REVIEW: 2016 Triumph Thruxton R – the ultimate retro

Triumph Thruxton R 1

That retro-styled motorcycles sell is no surprise. There is a certain demographic of the riding population, usually the older, more affluent rider, who wants to revisit the nostalgia of his or her past, that favours machines cut in the cloth of the old school.

Ducati started the trend back in the mid-2000s with its range of retro-styled Sport Classics, including the very snazzy Paul Smart replica. BMW Motorrad fired full blast a few years ago with its RnineT, carrying its iconic boxer twin in a chassis intended for customisation.

While Kawasaki’s W800 didn’t exactly take the market by storm, probably because many riders think the best, and most vicious, Kawasaki ever made was the H1 Mach III, European manufacturers found it easy to capitalise on this buying taste for nostalgia, and weren’t ashamed to charge a premium for it.

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There is a lot to be said for retro-styled machinery brought up-to-date with modern sporting tackle. With the Ducati Paul Smart, a chassis patterned after the old 1972 racing machine with Ohlins running gear allowed a skilful rider to humiliate modern sports machinery.

But when Triumph announced the updated Bonneville range of retro-styled motorcycles, it was all we could do to stop from rolling our eyes. Having just come off testing the BMW Motorrad RnineT, with its superb boxer engine, we weren’t exactly in the mood for another retro.

Triumph Thruxton R 50

Right up till the point when we had a first look at the 2016 Triumph Thruxton R in the flesh as it was being unloaded at the Triumph showroom in Petaling Jaya. We were expecting something a like the previous generation Thruxton, which was a very distinctly retro sports machine.

As Triumph’s technical manager rolled the bike out for us, that gleaming shade of Diablo red, and the gold anodised forks, stood out. Someone whispered to us, “you’re going to like this one,” and at first sight, we had to agree with this viewpoint.

No mistaking the styling on the Thruxton R, looking like it just parked itself in front of the Ace Cafe in London in the sixties. This Thruxton is, to all intents and purposes, a cafe racer, and in every sense of the word.

The clip-ons, straight-cut tank line, humped racing seat all served to evoke a time when the English motorcycle ruled the world, with BMW Motorrad and Ducati still making utilitarian commuter bikes and Harley-Davidson was heaping chrome on its machines.

Triumph’s parallel-twin, with a DNA going back to the fifties, take pride of place in the tubular steel cradle frame. Now liquid-cooled to comply with Euro 4 regulations for noise and emissions, some purists lamented the loss of the previous generation air-cooled engine.

To be honest, we didn’t miss it. Now updated with EFI – that the EFI throttle bodies are made to look like Amal carburettors is a nice touch, and no tickling is required – the new generation Bonneville engine is miles better, as we found out thrashing the Thruxton around.

Triumph Thruxton R 10

In order to comply with Euro 4, Triumph was forced to drop the old air-cooled lump, and redesign the Bonneville range. Now with a radiator, the eight-valve SOHC, parallel-twin displaces 1,200 cc, with the pistons pushed up-and-down by a 270-degree crank.

While we are familiar with the traditional 180-degree crank in our personal 1953 Triumph Speed Twin – pre-unit construction, no less – the 270-degree offset gives the Bonneville engine a completely different character, closer to that of a V-twin in terms of the power delivery.

This lets the 2016 Thruxton R produce 96 hp @6,750 rpm and 112 Nm of torque at 4,950 rpm. Right about now, the sound of younger riders on modern sporting tackle rolling their eyes will be heard. Here’s a little lesson, the name of the game, riding twins of any sort, is torque.

2016 Triumph Thruxton R road shot -11

Which we put to good use on a lengthy cruise around the country-side, in company of another Triumph Thruxton from the previous generation. So, what’s the Thruxton R like to ride and live with?

Getting on the Triumph Thruxton R immediately puts you into the classic head-down, bent knees, racing position of sixties racers. It isn’t cramped, but it is close quarters, with enough room to slide your arse to the rear and hide your helmet behind the clocks as you chase “the ton”.

