Triumph’s best bonnie: Thruxton R

The Triumph Thruxton R is not only the best-ever retro bike made, it’s one of the greatest motorcycles of all time.

If you love classics, you’ll sell your kidney for this bike. If you are thirty-something, then you’ll be trading in your R1. Triumph dealers all over the world can confirm this, as the Rs fly out of their showrooms.

The Thruxton R is at the top of the Bonneville family tree but shares the family gene pool with the Street Twin 900 and its even more closely related sibling, the T120 Bonneville 1200. So, at the heart of the R is the same twin-cylinder, eight-valve engine with twin counter balancers and 270º firing order.


The result is a thoroughly modern, vibration-free engine that still retains a lovely anthropomorphic feel as the big pistons bang up and down in the barrels. It’s a really clever job that Triumph has done, melding an authentically classic feel into something young riders will find acceptable.

The engine is air/liquid-cooled, a concept that serves both marketing and practical reasons. There is no doubt that having the big, angular fins stuck out into the breeze like a real Meriden Bonnie is a priceless attraction. Equally, the finning does cool the engine so the radiator can be tiny and unobtrusive. Tucked away between the front downtubes on the frame it’s not much larger than an oil cooler.

The catalyser, now compulsory with Euro 4 regulations, is hidden beneath the engine and the plumbing is equally well concealed. If you wish, it’s easy to find the engineering intrusive and have a really good sigh and grumble about modern regulations, but, equally, if you just want to ride the R or pretend that this is really one of Doug Hele’s creations, then you can do this too.


Just as neat is a sweet, six-speed gearbox with an extremely light clutch action thanks to Triumph’s Assist Slipper Clutch.

The R’s exhaust note is the subject of some controversy. Because of the change in the way exhaust sound is measured under Euro 4 regulations, it is actually much nicer and reminiscent of a Meriden Bonnie in a way that the emasculated T100 Bonneville never was.

The R makes a lovely growl, which is involving, pleasant and which, unless you drop the clutch at 8000rpm and wheelspin up the road, won’t upset anyone.


However, some younger journalists felt this wasn’t sufficiently ‘real’ – whatever that word means – and the standard silencer was considered to be a bit of a woosie. Triumph agreed and it offers Vance & Hines exhausts as accessories. These are simply offensively loud and will get right up the nose of every non-motorcyclist. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad…

Although it’s billed as the rooty-tooty super sports bike in the Bonneville range, in the real world the R is the easiest and most pleasant of the three new bikes – even with a lighter crankshaft and higher compression than the T120. With 95bhp on the end of the ride-by-wire throttle, there is ample power to lose your licence without trying, but the R does not demand committed riding. Contra-intuitively it is actually smoother and easier to ride than the T120 Bonneville, with completely linear power delivery. Given a choice of the two engines for either touring or commuting, I would take the R every time.

Want to discover more about the R? Then get the FULL, exclusive feature and more through purchasing the October 2016 edition of Classic Bike Guide, just click here.

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