Triumph Thruxton R Test & Review

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  • The Triumph Thruxton R is the flagship of Triumph’s modern classic lineup.

  • It takes on the form of a café racer, but with the race cowling it becomes a classic racer.

  • Priced from RM 83,900 (the race cowling and Vance & Hines exhausts are optional).

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How many of us actually read the warning labels on the products we buy? I mean look at some of them, “Use Min. RON 95 UNLEADED FUEL only.” Or “Wear a helmet and safety gear when riding.” The more morbid ones state, “Improper use may result in grievous injury or death.”

Well, of course they sound like that, having been written in such way to avoid being sued for product liability. But, aw c’mon, none of them actually alludes to the excitement of riding; of how the bike would make you feel when you ride.

The reason I say this is because there exist bikes that’ll have you obsess over them. So excited over them that you want to just keep riding. So beautiful that it takes up all your attention, and you end up staring at the bike for hours and hours when you park it in your driveway (or living room).

Surely someone would come up with the hair-brained idea to hold the manufacturer accountable?

The Triumph Thruxton R has admittedly been around since Triumph launched their updated line of Bonneville modern classics in 2016. However, we felt that it’s the right time for a revisit, as other manufacturers have also released their café racers, putting them head-to-head with the Thruxton R.

Triumph had completely overhauled the Bonneville family from 2016 . The biggest updates, however, saw the addition of liquid cooling, a 270o crankshaft replacing the traditional 180o and 360o, and the bikes branching into two capacities of 900cc and 1200cc. Different variations were then spawned from these two common platforms.

On the 1200cc side of the family, the engines feature two states of tune: HT for High Torque and HP for High Power. No prizes for guessing correctly that the Thruxton R gets the HP tuning.

Expanding on what Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia describes the café racer style, “(A) café racer is noted for its visual minimalism, featuring low-mounted handlebars, prominent seat cowling and elongated fuel tank (with) knee-grips indented in the fuel tank.”

It’s this visual minimalist that gives the bike it’s “proper” dimensions in the mind’s eye, eluding to something unadulterated in its purpose. The hornet tail-like seat cowling eludes to streamlining. Note that the Thruxton R comes with passenger footpegs and the seat is hidden beneath the cowling, however, you’d need to replace the seat if wish to carry a pillion for longer distances.

Getting on and grabbing the handlebars felt so natural. The handlebars appear low since they are attached below the top triple clamp, but they are actually cast to rise a few inches upwards, giving the rider a sporty crouch, rather than most café racers that stretch you out like a string of spaghetti i.e. butt high up, arms outstretched, chest on the tank. I would say the seating position is closer to the new Street Triple 765 RS.

Triumph Motorcycles Malaysia had fitted the optional upper cowling on this demo bike, turning it into a “proper” classic racer. Besides that, they have also installed a Vance & Hines full system exhaust. (As a side note, there are more than 300 items in Triumph’s accessories catalog.)

From the seat, your eyes meet a pair of classy and beautifully appointed analog gauges. There is an LCD screen in each of them, providing all the info you need, including tripmetres, fuel consumption, fuel range and a fuel gauge.

But the thing about Triumph’s modern classics is not just about the looks. They are thoroughly modern motorcycles, fitted with ABS, Triumph Traction Control (TTC) and power modes (RAIN, ROAD, SPORT). The headlights, daytime running lights (DRL), taillight and all signal lamps are LED.

Firing up the bike gave me a jump as the engine roared to life. These V&H pipes were definitely more vocal, rumbling at idle.

First gear engaged with a positive click, and we were off riding on the engine’s beautifully smooth torque, pulling away to a melodious “Braaaooooom.” But as soon as the right hand snaps the throttle open, the Thruxton R jumped forward without hesitation, accompanied by an almost ruffian-like BRRRAAAAOOOWPPP from the twin canons which drowned out all the sound of the world. Me, on the other hand, went “WHEEEEE!”

The Thruxton R was so easy to steer – left-right, right-left – as I avoided the bumps and traffic around Section 13, PJ. Mixed in with the engine’s propensity to pull anywhere in the rev range and that Symphony #1 from the engine and exhausts, it got additive within minutes. Why should one get addicted to hard drugs when you have the Thruxton R???

I had an appointment to meet Keshy for lunch at the Coliseum restaurant in Jaya 33, just some 300 metres away from the Triumph showroom, but I rode all the way to SS2 and Seapark before turning back to Jaya 33 – all subconsciously. The Thruxton R had just taken over my thoughts and actions!

And as if the planets, stars and nebulae were correctly aligned, we had an opportunity to ride the bike up Bukit Tinggi the next day on a TOP SECRET mission. I’d normally give the place a wide berth unless on smaller bikes. Ponder about it: Narrow road, sharp corners and chicanes, decreasing radius turns, dirt in the corners, etc. I understood how medieval torture felt like when I rode up there the last time on a 160-bhp naked sportbike.

It turned out to be a misgiving as the Thruxton R kept up with Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and Triumph Street Triple RS, even in the rain. All I needed to do was keep it in a gear higher, and rely on its agile handling and that wonderful midrange torque to punch out of the corners. Flicked it left, flicked it right, the Thruxton R exhibited neutral handling. It turned in smartly whether you coasted, trail braked, or kept the throttle slightly opened on your way in. The front end wanted to tuck under in a few very slow corners but adding some throttle cured it. It wasn’t the bike’s fault, I had pushed downwards onto the handlebars in all that excitement.

