TRIUMPH THRUXTON R
Engine: 1200cc liquid-cooled eight-valve fuel-injected parallel twin, 72kW (96bhp) at 6750rpm and 112Nm at 4950rpm
Transmission: Six-speed sequential gearbox, chain final drive.
Frame: Steel-tube twin cradle frame and oval-section aluminium rear swingarm; 43mm Showa fully-adjustable BPF front forks with 120mm of travel, Twin fully-adjustable Ohlins rear shocks with 120mm of travel.
Hot: The heritage-sportsbike comes of age with the Thruxton R, and never has history, performance, quality, ease-of-use, and design been so skilfully combined.
Not: Pseudo-carburettors and pretend pre-unit crankcases will offend purists; brake set-up could have unleashed further stopping power; pillion accommodation optional.
For most of last year, I could only admire Triumph’s Thruxton R.
With a long queue of Northern Hemisphere buyers ordering their Thruxtons, and Triumph’s factory in Thailand still ramping up to satisfy that demand, only a limited number were allocated to New Zealand during 2016. These were quickly snapped up.
Several months later, the factory in Chonburi is now humming along flat chat, and European roads are slick with snow and ice. Which means I can at last do more than just look at the $25,490 Thruxton R. Does it go as good as it looks?
Affirmative, and then some. Performance meets heritage in an almost unique way with the Thruxton R, and perhaps the only motorcycles that can claim to do something similar are the new Norton Commandos that cost more than twice the money.
Ducati once offered something similar with the Sport Classic range available in the noughties, but the demise of those retrospective sporty Eyeties turned the heritage-sportsbike niche into a bit of vaccum.
The Thruxton R happily now occupies that space in the market, to the cheers of all the greybeards like me who can remember the many times that Triumph won the prestigious nine-hour Thruxton 500 endurance race, often in hands of great skull-capped riders like Mike Hailwood, Malcolm Uphill, and Percy Tait.
Such gritty motorcycle racing legends of the 20th Century would not only applaud the clean and respectful looks of the Triumph, but they’d quickly get to grips with the dynamics of the bike as well. The R-version of the new two-model 1200cc Thruxton range costs $3000 more than the base model, and you get upgrades in the suspension and braking departments, along with a host of tastier details.
The latter include an aluminium rear swingarm instead of steel, a nicely-superfluous alloy tank strap supposedly intended to hold the 14.5 litre fuel reservoir more securely, and a top front suspension yoke polished to within an inch of its life.
Add these to the inverted Showa “Big Piston” forks, Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa radials, and Brembo M4.34 four-piston calipers and floating front discs, and you can quickly account for everything that the extra three grand in purchase cost buys. The R makes the 3kg-heavier base Thruxton, with its basic Kayaba suspension, old-school swinger and two-piston front calipers, look like the ride of a penny-pincher.
So it’s better to aim high when buying a Thruxton, especially as the suspension and brake upgrades make a better match to the quality of the powertrain.
The liquid-cooled 1200cc twin has a higher compression ratio, lighter crankshaft, and camshafts that allow more valve overlap than the softer-tuned version fitted to the T120 streetbike. It therefore delivers a lot more top-end zip while only trading a little of the T120’s impressive access to riding force for it.
The latter Triumph 1200 generates 105Nm at a low 3100rpm, while the Thruxton’s 112Nm peak arrives at 4950rpm. You therefore enjoy similar low-rev cruise-ability to the T120 when riding the Thruxton; the major difference being that it comes capped with highly-exploitable top-end performance that will accommodate any sudden change in the rider’s mood.
Get the mostly smooth, yet endearingly-throbby twin humming above 5000rpm, and the Thruxton delivers an accelerative lunge forward that Hailwood and Co. could only dream about fifty years ago.
Meanwhile the stock exhaust sounds inspiring right out of the box, and the six-speed transmission is both idiot-proof and highly-refined. And don’t sweat the modest fuel capacity of a tank that is mostly large in its outer dimensions to fulfil its other mission in life – that of hiding modern-day ugliness like evap canisters, ABS modules, and electronic control units – for this Triumph is frugal with fuel.
And it’s this visual sanitation that is arguably Triumph’s greatest achievement with the Thruxton. You can hardly tell that it is liquid-cooled given that most of the plumbing is hidden inside the engine and the dimensions of the radiator are reduced by the retention of some nicely-sculptured finning on the engine. The Euro 4-strength catalytic converter, in particular, is skilfully hidden.
Thanks to a relatively skinny rear tyre (160/60ZR17), the inertia-free steering of the Thruxton is an authentic match to the bike’s 1960’s looks. However, the rest of the chassis dynamics are well up to date, starting with the confident grip of the Pirellis, through to the trustworthy bump control of the Showa/Ohlins suspension combo, to the decent stopping power of the brakes.
The latter could have been made more impressive however, and I suspect Triumph has softened the set-up of the front stoppers because it knows that many “born-again” riders may feel attracted to the Thruxton R.
And who can blame them? Where Ducati’s Sport Classic range arrived ahead of the current cafe racer craze, the Thruxton R is right on trend. There probably hasn’t ever been a better way to rip down to the cafe, especially when measuring the quality of the ride there and the admiration that continues after parking the Triumph up.