Tan leathers, shiny paint, sparkling wheels, dark glasses and bucket loads of rider attitude - these are the traits of a retro motorcycle. Nostalgia, charm, charisma, heritage - these are the feelings a retro bike induces in you. Norton, Indian, BSA, Triumph, Enfield - these are the most common brands that come to mind when you think about retro bikes.
In the past few years retro bikes (now called modern classics) are making a massive comeback. Triumph with the whole Bonneville range, Ducati with the Scrambler and Harley with its Street range are all creating incredible retro classics. These bikes have mass appeal for 3 simple reasons:
1. A lot of people who rode motorcycles in their younger days connect with the brand
2. A lot of people who are young today and want to get into biking find these accessible both to ride and buy
3. The manufacturers are doing a splendid job of preserving the classic heritage (names, design etc.) but building these bikes with modern technologies.
Every now and then comes from this genre of modern classics a bike so distinctive in its look that it feels like a piece of art rather than a motorcycle. The BMW R9T is one such example. But it was not in the reach of most people, especially in India.
Recently Triumph launched the Bonneville Bobber and that to me, is another such distinctive modern classic. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast, I dare you to get close to one in person and if you don't go weak in your knees, I'm happy to buy you unlimited beer (or coffee). Such is visual aesthetic of this bike. If Steve Jobs would have designed a modern classic, this is what he would have created. It simply looks stunning from every angle!!
She's got the look !
Under a beautifully sculpted tank is nestled a compact and great looking 1200 cc parallel twin motor with the most distinctive retro styling - the polished air fins, the faux carburettors that are actually efi modules, distinct Triumph badging all in a totally chic blacked out theme.
Then as you move back, there is the solo seat that looks straight out of the 1960s. It is perhaps the coolest looking seat on any motorcycle in my opinion. Then you have the slammed rear end with full fender. This part of the bike’s styling is controversial, but looks stunning to me. Then you have the slammed front fender with a small circular headlight and forks covered in rubber gaiters to complete that bobber look.
The most distinctive styling element besides the seat are the twin exhausts. They are slammed and low and give the bike an extremely muscular look from the rear.
Like I've said earlier, I don't think there is a better looking modern classic motorcycle out there !!
And then Triumph has a bunch of ultra cool accessories to further enhance its character. I have on my bike a cool wax leather saddle bag mounted to the rear end and a couple of retro analogue gauges (one tells time and the other temperature) right next to the handlebar switchgear. Boy do these simple things enhance its visual appeal.
There she goes….!
Ok, so enough about the looks. All that glitters is not gold. So if it looks so good, it must ride like crap (aka HD 48).
I've ridden my bobber for about 2000 km. Most of this has been city riding. I have changed the stock rear suspension with a rox unit (supplied as an accessory by Triumph).
The first time you sit on the bike, you feel its small proportions. The tank is small and narrow. The seat height is relatively low, so you can easily plant your feet on the ground. It feels like you're sitting in the bike and not on it - and this is two thumbs up in any riders’ book.
Then you fire the engine to life. It has a delicious sound thanks to the uneven firing order of the parallel twin. Then you pull in the clutch, which is light as a feather and engage the first gear, which is smooth as butter. You twist the throttle and that's when you first realize that this bike is not all show. It launches like a pocket rocket thanks to oodles of torque and exceptional mass centralisation. And that delicious exhaust note turns into a thunderous roar every time you twist the throttle.
Finally, you start rolling. You are comforted by the smoothness of the engine and the crispness of the throttle response. She meanders through city traffic like a hot knife slicing through thermocol. That raspy growl of the exhaust gets your AdrenaSense going. Everyone looks at you with shock and awe. You feel you're the coolest person to walk on the face of the earth.
And then you come to a turn. You know this is a modern classic that rides well. But you have most certainly assumed that she can't handle for nuts. You’re cautious. You brake, downshift and gently tip her in. She turns on a dime. Huh! You tell yourself, that was not supposed to happen. The next turn you give it some more go and boy does she turn again on a dime. The more you ride, the more she impresses with her dynamic abilities. This is where Triumph has pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Too cool for school
The Triumph Bobber is a sort of a maverick in the modern classic genre (literally like the character Tom Cruise plays in top gun). She is gorgeous, aggressive and wants to break away from the clutter and establish her own identity. But when it matters, she is fiercely capable and will put a huge smile on you everytime you see her and everytime you ride her.
My only gripe is the rear suspension travel. It's too less for our Indian roads and the bike tends to bottom out very quickly.
She looks like a million bucks, rides like ten million and makes you feel like a hundred million!!
And that's why she's RetroCool.
BigBoyToyz feels privileged to have ‘Petrolheadnerd’ pen down an autobiography of his love affair with the Bobber. Thanks a ton!