Sure Triumph put on disc brakes and other updated components on their “Modern Classics” line (the only thing named Lucas on these current bikes would be a rider) but to see one is to immediately flash back 30-40 years. For some of us those years were before we were born yet the attraction of a simple, honest motorcycle still seems to hold us in thrall.
I admit to being one of those who were too young to experience firsthand those years when Triumph made the bike that everyone wanted (before Harley Davidson took over that distinction). I didn’t even start to ride until 1990 but I’ve always been a fan of classic cars, bikes, and aircraft so I was excited about getting my little hands on the Thruxton. This, I could tell, was going to be fun.
As far as looks go Triumph really got it right. It was a lot of fun watching people of a certain age stare at the bike as I went by and wanting to talk about it when I stopped. I was also surprised by the number of younger riders who were curious about the bike. This just goes to prove that a good design knows no age limit or societal boundaries. For 2009 Triumph ditched the clip-ons in favor of a standard tube style handlebar. The bar not only looks at home on the Thruxton but also effectively raised the grips by about 2” resulting in a much less aggressive riding position. With the pegs set up and further back than its “Modern Classics” siblings the Thruxton riding position is certainly the sportiest of the family. The only issue I had was my upper legs got a little cramp in them after about 100 miles in the saddle for reasons I can’t fully explain. The seat to peg relationship felt comfortable overall so my guess is that it was just the flatter angle of the seat compared to what I am used to riding that caused the problem.
A classic looking bike that rides, handles, and stops exactly like a modern bike would be a little silly (to me anyway). If I’m going for the classic look I want at least some of that classic feel as well. Sure I want reliability and rideability, but I don’t want a Daytona 675 wrapped in throwback bodywork if you catch my drift. Triumph, thank God, apparently agrees with me because the Thruxton gives you all the reliability of modern technology while still allowing you the fun of the classic experience.
At the heart of that fun is the 865cc parallel twin that puts out a useable 69hp at 7400 rpm and 52 lb.ft. at 6800 rpm. Not exactly staggering numbers when measured against a high performance motorcycle of today, to be sure, but that’s the point. The motor never overwhelms you or makes you feel like a passenger. You’re always aware that if you want to ride fast in the twisty bits you are actually going to have to ride the bike; twisting the throttle open won’t shove you down the road fast enough to make-up for poor cornering skills.
New for 2009 is the fuel injection system which Triumph cleverly disguised as a set of carburetors in keeping with the classic look. They look so much like carburetors that even those who are motorcycle mechanics have to take a closer look when you tell them that the bike is fuel injected; quite funny really. Look like carbs they may, but act like carbs they don’t. Triumph seems to be able to design and build a fuel injection system right from the start that works better than some that have been on the market for years. Smooth starts, no surging, and quick throttle response all show that Triumph did their homework.
In keeping with the classic motif, Triumph has also seen fit to stuff only 5 gears into the Thruxton’s gearbox instead of the more modern 6 gears. Unless you pull a lot of highway stints you’ll never miss the extra cog at all. Five gears, six gears, 27 ½ gears, are all meaningless if the gearbox shifts like it belongs on a tractor, right? The 5-speed gearbox in the Thruxton most certainly does NOT shift like a tractor. In fact this is the first gearbox I have ever stirred that hasn’t, at some point, caused me to miss a shift or miss finding neutral. Smooth shifts and an easy to find neutral (although I never once found it when I wasn’t looking for it) allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride without looking or feeling like you just learned to ride.
Speaking of riding; are you confused by all the different settings your current bike has in regards to the suspension? Does having different adjustment knobs for compression, rebound, and preload just seem confusing? If you answered yes to either of these questions then you need a Thruxton in your garage! Yes that’s right, with only front and rear preload adjustability; the Thruxton is the model of simplicity in the suspension department; just like its predecessors. Triumph understood that putting a set of piggy-back/remote reservoir shocks on the rear (or worse a hidden mono-shock) and inverted fully adjustable front forks would defeat the whole “classic bike” idea. While you won’t be dusting any well-ridden sportbikes on a curvy road while mounted on a Thruxton you may actually have more fun than your speed-demon brethren.
