paint and tar strips needs more vigilance, and visibility needs to be addressed when the visor clags up externally, or fogs inside. But you learn, and get to know your bike in ways that a dozen summer rides won’t teach you.
I am reminded of that by some of my colleagues who are totally weather-shy, and who will be furious that I’ve mentioned it. Tough.
When I first saw the Bobber pictures arriving on the laptop, I immediately felt massive bike–lust; with its brooding, gnarly look and presence, those feelings are still prevalent today.
Improvements to the 2018 ‘Black’ version prove that the designers got it right early, as they are mostly small but significant changes, bringing more intensity to what was delivered originally in 2016. The ABS and Traction Control is present and switchable, and the brakes are improved with the extra disc and caliper.
The same slick ride-by-wire throttle delivers great response without delay, and with Road and Rain Riding modes – where the rain mode keeps the same power output but delivers it more smoothly. The torque-assist clutch is light and strong, and of course it has the usual array of trip computing functions in the single swivelling clock.
Of course, it’s a little bit ‘preaching to the choir’ with me, as I bought the “Black” version of the T120 as my daily rider, and I love it still, but the Bobber really appeals in a new way that’s hard to define.
It’s not just the aggressive character, it has playfulness too – and I guess the best way to describe it is just this – that the retro and the modern seem welded in a seamless, subtle, but muscled, motorbike that looks sensational, offers masculine biking cred, exceptional control, and rides very well indeed.
The Bobber Black takes you back to motorcycling as you imagined your bike would be that ‘someday when you had the money to fix it all up’ and you never did. So now it’s all here, and delivered in a ‘16000 km between services package’. If this sounds appealing then check one out for yourself.
The Good & The Bad
- Plus – Cool-looking; improved comfort and braking; great presence.
- Minus – With only a 9-litre fuel tank you will be taking plenty of breaks on your ride.
2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black Specifications