These Hot New Triumph Bonnevilles Are Instant Classics

Brit-bike maker for Steve McQueen and Ewan McGregor modernizes its throwback model line.
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Brit-bike maker for Steve McQueen and Ewan McGregor modernizes its throwback model line.
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Water covers two-thirds of the planet's surface, but now it covers 100 percent of Triumph's product line. The company recently introduced new parallel twin-cylinder Bonneville heritage models with water cooling in place of the air cooling the engines have used since Triumph's foundation in 1902. The benefit of the change is more power across the entire line.

That pair of air-cooled cylinder jugs jutting proudly into the airstream, with a chromed exhaust pipe snaking around each side is the classic Brit-bike silhouette, so Triumph knew better than to meddle too much with its popular formula.

Indeed, the all-new for 2016 Triumph twin models hew a little more closely to the lithe lines of the mid-century originals than the latter-day incarnations that always looked a little porky by comparison. The new Bonneville models now more closely resemble the machines that got dressed in streamlined bodywork and went 217 mph on the Utah salt flats in 1956.

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That includes three distinct models, the plain and simple 900ccStreet Twin, the strongly retro 1,200cc Bonneville T120 and the track-inspired 1,200cc Thruxton, which takes its designation from a classic English endurance race series. The original 1958 T120 took its name from the bike's claimed 120-mph top speed.

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The 2016 T120 is available in either the classic chromed-out model or in a Black model that sees all the steel hidden under ebony paint instead of glittery chrome, for a more custom-bike look.

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The Thruxton comes in both regular and extra-strength versions, with a base Thruxton and its more traditional appearance and the Thruxton R model, which is decorated with unmistakably serious racing hardware such as Brembo monoblock brakes, adjustable inverted Showa forks and adjustable Ohlins shock absorbers.

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While each model varies in its details, the common theme across the board is the new muscle provided by the water-cooled engines. Triumph has not provided horsepower numbers, but the company did release torque figures for the new bikes, presumably because the rider-pleasing torque is where the new engines set themselves apart from the old ones. The Street Twin's 900cc engine makes 59 lb.-ft. of torque, which is an 18 percent improvement over the outgoing model.

The 1,200cc T120 cranks out 77 lb.-ft., for an amazing 59 percent boost, and the Thruxton's 1,200cc engine makes 83 lb-ft., which is a 62 percent improvement.

The engines use a 270-degree crankshaft rather than the previous bikes' 360-degree so that the cylinders fire at an uneven interval, for a bit rougher texture to the exhaust note, while reducing actual vibration because the pistons no longer travel up and down at the same time.

Obviously, we'll need to ride the new Bonneville line to make final evaluations about the success of the revamp, but they are already winners as screen wallpaper material.

For the latest car and bike news, follow @MaximRides and Dan Carney on Twitter.