Since not everyone will be familiar with the Bobber concept, it makes sense to start with a history lesson.
The term Bobber originated sometime in the 1930s to describe the end result of stripping your motorcycle back to the absolute essentials and shortening the rear mudguard, which gave it a “Bob Tail.” The front mudguard would be removed. Bikes of this era typically had no rear suspension (Hardtail) and sprung single seats. The end result was a lean, clean looking bike, the Bobber.
When rumours and early spy shots of the Triumph Bobber first started to appear, there was much grumbling in certain areas of the Motorcycle community that a Bobber is something you produce yourself, in your shed with your hands, your imagination, and your tools. Clearly Triumph ignored all of this, and forged ahead with delivering a Factory Built Bobber for todays riders. I for one, am so glad they did, because this is truly ground breaking Motorcycle.
After waiting patiently, and sometimes, not so patiently, my Morello Red 2017 Bobber finally arrived at Millard Motorcycles in Bunbury a little more than a week ago, and a couple of days later, after they had completed the PDI and fitted the accessories I ordered, I was finally able to see the Bobber in the flesh.
Photographs and Videos do not fully convey just how beautiful this machine is. It is a work of art. The last time I used that term to describe a motorcycle it was a 2002 MV Agusta F4, and I have to say that the Triumph matches and in some cases exceeds the attention to detail and finish of the Classic and scarily expensive F4. There are exquisite details everywhere you look on the Bobber. Acres of brushed metal, bronze accents, machine finished surfaces, and deep lustrous paint are on display all over this bike.
But the attention to detail doesn’t stop there. This is Retro done right, and its way more than skin deep. A keen eyed friend pointed out to me how the frame welds reflected the frame welds of the 30’s and 40’s, that is to say they have not been excessively cleaned up. The welds look fantastic, and complement the overall look and feel. The battery box is another stunning piece of detail giving, real weight to the Retro credentials of this machine.
The real key to the Triumph Bobber look is the cleverly engineered hardtail style, that despite appearances offers a comfortable ride, with sufficient travel, but more on that later.
At the heart of this bike is Triumphs new 1200cc Water Cooled Twin, that has benefitted from what Triumph call the “Bobber Tune” which delivers a very satisfying increase in Torque. Climbing aboard and thumbing the combined, kill switch and starter button, the motor fires up with an extremely pleasing exhaust note, that is reminiscent of the original Bonnevilles.
When it comes to riding , the first point to note about the Bobber, is that it is a very compact bike. I felt pretty comfortable straight away, but it is important to acknowledge that Triumph have engineered an adjustable saddle, giving shorter, or taller riders the option to fine tune the riding position. I haven’t found it necessary to make the adjustments myself, but a quick flick through the handbook shows it to be a straightforward process involving loosening first the main saddle fastening, then two bolts under the saddle to make the adjustment.
The clutch and brake levers are also adjustable for reach, which is another nice touch. On the subject of the Clutch lever, it is an absolute joy to use. Light, and smooth, but with plenty of feel, it really is “Sweet”, it uses some technology called Torque Assist, the explanation of which is way beyond the scope of this review, other than for me to report, it works very well, and feels fantastic.
As I was running the bike in, and wanted to treat her carefully, I elected for a less direct route home, and covered the first few kilometres in some fairly heavy nose to tail traffic. The first thing I discovered is all that low down Torque this engine produces, makes the throttle response in slow traffic conditions fairly lumpy. Smooth progress was initially difficult to achieve in the slow dense traffic. However having now covered nearly 1000km with the Bobber, I have worked out that switching the dual mode Throttle Map to “Rain” provides an instant solution. It becomes much easier to ride smoothly using the secondary fuel map, but importantly even in Rain Mode, all the power and Torque is still available, it is just delivered in a more gentle curve. This is worth remembering, because if you are going to ride in an busy urban environment, the harsh throttle response in stop, start traffic is hard work.
