ROAD TEST: 2018 Triumph Bonneville Bobber Review

By Koz Mraz. Photos by Christina Fior

The Triumph Bonneville Bobber is the most successful new model launch in Triumph’s 115-year history, with more customers taking delivery of the Bobber in the first 30 days than any previous Triumph motorcycle. A ’Bobber,’ originally called a ‘bob-job’ from the 1930s through 1990s,  typically involved stripping excess bodywork from a motorcycle; removing the front fender, and shortening the rear fender, which is “bobbed” (as in ”bob-tail”), and all superfluous parts removed to reduce weight.  Triumph brilliantly accomplished this cool retro look in many ways. First is the hardtail-look design, is achieved with its rear shock under the seat. Secondly, the adjustable seat is mounted on a cantilevered arm that hovers over the single shock.  The shock iIt’s also adjustable, accommodating a variety of rider heights. Requiring the removal of one bolt and the loosening of another, the rider can slide the arm rearward and down, up to a max of about 2 inches.

It’s very raw and there will never be a pillion seat on this Bobber;, it’s for a solo rider only.

The Bobber’s clean lines hides almost every wire, cable, hose and piece of technology, an important touch for a bike meant to evoke simpler times. Even the discreet radiator’s expansion tank is cleverly hidden within an attractive brushed silver panel on the right side of the engine. Viewed from the side, there is a lot of visible space around the engine, and the brushed aluminum slash- cut exhaust pipes frame the bike beautifully.

When it comes to how the engine looks, perhaps no area was as important as the transition to liquid-cooling. The advantages of switching from air-/oil-cooling are obvious from a performance perspective, but tremendous effort was made towards keepmaking the radiator fromnot intrudinge into the visuals. The result is a radiator that, while being larger than the previous oil cooler, carries less visual weight. No hoses hang out in the wind. Instead, they are tucked between the frame’s down tubes.

A liquid-cooled, 1200cc, eight valve, parallel twin ‘high torque’ motor has been designed to deliver more power, lower-down. It has the same dimensions as the outgoing 865cc so proportionally the bike is no bigger despite the increase in engine capacity. In terms of performance the new power plant provides low- end torque for instant drive in each gear. The previous Bonneville  power plant made its peak torque at 6800 rpm, while the new 1200 provides instant power, maxing at 77.5 ft-lbs at 3100 rpm, a 54% increase over the previous 865cc power plant.

The previous Bonnie used actual carburetor bodies to house the fuel injectors;, the 1200 engine’s ride-by-wire hardware is hidden inside throttle bodies that look like carburetors, complete with float bowls and brass screw rings. Additionally, the 1200s feature ride modes that the user can change on the fly from a handlebar- mounted switch. Naturally, ABS is included on all of the new Bonnies.

For 2018, Triumph also offers the “Bobber Black”


This is where the new 1200 cc engine excels. Those bold enough to turn traction- control off will find that the power- to- weight ratio frees this Bobber to do what it does best.

It’s said that the Devil is in the details and again, this is where the Bobber shines. Check out the battery box with the brushed- finish strap on it.  Gold accents, brushed aluminum and overall details like this that make the Bobber special.  Plus, the Bonneville Bobber has over 130 additional accessories available to enhance its beauty further.

I thought that the bar-end mirrors worked very well. The rear single shock soaked up small bumps, transmitting nothing to the seat floating above it. Acceleration was invigorating and handling exceptional. Turning radius seemed a tad wide and I felt the Nissin two-piston caliper front brake and Nissin one-piston rears a bit anemic at high- speed stops.

I think the European ‘kick stand- down’ and ‘clutch- activated- to- start’ safety features are a great idea BUT for Ggod’s sake, can we please have self-canceling turn signals?!  Perhaps the Brits are used to this archaic technology, but here ion America; it’s really hard to get used to.  Also both tires are tubed and technology exists to have spoked wheels that accommodate tubeless tires.

All in all, what a fun bike to ride!, Tthe perfect entrée into motorcycling, the Bobber is sexy, stylish, functional and affordable.

For 2018  Triumph also offers the “Bobber Black” with  functional changes concentrated at the front of the machine: Instead of the 19-inch front tire of the original Bobber, the Bobber Black gets a fat, 130/90-16 Avon tire, still on a wire-spoked wheel but now carried by a stouter, 47mm Showa cartridge fork rather than a 41mm KYB. Instead of a single disc, the Black employs two 310mm discs gripped by Brembo two-piston sliding calipers. The switchgear has a single button that activates new electronic cruise control.  Bobber Black is $13,150 (or $13,400 for the Matte Black model.)

Triumph Bonneville Bobber Specs:

Base Price: $11,900 (Jet Black)


Engine Type: Liquid-cooled,

transverse parallel twin, SOHC,

4 valves per cyl.

Displacement: 1,200cc

Compression: 10.0:1

Bore x Stroke: 97.6 x 80.0mm

Transmission: 6-speed,

wet multi-plate assist clutch

Final Drive: X-ring chain

Front Brake: Nissin two-piston

caliper, 310mm disc with ABS

Rear Brake: Nissin one-piston

caliper, 255mm disc with ABS

Exhaust: Brushed stainless steel 2-

into- 2 twin-skin exhaust

Wheelbase: 59.4 in.

Rake/Trail: 25.8 degrees/3.5 in.

Seat Height: 27.2 in.

Claimed Dry Weight: 503 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 2.4 gal.

MPG: N/A- Mid- fifties

Helmet: Scorpion Sports EXO-C110

Jacket: Classic Triumph Jacket

Gloves: Alpinestars- Oscar Ray

burn Leather Gloves

Boots: Alpinestars Ridge-2

Air Boots

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban