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2004 Triumph Thruxton

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
2004 Triumph Thruxton
The Thruxton's retro styling belies the performance capabilities of Triumph's latest cafe racer.
Exiting a particularly greasy roundabout on London's North Circular road, it is time to feed in some throttle. Ahead of me, the sound of the old British Twin roaring up through the gears means I had better do it quick.

With the light snowfall turning to water as it hits the ground, I straighten up the new Triumph Thruxton 900 and spin the Parallel-Twin up to redline. The rear Metzeler keeps me honest as I dive for a gap in the fast moving traffic, keeping my eyes firmly attached to the Triumph Triton's license plate ahead.

In the Triton's saddle, Ace Cafe owner Mark Wilsmore is crouched low over its alloy tank and hard on the gas as we head for his flat. He is hell-bent on making my ride as exciting as possible because we were filming a segment for an upcoming show on Speed. He is, of course, succeeding, and with the last of the feeling leaving my frozen fingers, I glance down to see the Triumph's speedometer nudging 80 mph.

Blasting across the old Iron Bridge, a place that brought death and injury to the ton-up boy racers of the '50s and '60s, we make it through in one piece. Mark keeps my adrenaline pumping with his carve-and-slice maneuvering as he does battle with the London traffic up front. Coming to a rapid halt at the next light, inquisitive faces peer from steamed up car windows, the Featherbed-framed Triumph's open pipes alerting them to our presence. I also notice the sharp look of the new red Triumph Thruxton holding their gaze: It is highly likely they will never have seen one before.

Stone cold tires, frigid track surface, and no clue which way the corners are going makes this an exhilarating experience as I follow Clifford, a man who only knows two throttle positions: wide open and closed. This isn't really the best method for evaluating a new bike, but we are just here for photos. Our real evaluation is going to take place out on the highways and byways of rural England later in the day.

Running through the fast backside of the track at over 100 mph quickly shows the Thruxton's suspension's limitations, although the movement from the suspension is not unexpected or too out of hand. As mentioned in our preview of the Thruxton, the suspension has been upgraded at both ends from the Bonneville, and the steering quickened with the use of longer and more sophisticated shocks. The single 320mm front brake needs the assistance of the 255mm rear to make fast stops, and there is a strange twisting feeling from the fairly soft front forks if the four-piston caliper is applied too hard. The extra weight of a second disc was deemed unnecessary during Triumph's testing.

2004 Triumph Thruxton
Even though Triumph upgraded the suspension on the Thurxton, high speeds reveal some of the performance limitations.
Coming back in from our photo sessions, the atmosphere in the Thruxton clubhouse is positive. The Thruxton, while obviously not a leading-edge sportbike, makes for an easy bike to learn the famous circuit. And, sat amongst pictures of past racing heroes, it is a special moment to have ridden on such a famous piece of racing real estate. Now, with the photo session over, it is time to don more warm weather equipment and go out for the real test.

Firing up the quiet sounding Twin, a little choke (located on the left carburetor) quickly has the engine warmed up and idling, even on such a bitterly cold day. A small amount of fiddling is needed to work the ignition key, which is found to the left-hand side of the headlight, with access impeded a little by the small bullet style indicators. (We are in England now so apologies for the language.)

Sitting on the broad saddle, it is a good reach to the low clip-on handlebars, but my feet are flat on the ground. The riding position actually feels remarkably similar to an old Moto Guzzi Le Mans or Laverda Jota from the '70s. The adjustable clutch lever is definitely not the lightest I have pulled, but it is certainly not heavy. Like the four-way adjustable brake lever, I need it set on the closest setting as it is too far from my hand if it is any further out. Finding the gear lever takes a conscious effort the first time, as it is set back to accompany the rear-set footpegs. Slipping into gear is a quiet, effortless task.

Letting out the clutch and joining the line of bikes heading onto the road, the motor immediately seems peppy, the CV carburetors allowing it to pull cleanly from low down. It will actually accelerate, albeit not too strongly, from just off idle in top gear if needed with no drive train snatch. Smooth and quiet, the engine feels almost vibration free until the revs get up over 5000 rpm. Here the motor puts a good buzz through the controls.

We quickly hit the open road and settle in for a spirited ride through the English countryside. The road surface is challenging to say the least. Damp and slippery in places, the plethora of metal drain covers and potholes peppering the tarmac certainly keep me on my toes as we blast round the tight, twisty roads. The Thruxton 900 is completely at ease in these surrounds, passing through sleepy villages with picture postcard thatch roof cottages.

Out of the villages, away from the numerous speed cameras that seem to be all over England these days, the pace picks up and at times I see triple digits registering on the round-faced speedometer. In top gear the Thruxton has five this equates to around 6000 rpm, which is about 2000 rpm shy of the rev limiter. Producing a claimed 69 horsepower at 7250 rpm there is really little to be gained revving past this point. Chin on the clocks, hammering down a stretch of dual carriageway, I saw the speedo needle hitting just shy of 120 mph at one point.

2004 Triumph Thruxton
The Thruxton purrs along at 90 without so much as a hiccup in the steering or powertrain.
I was actually very impressed with the bikes high-speed travel manners. Following a group of Italian journalists back to our hotel, the speedo needle stays solidly between 90-100 mph. What this shows me is the Thruxton's ability to easily hold these speeds. With no real fairing, the wind hits you solidly in the chin and gives the wrists some relief from the low bars. There is no need to change down out of fifth gear to overtake, as top gear pulls very respectfully from 70 mph.

So up hill and down dale we ride. Taking in a good cross section of everything England has to offer, including a quick visit to Stonehenge. Beneath me the Triumph Thruxton 900 is purring effortlessly as we make our way back to Thruxton. Triumph's new bike is perfectly suited to the English roads, it is going to make a backroad rider's delight here in the USA and spark a bunch of conversations on a trip to your local coffee shop.

Back in the warm clubhouse gives us another chance to compare notes over a steaming hot cup of tea. The atmosphere is as positive as earlier in the day, and a fellow English ex-patriot and I wax lyrically about growing up in England. Being the same age, we can both vividly remember being dusted by a well-sorted Triumph or two in our formative years when we rode small-displacement Japanese starter bikes.

I'm grateful we have manufacturers such as Triumph producing bikes like the Thruxton. Totally unique and harking back to perhaps a simpler time in life when Triumphs and Nortons roamed the world, it gives a fantastic opportunity to recapture these old halcyon days of motorcycling without all the pitfalls of riding bikes of that era.

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