Bobbers mean different things to different people. To some, a bobber is more traditional in its styling with a skinny, but tall, 19-inch front wheel matched to a stripped-back machine. To a new breed of riders, however, the bobber look revolves around a fat 16-inch balloon front tyre that gives the bike a moody and low stance – a bit like a modern American hot rod, but with two instead of four wheels. Whether your taste is old-school or modern-menace, with the launch of the Bonneville Bobber Black for 2018, Triumph has a bobber for you.
In creating the Black, Triumph essentially took their already incredibly successful Bobber and gave it a bit of a re-style. Both bikes run the same Bonneville 1200 HT (that’s high torque in case you were wondering) water-cooled parallel twin engine, the same chassis, the same 16-inch rear wheel and the same cool stripped-back look with a floating single seat and cage swingarm. However where the Bobber runs what is basically the Bonneville T120’s front end with a 19-inch wheel and 41mm forks, the Black pushes both the styling and performance boundaries to a new level.
As well as a set of beefy 47mm Showa forks, the Black gains an extra 310mm front disc, Brembo two-piston sliding calipers instead of the Bobber’s single Nissin unit and finally that 16-inch front wheel that is shod with a fat Avon Cobra tyre. There are a few other details, one-button cruise control has been added and the light is an LED unit with inbuilt daylight running lights, but basically this is a Bobber with a new front end. And a stack of black. If Triumph could paint a component black they have done and everything that was shiny on the Bobber is now black. Not a fan of black? It’s ok, you do have another option – matt black…
With the Bobber already a runaway worldwide sales success (it is the fastest selling Triumph model ever. Yes, ever. As in 115 years of Triumph building bikes), there has been a lot of love around for the Black and in the flesh this adoration is well deserved. Parked up on the street the Black looks amazing. Mean, moody and the fat front end adds a lovely dose of extra masculinity. The black paint scheme is glossy and so deep it appears you could lose your arm in it, but for me it’s matt all the way as it really suits the bike’s menacing feel. But looks are one thing, unlike so many customised bobbers you see on Instagram or Facebook, Triumph’s has been built to ride. And that’s something it does very well indeed.
A fat front tyre can do strange old things to a bike’s handling as you need to overcome its momentum when you want to corner. On most bobbers this makes for lazy handling machines that need to be pulled down into bends with quite a lot of rider effort. Then again, the same is true for bikes with skinny fronts as the rear wants to keep pushing the bike forward. If you ride something like a Harley-Davidson Breakout this is very apparent and, to some degree, Triumph’s Bobber suffers from a bit of a slow-steering front. However, and this is seriously impressive, the Bobber Black is totally neutral and steers into corners with hardly any effort.
Even at slow speed the Black is perfectly balanced and more than happy to roll around roundabouts or change direction. It’s such an easy bike to live with and its 690mm seat height and low centre of gravity make it effortless through town. So not only do you look great, you will also feel it when you reach your destination. But the biggest surprise occurs when you let the Black off its leash and introduce a set of corners…
While ground clearance will always be a bobber’s limiting factor, the Black is such a good handling bike it can really be enjoyed on a twisty road. Even at speed there is no sluggishness in its rate of turn and the extra disc provides some much needed security on the stoppers. The suspension is set somewhat on the firm side, meaning that you get quite a kick through the shock over sharp jolts, but on smoother roads it is nice and plush. And the engine is a real cracker.
The Bonnie’s HT motor is subtly different on the Bobber models than the T120 and it feel far more spirited thanks to 10% extra grunt in the lower rev range and a beautiful sound through its unique airbox and twin slash-cut pipes. It’s a superb motor for cruising with just the right amount of vibrations to add spirit yet not irritation and has all mod cons such as traction control, cruise control and power modes as well as a lovely ride-by-wire throttle response. And boasting 76bhp with 78ftlb of torque, it has bags of grunt to boot.
Considering the amazing success of the Bobber model, it is hard to see the Black not replicating, or even exceeding, this benchmark. If you are into the modern bobber look it is easily the best bike of this style currently on the market and at £11,650 is also well priced. However there is one slight cloud on the Black’s dark horizon – Triumph’s own Speedmaster. As well as being based around the Black’s platform, the Speedmaster adds an extra element of practicality thanks to a twin seat set-up. It’s not as visually impressive as the Black, but its all-round ability may steal a few of the Black’s sales. That said, for my money it’s Bobber Black all the way as it really is a fantastic bike.
Price: £11,650 (£11,775 in matt black)
Engine: 1200cc, liquid-cooled, 8v SOHC parallel twin
Power: 76bhp @ 6100rpm
Torque: 78.2ftlb @ 4000rpm
Weight: 237.5kg (dry)
Claimed economy: 69mpg