WORDS: MSL Editor, John Milbank PHOTOGRAPHY: Alessio Barbanti, Matteo Cavadini, Paul Barshon and Friedemann Kirn

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We rode the Thruxton R, which starting at £11,700 is the pinnacle of the new Bonneville range; the Thruxton is a similar machine, though at £10,400 has more classically–styled right-way-up forks, and the same Nissin two-piston calipers and fixed discs as the new T120 in place of the R’s powerful four-piston radial monobloc calipers and floating discs. Which you choose depends not just on the size of your wallet, but on what style of machine you’re looking for, and how fast you want to ride. I’d expect the standard Thruxton to have roughly the same feel, with a less sporty response from the suspension when riding fast.

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And you can ride the Thruxton R very fast indeed. I’m far from the most rapid journalist, but sandwiched between another, very experienced test rider ahead of me, and Carl Fogarty behind, we had an incredible blast on what was a twisty  Tarmac section of the Portuguese rally stage. The difference between this and the T120 – despite the same frame and essentially the same engine – is absolutely unbelievable. A T120 with clip-ons it is not.

The Thruxton and Thruxton R both have the same ‘High Power’ engine – compared to 2016’s T120, the 1200cc motor has a lighter, ‘low inertia’ crank, a skimmed head for a compression increase from 10.0:1 to 11.0:1, larger airbox, new fuel mapping and a 500rpm higher rev limit. Where the T120’s exhaust focuses on style with its twin-walled design, here the full 45mm diameter pipe is used to allow more free breathing. That means a small heat-shield to cover the pipe’s diversion through the cat, but it’s still a very clever solution.

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On paper, the difference between the T120 and Thruxton engines isn’t that mind-blowing – a power increase of around 18% and torque about 7% – but the lighter crank makes for an engine that spins more freely, with quite a different character. I never could have believed a sub-100bhp parallel twin could be this exciting. Over the previous model, these figure represent a 41% increase in peak power (68% up at 4500rpm), 62% more torque, and an 11% improvement in fuel economy.

The fully adjustable Showa and Öhlins suspension gives a very sharp but compliant ride – set somewhere between comfortable and sporty, it’s surprisingly comfortable. Over 85 miles I never found it harsh, but it was always precise, getting upset only by the most aggressive of bumps, and immediately settling itself back down. Equally, the riding position from the beautifully-crafted single seat and high-set clip-on bars was very easy going. The bars can be rotated tighter to the tank for a more extreme position, and lower versions are also available (which must be fitted if you buy the front cowl). The seat is firm, but more than comfortable enough for a full tank, which with the high-speed, stop-start economy I achieved on the launch of 41.5mpg, would mean around 130 miles. Triumph claims 61mg, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the bike capable of a good 165miles between fills.

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The Thruxton shares the same twin analogue clocks (though slightly redesigned) as the T120, with an additional Sport riding mode. Again, Rain, Road and Sport all make full power, but with variations to the delivery. Sport suits this bike perfectly, being immediate and rewarding, and only in dense city traffic did I find myself switching to another mode to smooth the throttle just a touch (irritatingly, the bike resets to Road on startup).

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The T120’s excellent heated grips are sadly lacking from the Thruxtons, but there are still plenty of lovely details, like the Monza-style filler cap cover, which springs open to reveal a locking filler cap (though like the T120, it’s a removable, ‘what am I meant to do with this now’ affair).

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The Thruxton’s shorter-than-the-T120 wheelbase is achieved through a new aluminium swingarm – clear anodised on the R, and painted black on the standard bike – and it’s this, combined with a higher rear end and 17” front wheel, that makes the Thruxton handle so much more dynamically than the new T120.

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The Thruxtons are a single-seat design, but the unit – which is removed with the key – can be quickly swapped for an optional dual-seat (£200), while the exhaust hangers can be fitted with optional pillion pegs for £45.

I’m under no illusions that what to me was a very spirited – and memorable – ride, was to Foggy just an easy-going distraction. But he, the other journalists and I all got off at the first break absolutely over-flowing with enthusiasm. It’s unusual for a launch to see so many of us so equally excited about a bike, but while the T120 might be the core Bonneville of the new family, the Thruxton R is the real showcase of the engine and chassis’ potential. To me, this is the Bonneville of 2016. This is the sportsbike for today’s roads and riders.

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Specification: Triumph Thruxton R [Thruxton]

Price: From £11,700 [£10,400]

Engine: 1200cc liquid-cooled 8-valve SOHC, 270° parallel twin

Power: 96bhp (72kW) @ 6750bhp

Torque: 83lb-ft (112Nm) @ 4950rpm

Transmission: Six speed, chain final drive

Chassis: Tubular steel, with tubular steel swingarm

Suspension: (F) Fully adjustable Showa 43mm upside-down big piston forks; (R) 2x Fully adjustable Öhlins shocks [(F) Unadjustable Kayaba 41mm cartridge fork; (R) 2x Preload-adjustable Kayaba shocks]

Brakes: (F) 2x Brembo 310mm floating discs with 4-piston radial monobloc calipers; (R) 220mm disc with Nissin 2-piston floating caliper [ABS (F) 2x 310mm discs with 2-piston Nissin floating calipers; (R) 220mm disc with Nissin 2-piston floating caliper]

Tyres: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa [Pirelli Angel GT] (F) 100/90 R18; (R) 150/70 R17

Seat height: 810 [805mm]

Kerb weight: 218kg [221kg]

Tank capacity: 14.5 litres

Economy: 61mpg (Claimed); 41.5mpg (Tested)

Contact: www.triumph.co.uk

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Tony Carter

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