Triumph knows why tilting towards the classics might not be a bad idea

I love Triumph Motorcycles. Not because the brand has been around for ages or because it makes some of my favourite motorcycles (Read: Tiger XCx) but because how perfectly the brand carries its history without being left behind in the fight against the Japanese and Austrians. Yes this piece of text will eventually end up being a story about the Thruxton R and T120 but bear with me.


The Bonneville first came out in 1959 and has been in production intermittently since then. Despite existing for over five decades while carrying the standard street design, the current crop of Bonneville motorcycles, especially the T120 won’t look out of place in a classic motorcycle rally. Of course there is the Royal Enfield Bullet which comes out on top for its timeless design but then, along with the design, it has also retained the technology from yesteryear, if there was any. However, look at the spec sheet of the current T120 and you won’t match it to the motorcycle.

triumph bonneville

I have owned a Royal Enfield and it is a pain to keep. I used to push it to its limits and while it was fun to ride, I know my money should have bought more than what I was astride. I also ride a four decade old Yezdi 250 Type B and while it has got that retro factor and loads of character to go with it, I can’t keep riding it on a daily basis. It is crucial to move ahead with time.

triumph crankcase cover
If you ignore the fresh look of the metal, can you really say it belongs to a motorcycle of this year?

Over the years, the 650cc parallel twin 46 bhp engine on the Bonneville has made way for a 1200 cc parallel twin generating almost twice the amount of power, yet the triangular crankcase cover and the OHV engine like design remains. All sorts of tech has crawled into the motorcycle including fuel injection, ride by wire, riding modes and liquid cooling. But that isn’t the part that makes me fall in love with the T120. The best part is how they go on about it. The Bonneville gained fuel injection almost a decade back and yet you can’t tell that visibly. They wrap it nicely to make sure it look the part. It also gained liquid cooling with this generation and yet, they have gone that extra mile to tuck in the radiator neatly and retain the fins on the engine while also keeping them functional to some extent. So even to keep holding onto the design, they must have spent many hours with the design tools, striving for perfection.

Bonneville T120

This is exactly what differentiates them from the Japanese counterparts. The people from east are more serious. They create motorcycles that are brimmed with technology and probably then go on designing around the basic machine they have built. Simple rule of thumb, form follows function. Not a bad thing at all but maybe for once, you want more than that. Maybe this is why the Italian and British motorcycles look like some really creative people spent countless hours in deciding what line should go where while many Japanese ones look like design was an afterthought and they have tried to hide the fact by adding plastic and some stickers. Maybe they just leave large blocks of clay in a wind tunnel until it turns into something like the Hayabusa and then put some graphics on it. Damn it looks hideous.

Triumph Thruxton R

Coming back to the Triumph, there is also the amazingly beautiful Thruxton R on offer. I didn’t like the previous Thruxton because it felt like someone has robbed the T100 in making that motorcycle. No matter how brands sell it, cafe racer were also about looking the part and the Royal Enfield Continental GT did a better job of that than the previous Thruxton. However, with this one, I went mental as soon as the very first photographs appeared on the internet. I won’t go ahead and declare it to be the perfect motorcycle without riding one (I might not even like it once I ride it, who knows) but it certainly is very desirable. It looks like the kind of motorcycle an enthusiast will create if you give him a Bonneville and lot of money to build a custom café racer. It has all the classic looking bits where you want them with performance biased components where they should be. This is another element that the previous Thruxton was lacking. If you are selling the idea of a cafe racer, at least put components that tilt more towards the ‘racer’ side of things. If there is ever a day when I am having hard time deciding between a retro themed motorcycle and a middleweight sportbike, Thruxton R is certainly the motorcycle I will pick.

Yes I love Japanese motorcycles for what they offer for the money, as much as I love the superb styling of British and Italian motorcycles. I even ride a little Japanese motorcycle and the next logical upgrade I see might be coming from the East as well. Yet I cannot resist admiring what amazing motorcycles the manufacturers from west offer us. Every now and then, we must look past the numbers.

By Akshay Sharma

Tech enthusiast working in the travel space. Often talks about transportation, tech, design, automobiles and travel. Dreams of going around the world on a motorcycle. Say hello at