Once out of the claustrophobic traffic, and back in “Road” mode the Bobber really starts to shine. The ride is firm, but comfortable, and straight line stability is excellent, but not at the cost of being able to change direction quickly. This is no quick steering sports bike, but the appearance is deceptive, this bike will carve through twisty sections of road as hard as you dare. The Bobber handles corners beautifully, turning in smartly, and giving the rider all the feedback you need to keep leaning until the “Hero Blobs” on the smart alloy pegs gently kiss the tarmac.
The combination of all that Torque and a Chassis that handles better than any cruiser style bike I have ever ridden makes for a motorcycle that begs to be ridden.
Limited travel in the rear suspension was initially a concern for me, but having covered some distance, on both Tarmac and Gravel roads I am no longer worried. The ride is firmer than you might expect on a Cruiser, but it works well, and even on some of Western Australias harsh gravel it never became uncomfortable or dangerous. One fascinating feature of the Bobber is that very well designed Swing arm setup, which sees all of the bodywork mounted to the swinging arm. I am assured by a friend of mine who followed me through a fun, and very twisty section of road, watching the whole rear end, of lights, mudguard, and all, gently moving up and down over as the bike makes progress, is mesmerising.
Whilst riding on gravel I had the chance to play with the Traction Control, that defaults to “On” every time the bike is started, but is easy enough to disable. On loose gravel with the traction control on, its effect was noticeable, but never intrusive. Turning it off, whilst on a very loose gravel surface was entertaining, the Bobber is no Moto Cross Bike, but it never felt like it was out of control.
The front brake is an area where Triumph have clearly compromised. Dual disks would have been better for the rider, but would have spoiled the laid back Retro look. Don’t worry, there is enough power in the single disk to haul the bike up, but the effort required at the lever means this is not a “Two Finger” motorcycle. A firm squeeze is required to get the best out of the Front brake. Its not a big issue, but definitely worth noting, and worth playing with if you decide to buy a Bobber, so you get a feel for the effort required.
Fuel Range is an area where I guess no compromise was made. The Fuel Tank is gorgeous, perfectly proportioned, and styled just like a classic Bobber Tank, and therefore you should expect to be filling up regularly.
Over here in Australia where we measure our distances in days between towns, it could get interesting on a long ride. I find myself filling up after covering around 150 kilometres. This doesn’t bother me as much as it sounds like it should. After 150 kms. I am usually ready to stretch my legs, have a bottle of water and gaze lovingly at the bike, whilst fielding the inevitable questions from people who assure me “I used to ride one of those back in the 50’s, you’ve looked after it so well it looks almost new !”
I elected to swap the stock saddle for the “Statement Leather” seat from the vast Bobber Accessory Catalogue from Triumph. It wasn’t until I had completed nearly 500km. in one go, that I realised why its called a “Statement Seat.” The Statement is “Wow my backside hurts !” To be fair, the optional saddle is a beautiful addition, hand crafted Tan Leather, that matches my riding boots and fringed handbag perfectly. It is just significantly less well padded than the stock seat, and I have promised myself that in future, for longer rides, I will swap the saddle.
One area of concern for me at the moment is the proximity between the exhaust heat shield to the foot pegs. The brushed finish has already marked, presumably from my boot going up and down a few dozen times. I need to keep an eye on this, because I am not sure how easy it is going to be to keep that brilliant finish looking as good as it does at the moment.
That first longish ride gave me a real chance to get to grips with the bike. That I could have quite happily turned round and done it all again, despite my slightly numb posterior, tells a story about this bike that can’t be ignored. It is a genuinely successful fusion of function and form resulting in a staggeringly pretty Motorcycle that rides as well as it looks.
With my Bobber now at slightly more than 1000km and with the first service out of the way, she is ready for me to start exploring a little more of that arm wrenching Torque that is promised and I really can’t wait.
The accessories will be reviewed in an separate article to follow.
Suzanne – Editor