It’s darker, meaner and stronger than the standard Triumph Bonneville Bobber – so why not take it onto a drag strip!
A perfectly sound methodology to me, and that’s why the first half of the recent media launch for the new Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black was spent at Sydney Dragway, getting to really know the 1200cc cruiser in full, no-holds-barred mode.
We’d ridden the Bobber Black around the streets of Melbourne a few months earlier, but to sample the first spin-off of the original Bobber in an environment one would not normally associate with the machine certainly added an extra dimension to proceedings.
Same, but slightly different
So how is the Bobber Black different from the Bobber? Apart from bringing across all the original’s pedigree – including the 1200 HT (High Torque) engine wrapped in a tubular-steel twin-cradle frame – there are a number of front-end inspired chassis tweaks and the obvious blacked-out styling for the headers, peas-shooter and slash-cut silencers, engine cases, levers, footpegs, headlight surround, rims, hubs and levers.
Colours don’t stray from the narrative, either: it’s either matte or gloss black…
The Bobber Black has a chunky 16-inch front tyre compared to a skinny 19-incher for the Bobber, as well as larger 47mm Showa forks (as opposed to 41mm KYB forks), twin 310mm discs (as opposed to a single 310mm disc) and Brembo brakes (as opposed to Nissin). The Bobber Black retains Avon Cobra rubber.
There’s also a full LED headlight, daytime running lights and a single-button cruise control. Total damage for the extra Bobber Black privileges is $1500, which brings the retail price up to $19,500 plus on-road costs.
And it’s still signature Bobber with the hard tail look, single seat, flat bars, wire-spoked wheels and chopped fenders.
There are also two accessory kits called ‘Old School’ and ‘Quarter Mile’, which retail for $2750 and $2820 respectively. Old School includes a brown leather seat and ape hanger bars, which we even used on the dragstrip – for novelty value more than anything else
The 120-plus accessory list also includes heated grips, Vance & Hines silencers, swingarm bags and panniers, and Fox adjustable shocks.
Form and function
The Bobber scored the gong for best cruiser in the 2017 Bikesales Bike of the Year Awards, and it then joined seven other bikes for a four-day ride through the mountains as we deliberated on an overall winner.
Understandably, the Bonneville Bobber still maintains the same proof points, but the beefier front end definitely provides a much more solid package over the Bobber, and as a styling exercise it looks better as well. Form and function all in one.
And if you want to get a little funky through the twisties, the Brembo brakes will come along for the ride, whereas ‘enthusiastic’ riding tests the resolve of the standard Bobber.
Not that brakes were a huge concern when we lobbed at Sydney Dragway. Instead, it was all about indemnities and briefings as we prepared ourselves for the shootout – joined by Triumph global ambassador Charley Boorman, who extended a recent trip to Australia to take in the Bobber Black and Bonneville Speedmaster national launches.
Other than a refresher in how the ‘Christmas tree’ column of lights worked, Triumph Australia’s technical guru Cliff Stovall also implored us to just ‘dump’ the slip and assist clutch – they work best that way rather than being ‘feathered’ off the line. The switchable traction control was also turned off, and we all double checked the riding mode was set on ‘Road’ and not ‘Rain’.
If you’re not drag regular, it does take some time to get into a groove – but the relative tameness of the Bobber Black certainly fast-tracked the comfort levels compared to the last bike I rode on a drag strip – the booming Suzuki Hayabusa…
We all enjoyed a few practice runs before the shootout began, with average quarter-mile times around the high 12-second mark with top speeds of around 155km/h. The Bobber’s very tall gearing meant that fourth gear was the tallest cog selected down the chute, and a couple of times I was hitting the rev limiter in third just before the finish line. And that’s when my opponent ran over the top of me…
Compared to the T120, which also has the 1200 HT engine, the Bobbers produce a more steely punch between 3000-6000rpm, with peak torque a claimed 106Nm at 4000rpm and peak power of 77hp (56.6Kw) at 6100rpm.
I digress, briefly. The Bobber Black may have tall gearing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a jerky affair around town. Even if it was, the light clutch would soon smooth things over, but Triumph has long been a master at fine-tuning the fueling to absolute perfection.
On the open road, the Bobber Black is barely ticking over at 2650rpm in top gear at 100km/h, so it’s a true overdrive.
The moment of truth
Back on the dragstrip, the serious business of competition ended for Bikesales in no time after I jumped the start by a poofteenth. Still, a false start’s a false start, and that was my day over.
The final was fought out between Bikesales freelancer Steve Martin and Boorman in a classic ‘Ashes’ stoush, won by the former after Steve’s slow start cost him any chance of success.
Boorman flashed across the lie the winner, while the consolation for Steve was the highest top speed of the day (165km/h) and the fastest quarter-mile– 12.3 seconds. Not bad for a 77hp/237.5kg machine!
It’s kind of underwhelming blending back into normal traffic after bring on drag strip, but that’s what we did after we left Sydney Dragway and made our way back to the hotel via the Royal National Park.
It’s a well-worn motorcycle route with curves, bumps and litter patches galore – just the type of day trip an aspiring Bobber Black owner would look at taking.
The drop in intensity also gave me a time to take in the nice boom from the slash-cut pipes, and to really crystallise my thoughts about this machine. It’s impressive: a better ride in the bush and burbs than its sibling, and with the stopping power to match.
Triumph’s heritage range has now been overhauled, and the Bobber Black may be ‘tail-end Charlie’ in terms of a release date, but it’s probably got more chutzpah than the lot of them. Sure, there are limitations with the suspension travel and small fuel tank, but they only really come into play when the Bobber Black is outside its natural habitat.
We’ve said before that the concept of ‘production-bobber’ may be an oxymoron for those who are dyed-in-the-wool bespoke custom creators, but I’ll take the Bobber Black: lusty performance, great looks and modern everything is just too much of a strong case.
SPECS: 2018 TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE BOBBER BLACK
Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke eight-valve parallel-twin
Bore x stroke: 97.6mm x 80.0mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Engine management: Electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: 77hp (56.6kW) at 6100rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 106Nm at 4000rpm
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame: Tubular steel cradle
Front suspension: 47mm Showa conventional fork, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: KYB monoshock, adjustable for preload
Front brakes: Dual 320mm discs with Brembo four-piston calipers
Rear brake: 255mm disc with single-piston caliper
Tyres: Avon Cobra, front 130/90-16, rear 150/80-16
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed dry weight: 237kg
Seat height: 690mm
Fuel capacity: 9.1 litres
Price: $19,500 plus on-roads
Colours: Matte black or gloss black
Test bike supplied by: Triumph Motorcycles Australia
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres