As the oldest and longest production motorcycle company in the world, Triumph has garnered a reputation for being one of the best two-wheeled brands out there. Not only is its English provenance beyond impressive, but it also maintains a relevance that has seen sales skyrocket in recent years.
This year marks the new age of Triumph’s vintage inspired street domination. After the rebirth of the Bonneville in 2001, with an engine that retained Triumph’s unique parallel-twin design, albeit with an altogether mediocre performance band, it was clear that the company was on the rise again.
Not far after, we saw the Thruxton arrive; a café racer inspired homage to the Ton Up boys of the 50’s and 60’s. And it looked great, but again lacked the energy needed to make you feel on fire when riding it.
And now, in 2016, Triumph have upgraded the engine once again to create a whopping 1200cc parallel-twin, and revolutionised almost every aspect of the café racer heritage in its new Thruxton 1200 R.
Power and Good Looks
So as the Thruxton R is wheeled out of the van, I witness, for the first time, the new age of Triumph’s street performance lineage. The lines are smooth, the golden Showa forks and Ohlin rear shocks, which come as standard on the R, glisten in the sunlight, and the entire machine looks poised to let loose and run wild.
Clearly, I’m itching to jump aboard and tear off into the unknown. And my does it go! Packing 1200cc into a parallel-twin means that the torque is unreal, the engine pumps out just shy of 100 ponies, and the enormous Brembo front brake and ABS enabled rear means that you’ll stop quickly, whatever the speed.
Thruxton 1200 R Ride Settings
Perhaps most notable is the function settings: Road, Rain and Sport – something that’s been included in cars for years, but a novelty component to integrate into a motorcycle.
This means that you can electronically change the performance of the bike at the press of a button; something that is a true luxury on the road. What all of these specifications mean is that you get a sense of wild excitement that rises from within; the kind of adrenaline rush that I’ve wanted to feel on a modern Triumph for as long as I can remember.
I’ve been on the road for 5 minutes and I’m already impressed. So knowing that I’ll be riding it over to Normandy in a few days fills me with excitement; excitement and worry, for the Thruxton R is a racer, not a cruiser, and I’m concerned that the wafer-thin seat and racer positioning is going to cause me serious agony.
Cruising on a Racer
So as I set off for Normandy with the Pots & Pans Motorcycle Club, I’m ready to see what covering over 500 miles on a fully laden Thurxton R is truly like. From motorway cruising and slow ambling, to winding coastal roads and high-speed hairpins, I plan to put this bike through its paces to see how it performs in all situations.
Feel the Journey With This 360 Degree Video (Courtesy of Freddie Haines, Mad Cow Films)
To my surprise, eating mile after mile of motorway asphalt is a relatively pleasant experience. Ok, so it’s never going to be a cruiser, and you’re never going to be in prime comfort, but even with a heavy backpack and a prone riding position, it’s more than manageable. The Thruxton R rolls along at a pleasant speed; it’s a sturdy and untiring ride to Dover.
Once we cross the channel, the first port of call is to hit the winding French roads with full force. I want to know how it handles as a racer, how low it can get in the corners, how rapidly it can accelerate, and, perhaps most importantly, how quickly it will stop.
Fun on Twisting Roads
I pass my backpack to a fellow rider and begin to hurtle along the long, twisting roads with the North Sea to my right and empty barley fields to my left; it’s perfect. And here is where the Thruxton R comes into its own, here is where it shows you what it was built for: fun.
I’m riding at the edge of my seat for the duration, knees almost scraping in the corners and the front end rising endlessly off the road as I twist the throttle. I feel as if I’m racing, as if I’m in my own Moto GP.
It’s at this moment I realise the undeniable success of the Thruxton R. For me, a motorcycle’s true success comes when you no longer feel as if you’re riding anymore, when the only feeling is one of pure, unadulterated excitement and adventure. This is, without doubt, something the Thruxton R offers you by the gallon.
So as we pull into the château for the next two nights, I’m already dreaming about getting back on the road and continuing to propel myself throughout the French landscape with nothing in mind by riding hard and having fun.
I’ve heard people say that the Thruxton R is purely for fun, that anything more than a couple of hours is tiring and uncomfortable, but I couldn’t disagree more. The true test of a motorcycle it to pack it up and hit the open road for a few days, to ride along country roads and motorways, down dirt paths and gravel tracks.
Triumph Delivers a Masterpiece
Only by living on the machine can you truly know how it performs and whether you love it or loathe it. For me, the Thurxton R is the pinnacle of what Triumph is producing at the moment.
It is a motorcycle that has entered a market that’s inundated with café racer inspired machines, such as the BMW R nine T and the Moto Guzzi Griso, and comes out on top.
If you look a short way back into the history books, you’ll see Triumph was the brand that formed the inception of the café racer movement, the bloodline of the 50’s and 60’s rockers, perpetually chasing the magical 100mph on London’s North Circular at the footsteps of the Ace Café. From my viewpoint, the Thuxton R wins every time.
Triumph Thuxton 1200 R, from £11,700, triumphmotorcycles.co.uk