Published on December 16th, 2016 | by Boris
2017 TRIUMPH THRUXTON R REVIEW – DIVINE DESIGN
Thruxton, Thruxton, burning bright,
On the highways of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
(With sincere apologies to William Blake)
There are very few motorcycles like the Thruxton R.
Which is only right and proper, and exactly how the world must be.
As a ‘retro-styled modern classic’ it is beyond compare.
I had stopped on the side of some nameless country road, took off my lid, fired up a dart and walked away from the bike.
I had just laced together some wicked bends and I needed a little quiet time.
Bell birds where pinging in the trees. It was early in the morning, and summer was upon my earth. The roads I’d been riding were empty and while not everything was right in my world, I have learned to live in the moment like a dog that’s happy just to be a dog. At that place and at that time, my isolation was splendid. My tail was wagging.
I looked back at the Thruxton and my tail wagged a little harder.
It sat there tilted on its stand, stark red and steel grey against the dry Australian bush.
Stupid. Like all motorcycles.
Self-indulgent. No accommodation for a pillion.
Impractical. Where could a man put any luggage?
And by far the most transcendentally beautiful motorcycle I had ridden in ages.
I walked off and looked at it from another angle. Yep. Still the same. Still stunning.
What was going on here? It was almost 2017.
Surely we were well past the age of objectively beautiful bikes?
We live in a time when bikes are brilliantly engineered and overwhelmingly capable, but almost always aesthetically compromised.
You can count the visual masterpieces of recent motorcycle history on one hand. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but by any objective measure, bikes like the Z900, the Laverda Jota, the MV Agusta F4, the Ducati 900SS and 916, and the Norton Commando 961 are universally acclaimed as truly gorgeous bikes.
For reasons you can understand, modern two-wheeled function rarely meshes with two-wheeled form. And quite frankly, the building of visually beautiful motorcycles by manufacturers is no common thing.
Especially if that motorcycle also performs as good as it looks.
Sure, there are people with skill-sets who can drag a bag of motorcycle-arse into their shed and wheel it back out a few months later fully weaponised and looking like a jewel (no Deus simians, that’s not you), but it’s very rare for a factory to pull such a thing off.
Yet Triumph has done just this.
Whether you like sportsbikes, nakeds, adventure bikes, or cruisers, you cannot behold the Thruxton R and say it isn’t gorgeous.
It’d be like declaring Jennifer Hawkins is rather plain. People would think you simple-minded, stop serving you beer, and push you out into the carpark so you could yell at garbage bins.
What’s right is right and what’s truth is truth.
The Thruxton R is a thing of beauty.
But of course, no matter how good the thing looks, if it rides like a sausage or leaves you crippled at the end of a day’s ride, then there’s only so much love you can offer it.
I loved the MV Agusta F4 I rode for a year, but it vilified my internal organs and turned my spinal cartilage into fish-batter. So while I loved it because it looked, went and sounded like a delirious dago sex-fiend, I hated it for the physical compromises it demanded I make.
Therein lays the unique glory of the Thruxton. It manages to look superb at the same time as it offers up top-echelon handling, braking, and performance. And real-world, soft-man ergonomics.
It just works; on every level – aesthetically as well as practically – and that is a rare and wonderful thing – because if you really wanted them, there are luggage and pillion options from Triumph.
I’m sure you’ve all read all the specs and details already. Trevor Hedge at MCNEWS, one of the hardest and most honest markers in the business, was unequivocal: “It not only looks beautiful, it also performs quite brilliantly.”
And he knew this because he rode every shade of bastardry out of the Thruxton range at the recent Aussie press launch. Trev is not easily impressed or swayed by marketing hype, rides like a demon, and actually knows his shit, which is why I greatly value his motorcycle reviews. And you can read his take on the Thruxton HERE.
I did not attend the press launch because I had some crap going on at home, so Triumph very kindly provided me a cherry red Thruxton R to play with in my own good time.
I had recently ridden the beaut new T120 Bonneville (you may read about that HERE), which shares many genetics with the Thruxton , so I was very keen to try this sportier incarnation.