Thumbing the starter button brings the Thruxton R to life with a very pleasant rumble, and the idling quite precise. This was in contrast to the previous generation Thruxton’s engine idle, which was not bad, just a touch less smooth.

Triumph made the move to EFI for the Bonneville series in 2009, with Keihin carbs being used previously. Something has obviously been learned along the way, because the Thruxton’s fuelling throughout the range, while not being as refined as the BMW R nine T, suited the character of a cafe racer, which the RnineT isn’t.

We did not have an issue with any stumbling or flat spots in the Thruxton’s fuelling, save that there is a very defined sweet spot at about 5,000 rpm, where maximum torque kicks in. This made sense while riding, when whacking the throttle open let the power come in with a rush, as opposed to the linear progression of the RnineT’s power band.

This made sense considering the way the Thruxton R’s six-speed gearbox is setup. Younger riders, please take note. The Thruxton R is not meant for cut-and-thrust riding. No grabbing of brakes or banging of the gearshifter here.

Triumph Thruxton R 53

Instead, you stay in the top-two gears, and use the throttle and the brake to settle the Thruxton R, as you carve your way through the corners. That lean angle on the Thruxton R is enough to not leave any chicken strips or grind the pegs, with no knee-down heroics, was proven by both the author, and Captain Nik Huzlan, during our respective test rides.

A classic riding position and style is rewarded here, with the Thruxton R tracking true through the corners. Roll-on acceleration was exemplary, as a kapchai rider found out on the Karak highway. Opening up the throttle at just above highway speed saw the Thruxton pulling away with no hesitation.

The torque of the Thruxton’s engine had a lot in reserve, even cruising at high speeds, making it a very comfortable bike in dealing with traffic. The handlebars on the Thruxton R also added to the comfort, with the clip-ons now having more of a rise compared to the previous version.

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Changed in response to customer feedback, we found the raised hand position to be reasonable for ride comfort, putting on 300 km in the saddle on a single cross-country ride on back roads. Carving up the country roads also showed up a slight glitch in the Thruxton R’s suspension setup.

Coming standard with Showa’s ‘Big Piston’ upside-down forks, and twin adjustable Ohlins with piggy-back resorvoirs at the back, the suspension settings as standard are way too harsh for anything except high-speed highway work. In town, the front forks were very stiff, bouncing the bars up and down in a staccato motion.

If you purchase a 2016 Triumph Thruxton R for yourself, please have the suspension set up to suit you by the Triumph technicians after the run-in period. That is what the multi-adjustable suspension is for, and your butt will thank you for it. The nice thing is the Triumph techs listened as the author spoke about the suspension settings, then replied, “ride a little slower at that set of corners.”

Speaking of corners, the Thruxton R’s suspension and braking with switchable ABS were very satisfying throughout the review, handling hard braking and badly-surfaced corners with aplomb at high speed. Heeling the bike over, and making a mid-corner course correction to avoid a stray dog, was done without any drama.

Braking up front is with twin Brembo Monobloc four-piston radial calipers – compared to the single front disc setup on the previous generation Thruxton 900 – that we have come to expect for motorcycles at this price point, clamping 310 mm Brembo floating discs. At the back, a single Nissin two-piston caliper grabs a 220 mm disc.

Coupled with the grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tyres wrapped around 17-inch spoked wheels, the entire Triumph Thruxton R package performed in complete synchronisation.

Composed would be the word we would use, with more than enough feedback coming back from the engine room and running gear to let the rider know exactly what was going on. Turning in the Thruxton R was dead easy with the 745 mm wide handlebars keeping the rider in control despite the racing-type riding position.

Seating on the Thruxton R was quite good, with the 810 mm tall seat nicely padded and narrow in front to let shorter riders get their feet down. While a touch heavy at 203 kg dry – despite it being a naked sportsbike – most of the weight is well distributed along the Thruxton R’s 1,415 mm long wheelbase, providing a very stable highway cruise at above average speed.

