Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black

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This time last year, I was in Madrid driving the new Triumph Bonneville Bobber. Fast forward twelve months, and I just jumped from the follow-up Bobber Black, to Marbella on the Spanish Costa del Sol.

Madrid was a beautiful city, surrounded by an incredible motorcycle country. But the journey between Marbella and Ronda is even better. Likewise, I loved the Vanilla Bobber when I first rode it but the Bobber Black is just that little a little softer.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
In basic terms, the Bobber Black is a murdered ‘standard’ Bobber with an upgraded front end. It gets a reduction in front wheel size from 19 “to 16”, more robust 47mm Showa forks (compared to the original 41mm KYB units) and an additional brake disc with Brembo calipers .

Barring a further update or two, it’s essentially the same bike. Same semi-rigid looking frame, same “high torque” 1200cc engine and same solo rider setup. The price differs however; the Black costs a grand-and-a-quarter more than its sibling in the United States.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
The first generation Bobber was a runaway success, selling twice as fast as Triumph expected. It’s actually the best-selling model in the British brand’s 115-year history: not bad for a single-seater that has pushed half the internet to throw toys out of bed over the idea of ​​a Factory bobber.

While all of this was going on, the Bobber Black waited patiently backstage. It was developed alongside the original Bobber and the idea, according to Triumph’s brand manager, Miles Perkins, was to offer more than one type of Bob.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
There’s the original flavor, for those looking for a classic vibe, and now the Black, for riders who want a more aggressive stance and higher specification.

So, do the upgrades really make the Black even better? Or did I fly from Cape Town to Spain – and fell in the snow in Amsterdam on the way – for nothing?

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Before hitting the road with the Bobber Black, I had time to review the details. I’ve spoken before about the sublime finishes and old school look of the Bobber, and how Triumph has managed to hide modern technology. And on the Black, it still rings true.

This magnificent swing cage and its hidden mono-shock absorber: check it out. A catalytic converter that you can’t see: check. The fake carbs that are so pretty I can’t hate them: check it out. Sleek ribbed fenders and vintage rear fender bracket: check it out.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Except now almost everything is, you guessed it, black. The engine covers, mufflers, handlebars, foot controls, levers, risers and wheel hubs have all been blacked out. Heck, even the gearshift linkage and aluminum seat plate went through midnight.

A few parts were selectively left alone, to add just the right amount of contrast. When it comes to that cute 2.4 gallon tank and fenders, you have two choices: the base gloss black (my favorite by far) or the slightly more expensive matte jet black (below).

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
This is the position where the Bobber Black really visually differs from its fairer sibling, however. Even though the front rim is the same width on both bikes (2.5 “), on the Black it is smaller and wears wider rubber. Combine that with thicker forks and you have a bike that has looking even more determined and muscular.

The pilot’s ergonomics are also exactly the same as the Bobber’s, which surprised me. I was convinced Triumph would add different handlebars or front footrests, but they left the drag-style bars, the mid-mounted footpegs and the solo seat exactly where they are. Which, in retrospect, makes a lot more sense, since the Bobber is actually a surprisingly comfortable ride.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
You can still adjust the solo seat cantilever between up and front and down and back, and you can always adjust the angle of the meter to your liking. And I still wouldn’t care about either setting, especially since I had already found the Bobber’s back seat position a bit too elongated for my liking.

A glance at the cockpit reveals a few new additions. There is now an LED headlight to match the rest of the motorcycle’s LED lighting, with a nice daytime running light. And the left switchgear now includes a cruise control button.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
This is a basic configuration; press the button to activate it, then press again to adjust your speed. Press it once more, or grab the accelerator or the brake, and off you go. Simplicity is great in theory, but I found the button needed a really hard push to work (my thick winter gloves probably didn’t help). I also missed the ability to adjust my cruising speed that is found on most systems.

