2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber: First Ride Review

Triumph’s Hacked Up Bonnie exceeds all expectations

Triumph Bobber
Morgan Gales on the 2017 Bonneville Bobber outside Madrid, SpainTriumph Motorcycles

Honestly, I didn’t really want to like it. The custom bike guy in me revolted when I heard that Triumph named its new model the Bobber. "How original," I thought. After all, a bobber is a bike that is “bobbed” from stock, right? It would be like H-D releasing a new bike called the Chopper. It just seemed absurd. Despite my petty beef with the name, I hopped on a plane to Madrid to test it out, while trying to keep an open mind. After logging a few miles and really getting a chance to dissect the 2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber, it has exceeded all of my expectations. The only real problem I have, is that now I have to tell everyone how much I love a production bike called a Bobber. Don’t worry, I’ll get over myself eventually.

The styling of the bike was as polarizing as a good custom. While I was attracted to it right off the bat, it's a pretty radical redesign on the Bonneville platform and any change on something so timeless and classic can be scary to some. This change, however, was not taken lightly by the team at Triumph. Over three years were spent building and refining this bike before coming to market, and it really shows. While the lines of the Bobber are still classic Triumph, it's the details that give this bike the sense of rugged refinement that I was so attracted to.

Bonneville Bobber
The Bobber holds classic lines in the exhaust and chassis, despite the modern techTriumph Motorcycles

Factory after factory have put out motorcycles with components that feel flimsy and cheap to cut costs and hit an approachable price point. That isn’t this bike. From the steel fenders to the tank badge, to the machined bronze details scattered throughout, nothing feels flimsy or cheap about this bike at all. And not just the fancy trinkets, but little things that aid in maintenance and rideability as well. Rear brake fluid and coolant are quickly checked by removing a small metal cover in what was designed to look like a pre-unit transmission, for example, but are neatly tucked out of sight the rest of the time. The clutch and brake levers are adjustable and the Bobber comes stock with 1-inch bars, again adding to the sturdy feel.

The seat, while it looks thin and daunting, is actually rather comfortable. I am a skinny guy with little-to-no butt, and I went a full day of riding with no discomfort. Not in my butt, anyway. As a taller rider at 6 feet 4 inches, I was anticipating some awkwardness with the ergonomics. It wasn’t until I took advantage of the seat’s adjustability options: sliding it back/down a little over an inch that it travels, that I started to get a little stiff in the shoulders. Most riders seemed to prefer to leave the seat in its forward, higher up position, as it was more conducive to the twisty roads we were hitting.

Bonneville Bobber
High-end paint and details go an extra step to set the Bonneville apart within it’s price rangeTriumph Motorcycles

The same 1200cc engine that powers the Bonneville T120 pulls the Bobber, however tuned for a different style of riding. While the T120 was designed to portray a sense of refinement, the Bobber is much more about attitude. In other words, more torque. It comes on strong, I would always want to shift before the rev limiter, and never found myself hungry for more than I was getting. The Twin Skin exhaust system sounds throaty and rich, while looking like true duals and hiding the catalytic converter underneath the bike. It’s all there, it all works very well, and it’s all hidden wonderfully.

Appearance wise, they have done a truly amazing job at tucking away all of the wires and hoses to give you a real raw, mechanic look. The radiator in the front is the only somewhat unsightly thing on the bike, but even that is blacked out and easy to look past, especially due to its necessity.

Bonneville Bobber
The hardtail style swingarm and bobbed-style ridged fender on the 2017 BobberTriumph Motorcycles

The big test was to see how the new chassis and monoshock design would handle, and we had the perfect route for it. Through twisty mountain roads, we explored the countryside outside of Madrid. The chassis held stable, and the shock did its job exceptionally: providing a comfortable and smooth ride, while efficiently dampening and big bumps, all without ever feeling springy or loose. It was unanimous, the new design was awesome.

Passenger options are going to be non-existent on the Bobber, but for a reason. In order to get the ‘slammed’ look, without compromising performance, they had to basically eliminate the possibility of someone putting an extra 150 lbs on the back. There are several pretty good looking luggage options from the factory, but if you’re looking to take a partner with you on the trip, this ain’t the bike.

Bonneville Bobber
The Bobber dropped easily into the turns, and although the low ride height means a high scrape point, it handles very well.Triumph Motorcycles

A classic feel is not something easily achieved on a motorcycle with this modern tech, but Triumph pulled it off. The single clock unit and relocated ignition switch keep everything at the bars neat and tidy. Dual throttle bodies were designed to look like the vintage Amal carbs. And while the Bobber does come standard with ABS and traction control, both of which can be switched off, they were not invasive. I was hard on the gas and wasn’t cut off or interrupted. The monoshock system screams modern performance when you get up and look at it, but from profile it holds that hardtail line almost perfectly (better when compressed with a rider on it, in my opinion).

What it really is that makes this bike special is the passion behind the team that built it. Nothing was rushed and no compromises were made. This was not a bike designed by a committee. This is a fluid, cohesive motorcycle that pulls from over 100 years of design and inspiration. It’s different, it’s modern, it’s classic, and truly, it’s an amazing bike to ride.

Bonneville Bobber
How low can you go? Dancing on that scrape point in the Spanish twisties.Triumph Motorcycles
2017 Bonneville Bobber Specifications
PRICE $11,900 (black)
ENGINE 1200cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 78.0 hp @ 6100 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 78.2 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 40mm fork; 3.5 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB shock; 3.0 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin two-piston caliper, 310mm disc with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 27.8°/3.5 in.
WHEELBASE 59.4 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 27.2 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 2.4 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 503 lb. dry