We did wish for a little more protection against the windblast, as riding crouched over the tank got a little tiring after a while. Triumph addresses this issue with a flyscreen that comes with the Cafe Racer inspiration kit that costs RM8,519 and includes other extras such as compact LED indicators, rear mudguard removal kit and Vance and Hines exhausts.

The Vance and Hines exhausts were installed on our review bike at the behest of Triumph Malaysia, so that we could evaluate if they made a difference. And there is a difference. Without empirical testing, the Thruxton R certainly had more “urge” when opening the throttle, but the biggest difference was in the noise the bike made, which was, indeed, music to the ears.

More wind protection, if needed, comes in the form of a cockpit fairing in the Track Tracker kit, that provides a quarter-fairing with racing bubble, along with Vance and Hines exhausts and other goodies. This will set the rider back by RM11,549, and there is a current discount on pricing for both kits at the Triumph showroom.

Up top, the round LED headlight, with DRLs, was bright and clear, with a suitable beam spread and throw. At back, an LED unit functioned adequately for stop- and braking-light duties.

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Looking inside the cockpit, twin instrument clocks again evoke the retro-style, save the two small LCD panels at the bottom. These panels display all the necessary information such as odometer, tripmeters and so on, and including the settings for the three ride modes, traction control and ABS.

Speaking of fuel consumption, we were a bit surprised that the Thruxton R returned 5.9-litres per 100 km from the 14.5-litre fuel tank, according to the readout. This was despite a heavy hand on the throttle on the straights, accelerating through the gears. Your mileage will, of course, vary.

Pricing for the 2016 Triumph Thruxton R is RM91,900 including GST, and comes in Diablo Red and Silver Ice, with Matte Black available soon for an additional RM1,000.

So, who needs a 2016 Triumph Thruxton R? For a 1,200 cc retro sportsbike, it is pricey, with lots of full-fairing pure sports- and super-bikes out there around this price. Primary competition in the retro-bike stakes for the Thruxton R is the BMW Motorrad RnineT, at RM99,888, but lacks the premium suspension, ride modes and traction control of its English rival.

2016 Triumph Thruxton R road shot -7

What you do get, though, is that high-end Showa and Ohlins suspension, along with Brembo brakes, something you won’t usually see at this price point for typical superbikes. The nearest suspension equivalent would be the Kawasaki ZX-10R, which is styled very differently, for a very different type of riding and costs about RM14,000 more.

Let’s just say the Thruxton R is targeted towards the rider who appreciates the finer points of motorcycle road riding, and is not interested in the last one percent of performance or corner speed. The Thruxton R rewards the rider who knows how to exercise a subtle hand on the throttle, while having the skill to keep up with hot-blooded riders on pure sportsbikes.

GALLERY: Triumph Thruxton 900

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Mohan K Ramanujam

Coming with diverse and extensive experience in heavy engineering, Mohan enjoys making anything with wheels go fast, especially motorcycles. His weapon of choice is the Desmoquattro engine, and he has a penchant for anything with a dash of Italian design. Strangely enough, he insists he's a slow rider.



  • any1here on Jul 16, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Such a beautiful machine. Any issues with the bike stalling randomly at low rpms? Saw a few reviews on youtube and some of them had the same issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • Randy Tovar on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Mine stalls all the time when after running for 15 minuets. It has been in service for over a month. They have no idea how to fix it. I am waiting for them to buy it back. The whole experience makes me sick.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Henry on Jul 16, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Lovely bike. Nostalgic, for sure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • Much better than the N5R

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4
    • No duuhh. This is like 10X more expensive. Its like comparing ur Axia in MY and Axia in SG… oh wai

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5
  • Bernard on Jul 16, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Great looking bike . But wish it was sold below 20k

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2
    • Get the N5R instead… Or buy a second hand Proton

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2
      • U shud be lucky can still find second hand P1. All second hand P2 is in Nirvana. Need to dig first.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
  • The old speed twin and most traditional Bristish twins have 360 cranks… Not 180…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
    • sub_zero on Jul 19, 2016 at 11:51 am

      yes this!

      due for the sake of reliability the opt the 180 crank

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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