I’ve always liked the Bobber’s combined analog / digital meter and the amount of information it contains, including a fuel gauge, gear position indicator, and fuel consumption information. And the adjustable levers, slick mirrors, and easy-to-use switches are all huge pluses, even though the gear boxes are so big.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Our test units were equipped with optional heated grips, which worked wonderfully in the cold Spanish hills. They also reveal how carefully Triumph designed the bolted parts: the button to toggle between the different heating levels is stored next to the existing switches as it belongs. And when you change modes, the digital display of the meter returns the relevant information.

Starting up the Bobber Black reminded me of one of my favorite things about the Bobber: its engine. It’s the same liquid-cooled 1200cc “high torque” parallel twin found in the T120, with a 270-degree ignition gap. But in the Bobber, it has unique intake and exhaust tuning for even more gains.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
That’s a lot of words, but it translates into numbers as 106 Nm at 4,000 rpm and 77 hp at 6,100 rpm. 77 doesn’t sound like much, but I tend to ignore arguments over the numbers these days, preferring to focus on the quality and where the torque is provided. And the Bobber does it sublimely.

When you crank the engine up to 4000 you can feel and hear that maximum torque kick in. While I would love to hear the Bobber with the optional Vance & Hines bobbins, the stock configuration produces an addicting growl. . More importantly, releasing that torque makes shooting off the line or shooting the Bobber around the corners an absolute pleasure.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
There’s a lot of tech here for an “old-school” bike, but I really can’t fault it. The electric throttle is responsive, the torque assist clutch is light, and the ratios through the six-speed gearbox are near perfect. (Oh yes, and everything is Euro 4 compliant, with no sensor or case in sight.)

Driver aids also don’t detract from the retro look of the Bobber. You don’t notice the traction control until you turn it off (which can only be done when stationary) and really abuse the throttle.

You can also switch between “Road” and “Rain” modes, both of which are at full power: “Rain” simply softens the delivery. ABS is standard and performed well on a few rough brake checks.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Our test route included countless hills and turns, and the new front end passed the test. The stock Bobber is already a better corner carver than it should be, thanks to Triumph’s outstanding chassis and suspension engineers.

The Black has the exact same chassis, suspension travel, and geometry as the base Bobber. But with that chubby front wheel and sturdier forks, the Black really digs the corners. It turns quickly and holds its course well, even if it suffers from the same ground clearance problems as before. Say goodbye to your ankles.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Avon Cobra tires are grippy and predictable, and the Showa 47mm forks feel planted and precise. The overall suspension setup is quite stiff, which is great for pushing the bike through corners. But it punished my back a bit on a particularly gnarly stretch of bad tarmac.

The twin Brembo brake setup is a huge improvement. I wanted more bite from Bobber’s first single disc, and Triumph has now delivered. But it’s not just the Black’s raw stopping power that’s impressive: it’s how I was able to reduce speed quickly with a subtle push of the lever. This upgrade alone is worth the price of admission.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Our pace for the day was relaxed rather than rushed. But when things picked up, the Bobber Black was capable of more than we throw at it. And I once again marveled at how I could spend all day riding a bike with brake bars and a single saddle. It might not be a tourer, but this seat hugs your butt well. So hey, I saw myself attacking a few days of 200 miles in a row, with nothing but a backpack.

Back in town, the Bobber Black went from a side road blaster to an urban runabout, without any complaints. At 524 pounds (237 kilograms) dry, it weighs 21 pounds more than the regular Bobber, but it just goes to the pace of the city.

Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black
Last year I signed off on the first-gen Bobber review saying you shouldn’t think too much about it. And you shouldn’t think too much about the Bobber Black, either.

Like the original, it’s cool and it’s extremely well designed. And while it’s resolute, it’s also remarkably versatile. But most importantly, it’s even more fun to drive.

And yes, I had trouble returning the keys.

The Bobber Black starts at $ 13,150 for Jet Black and $ 13,400 for Matte Jet Black in the United States. In the UK these prices are £ 11,650 and £ 11,775.

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Test: The Triumph Bonneville Bobber 2018 Black


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