Triumph’s 2017 Bonneville Bobber was something of an anomaly for the brand. Like its popular Bonneville base platform, it blended a smooth and powerful engine with timeless styling, but it also sold quicker than anything else in Triumph’s 115-year model history, ever. If this doesn’t make a case for its merit, then I don’t know what does. Still, it had its shortcomings, but now Triumph has added the new “darker, meaner” Bobber Black. Continuing to draw inspiration from the original post-war bobber movement, this new steed is equal parts accommodating and aggressively defiant—and won’t let you forget it.
The Bobber Black has a lot in common with the previous Bobber—from the triangular faux-rigid frame, to the brutish 1,200cc, eight-valve SOHC twin engine, to the ubiquitous tractor-style solo seat. Still, there are some important differences to note. First, the Bobber Black now boasts a larger, 47mm cartridge Showa fork, up in size from the previous Bobber’s 41mm KYB fork.
The front end also sees a revamp in the brakes department, with the addition of a second twin-pot, sliding axial caliper, as well as a second 310mm disc. The rear single-piston Nissin caliper and single 225mm disc remain unchanged. Neither the front or rear suspension is adjustable for compression or rebound damping, with rear preload being the only thing you’re able to change.
The Bobber black now comes with a full-LED headlight (that has the option to be turned off completely) as well as a useful built-in daytime running light. Triumph also kitted out the Bobber Black with an easy-to-use, single-button cruise control that is standard. In terms of rider ergonomics, the Bobber Black offers two separate seat position settings, one that places the rider farther up on the frame triangle, and a second that shifts the seat lower and farther back. The foot controls are still in the same mid-mount configuration, however Triumph states that forward controls will be included in the extensive 150-item accessory list.
Aside from the changes to the fork and front brake system, you’ll also find a new 16-inch front wheel (down in size from the 19-inch wheel found on the Bobber) that’s wider as well. Triumph worked with Avon on an exclusive set of Cobra tires for the Bobber Black. Aesthetically, Triumph has taken a cue from a popular Rolling Stones song, as the rest of the bike’s hardware (including but not limited to: shift linkage, levers, bars, seat pan, mirrors, risers, cam and sprocket covers, headlight rim, and exhausts) has all been—you guessed it—painted black.
I awoke early and ahead of schedule in Málaga, Spain, to find it pouring rain. As the forecast showed dry weather for the rest of the week, I chuckled at the idea that the British bike couldn’t bear to be away from the wet weather it must be so attuned to. Regardless, this heavy downpour still stalled the test ride itself, and we were forced to take refuge in the lobby of the hotel.
After we finished lunch, the rain had finally let up, so we fired up the bikes and departed from the hotel. The 1,200cc, British-built twin engine has a 270-degree crank firing order, and paired with the minimalist slash-cut exhausts, sounded eerily similar to vintage Triumph twins. This exhaust note is by far one of the best I’ve heard on a new bike in a long time.
Once I set the adjustable clutch and brake levers, I pulled away and began down the freeway, which was relatively clear. One of the most notable Bobber traits is its drag-style handlebar, which placed me in a squat and “over-the-bars” stance. Splitting lanes was easy, so long as I kept the bar-end mirrors in mind. The Bobber features two riding modes, one for dry conditions and one for wet. After discussing with the Triumph reps, I learned that both modes offer the same power, the difference being the way the power is delivered.
To say the Bobber Black stops better than the previous Bobber is an understatement—and with double the clamping power in the front, why wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, those who own the Bobber will not be able to swap their single rotor and caliper system to this new, updated style, due to the complexity of the rider aids.
The low, 27.2-inch seat height made the Bobber Black’s claimed 524-pound heft (up 21 pounds from the previous Bobber) easy to manage at low speeds. The mighty 1,200cc engine’s claimed 77 hp—when paired with the Bobber Black’s tuned-for-torque throttle map—made for some lively pulls on the throttle. The engine itself is smooth, and continues to pull hard across the entirety of the rev range. The cruise control is also a breeze to use, with one press of the button enabling it, and a second press setting the speed. A touch on either of the brakes—or a shift in throttle position—will immediately cancel it.
As we followed the wet and winding roads through the hills of Spain, it was common to have the pegs scraping through the corners. This bike isn’t really meant for aggressive canyon riding, but that didn’t keep me from trying. While feel from the front end was loads better than the previous Bobber, the rear end was still upset by larger imperfections in the road’s surface, a good few of which were transferred to my lower back. I’m sure this could be rectified by a better shock (Triumph will offer a Fox shock as a dealer-supported aftermarket accessory).
Triumph hit the nail on the head with the Bobber Black—in most respects, anyway. It rides better than I expected it to, looks incredible, and has just the right amount of attitude. It stops far better than the previous Bobber, and the front-end feel is decisively better as well. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the fact that the Bobber Black’s $13,150 price tag is higher than both its American competitors, Harley-Davidson’s Sportster Forty-Eight and Indian’s Scout Bobber. It’s worth mentioning, however, that Triumph’s Bobber Black brings ABS and dual front disc brakes to the table as a factory standard option. It also has the lightest dry weight at 524 pounds, compared to the Sportster Forty-Eight’s 545 pounds and the Scout Bobber’s 533.
The 1,200cc Bonneville engine is a real winner, delivering smooth power and one heck of a sweet exhaust note. It’s simple, and I like that. There’s not a lot to wrap your head around when it comes to the controls, and you can tell a lot of time went into the bike from a design standpoint.
Yes, it’s expensive in comparison to the other bobbers on the market—you won’t get away from that. It’ll be great to get the Bobber Black together with the Indian Scout Bobber and Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight, as well as Yamaha’s Star Bolt and Moto Guzzi’s V9 Bobber for an ultimate shootout. If you’re already a fan of Triumph’s strong twin and the bobber aesthetic is what you’re after, then the Bobber Black is a sure bet.
|PRICE||$13,150 ($250 extra for Matte Black)|
|ENGINE||1200cc liquid-cooled parallel twin|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||77.0 hp @ 6100 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||78.2 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Showa 47mm fork; 3.5 in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||KYB shock; 3.0 in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Twin Brembo two-piston calipers, twin 310mm disc with ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||Nissin one-piston caliper, 255mm disc with ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||27.2 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||2.4 gal.|
|CLAIMED WEIGHT||524 lb. dry|