The 2016 Triumph Bonneville Line is Reborn

Byron Wilson | October 27, 2015

Triumph traces the Bonneville’s legacy back to some of its most iconic and legendary motorcycles and is looking to create a new chapter in the Bonnie’s story with a brand new, ground-up redesign of the platform in 2016. The revealed models are all liquid-cooled, confirming suspicions that have run a bit rampant in the lead-up to the news; a 900cc Street Twin, a 1200cc T120 and T120 Black Bonneville along with an improved 1200cc Thruxton and up-spec Thruxton R. Along with the debuted machines, Triumph also unveiled a new lifestyle line of clothing and an accessory catalog expansion, all of which, when installed by certified Triumph dealerships, allows the warranty to remain intact.

2016 Triumph Bonneville

But first, a spot of history…

Counting machines like the 1939 Speed Twin, the 1950 6T Thunderbird and Tiger T110 among its forebears, the Bonneville has enjoyed high status throughout the years. It was often the ride chosen by entertainment celebrities, Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan and James Dean to name a few. It earned world land speed records, Isle of Man TT wins, AMA Hillclimbs and dirt track race victories among others. The platform was also an identifier within various countercultural movements in the UK and America in the ‘60s, highlighted by British Rockers in the heyday of the Ace Café.

All that slowed during the struggles the company faced in the late 1970s through the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. Since Triumph’s rebirth as a brand following those rocky years, the Bonneville has remained a staple of the line-up. But in all honesty, the long stretch of time between updates and the apparent unwillingness to adopt a forward-looking strategy of design with this “modern classic” were beginning to make the Bonneville feel a little stale. One can only capitalize on nostalgic sentiment for so long, and during a unique product reveal on Old Street in London, a few days in advance of the formal worldwide debut, Triumph announced that it had got the message loud and clear.

2016 Triumph Bonneville T120

Old news, get to the bikes already…

Miles Perkins, Triumph Head of Brand Management, led the London presentation and was joined by Paul Stroud, Director of Sales and Marketing; Steve Sargent, Director of Product Strategy and Stewart Wood, Chief Engineer. Perkins was quick to highlight just how different the new engines would be from previous iterations. Each new mill is liquid-cooled, sporting radiators that stretch down to near the bottom of the frame. Each is eight valve, and features a new-to-the-line 270-degree firing interval, marking another break from tradition, leaving the previously utilized 360-degree configuration behind. Each is also designated as “high torque” since one of the marquee features of all the new engines is the sizable increase in pulling power.

Here’s a selection from Perkins’ remarks that explain Triumph’s approach and attitude to its new Bonneville engines.

“Absolutely fundamental to this next generation is to have an engine that performs better. The brief rule of them was to provide much more riding character and feel that suits this kind of bike, but in actual fact we have three flavors here, and the ride on each of the three of those has to be different. So the sportbikes have to be sportbikes (referring to the Thruxton and Thruxton R), this (the Street Twin) is a much more dynamic, almost urban, slightly more youthful riding bike, therefore everything, the engine the chassis, all have to be in service of that. And the T120 has to be the most refined Bonneville you can have. So there is a unique characteristic to each of the engines of these, but the universal brief of them was much higher torque, much lower down. So we were looking to take the torque delivery of these bikes into category leading standards and also put the peak torque revs as low as they possibly can. Not to make them uncontrollable wheelie monsters, but to effectively give you what you want on a modern classic bike.”

2016 Triumph Bonneville

Wood further explained that the engines in all models were slightly repositioned to help centralize mass and further balance the bikes, and that a single camshaft with rockers was utilized to reduce the mass on the top end of the mill.

In addition to becoming much more torque rich, gaining a full liquid-cooling system is another milestone for the line.

“When we started the project, in all our minds was liquid cooling. We knew we needed to do it,” said Wood. “We wanted to create a uniquely modern motorcycle.”

Wood went on to explain that there were early concerns around how the radiator would affect the look and presence of the Bonneville, but the final design was determined while the process was still quite new, and there was no looking back.

“We fully embraced it,” Wood continued. “We wanted to do a completely thorough job. This bike has got a future, if legislation changes we’re already there. We wanted it fully water-cooled.”

Along with the new engine and cooling system updates, each model receives a new exhaust system, a host of electronic aides along with styling enhancements. Styling proved to be one of the more challenging aspects of the redesign, because the team had to find a balance between modernization and retaining the sense of simplicity early Bonnie designers were keen to emulate. The meticulous worrying over every item, every design aspect, accounts partly for the long development time and was described by Wood as very similar to the process which yielded the Daytona 675. Attention to every detail.

2016 Triumph Street Twin

2016 Triumph Street Twin

With the 2016 Triumph Street Twin has its sights set on riders of all experience levels, its low seat height, slim saddle, neutral riding position, ABS, traction control and improved fuel economy were particularly highlighted as features amenable to less experienced pilots. The platform is also designed to inspire customization.

Triumph claims up to 59 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm with the Street Twin’s high-torque 900cc mill. Horsepower figures are currently unavailable, but commentary during the presentation put Ducati’s Scrambler squarely in the frame as competition for the machine. One of Triumph’s Inspiration kits, which they also put on display during the London event, is a Scrambler modification complete with a brushed, high-mount Vance & Hines exhaust system that was touted as too loud to start in the confines of the Bike Shed. And while the 270-degree crank breaks from Triumph tradition, the Street Twin does retain a five-speed gearbox, unlike the other new models.

