BIG BONNEVILLE BRINGS BACK MEMORIES OF MY FIRST TASTE OF ROAD MOTORCYCLING
If the cornerstone of the Triumph Modern Classics range is that the bikes are all about nostalgia, the new Bonneville T120 Black has to be one of the best examples.
Filled with carefully hidden modern technology and wrapped in a blanket of classic styling, the new Bonneville T120 Black headlines the all new 1200cc Bonneville range, and it certainly takes me back.
The Bonneville range will always bring back a few memories for me as it was a Bonneville T100 owned by my Dad that gave me my first taste of road motorcycling.
A lot has changed in the Bonneville range since the days of Dad’s T100.
Engine size has increased from an 865cc carburetted engine, to a 1200cc fuel injected unit, with the addition of water-cooling for the first time in the 2016 model.
The 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 comes in two flavours — the ultra classic T120 with its period correct chrome features, and the T120 Black which, as the name suggests, drops the chrome for the modern trend of black paint and a cool dark brown seat.
Just like the rest of the 2016 Triumph modern classic range, the T120’s radiator is mounted to the front frame tubes in a way not too dissimilar to a large oil cooler. The piping has been carefully kept away from all but the closest look. Like the Street Twin I tested a couple of months ago, the coolant tank is under the swing arm in order to keep weight low and maintain the classic lines of the Bonneville.
When it comes to emulating that oh-so-classic look, the Bonneville T120 definitely hits the mark and on the road the T120 has the go to match the show. The big 1200cc high torque motor is silky smooth, with just a little bit more character than the new 900cc unit found in the Street Twin. The 900 is a gem of an engine, but is so smooth and vibration-free you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re riding an electric bike, whereas the T120 has just a little bit of vibration to let you know there are two big pistons jumping up and down just below you.
Producing 59 kW and 105 Nm of torque, the big Bonne glides along at 100km/h with little to no effort. Just a flick of the wrist in top gear is all you need to overtake with its monstrous torque giving all the kick it needs to pass that stray slow car. Throttling up through the gears from a standstill brings you up to the legal limit in quick fashion.
With two riding modes for the first time on a Bonneville, the rider can select how all that power is delivered. Road mode gives you the full beans and Rain mode is just the touch of a button away to dampen things down and ensure you keep the 224kg T120 under control when things get wet.
Other riding aids are the obligatory ABS and Traction Control, which can be switched off at the touch of the information button while the bike is at a standstill. This, of course, will automatically turn back on after the bike is switched off.
Pulling you to a stop are twin 310mm front rotors clamped by twin piston calipers from Nissin. Out back is a 255mm rotor with a two piston caliper. Together the brakes are more than enough to bring the T120 to a halt and the ABS helped prevent me from locking up the retro tread pattern of the Pirelli tyres when an inconsiderate driver decided to cut me off on the motorway.
On the back roads, riding the T120 is much more like a sports bike in terms of the riding style you adopt. With its short one-piece handlebar you need to put in a lot more effort than with previous Bonneville models to get it to turn in.
Once I adjusted my riding style to suit the handlebars, I found it enjoyable to treat the big classically styled bike as a sports machine, especially when cornering some more “sporty” machines during a weekend ride. This particular T120 already has an owner, who has raided the large Triumph parts catalogue for a few choice parts to add a bit of bling to the usually subdued T120 Black. Billet aluminium parts now dot the bike in select places, bringing a little shine to the blacked-out engine.
All I’d change on the T120 Black would be swapping out the handlebars for slightly wider units for more leverage to make riding around town a little easier.
There’s not much to complain about with the factory spec. It was a joy to ride the big Triumph. By far one of the bike’s best features (apart from its new heart) are the exquisite clocks that match this classy hero of the Triumph modern classic range so well.