But where the Bonnie was very good, the Thruxton is great.
And the Thruxton R is just that little bit greater.
First consider these new 1200cc Bonnie engines make over 60 per cent more torque than their ancestors. Now factor in that the Thruxton delivers another 17 horses over the T120 Bonnie via a higher comp ratio, a lighter (hence more eager-to-spin-up) crank and a freer-exhaling exhaust system.
Top-gear roll-ons are superb. It’s deceptively quick and tops out at about 200km/h, rolling on a torque curve fatter than Kim Kardashian’s massive Armenian peasant-girl arse.
The Thruxton does not produce the same dry-mouthed bang the Speed Triple does. It’s an upright twin, after all. But the relationship it has between its power delivery, gearbox, suspension and brakes is like some magical marriage. Everything works together to produce vast rider fulfillment.
I might point out it’s not sporting Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsas for shits and giggles. This is a bike that handles superbly well. It flows like fine oil when you start to string bends together. It is never unsettled and there’s feel and precision without any of that tetchiness you get on sportsbikes. This means you’ll be faster and smoother through bends than you ever thought you might be. Sportsbike fast? You’ll certainly carry much the same corner speed, but with far less drama. Yes, you can be seriously quick on one of these, even if the surface is less than ideal.
But there’s more to it than that.
And no, it’s not the hipster thing.
Look, I know hipsters are delusional enough to imagine Triumph is building such ‘retro’ bikes simply because they have come to exist. You know, as if they’re an actual market that buys new bikes, rather than a quirky social media exercise that doesn’t own a set of wet-weather gear, and would no more buy a new bike than it would go and upskill itself at a Stay Upright course.
So they are wrong, and you would be wrong to think these bikes are aimed at them.
They’re just so not. Triumph is building bikes like this for people who love to ride bikes – aesthetically beautiful bikes – hard, fast and with steel-eyed purpose; people who romanticise about the Golden Era of British motorcycling, when England built some strikingly gorgeous motorcycles, none of which worked very well or for very long, but looked utterly splendid. These are bikes for people who remember true café racers who raced on slick cobblestones and between the English hedgerows like furious feral lords, and brawled on Brighton beach like mastiffs.
These are not bikes for hipsters, because hipsters are not riders – no matter how many Instagram images they post of themselves on bikes.
They are not now and they will never be the steam off the piss of the lads who would gather at the Ace Café in London, fill their bladders with hot tea, bung a record on the juke box and rev off into the night to find death or glory before the song ended. Those café racers will never return.
As I said earlier, what’s right is right and what’s truth is truth.
And here is the truth.
The Thruxton R is, when you consider the specs, and look at the golden gleam of premium suspension and Italian brakes, quite obviously about fanging. It’s got enough electronic tech via three engine modes and switchable ABS to make it modern, but not enough to overwhelm its inherent purity. A truly worthwhile compromise, if you will.
And so it is very much a rider’s bike. It has an ineffable quality about it that speaks to the rider. It touches his gooey places. It sings the songs he wants to hear a bike sing because he actually rides bikes.
This is a bike with all the poise and style you could ask for. It is wonderfully balanced, both in terms of ride and appearance. The Thruxton R is…well, righteous, I guess – in every sense of the word.
You feel good riding it, because it rides just so damn well. And you feel good each time you look at it, because it’s just so fucken beautiful.
Yeah. It is righteous alright.
And what a rare and precious thing that it is.
STUFF I REALLY LOVED
The bar-end mirrors are the greatest bar-end mirrors you will ever find. They work. You can see things in them. Actual things. Not just crazed distortions of things due to vibration.
Sassy alloy spoked wheels. Damn, I love sassy alloy spoked wheels. I was one of them idiots who didn’t pay rent for a month so I could by Akront wires for my GSX back in the 80s.
I also enjoyed the way people would gawp at it. Many even complimented me on how well I’d restored it. And girls thought it was gorgeous, even if they looked terrified at the fact that it had no pillion pegs and nothing that would really pass as a seat.