Riding along one day on a curvy road I thought for sure that I was really riding like a hero; I felt like I was really working the bike hard as I could feel it moving around under me. Imagine my surprise then when I looked down and realized I was going about 50-60mph around corners that were marked at 35mph. Hmm….interesting. I made some suspension adjustments (that took all of 30 seconds) and blitzed the road again. Same result. That is when the question posed at the beginning of this article hit me. I had taken the Daytona 675 down that same road and was riding at 80mph and felt no drama. The Thruxton at 50 made me feel like I was really working hard. Point in the Thruxton’s favor for being a bike that can involve you so strongly in the riding experience while still allowing you to keep your license mostly intact.
Part of this feeling comes from the wheel/tire combination that Triumph put on the Thruxton. While the Bonneville and Bonneville SE get the smaller “mag” wheels, the Thruxton (and the T100) keep the larger wire spoke wheels (an 18x2.5” front and 17x3.5” rear) with tubes inside the tires. This combination does slow the steering down a little compared to the “mag” wheel equipped Bonneville SE. The tubes and wire spoke wheels also create a bit of flex that can be felt during hard cornering; hence why it feels like you are really working the bike when in fact you aren’t. Once you realize why the bike feels like it does you could easily ignore it and push even harder…but then the idea is to NOT push it harder and instead enjoy the feeling of going fast without actually going fast. Right?
The brakes on the Thruxton are the one area that really let me down (disclaimer: this may be bike specific as the brakes on the Bonneville we are currently testing, while smaller, are much better in every way). The front brake, a 320mm floating disc hugged by a 2 piston caliper, offered decent overall power but didn’t feel linear until you really got serious. Squeezing with 50% power at the lever didn’t translate into what I thought 50% power at the disc should feel like; it was more like 25%. Squeeze that front brake at levels approaching 100% and they would wake-up and start offering closer to linear power. It was very odd and took me about a week to really feel comfortable with the disconnection between my right hand and the front brake disc. The rear brake, a 255mm, 2 piston caliper affair, offered less feel than the front and really was only useful to chirp your back tire as your tried to simultaneously downshift and brake at the same time. My torment of the rear tire in this fashion happened almost every time I tried that maneuver so I quickly gave it up as a lost cause and resorted to the front brake only.
Modern digital gauges on the Thruxton might cause a rider some form of mental distress as their mind tried to sort out the jumble of old vs. new signals it was receiving. To keep that from happening Triumph installed good old-fashioned analog, sweep-hand gauges; one for the tach and one for the speedometer. Triumph even went so far as to fit an old-style twist tripmeter as well. I got a big kick out of spinning all the little numbers around every time I got gas; almost felt like I was in Vegas and I half expected to see flashing lights as 3 cherries rolled around on the dial. Alas, no cherries and the only flashing lights were the nice little round ones (4 in this case) for the usual turn signals, neutral, oil, and high beam indicators. Triumph did put a low fue l light on the Thruxton as well but that is a small, yet really bright, one located on the speedometer face itself. With the 4.2 gal gas tank topped-off I would consistently get the low fuel light coming on at 108-111 miles. I would then stop and put 2.8 gallons of gas in which equals right about 39mpg. Not too shabby considering that I consistently rode with the throttle pinned wide open as often as possible.
The fuel mileage is also not too shabby considering that this particular Thruxton had an Arrow 2 into 1 full exhaust system installed. At first I wasn’t sure I like the note of the exhaust as I really only heard it while wearing earplugs and a helmet and it sounded, umm…..more like a “briiip, briiip” sound instead of a “braap, braap” sound. How’s that for creative writing? Once I actually heard the bike run while I wasn’t on it (see video) I realized that the exhaust sounded pretty darn good. As a matter of fact I will go so far as to say that the exhaust contributed to what made the Thruxton so much fun to ride. Tucking in behind the little accessory fly screen that Triumph installed on this press bike while you’ve got the throttle pinned open and the Arrow exhaust is screaming into the atmosphere is more fun than you can possibly imagine; unless you own a Thruxton….then you understand completely.
If the Thruxton were a perfect time machine then it would leak oil, vibrate, and have an electrical system that was about as reliable as a your local weatherman. Instead, the 2009 Triumph Thruxton brings fuel injection, modern electrics, and a motor that doesn\'t leak a drop of fluids. I guess you could say that, like your memory, the 2009 Triumph Thruxton is an imperfect time machine but a perfect machine to do a little time traveling on.