Published on October 1st, 2017 | by Boris0
OUTLAW THE BOBBER
The life of a motorcycle marketing manager cannot be easy. He must get his brand’s product in front of as many eyes as he can. He must pander to the scum and villainy that make up the Australian motorcycle press corps. He must do things that bring shame to his ancestors – and he has to do all of these things with a smile on his face and a song in his heart.
So when I approached Paul and Dale at Peter Stevens Importers with my great idea I’m sure their smiles stayed fixed and shiny as their hearts sang songs of glory. But it was over the phone so I’ll never know for sure.
“Blokes,” I said. “I’ve got this great idea for the Bobber I have at the moment.”
“Yeah, we know. You want to put apehangers and pipes on it.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed. “But it’s what I want to do after that we need to talk about.”
“Go on,” came the guarded response.
“Well,” I said. “It’s all well and good handing out your beaut motorcycles to people like me.”
“And it’s all well and good handing out your motorcycles to magnificently bearded social media gurus so they can fill their Instagram feeds with your Triumphs.”
“Get to the point.”
“I want to take the Bobber and give to an outlaw motorcycle club member and see what he thinks of it.”
The silence on the other end of the line was profound. But they hadn’t hung up on me, so I continued.
“Think of the cred!” I said. “A bone fide one percenter rides the bike, then tells me what he thinks of it. It’s a road-test like no-one has ever done before.”
“What if he doesn’t like it?”
“We’ll set fire to it and kick it off a cliff,” I grinned.
“You’re joking, right?”
“Absolutely. There are no cliffs where we plan on going.”
“We’ll get back to you,” they said.
I could certainly understand their reticence.
All either of them knew about outlaws was what they’d read in the media. As far as they could grasp, I was about to hand the Bobber over to a vicious orphanage-burner who would melt it down and make bath-tub speed out of it, which would then be injected into his veins to fuel a rampage of cop-killing, terrorism and book-burning.
A few days later Paul contacted me.
“So this is all going to be cool, yes?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I said. “I know the bloke, I’ll be with him on his bike, there will be a photographer along, and neither of us smoke.”
“What’s smoking got to do with it?”
“No lighters,” I said. “Can’t torch the Bobber if we don’t have a lighter.”
Then we both laughed. Hahahaha. Just like that.
Then I rang Sean and asked him if he wanted to test-ride a Triumph Bobber.
Sean rides with the Black Uhlans MC and has for a very long time. I have known him for a few years and we have cultivated a friendship in that time.
I very much admire and respect the fact Sean can ride a bike very quickly. The bloke is legitimately fast, and on his home circuit, the fabulously treacherous Macquarie Pass, is in a class all by himself. If you’ve ever been rounded up on that pass by a bloke on a 2013 Wide Glide, it’s probably Sean. Don’t feel bad. It’s what he does.
And because it’s what he does, he has made sure his Harley is up to the task.
Sean’s done things to it. Smart things. Things that make it handle better, turn faster and track surer. It’s a true hard rider’s bike.
I rode it the day we went out, and it’s hands down the best sorted Harley I have ever ridden. It’s not the shiniest. It’s not the flashiest. And it’s not the most powerful Harley I ever had the pleasure of riding. But it is one of the sweetest-riding ones I’ve ever piloted.
Harley apart, Sean also rides dirt-bikes with his family and has a very tidy and well-maintained 1985 Yamaha RZ350 two-stroke he also takes for a scream as often as he can.
So Sean knows his shit – there is serious motorcycle DNA in his crazy veins.
Having him ride the Bobber and to get his take on Triumph’s factory-custom was going to be an interesting exercise. It’s not like I could put words in his mouth, or misquote him, or make him like it if he hates it.
To Triumph’s credit, it also took a gamble on this great idea of mine. After all, if at the end of the day Sean said: “It’s a bucket of shit and I hate it”, then that’s what I would have to write down.
On a beaut day in late winter, I made my way down to Wollongong and pulled up in front of Sean’s place. I had fitted a set of Triumph mini apes and Vance & Hines mufflers to the Bobber. So it had a bit of a note, and it had a bit of a stance. Crucially, the apes had made it far more comfortable to ride, and offered the rider a bit more leverage in twisty sections.
Sean was not a fan of apehangers. His own bike had wide bars, sticky tyres, well-sorted suspension, and a brilliant engine-bracing thingy that stopped the big twin flexing sideways, hugely improving its stability in corners.
The Bobber’s tyres were also sticky, it also held its lines remarkably well, and I was of the view it would surprise the crap out of him when he fired it up the mountain.
“Shit,” he said. “It’s smaller than I thought it would be.”
And beside his Wide Glide, the Bobber certainly is small. It’s slimmer, and it’s lighter, but I was thinking that magical 1200cc engine was going to make a believer out of him.
Sean spent some time looking at the adjustable seat which was already as low and as far back as it would go, before declaring he would situate it lower down.
“I reckon it sits too high up,” he said. “It would look heaps better if the seat was lower. But it’s not bad otherwise.”
“Let’s see if you think that after you ride it,” I said.
Sean tossed me the key-fob to his Wide Glide, threw his leg over the Bobber and the test-ride began.
And like all things outlaw, it began rather quickly. Sean took it easy through the built-up areas, but once we left suburbia behind, he pinned the Bobber to the stop.
All I could do was try to keep up.
We did a host of backroads Sean was familiar with, had a few beers at the pub, adjourned for the day, then hooked up again in the morning and did the Macquarie Pass early enough to avoid the Sunday rush.
“So what do you think of the Bobber?” I asked over a coffee.
“I think Triumph did the bobber look better than any other manufacturer – especially the rear-end.”
I nodded. “I agree. The back-end is like Harley’s old Softail unit, but turned upside down with linkages added, which is why it works. How’d you find the ride?”
“It was way more comfortable than it looked,” Sean grinned, almost like he couldn’t believe it was as good as it was. “I’m not usually a fan of high bars, but I couldn’t imagine this bike without them.”
I felt validated.
“What surprised me most was how easy the bike was to ride,” Sean continued. “It would be a great bike for someone who is coming off his Ps. My 2013 Wide Glide is far heavier to turn and feels antiquated and loose in comparison.”
“I’m thinking you don’t get the chance to ride much new stuff, huh?”
“No, not really,” Sean smiled.
“Still, it’s not like you were exactly hanging around on the Bobber. It was all I could do to keep up.”
“I think my Harley is faster, but it does have 400cc more. For most people though, the Bobber would leave the Harley for dead.”
“What didn’t you like?” I asked, opening the worm-can.
“I didn’t like the tacky black plastic tail-light and those half-house-brick switchblocks Indian and Triumph both fit to their bikes. They’re hideous. Bigger is only better when it’s to do with engines, for fuck’s sake.”
“I’m taking notes. Please continue.”
“I would prefer the seat lower and further back and the wiring should be inside the handlebars,” Sean said.
I shrugged. “I agree about the seat, but that’s a major engineering exercise and I think the messy cables are my fault. When they fitted the apes, they had to fit longer cables and wiring, and even the tech said it looked a bit messy. The standard bars and cables are much neater, and I don’t think Triumph thought a lot about the cabling when it added the apes to its aftermarket goodies list.”
“I don’t like the fork gaiters,” Sean observed. “It ain’t an 80s motocross bike.”
I nodded. “No, you’re right. But the hipsters like gaiters. They make them feel all ironic and ethically sourced.”
“What would they know?” Sean asked.
“Not a lot. How’d you find the handling?”
Sean smiled. “When pushing hard through the corners it starts grinding. The pegs are stepped down! What the…?”
“Yeah, I think they were trying for better ergos and sacrificed some ground clearance for more legroom. Maybe you just need to stop riding it harder than the normal people who’re gonna buy it will ride it.”
“But that was fun!” Sean declared. “Grinding it up Macquarie Pass was so easy. I actually missed it when I gave it back to you, especially since I had to ride my old-feeling Harley back down. I loved how you could nail the throttle to the stop at the apex of a corner, and you could feel the bike holding a perfect line. That rear suspension is awesome. Zero squirming out of corners.”
“It is good, isn’t it?” I agreed. “But Triumph has aftermarket Fox units that are even awesomer.”
“Why didn’t you fit one?”
“There weren’t any in stock.”
We both sat in companionable silence contemplating the vagaries of the motorcycle industry.
Sean eventually spoke.
“Bikes like this should be obnoxiously loud,” he declared.
“You’re preaching to the converted,” I said.
“I also think if Triumph fitted a pussy pad on the rear guard and some pillion pegs it would sell heaps more.”
Like Sean, I have also never cared all that much about pillion comfort, but the thought of what it might be like for a girlfriend perched on a square of vinyl astride that madly bouncing rear-end did put a smile on my face.
“It will never happen according to Triumph,” I said.
“I could make one,” Sean offered. “I’d actually love to own one as my 52nd bike (Sean has owned 51 motorcycles). And I really think Triumph should give me one long-term so I could make it right for me. Please.”
“I don’t see how it could possibly refuse given you said please and everything.”
So he liked it.
A lot, apparently.
I wasn’t surprised, but I think Sean might have been.
It was my pleasure and privilege to surprise him like that.
And good on Triumph for having the foresight to make this happen.
I think Sean, Triumph and I have just had a world-first. An outlaw test-rode a brand-new Triumph, and offered his considered and very valid opinion on it.
I’m now rather curious to see what Sean would make of a KTM Superduke R…
My press launch test of the Bobber can be found HERE, along with specs, prices and burnouts.
My thanks to Nick Edards for the stunning photography. You may engage Nick HERE.