And finally, I love that there is a ‘racing kit’ for the Thruxton. And here my love has frothed fully forth. Stainless de-catalysed headers, open stainless mufflers with removable end-caps, a race-spec camshaft and race-spec washable twin air-filters, and forged handlebars.
I’m hopeful that if I keep the red Thruxton R for long enough Triumph might send me these racing things, and well…you know…
STUFF THAT PERPLEXED ME
All new Triumphs have this thing going on when you start them. You press the starter button and sometimes get silence. Of course it then fires if you keep the button depressed, or if you take your finger off then press it again it fires immediately. It’s just that sometimes there’s an initial nothingness, which is strange. It’s their “thing”, I think.
The seat is made from the skins of some exotic faux wildebeest. It looks hell trick with contrasting stitching, but there are rumours it doesn’t wear well. It’s firm, but not uncomfortable even after an all-dayer, but I read people complaining on forums about it. People complain on forums about all sorts of things and which are usually of their own doing. For all anyone knows, some mong has spilled un-nameable filth on his seat and it’s the fault of the manufacturer because the seat is not proofed against un-nameable filth. I’ve been riding the Thruxton R daily for a month now and the faux wildebeest hide looks the same as when I got it. Maybe there’s an issue if your arse has strange spines growing out it, or you leak stuff from your blurter when you ride.
WHY THE THRUXTON R IS EASILY WORTH THE EXTRA $2400 MORE THAN THE BASE THRUXTON
Let me just make this list for you…
Fully adjustable Showa USD big-piston forks at the front and
fully adjustable Öhlins under your bum (which being longer also give the R a touch more seat height) versus Kayabas adjustable only for preload at the back.
Brembo floating four-piston radial monobloc front brakes and master cylinder, versus Nissin two-spotters.
Diablo Rosso Corsas versus Angel GTs.
Brushed stainless exhaust system with Vance & Hines mufflers versus some chrome jobbies.
Then there’s the brushed aluminium tank strap pretending to hold the tank on, the clear-anodised swing-arm, the polished alloy top triple-clamp, a sexier front guard, Daytona R footpegs, a painted seat cowl, black mirrors and blinkers, slightly narrower clip-ons and a stainless steel key with the British flag on it and dashing touch of red enamel.
You don’t think that’s worth $2400? There’s something wrong with you. I’ve spent more than that in table-dancing bars and got less of a return. It’s a no-brainer, like Hedgie said.
HERITAGE? YEAH, IT’S GOT THAT RIGHT HERE
I know that Mr Bloor’s Meriden concern is not the original Coventry enterprise. Which is probably just as well. I once owned a 1979 Triumph Tiger, so don’t give me any of your Instagram lip. And please don’t be one of those sad fogeys who lament the passing of the “great British motorcycle industry” as if what’s replaced it isn’t a million times better for people who actually want to ride bikes instead of endlessly fixing them. Buying Xener diodes in bulk and wishing Joseph Lucas was torn apart by dogs might sound romantic and nostalgic, but it really was kind of shit.
That aside, the Thruxton name is wreathed in racing glory.
Thruxton was an RAF airfield in Hampshire, England, constructed in 1942 and used during WWII by both the RAF and the USAAF. The field played its part in the D-Day landings and the paratroopers who seized German radar equipment on the coast of France in Operation Biting took off from Thruxton.
The race circuit, built in 1968, follows the airfield’s perimeter road, but bikes have been racing on that perimeter road since 1950.
In 1958, Mike Hailwood won the inaugural Thruxton 500 on a Trumpy, and the following year, the factory produced 13 ‘Thruxton spec’ Bonnevilles for racing. In 1965, they got serious and started limited production runs of Thruxton Bonnevilles homologated for racing. They dominated the Thruxton 500 for the next five years (including a win at the Isle of Man TT on a bike ridden by John Hartle), coming first, second and third in 1969. And that was also the year a Thruxton Bonneville, ridden by Malcolm Uphill, set the first 100mph lap of the Isle of Man.
How many Xener diodes went to Jesus in that time is anyone’s guess.
All the prices, specs, differences, colour options and vast range of accessories can be viewed HERE.
And my thanks to Nick Edards once again. You may go HERE and have him shoot you and your bike.