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2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber: First Ride

Honestly, I do not want to like it. The custom bike guy in my betrayal I heard the victory named the new model float. “Primitive,” I thought. After all, the float is a bike, it is “cut short” stock, right? It’s like H-D to release a new bike called a helicopter. It just looks ridiculous. Despite my veal name, I took the plane and went to Madrid to test it out, trying to keep an open mind. After logging a few miles, the real get an opportunity to dissect the 2017 win over Bonaville floats, all beyond my expectations. I have, the only problem is that now I want to tell you how much I love to produce bikes called floats. Do not worry, I will eventually overcome.

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The bike’s style is Polarization Custom. As soon as I am drawn to it, this is a rather radical design on the Bonneville platform and any changes to such eternity and classics can be terrible to some. However, this change is not taken lightly by the team win. It took more than three years to build and refine this bike before entering the market, and the real show. While the floats are still classic victories, this is the detail that gives this bike rugged exquisite feel and I really like it.

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.

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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.

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.

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The look was smart and they did a really terrific job of putting all the wires and pipes to give you a real raw, mechanic look. The radiator in front is the only ugly thing on the bike, but even with this power out, it’s easy to look at the past, especially due to its necessity.

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.

The passenger option in the float is non-existent, but there is a reason. In order to get a “bump” look that basically does not affect the performance, they have to eliminate the possibility of someone putting an extra 150 pounds. There are several good options for finding luggage from the factory, but if you want a trip to work with you, it’s not a bike.

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.

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