THE TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE has, to me, always exemplified the very essence of what a motorcycle must be at its core — elemental, timeless and strangely compelling even when merely idling at the corner of a boulevard. It’s hard to chip away at that core in a world of such acutely purposeful motorcycles, perhaps even unnecessary, but I think there’s a reason the Bonneville brand has resisted the forced, market-driven evolution of motorcycles. Of course, motorcycle love is a very subjective thing, but from where I’m standing, the Bonneville is, within its designated parameters, damned near perfect. It’s not the fastest or the most sophisticated production bike available, certainly not since the 1950s. But for some reason, it has, for the last five decades, seen the patronage (the unpaid kind) of movie stars, cultural icons, royalty — the lot.
With the new Bonneville Street Twin and the bigger Bonneville T120, Triumph’s greatest sub-brand appears more complete. It’s a new direction for Triumph, which previously presented the Bonnie as the ideal project bike — now it appears they’ve got three of its most popular avatars as factoryfitted variants. The bike’s gritty, urban attributes are brought to life by the Street Twin — which is a brash, contemporary version of the Bonnie — featuring the outgoing model’s engine, now bored out to 900cc. It features a clean, basic architecture that’s still typically Bonnie, but it is light, functional and agile. Nothing about the bike says ‘entry-level’, even though that’s what it essentially is. It’s got a rat-racer like quality to it, especially with the optional Vance & Hines exhaust attached, a throaty, burbling exhaust note and a light, flickable chassis, all of which have been tweaked extensively to suit the Street’s character. Like with the larger 1200cc T120, the Street maintains the beautiful simplicity and refinement of Triumph’s parallel twin, which happens to be liquid-cooled for the first time in the bike’s history. It can turn into a relatively benign learner bike for the newbie, or be pushed to the limit by a more experienced hand — the Street is extremely sprightly and versatile in nature, and that’s what’s making it such a hot seller.
What we like
Style; braking; comfort
What we don’t
The fact that we don’t own either
We now come to the T120, the more robust, standard Bonnie with a big heart befitting the times it lives in and the company it keeps. The 1200cc motor is new, and is closer in character to the T100 than the Street Twin. It’s got the same classically handsome proportions that’ve made the Bonnie a masterclass in understated elegance, and the engine just sings in second gear, right around the 3000 rpm mark, in a way that makes you glad to be alive. Sure, it may look like it’s fallen behind the times, not being the world’s fastest motorcycle any more — but it’s the way the T120 makes an event out of merely trundling along a B-road that makes it truly peerless. And it makes you ask yourself a question — if a bike can excite you, even when doing 50 kph in moderate traffic, shouldn’t that bike be your obvious choice? This isn’t to say that it’s only comfortable at low speeds. It pulls away with a creamy smoothness, with that extra torque (10.7 kgm) immediately making its presence felt, and remains composed even at higher rpm — it’s sublime throughout the rev range. The chassis is much stiffer than the T100, with a steeper rake angle that helps it feel more planted. Both the bikes come with ABS, and also get ride-by-wire traction control as standard.
The T120 should be comfortable for riders of all sizes — with an upright seating position and a very well-cushioned seat, the comfort level on both bikes is tremendous. While the Street Twin is Rs 7.21 lakh (Ex-showroom, Mumbai) the T120 costs Rs 9.08 (Ex- Mumbai), and that’s fairly close to superbike money. If it’s a classically styled, standard motorcycle that you’re looking for, though, the very versatile Bonnevilles are untouchable.