The Thruxton Saga – the Bike That Almost Wasn’t

The Thruxton Saga – or how I got a second bike by surprise

I purchased a new Triumph Bonneville T 120 in the spring of 2016. At the time I was also attracted to the 1200 Thruxton, but since I intended to take longer trips I passed on the Thruxton, which is more in the “café racer” mode. The Bonneville I purchased is now 2.5 years old has been everything I’d hoped for.  I added a “flyscreen” (mostly for looks), a tank bag, and some Cortech bags and top bag for longer trips.  It’s been a boon companion on several 4 to 9 day trips, as well as local rides, and now has almost 12,000 miles on the odometer.

But still… a Thruxton would be nice addition if I had unlimited funds…

So a nice fellow I knew as a customer when I worked at two motorcycle dealerships years ago e-mailed me.   He knew I was a “Triumph guy” and explained that he had a friend who worked for a car dealership.  The dealership had just taken in a 2016 Thruxton with only 617 miles on it, and wanted to sell it quickly.  After all, a motorcycle is not a quick sell at a car dealer in the winter in Washington.  The price looked very tempting, but why so low?  And which Thruxton?  The 900?  1200?  1200R?  \

I called his friend at the car dealer, and thus began a convoluted and amazing story. The first owner, who I’ll call “Bob” because I am so clever (and because I don’t know his real name), had purchased the bike at Triumph of Seattle in 2016.  Bob rode it for about 600 miles, and then performed a first oil change by himself.  Not sure why, since the factory recommendation is 10,000 miles.  Somehow, Bob managed to screw something up, and the bike began to run poorly.  He had it picked up by the dealership, and Triumph of America gave the OK for a strip down.  The result was the discovery of a damaged cylinder head. Time was spent going back and forth with T of A to see if this would be a warranty repair.  Often, when an owner does his own work it can void the warranty. Situations like this precisely the reason why warranties are written that way. What did Bob do?  A pretty good guess would be that even Bob does not know.

Bob decided, during this process, to trade the bike in for a car!  At some point Triumph of America gave the okay for a new cylinder head and all associated repairs to be performed.  The car dealer was now the owner of a damaged bike they had never seen.

Time for a new twist to the story. My brother in law Richard lives in California. He’s a project manager for a very large construction company on a several hundred million dollar project in Bellevue that will take years and be followed by other projects. In short, Richard and his wife need to move here. Because they have a son who will graduate from high school in June of 2018, it was decided that he would work here about three days a week for almost a year before moving in the summer of 2018.  

He’s been staying in our spare bedroom for two to four nights a week since September.  I realize that, for many families, having the brother in law in the house for three days a week for ten months or more would be a real drag, but it has been delightful.

Richard and I were enjoying a beer one evening two weeks ago and I told him about the Thruxton.  He reminded me that he had previously told me that he wanted to have a bike to ride here while his Ducati Multistrada languished in California.  Then he said, “Let’s buy the Thruxton and share it!”

I replied that Susan would not think that was such a hot idea.

“Don’t tell her!  She never looks at your bank balance and neither does Meghan. Just tell her it’s mine and I’ll tell Meghan it’s yours!” We both laughed.  I knew he was  jesting because neither one of us is capable of that sort of deception with our wives.

Then Susan walked into the room and I repeated the story.  She also laughed and said “Actually, I don’t think that is entirely a bad idea.”

So which Thruxton was it?  In 2016 Triumph offered a 900cc air cooled version, and the 1200, which offered partial water cooling, more power, and the twin front disc brakes I prefer for esthetics if nothing else.  Given the price I assumed it was a 900, which I was really not that excited about.  I was also pretty sure it would not be a Thruxton R, the top end model with better suspension. Of course, it might be a 1200!

Fortuitously, (there’s a lot of fortuitously in this tale) Triumph of Seattle was having a dealer event that Saturday night.  Of course I went, and had the chance to chat with the owner. He told me what he had bid to the car dealer for the bike, but he did not mind if I offered more. He knew I’d be spending additional money at his store anyway.  Then the service manager told me that lo and behold, the bike was a 1200!

Now I was very interested!

The next week Richard suggested we meet at T of Seattle between a couple of meetings to check it out. This would also give him a chance to sit on a new Thruxton to make sure he liked the ergonomics, etc.

The service manager led us back to the shop and there it was.  I was impressed it was already in the shop and not stuck in a back corner of a shed outside. Gloss black, totally stock, just missing about 70% of the engine.  “The parts are in the mail.”  This could work!

So I think we’re done.  Then Richard asked “What would it cost to give it the suspension of the R?”  

Gulp.  The service manager opined that such a plan would not be economically feasible, but you could come pretty close by purchasing much better rear shocks and maybe having the front fork internals stiffened a bit. So how much would that be?

Turns out a good set of Fox shocks for a Thruxton would be about $1100, plus tax.  Ouch. 

Then the Parts Manager piped up. It’s really handy to have worked with all of these people for years.  John had a set of rear shocks for the R that a customer had ordered and then had suffered a change of mind. He’d had them for a while on the shelf and could give me a great deal – a savings of about $400 over the Fox units!

Since the weather is foul and Richard will not be riding much with his limited time in the winter months, we could buy the bike, have the shocks and a center stand added, and when it was ready it would be ready.

The time of year also worked to our advantage. Motorcycle shops want to keep all of their employees busy in the winter, and a major repair paid for by T of A would be done as soon as the parts arrived. If this were happening in May or June it would be a much different story.

My next task was to slow Richard down a bit, since he was also interested in custom paint and a slip-on exhaust, and more.  He pointed out that any changes we wanted to make would be cheaper while the bike was in pieces, which is true, but really…

Fortunately, for the moment, there does not seem to be a highly regarded custom painter in Seattle, so that can wait.  I like the gloss black, but later on we may visit that topic again.

Time for another twist. I called the car dealer the next day and did some bargaining, and then asked where the title was.  Ummm – he was not sure!  He’d have to get back to me.

It turns out that Bob had a loan against the bike. The dealer had sent a check to pay off the loan, and had not received the title yet.  No worries, as I could pay for the bike and the title would be sent to me …soon. 

As the bike is still in pieces and who knows where the cylinder head and other parts are, what the heck?  I did want to make the purchase before word of this bike got out, because I think we were still about three thousand or more under likely retail cost at this point.   So I concluded my negotiations and get ready to drive to the dealer to buy the bike he had never seen.

Another twist!   I texted Richard to say I was on my way and got an immediate response. He wanted me to hold off a bit, because in all the excitement of Christmas and him being out of town and so forth… he had never mentioned this to Meghan!   Egads!

This filled me with dread, as we were about to fly to Tahoe to spend Christmas with Richard and Meghan, their two sons, and a close family friend.  Now this could be awkward, methinks.  In the meantime I called the car dealer and both of my contacts at T of S to alert them.   The shocks would be held for me for a few days at least.

The Christmas vacation was wonderful. The problem with the bike purchase was not the money. The problem was that when a spouse is about to do something significant (in both of our houses, the expenditure of $4000 or so is significant – your situation may vary), there needs to be a marital conversation.  That is how it is done. Richard and I both know this, and he had not meant to be deceptive. There are so many balls in the air in their lives this year that things like this can happen.

Over Christmas day while Richard was out skiing with his sons and the rest of us were relaxing, Meghan brought up the topic of the bike, and I was able to give her the long version of the story and fill in some of the blanks.

Two days later I was sitting in the Reno airport waiting for our flight home and Richard texted me that we’re good to go.  I called the car dealer, flew home, and drove to the dealership to do the paperwork.  I paid for the bike with a charge card, and the F&I person did all the paperwork for a bike he didnot have and had never seen.  Weird.  Then I called T of S to order the center stand and have the R model shocks put on.

The next day I called the Service Manager and asked, in a mock angry tone, “When will MY Thruxton be ready?”

“Should be this afternoon.”


“Yup. Parts came in yesterday.  We should have it done by this evening.”

I doubted that time frame, which was indeed optimistic.  Now they are closed for a few days for New Years, so I get to work on the character skill of patience.   Not a strong suit of mine, alas.

I’ve also learned that you cannot put a center stand on a 1200 Thruxton, because it has a different swing arm from a Bonneville and there is insufficient room. Oh well. Rich did not want one anyway.

So in a few days my Bonneville will be sharing garage space with a cousin.  Amazing.

We’re researching aftermarket exhausts – just for fun. And paint.

Pictures to come once the Thruxton has shouldered up next to the Bonneville in the garage.

Happy New Year to all!


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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1 Response to The Thruxton Saga – the Bike That Almost Wasn’t

  1. Bob (not THAT Bob). says:

    Great story! Now add the Thruxton to your “About David” section above and you’re done! And in conclusion, in the immortal words of Sam Spade (slightly modified here for context): “(Motorcycles) the stuff dreams are made of”.

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