Once owner John Bloor had re-established Triumph Motorcycles in Hinckley, England as a mainstream motor-cycle manufacturer with its range of 3- and 4-cylinder sport and touring models, it was high time for a modern interpretation of the iconic Bonneville twin for which the original Meriden works was famous. The new Bonnevilles debuted in 2000 and immediately became Triumph’s best-selling model family. In the ensuing 15 years, the T100’s 865cc air/oil cooled parallel twin was adopted for the entire lineup, and the range grew to include the Thruxton café racer, high-piped Scrambler and the America and Speedmaster cruisers with their rumbly 270-degree crankshafts.
In recent years, Triumph has made gains with its exciting three cylinders like the Street Triple, Tiger 800 and Tiger Explorer. The first-gen Bonnevilles have held up well, but by today’s retro/café/custom standards the busy 360-crank twin lacks that desirable low- and midrange torquey character, and it doesn’t make quite enough power to compete outside its genre. With new Euro 4 regulations coming for 2016 requiring fewer emissions, a durability test and ABS as standard, in 2012 Triumph decided to completely redesign the line of twins, and you see two of the stunning results before you, the Bonneville T120, Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year, and its functionally identical, menacingly dark T120 Black sibling.
Now even more evocative of the original, Triumph’s engineers spent three years getting the T120 styling (and that of its Bonneville Thruxton/R and smaller 900cc Street Twin siblings) just right, more faithfully echoing the swinging ’60s in the T120, from its sculpted tank to the bench saddle, spoked wheels and throttle bodies reminiscent of Amal Monobloc carburetors. One might think that was an easy task given Triumph had the original to copy. But to bring the Bonnie up to date Triumph had to squeeze a larger, High Torque 1,200cc engine with liquid cooling and a 270-degree crank into the same dimensions as before, and add ride-by-wire with riding modes, ABS and switchable traction control to the list of exist-ing modern features…none of which can really be on display. At the same time it managed to give the bike better handling, more manageability, better fuel economy and more power and authentic rumble in the low- and midrange where it belongs. While the Meriden Bonneville was the superbike of the ’60s, the modern Bonnies are roadsters built for practicality and performance with timeless style. The T120 accomplishes its mission precisely.
Congratulations to Triumph for the Bonneville T120, Rider’s 2016 Motorcycle of the Year! Download this interactive brochure and find your next passion.