The stock Street Twin includes the aforementioned ride-by-wire system and a slip assist clutch. There’s a USB socket mounted on the headstock and an engine immobilizer included in the Street Twin’s key. A large round single clock displays a decent assortment of information, from gear position to odometer readings, service indicator, fuel levels, current MPG and two trip settings.

Styling touches abound in the details, from pinstripes on the cast wheels to the chrome filler cap atop the tank. Indicators are compact, an LED rear taillight displaying a distinctive pattern to late night followers while a Triumph badge adorns the headlight bulb color. Available colorways will include Cranberry Red, Aluminum Silver, Matte Black, Jet Black and Phantom Black.

2016 Triumph Bonneville T120

2016 Triumph T120 & 2016 Triumph T120 Black

As the names suggest, the primary difference between the T120 and T120 Black version 2016 Bonnevilles boils down to styling. The T120 Black comes standard with a brown seat and all-black detailing down to black rims, grab rails and engine finish.

The list gets longer when we look at what’s the same between the two. To start with, each carries the new 1200cc eight valve Parallel Twin which Triumph promises will produce 77 lb-ft of torque down at 3100 rpm. A comparison point, which Triumph asserts has been surpassed, is Harley-Davidson’s XL1200 engine, such as the one found in the Sportster 48.

The mill is put in motion via ride-by-wire with fuel injection while power is put to the ground through a new six-speed gearbox. It’s 270-degree firing order along with the internal construction is designed to offer smooth, linear power without rattling the cages too terribly. Fuel efficiency and cleaner emissions are achieved thanks to the new liquid-cooling system.

To help keep the T120 and T120 Black looking sharp, at least in terms of the exhaust pipes, Triumph has included a twin-skin designed pea-shooter exhaust. There’s a second level of material covering the pipe to help it keep from discoloring with age and use.

What else you ask? Well, the T120 Bonnies get ABS, traction control, the aforementioned ride-by-wire, two rider modes (road and rain), slip-assist clutch, LED rear and headlights, heated grips, USB charge socket on the headstock and engine immobilizer key.

Overall though, despite the new-age goodies that proliferate the two bikes in this category, Triumph really wanted to embody the spirit of its 1959 Bonneville in the T120. It strove to honor the silhouette, detailing, flow of lines around the fuel tank, badges and lights found on the classic model in its modernized update.

Colorways include Cranberry Red with Aluminum Silver, Jet Black with Pure White, Jet Black or Cider Red for the T120 while the T120 Black is available in either Jet Black or Matte Graphite.

2016 Triumph Thruxton

2016 Triumph Thruxton & 2016 Triumph Thruxton R

Where the T120 may seek to establish dominance among the more cruiser-oriented rider, the new 2016 Thruxton and Thruxton R are going to elicit long stares from the more sport-minded rider. Both versions carry a high-performance version of the 1200cc engine found in the T120s, but thanks to a low-inertia crank, higher compression ratio and different intake and exhaust systems, the new Thruxtons are going to find a fine home at the racetrack. Torque on the spec Thruxton engine is claimed to reach close to 83 lb-ft at 4950 rpm, 62% up when compared to the previous version.

The standard Thruxton comes with adjustable suspension, clip-on handlebars and a revised chassis for tight, competitive handling. The Thruxton R is the race-ready version however, sporting top-shelf components such as twin floating Brembo discs out front with Brembo monobloc calipers and master cylinder, a Showa big-piston fork and Ohlins rear shocks along with Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires. This one really looked ready to race out of the box.

Electronics and rider aids are the same as the rest of the new Bonneville line, with RbW, ABS, TC, LED head and taillights, USB charge socket and engine immobilizer installed in the key. The Thruxtons come with three rider modes however with rain, road and sport available.

In the styling department, a flip-top Monza-style fuel cap becomes the first of its kind on a modern production bike while gorgeous, polished triple gauges face the rider as he or she tucks in for the ton. The bullet seat illustrates the café racer heritage and the aluminum tank strap adds an additional layer of class to an already striking machine.

Colorways available include Jet Black, Pure White and Competition Green for the standard Thruxton while the Thruxton R comes in Silver Ice or Diablo Red.

Triumph’s inspiration kits made the biggest impact on attendees during the presentation when the Thruxton Racer Kit and Café Racer kit were revealed. Overall, we are incredibly impressed with the level of quality on all of the machines. Fit and finish were impeccable and the Thruxton Track Racer Kit display was truly a moto-lust inspiring object.

There is a huge amount of photos of all the bikes included in the gallery below.

12 Photos

Now, the bad news…

At the time this article is allowed to go live, there are will be no spec sheets available, nor are there any prices to share. It was explained that these details would be released in due time, likely after first rides are conducted from December through the early portion of spring 2016. Our honest first impression after seeing the bikes up close, sitting on them, revving them a bit and seeing the genuine excitement on the part of Triumph staff is that these new Bonnevilles may indeed mark a new chapter for the Hinkley brand. The company has embraced the future, has applied that technology to one of its most iconic machines and created motorcycles that are sure to strike a chord with riders. All we can ask now is, when can we ride ‘em?

Update: Contributing editor Frank Melling has given the first of the new Bonneville family, the Street Twin, a thorough review in this First Ride.

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Byron Wilson

Associate Editor | Articles | Byron's sure to be hunched over a laptop after the checkers are flown, caught in his own little version of heaven. Whether on dirt, street or a combination of both, MotoUSA's newest addition knows the only thing better than actually riding is telling the story of how things went down.

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