If you can remember listening to Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night on vinyl, you will probably remember what motorcycles looked like back then. Chrome was the thing. Lots of it. Dual shocks at the back, two chrome dials above a round headlight and a flat seat. The exhausts were normally twin pipes, regardless of the amount of cylinders, and as if some draconian rules dictated it, they too had to be decked in chrome. So you will be forgiven if you looked at the Triumph Bonneville T120 and thought you were back in the 70s again.
If you park a 1959 Bonneville next to the T120 you will see the family resemblance, but as you look closer you will notice the huge strides that have been taken in motorcycle technology over the last few decades. Two huge discs replace the drum brakes of the older versions. I have heard too many stories of drum brakes simply not doing what they were intended to do, so it is reassuring to know that these units not only work, but are fitted with ABS as well.
Everything about the Bonneville’s modern technology has been cleverly packaged to hide any trace of its existence. The fuel injectors are hidden behind carburetor shells, and the analog instrumentation has two LCD screens to provide useful info like gear position and fuel level. One thing that comes standard on the Triumph is character. You cannot find that on the options list. The bike just has it.
As the engine is a 1200cc unit, producing 80hp, the electronics have a hard time keeping everything in check. Even though it shares a platform with the Thruxton R, I found the traction control far less intrusive than on the R. There are two riding modes to choose from, Rain and Road, each with varying levels of electronic help. You can also switch the traction control off completely but not the ABS.
Riding the T120 was a nostalgic delight. Torque assist on the clutch means the operation is light to the touch, and pulling away is a smooth affair. With the low down grunt of the engine, riding at city traffic speeds requires no effort at all. The riding position is upright and makes for a comfortable ride, but the lack of wind protection will preclude any high speed antics. For the winter months, this bike comes standard with heated grips. It even has a USB charging socket under the seat for when you want to listen to Hot August Night on your MP3 player.
I know this is a bike for a certain crowd of people but go and give the Bonneville a try. You might be surprised to find that this crowd is onto something.