Triumph, better known for their three cylinder motorcycles these days, brought out their classic Bonneville 800 parallel twins in 2001, and they were by far the most true to the styling of the original '60s when compared with other manufacturers' modern classics, but despite a mid-life boost to 900cc their single weakness lay in their desultory engine performance. That's all changed now, with a new range of five 1200cc models.
The range-topping Thruxton R café-racer recently came my way, and it's the best of the retro bikes out there. The new engine's 96hp is a quantum leap forward, and the 112Nm peak torque, most of it available from around 2 500rpm, makes it a wide-awake machine that's easy to ride fast.
Triumph clearly worked hard to make the Thruxton R best-in-class, because the styling is exquisite and finish impeccable - the only thing that that drips from this Triumph is quality. At R174 500 the R version costs R20 000 more than the standard Thruxton, but comes with twin 310mm discs clamped by four-piston Brembo Monobloc calipers rather than Nissan twin-pot units with 220mm discs up front, upside-down Showa big-piston front forks, and twin Öhlins rear shocks with external reservoirs.
These parts alone are worth much more than the R20 000 price difference, but you also get Pirelli Rosso Corsa tyres, a painted seat cowl, a highly polished top fork yoke, an aluminium fuel-tank strap, and a clear anodised aluminium swingarm on the R model.
Apart from being gorgeous to look at, the Thruxton R is a joy to ride. It's both shorter and 20kg lighter than the outgoing 900cc model, making for nimble handling which it delivers in spades. The new liquid-cooled engine has a 270 degree crankshaft, so it feels and sounds like a V-twin, and it pulls like a train through the lovely six-speed transmission. It's not in superbike territory, but it feels like it'll keep hauling to well north of 200km/h - possibly 230 or so, and my seat-of-the pants accelerometer tells me the standing start 400m would be dispensed with in the mid to high 11 second range. Triumph cagily makes no performance claims, but I reckon I've got it pretty right.
There are three riding modes - Rain, Road and Sport - and each is very different to the rest, with the default setting being Road. Switching between modes is quick and easy through pressing a single button and squeezing the clutch, and the ABS and traction control can also be enabled or switched off with the simple press of a button.
Like it? I loved it. With this and a Honda Africa Twin in my garage, I'd be a very happy man.