30 years ago Marty McFly went back to the future and landed in last week. If he’d hoverboarded back to Doc Brown’s workshop and reported that Triumph were still flogging air cooled twins he’d never have been taken seriously.
Thankfully the crew from Hinckley arrived at Bike Shed’s new London HQ just in time with their new range of liquid cooled bikes. Behind a veil of secrecy usually reserved for presidential visits the world’s press were invited for the official launch. Social media and two-wheeled news channels are awash with the stats, facts and figures so we won’t regurgitate the press release. Suffice to say that this isn’t just a quick re-skin to appease the Euro bureaucrats and their long running emissions folly, these are brand new motorcycles to cater for today’s demand and tomorrow’s necessity.
If you’ve seen the two in-house custom builds from the hands of Triumph’s employees (built in there own time) you’ll be familiar with the staggering level of engineering competence that the workforce possess. (click here to see the feature). What the engineers appear to have done is successfully rebuffed the bean counters and carried this attention to detail and quality from the skunkworks to the production line. Here in the ‘Shed we’re detail guys and the use of a nicely machined fastener will have more impact than a flashy paint job. Speaking of which, when you get up close check out the engine mounting bolts, they’re things of beauty.
The classically styled T120 packs 1200cc of high torque punch and is impressively true to the original designs from nearly six decades ago. Gone are the dummy Keihin carbs, replaced by Amal styled throttle body housings, complete with a knurled brass top nut. Pastiche attempts to evoke nostalgia often result in cheap looking afterthoughts that detract from the rest of the bike, but not in this case. The alloy used is almost exactly the same tone as the original carbs and the rumbled finish identical to the concentrics fitted to Dick Shepherd’s collection of super-rare bikes on display.
The header pipes are made from double skinned tubing to ensure a light blueing of the chrome but not a complete change of colour, should keep the Sunday Autosol warriors happy. The spark plug caps are reminiscent of the original Bakelite versions, just the right burgundy and semi-matt finish. OK, so this is geek level stuff but it shows that Triumph haven’t just drilled a few holes in some engine blocks, poured water in and called it a new bike.
One of the primary reasons decades old donors have been the mainstay of the custom scene is because of the simplicity of air cooled engines, both aesthetically and practically. The cooling package is something that gives engineers and designers night sweats. With a front wheel parting the air and effectively diverting a portion of it around the bike, achieving sufficient cooling without using a massive radiator is no mean feat. The rads across the new range are inoffensive and as unobtrusive as possible, for a mass produced component. The rest of the engine is more than handsome enough to make up for this environmental placation.
Here the more contemporary T120 Black hides its new appendage very well indeed.
For those looking for a more sporting riding position and café racer style, the Thruxton could be the model of choice. The fuel tank is slim and wonderfully proportioned with the opportunity to break out the accessory catalogue, more on that later, and fit the brushed steel tank strap and Monza cap. The latter pops up to reveal a lockable plastic inner cap. Small details but all adding to the rose tinted spectacle.
There’ll of course be riders after a more spirited experience and the Thruxton R ticks that box. Öhlins shocks, adjustable Showa forks and Brembo monoblocs as standard to tame the ‘high power’ 1200 twin. There’s also a track oriented ‘Performance Race Kit’ available, the full details of which should follow soon. One make race series or gentlemens track day weapon?
We particularly liked the half-faired version of the Thruxton R, complete with Vance & Hines pipes. The engine note is bellowing yet crisp and we seriously hope one of these is available for the road test day. Although Dutch might want to sit that out as the Thruxton R is likely to make his Ducati Paul Smart feel like a mid-century Massey Ferguson in comparison.
Last but by no means least is the Street Twin with just 900cc to play with. Since when did a near litre-bike become entry level? New riders need not fear and should bin their preconceptions about displacement correlating to experience and ability. The clutch feels like it’s only connected at one end, the seat height is reassuringly low and the riding position appears perfect for commuting, weaving through the city as well as weekend excursions on proper roads. In matt black the Street Twin looks fantastic and some people with deposits on Ducati’s Scrambler might be checking the small print for the word refundable.
With cities becoming choked with traffic and more people switching to two wheels for reasons of economy and time saving there are now more options to convert necessity to enjoyment. When the Street Twin comes with ABS, a Slip Assist clutch and traction control, wrapped up in a seriously good looking package, with options for bolt-on luggage a potential large capacity scooter buyer would surely have to question their purchasing logic. Prices haven’t been released yet but with fuel economy 36% better than the outgoing EFI Bonnie it would be all but the most price sensitive buyer who’d ignore the attraction of cool over practicality.
OK so that is a bit of a long shot and unlikely to have been on the marketeers list of target markets but technology isn’t just for the 200hp track beasts and adventure bikes, it’s going a long way to remove trepidation and attract people to biking who were previously stuck behind the propaganda pedalled by parents that two wheels result in instant death and destruction. Yes motorcycling is dangerous, but so are ponies and BMXs. If Triumph can encourage more new riders to the road by way of ‘Inspiration Kits‘ and danger dilution devices then we’re all for it.
So, the team from Hinckley have triumphed with the modernisation of a tried and tested motorcycle and carried the genetic code of their heritage successfully through to the next generation of riders and maybe inspired the old guard to go back to British. But have they hammered a nail into the customiser’s coffin? If you can order a Brat seat, scrambler pipe and rear sets straight from the catalogue and have your dealer fit them without voiding the warranty then why would you need the skills of the myriad of bike builders?
The simple answer is no. What Triumph, and other manufacturers, have done is to open the door to new and existing motorcyclists who either weren’t comfortable with or hadn’t considered making their bike individual. Many of these riders would have been unlikely customers of custom shops anyway, choosing to either ride something modern that simply does a job or worse, not ride at all. We have no doubt that custom workshops around the world will be rejoicing at the opportunity to make their mark on these new high tech canvases and challenge each other with ever more innovative and audacious builds.
For the Bike Shed these are exciting times and we can’t wait to see the custom Bonnies, Thruxtons and Street Twins hitting our inbox over the coming months.