It’s a cruel honest truth of life but some things are just prettier than others.
Editor’s Note: Many thanks to the fine folks at GP Bikes in Whitby, Ontario who provided the Triumph Bobber for this review and my participation in this year’s Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride.
It’s a cruel, honest truth of life: some things are just prettier than others, and the 2017 Triumph Bobber is on that list. This British take on the stripped down, custom style ride born in the ‘30s is beyond pretty — dare I say, the most beautiful motorcycle on the market today. But let’s be honest, aesthetics mean nothing on the road. Looks won’t keep you planted in the middle of a corner and fancy paint won’t supply the hustle to get around lazy traffic. Ideally, beauty should be backed up by brawn.
Everything on the Bobber has a meticulous finish — from the knurled brass tops adorning the fuel injection system, expertly styled to resemble vintage Amal carburetors, to the faux transmission cover that serves to hide vital fluids. The attention to detail from handlebar to fender is second to none. It’s the same story with the wiring and piping — you’ll be hard-pressed to find any, a testament to thoughtful design. The manner in which the floating single seat hides the rear suspension is divine inspiration. Everything here has been combed over to ensure a refined product. In truth, the only visual disappointments I could suss out were the painfully generic switchgear and lack of braided lines adorning the flat bars.
But when the Bobber burbles to life, a melodic thrum transforms it from just a “pretty bike” to a badass motorcycle. The torque from the liquid-cooled 1200cc parallel twin is delivered in thick, healthy dollops, and tall gearing means you’ll be flirting with the wrong side of the speed limit long before you’ve hit third gear. If you’re brave enough to turn off the traction control, 6-inch rubber streaks and wisps of white smoke are all too easy to generate.
2017 Triumph Bonneville Bobber
Engine: 1,200cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twinHorsepower: 77Torque: 78 lb-ftWeight: 502 lbs
Thanks to a completely revised chassis, Triumph’s engineers have also delivered a motorcycle that handles sublimely, too. Exert some effort on the wide bars to overcome the extended rake and 19-inch front wheel, then shift your weight forward and the Bobber will bomb through a corner at speeds and lean angles most cruisers simply can’t calculate. Sure, the pegs will grind and spark if you’re really aggressive, but their mid-position layout basically encourages bad behavior (and replacements are cheap).
That being said, there are a few drawbacks to the Bobber’s form taking precedence over its function. For starters, you’ll never be able to share the Bobber’s badass performance with anyone. That tire-hugging rear fender wasn’t designed with passengers in mind, so there are no pillion options available. Same goes for a windshield; it simply doesn’t exist. Carrying anything with you on a journey will be a chore, too. Sure, panniers can be fitted, but the combined 27-litres of storage they offer is less than that of a small backpack and they’ll only detract from the overall looks. Not that you’ll be able to go all that far: the Bobber’s tank holds a mere 2.4 gallons of fuel. Even with that tall gearing and a conservative right-wrist, the Bobber will only cover about 100 miles between fill-ups.
But if that’s not why you get a bobber. You get it because it’s a looker; the on-road performance is just a plus. You’ll be stopping more frequently for fill-ups, but at least then you get to take a step back and bask in the glow of the most beautiful motorcycle in the world. Which, in my book, is as near as fine a place to be as behind its bars, at full chat, 100 miles at a time.