TRIUMPH BOBBER 2021 – CUSTOMIZATION RIGHTS
The 2021 Triumph Bobber has received a handful of updates for the new model year, but is the Bobber quite visible and not?
If the definition of a bobber is a bike that has all unnecessary parts removed, so that’s the 2021 Triumph Is Bobber really a bobber? Sure, it looks like a pared-down Bonneville with its small single-seater, minimalist front fender and blacked-out finish, but it also sports a few superfluous extras that seem purely aesthetic.
I have no doubts about the Bonneville Bobber is above all an exercise in style intended to seduce those who like the bobber look but who don’t want to tweak and disassemble a bike by themselves… and from this point of view, it’s a success.
Why? The Bonneville Bobber is the most minimalist standard bobber on the market and, ipso facto, the most beautiful standard bobber on the market.
What about those superfluous extras? Minor details like the faux carbies that Bonnies have been using since fuel injection was introduced to the lineup in 2009, and the brushed aluminum seat base with the little brass Triumph plate. A true bobber enthusiast wouldn’t need such embellishments, but when your bobber is all about style and not so much about saving weight, then a few little extras here and there are quite forgivable.
It’s these extras that complete the look of the Bonneville Bobber, along with other details like the fork gaiters, bar end mirrors, straight-line exhaust, cage-style swingarm, base around the rear fender and the fabulous rear shock linkage.
Step back and look at the whole Bobber image and the detail elements take precedence over the overall design. This is an aggressive bike with a menacing front stance, with that big 1200cc parallel-twin taking center stage. The clearly visible frame tapers nicely towards the rear and the frame top tubes align perfectly with the swingarm top tubes to give the Bobber a hardtail look. And the 16-inch tires look bigger than they actually are, thanks to the black spoke rims.
Okay, looks like I had a few too many beers admiring the Bobber in my shed the other night, but even a sober guy would have to admit that it’s a decent looking machine.
Despite this sleek bobber design, the Bonnie Bobber isn’t lightweight, tipping the scales at 251kg ready to roll. For reference, that’s 15kg heavier than a Bonneville T120, and 35kg heavier than a Speed Twin, although you could say that because it’s 12kg lighter than the Bonneville Speedmaster with which it shares more components, the Bobber is really a bobber. Either way, the weight of the Bobber is immediately evident when you lift it off its side stand. It’s easy to move around though, thanks to the super low seat (690-700mm) which, incidentally, can be moved up and down, back and forth, by loosening a few nuts underneath.
You adopt a forward-leaning riding position on the Bobber, but the reach of the flat, wide handlebars isn’t excessive, nor is the leg stretch to the footpegs. Pete Vorst rode the Bobber for the photo shoot, and he felt the riding position was a bit cramped for its taller frame, but I was fine with it.
Lean over and turn the key in the side ignition barrel, then hit the starter, and the big twin responds with a nice deep growl through the sawn-off pipes; it’s not overly strong but it’s a tasty note. Pull the torque assist clutch lever and you’ll be surprised how light it feels. The first selection comes with a thud, and you’ll hear it when upshifting and downshifting, but it slips between gears fairly easily, and I never hit a false neutral. And if you want neutral, it’s easy to find, first time, every time.
The 1200cc parallel twin produces 57.5kW at 6100rpm and 106Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Take a look at the torque curve and you can see the real action starts as low as 2500rpm where there’s almost 100Nm on offer, and that’s incidentally where the tachometer sits at 100 km/h at top speed. This means that despite the high gear, you can shift forward and just twist the throttle if you want to pick up the pace without having to downshift.
While peak power comes in at 6100 rpm, there’s little point in exploring the upper half of the rev range…unless of course you’re really in a hurry. The engine will eventually creep up to the 7000rpm redline, at which point the rev limiter will spoil the party, but there’s not much point in doing so; you better get the most out of that low-to-midrange torque.
That said, the savory exhaust note only improves as the revs increase, so chances are you’ll want to grab big slaps of the throttle every chance you get. Do it at low revs and sometimes the refueling feels a bit off so the twin will give a little gasp before catching its breath, but it’s worth it. You’ll also be rewarded with addictive overtaking pops and crunches as you shift between gears. I think most Bobber riders won’t waste time hitting the standard pipes in favor of something a little louder.
Traction control can be turned off for silly shenanigans, but when on (the default setting) its sensitivity is dictated by the drive mode, of which there are two: road and rain. I can vouch for the TC’s effectiveness in wet conditions – it works well in Rain mode. And these Avon Cobras also offer good grip in the wet.
You might think the fat front tire would slow steering, but the not-too-fat 150-section rear no doubt helps the Bobber flip through corners with relative ease. Although it holds a line well, it doesn’t take too much effort to scratch the pegs, and it will be wide if you brush the middle of the front brake; a twist on the back tightens it up, but the back cap doesn’t have much feel or power.
The twin-piston Brembo stoppers up front are new for 2021 and they provide decent stopping power and a lot better feel than the rear. The ABS seems well tuned and not too intrusive under heavy braking.
Also new for 2021 is the 47mm Showa fork, which offers a reasonable combination of comfort and control. The same cannot be said for the rear shock; the Bobber doesn’t like twisty roads, and big bumps can knock it off the line and send a jolt through your back if you’re not ready for them.
This cool-looking seat is firm enough, but it’s also more comfortable than you’d think, offering plenty of room to maneuver if you feel like moving around. The largest 12-litre fuel tank for 2021 (but still small) will allow you to stop at the servo every 200 clicks or so, providing plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs on long drives. During testing, the Bobber consumed an average of 5.3 L/100 km and the low fuel warning light came on after about 180 km.
The one-button cruise control works well enough – press once to turn it on, press again to set speed and again to cancel – but without the up or down buttons you have to get your speed where you want it before paying for the cruise. And yes, you can also cancel the cruise by dabbing the brakes.
The rest of the Bobber’s controls and instruments are basic, with an “info” button on the left switch block to cycle through the LCD displays on the single-dial speedometer. The information includes TC setting, driving mode setting, odo, some trips, instantaneous and average fuel consumption, empty distance, clock and digital tachometer, but some of these information are small and difficult to read. The levers are reach-adjustable and the bar-end mirrors are vibration-free and provide a decent view to the rear without minimizing lane-separation capability.
As far as practicality goes, the steering lock is a separate keyed jobbie near the head. It’s spring-loaded so easily unlocked and only stays in the locked position when you remove the key, so you won’t risk leaving your key in there. If you want to carry anything on the Bobber, you’ll need a backpack or tank bag, or you can purchase the factory soft saddlebags as an option. Triumph says it has over 70 accessories suitable for the Bonneville Bobber.
Finally, don’t try to squeeze more than 12 liters of juice into that 12 liter fuel tank; if you overfill it while it’s on the side stand, it will overflow the cap once the bike is upright. When I first picked up the bike from Triumph I could see evaporated fuel marks on the side of the tank, and I added some myself the next time I filled it up.
I thoroughly enjoyed my few weeks with the Bonneville Bobber, both as a riding buddy on the road and as a drinking buddy in the shed. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I think the buddies can be forgiven for their weaknesses.