2016 Triumph Bonneville Street Twin Review
Triumph’s new water-cooled, Euro 4-compliant 900cc Bonneville Street Twin arrives with the trepidation that accompany the birth of any new child, especially one that follows exceptional siblings. Triumph need not have worried, as it has successfully met its goal of modernizing its modern classics.
Like other manufacturers with newly updated retro bikes, many contemporary appurtenances were required, not only for air quality, but for the conveniences and capabilities desired by customers in 2016.
The formula used by Triumph is repeated in many factories around the world that build new bikes invoking classic designs. Modernize the bike by adding performance through better engineering; don’t mess up the look and feel; layer in electronic aids and controls; meet emissions standards; build a large catalog of parts for customization to encourage personalization; appeal to new, young, and female riders; finally, avoid alienating seasoned devotees.
Hinckley took the necessary risk that is inherent in an upgrade such as this, and they did it with care and mitigated that risk by setting several teams of engineers to the project that is said to have taken four years. The results are a bike that is a hoot to ride, and every bit a Bonneville— as well as recalling the Speed Twin, which had a successful run from 1938 to 1966 (with a necessary reboot after WWII).
Triumph is emphasizing the Street Twin name rather than Bonneville for the 900, with the Bonneville labeling now being used prominently on the new big- bore T120. Like the T120s and Thruxtons, the Street Twin is built in Thailand, but don’t let that disappoint you in this global marketplace. The fit, finish, look, feel, and performance of these new editions are as good or better than any Triumphs you have ridden in the past—with nary a drop of oil on the garage floor.
Aficionados will point first to the Street Twin’s new radiator which is, in fact, not much larger than the old oil cooler, and does little to mar the classic lines. What only the eagle-eyed will see is how the engineers cleverly hid the catalytic converter underneath the bike to keep intact the straight-through look of the exhaust pipes.
The focus of the entire build, per Triumph literature, was to provide “dynamic and intuitive handling and an engaging rider experience with passion for a genuine icon.” This was achieved, as were the myriad of changes and additions that Bonneville fans will appreciate.
The DOHC engine’s 270-degree crankshaft assures continuance of its signature sound. Fuel efficiency is claimed to have increased to about 60 mpg, so its handsome three-gallon fuel tank offers plenty of range. As for the sound, it retains that deep booming syncopation from the elegant brushed stainless steel exhaust system that we are so accustomed to.
In an unexpected move, engineers have tuned the new motor in such a way that lowers peak horsepower, compared to the old 850 mill, while increasing torque and shaping it into a nearly at curve. While I’m one to subscribe to the “more horsepower is always better” school of motorcycling, the performance is about perfect for the target market.
Certainly, 59 ft/lbs of torque at just a cruiser-like 3230 rpm means acceleration is brisk in the urban environments the Speed Twin will most often find itself. Throttle-by-wire was spot on with no off-idle hesitation and the standard traction control (on/off) didn’t intrude in any way that I noticed.
The Street Twin has plenty of street cred, and simply squirts off the line and effortlessly rows through the five-speed gearbox, with a silky-smooth slip-assisted clutch, straight to the ton. It likes to cruise at about 75 mph, and handles effortlessly at all speeds up to about 85 when the pilot starts holding on a bit tighter and steering gets sharp.
In the canyons, twisties and fast sweepers the Street Twin does a good job. It is obviously not built for strafing, but that didn’t stop me. The all-new tubular steel cradle chassis and swingarm feel tight, and easily handle the forces generated at speed. Suspension duties are by Kayaba, with 41mm forks (non-adjustable) and twin shocks with adjustable preload.
I found the suspension adequate, with very good manners, as the front end offered enough feedback while the rear was remarkably firm, even when pushed near the limit, yet supple over rough pavement. When hitting bumps in mid-corner, there were no unintended line changes or wobbling.
Pirelli Phantom Sport tires—100/90-18 up front and 150/70-17 out back—are more than up to the job of handling the Speed Twin’s motor and chassis. The large 310mm front disc and four-piston Nissin caliper, along with the expected rear disc, are matched nicely to the bike’s capabilities, and ABS is standard. They do a fine job reining in the ST from speed with good initial bite and follow-through.
I give it high marks for an urban cruiser/roadster taken out of its element. As a complete package the Speed Twin is a lot of fun. It feels much smaller than its 55.7-inch wheelbase and 437-pound (claimed dry) weight would indicate. Add in the sub-30-inch seat height and Triumph creates an optical illusion—in the garage, it takes up less space than other bikes in its class and appears as diminutive as it feels when one sits upon it.
Speaking of sitting, the cabin ergonomics are excellent, even for my lanky six-feet. It is compact, but not cramped. The low-profile flat seat may not look inviting, but even after hours of riding, there is no numbing feeling.
The reach to the bars is comfortable, and my knees don’t have to fold up too much to t my feet on the pegs. The handlebars have a comfortable spread, the seating position is upright, and the bike is easy to live with all day on much-varied roads.
Triumph’s styling treatment of the dashboard, indicators, and controls is excellent in that they have layered in a great deal of technology housed in an attractive case that does not mar the over-all aesthetic.
There is an LCD multi-functional instrument cluster on a bracket just above the headlight, and it is an effective full-service display, save for a lack of tachometer, which is not needed. The headlight itself is of modern design, but true to the Bonneville spirit.
A theft-deterrent function is standard, as is a surprisingly modern touch—a USB charging port. The taillight is LED, and the Street Twin is pre-wired for optional tire pressure meter and heated grips. Hinckley has made available over 150 accessories for comfort, luggage, performance, protection and styling. Traditional wire-spoked wheels and farkles? Check. Badges and bar-end doodads? Check.
Triumph also offers what it calls Inspiration Kits that allow buyers to select a theme and receive all the parts needed, rather than be required to make every choice themselves. Scrambler, Urban, and Brat Tracker are the kit names and may include items like exhaust slip-ons, LED turn indicators, y-screen, panniers, tail tidy, upgraded seat, handgrips and more.
The 2016 Triumph Bonneville Street Twin is modern, yet true to its heritage without trying too hard. When I see the Speed Twin in my garage, it brings back so many good memories of the Bonneville I owned in 1970—fun, fast, and full of possibilities.
Photos by Milagro
- Helmet: Shoei GT-Air
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Classic ’92
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Classic
- Pants: Joe Rocket Blue Denim 3.0
- Boots: Chippewa Rally
2016 Triumph Bonneville Street Twin Test – Photo Gallery