Talking about the throttle, I kept in SPORT in the rain because I could’ve sworn that my right hand was connected directly to the throttle bodies (they mimic the beautiful vintage Amal carbs, by the way). Then again, riding in the rain in SPORT mode isn’t unique to the Thruxton R. I’ve done so on the aforementioned Tiger 800 XCx and Street Triple RS. I can attest that Triumph motorcycles have the best throttle “feel” and response. A direct-feeling and predictable throttle response brings confidence to the rider; and riding enjoyment is a direct consequence of that confidence. You don’t want to go into a corner and have an abrupt throttle response either scaring you or messing up your intended line, right?

I guess I shouldn’t have second-guessed the Thruxton R’s ability to handle corners like the way it did. The entire Bonneville lineup (both 1200s and 900s) are fundamentally good handling bikes already, so since the Thruxton R is equipped with fully-adjustable Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF) and Ohlins shocks that made it handle like a dream. There’s only so much one could do if the base bike has terrible handling, and adding the best suspension will not guarantee that you could turn a water buffalo into a thoroughbred race horse. The Thruxton name is hallowed, but I personally refer to the Thruxton R as the “Bonneville RS.”

Anyway, if going uphill at Bukit Tinggi was challenging, coming down was outright hairy in the rain as gravity “assisted” in adding more speed than I intended. I was so thankful for that handling, Brembo Monoblocs and ABS. A single finger pull on the brake lever was enough to modulate the brakes into the turns. The Triumph Traction Control (TTC) kept the rear front sliding like a supermoto.

Down Karak Highway, as was when we rode up earlier, the chassis didn’t care if the road was smooth or bumpy, or if was painted with those dreaded red lines: The bike held onto the chosen line. There’s one particularly long right-hander and the bike just blew past everything on while on its side. It may look vintage, but it didn’t run like a vintage.

But it wasn’t only about going fast. The Thruxton R was equally as happy when trudging along at 50-60 km/h in the city (time to let people ogle at the bike). Like I mentioned earlier, the engine just purrs along when ridden at a steady throttle. On the highways, 3800 RPM in sixth translates to 120 km/h; and that’s the best range to ride in as it’s close to the peak torque of 112 Nm at 4950 RPM. And no, unless you’re chasing a 1000cc superbike (which isn’t a smart thing to do anyway), the engine doesn’t run out of breath quickly although its 97 bhp peak power arrives at 6750 RPM. But what those figures do reveal is how flexible the engine is. Just give throttle at any time and the bike takes off. The Thruxton R could hit 220 km/h really quickly.

In the few days I had the bike, I discovered just how characterful the Triumph Thruxton R really was. It’s got the pose and the poise, plus everything in between. It’s got all that one would want of a bike: Rideability, looks, sound, confidence, practicality and some touring capability (since it’s comfortable), handling, safety, reliability, even low fuel consumption. It did what I wanted it to do and then some.

What about shortcomings? The ride mode defaults back to ROAD when you switch the ignition back on. Honestly though, that’s not a problem, but I had to mention this because I’m forced to find something amiss with the bike, lest I be blamed as being biased. The curse of being a motojournalist, sigh… (Rolls eyes.)

For me personally, it’s been thirty years since I felt this excited. That was when I rode my very first bike out of the shop.

As for you, our Dear Readers, if you’ve never ridden a Triumph or ever felt convinced about the brand, one single ride on this bike will have you going Bri’ish in a hurry.

However, I recommend that the Test Ride Indemnity Form or a sticker on the bike ought to include a statement, “The manufacturer and/or dealer will not be held accountable for increased heart rate, dryness of mouth, palpitations, sleepless nights and obsession to own one (or more) resulting from the test ride. Giggling like a school girl is entirely a personal choice.”

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 8-valves, parallel-Twin, 270o crank
Compression ratio 11.0 : 1
Bore X Stroke 97.6 mm X 80.0 mm
Displacement 1200 cc
Fuel system Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Maximum power 97 bhp (72 kW) @ 6,750 RPM
Maximum torque 112 Nm (82.6) ft.-lbs. @ 4,950 RPM
TRANSMISSION  
Clutch Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox 6-speed
CHASSIS
Front suspension Showa 43mm USD Big Piston Forks (BPF), adjustable for preload, compression damping and rebound damping, 120 mm travel
Rear suspension Öhlins dual shocks with piggyback reservoir, adjustable for preload, compression damping and rebound damping, 120 mm travel
Front brakes Dual 310 mm floating discs, dual four-piston radially mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers
Rear brake Single 220 mm disc, two-piston Nissin caliper
ABS ABS standard, swtichable on/off
Front tyre 120/70-ZR17
Rear tyre 160/60-ZR17
FRAME & DIMENSIONS
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Two-sided aluminium, clear powdercoated
Trail 92.0 mm
Rake 22.8 degrees
Wheelbase 1415 mm
Seat height 810 mm
Dry weight 203 kg
Fuel capacity 14.4 litres

 

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