We take the Bonneville T100 and Thruxton for a spin through Old Delhi to find out which motorcycle – the old-world charmer with its timeless appeal or the bad-boy cafe racer – is better suited for a blast through the heart of the Capital.
The Bonneville family of bikes still remain the most popular, and consequently the most successful, Triumphs ever sold. Among the variants available in India, we decided to ride the retro T100 and the radical cafe racer, the Thruxton. One is a legend with a timeless design, while the other is a super cool motorcycle.
When it comes to the Bonneville range, the checklist is a little different – leather jacket: got it; Zippo lighter: I don’t smoke; and, of course, Steve McQueen looks. Not sure about the last one, but you’ll have to make do with me.
At any rate, it’s time to ride under the clear (but grey) Delhi sky with the T100 and Thruxton as my steeds. The Thruxton is a motorcycle to stir the heart. Classic 60’s retro styling, it is a café racer to the hilt with spoked wheels and megaphone style exhausts. It’s a showstopper on the roads. The Thruxton entices and charms you with its Brooklands Green hue and golden racing stripes. Cafe racers were the objects of desire for most of the bad boys of the 1960s, and it still continues to bring out that mean streak in most. It warmly tells you to live life on the edge.
The T100, on the other hand, is more about keeping it simple – maybe a bit too simple! As expected, not many batted an eyelid when this old-school bike passed by. But those who knew of the legend of the Bonneville (most of its fans are over 50) were delighted to see it on the streets of Delhi. Its classic design maybe a blast from the past, but the 865cc parallel-twin engine is completely state-of-the-art. As a standard bike, the T100 has a straight comfortable riding stance. This makes it very practical in the city, and ensures that the entire ride is stress-free. You can easily spend a couple of hours on the Bonnie, but the seat is a bit too flat and lacks contours – so it lacks a bit of lower back support.
Paying attention to details has become Triumph’s forte, as the T100’s gorgeous spoke wheels, dual-tone fuel tank with Triumph embossed tank badges and chrome engine covers add more classic styling cues. The headlight remains round. An analog speedometer face, with a small digital odometer inside it, adorns the dashboard. That digital display has two trip settings and a clock. Triumph has worked hard to stick to the retro theme, and the fuel injection system has been designed to resemble a pair of carburetors.
The rockers, as the cafe racer riders were popularly known, had only two objectives in mind, apart from looking cool of course – racing in the streets, and chilling out at a cafe. Therefore, the riding position is stretched more towards a sporty stance – as a result the rider has to learn forward. This is definitely not the most comfortable posture for a daily ride, as it puts a lot of pressure on your shoulder and arms – but for short bursts, which is what this is meant for, it’s perfect. The beautiful bar-end side-view mirrors may look like a gimmick, but they give you a clear view of the traffic behind you. The Thruxton also comes with a cowling that covers the rear seat.
Both these bikes are powered by the same 865cc engine, with a maximum output of 60bhp (revised from the previous claim of 67bhp). And while that doesn’t sound earthshattering, you do need to ride these bikes to realise that power is more than adequate. With a torque delivery from just 1,500rpm, both are responsive from the word go and cruise comfortably in the 4,000-7,000rpm range without a fuss. The bikes always have enough power to overtake with ease, and never leave you in any doubt of their capability. The 5-speed gearbox does a good job too, although the shifts could be a little smoother. And the ride could have been a little more accommodating as well.
When it comes to handling, the T100 and Thruxton are like chalk and cheese. While the cafe racer loves taking sweeping corners, keep in mind that it’s not a knee-scraping bike – though it remains stable and composed. Riding it in traffic can be a nightmare, as its 230kgs of mass starts to feel cumbersome. Start-stop traffic also goes against its aggressive riding position, and with a limited turning radius it’s not possible to negotiate rush hour traffic by cutting across it.
On the other and, the T100 is a blessing in city conditions. It wears its weight comfortably, and can weave around easily – even in the chaotic traffic of Old Delhi. Slow traffic doesn’t affect its handling – rather it thrives and demonstrates just how practical it really is. It’s no slouch on the curves either. It may not fluidly breeze through corners, like its cafe racer sibling but it doesn’t feel the least bit nervous or jittery.
It all comes down to what kind of a motorcycle you’re looking for. If you want to be Clark Kent during the week and Superman in the weekends then the Thurxton is made just for you. Short but quick rides, hugging the curves and making a style statement – this is what the cafe racer is all about.
And while the T100 isn’t flashy from any angle, it’s for those who love and respect old school styling – and with an engine that’s plenty powerful. If simple is beautiful, and you intend to ride it frequently, then the T100 is a practical and a comfortable choice. It is a great bike for the city, and still has enough sting in its tail for the highways. Both the bikes are extremely refined and vibration free, not to mention the fact that build and paint quality is class leading.
At the end of the day, though, it all boils down to style versus practicality. I would love to attack corners on a friends’ Thruxton, but would put a T100 in my own garage…
- Triumph Bonneville T100 / Thruxton
Engine: 865cc / Air-cooled / DOHC / parallel-twin
Transmission: 5-speed, wet multi-plate clutch
Power: 60bhp @ 7,500rpm
Torque: 61Nm @ 5,551
Economy: Rs. 6.75 lakhs / Rs. 6.95 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi)