Triumph Bonneville vs. Triumph Thruxton

Bonneville vs. Thruxton

If you read the last post, you know that I recently became the owner of a 2016 Triumph Thruxton that now cozies up to the 2016 Triumph T120 Bonneville in my garage.  It was a strange series of unlikely events that landed me this wonderful way to begin 2018. Since that post I have also, through the extra mile effort of the car dealer that sold me the bike, obtained the initial purchase documents, the owner’s manual, the spare ignition key, and even the nifty little fabric documents case from Triumph. This was significant because the keys are chipped and a second key would be pricey. A six pack of quality beer to the car dealer squared that favor.

When I went to pick up the bike from Triumph of Seattle last week, after an extensive warranty repair for a faulty cylinder head, I assumed the riding experience would be similar to my Bonneville. After all, both bikes have the same engine architecture and displacement, although the Thruxton is in a higher state of tune.  They have the same front forks and rear shocks, although I’d added a set of shocks from the Thruxton R to mine.  Very similar instruments and identical fuel tank capacity, and take the same fuel.  Both have ABS brakes; twin front discs and a single rear, although the rear disc on the Thruxton is smaller.

So I assumed I would find a more café’ riding posture and perhaps a bit more sound, but an essentially similar ride.  You know what they say about assuming…

I was wrong. Not just a little bit wrong. Totally and completely “what were you thinking?” wrong.  Within the first 6 city blocks it became obvious that the Thruxton was a totally different animal.

A clue came to me the night before when I was lolling through the spec catalogue for the 2018 models and noticed that a Thruxton weighs 40 pounds less than a Bonneville. On a sub-500 pound bike, 40 pounds is a lot – like 8% or so.  Had I read further, I would have noticed that the Thruxton pounds out 97 horsepower and 82.6 pound feet of torque compared to 80hp and 77 pound feet of torque for the Bonneville. Factory published statistics of all sorts can be suspect, but even if gently fudged by the sleight of hand of the marketing boffins, the differences are probably relatively accurate.  Actually, I think the numbers are accurate.

That means the Thruxton weighs 8% less and has a smidge over 20% more power!  Imagine that you enjoy a sport other than motorcycles.  (It does happen).  Doesn’t matter if you like running, tennis, basketball, ping pong, water skiing, whatever.  Imagine a day enjoying your sport. Now imagine a day if you weighed 8% less and had 20% more strength.  You would notice the difference.

So I rode along marveling at the eager nature of the Thruxton. It wanted to go go go all the time, and the shorter mufflers made themselves known with a lovely symphonic throb – I don’t think aftermarket stuff will be needed.

The handlebars ape clip-ons (note the subtle pun, sort of) but are merely lower than the Bonneville bars.  They were not that bad, even in city traffic, and could be raised with aftermarket items if needed. I think they will be fine for me.

The car dealer I purchased the bike from had asked for an additional copy of the work order from Triumph of Seattle, just to lob into the folder of paperwork for this unusual deal.  As we looked over my new bike I fiddled with the “mode” switch and found another difference.

The Bonneville T 120 has two modes – rain and road.  The Thruxton has – tada! – a third.  Sport!  This merely speeds up the throttle reaction but does not affect power.  I think it would mostly be useful for a track day, as it resets to road when the ignition is off.

Once home I dove into the spec sheets to find more differences.  The Thruxton has a one inch smaller front wheel and a more aggressive fork angle, which is why it wants to turn right now, all the time.  The painted wheels save weight over the chrome wheels of the Bonneville, and the rear chrome passenger grab rail and passenger pegs are not there.  The lack of a center stand, which cannot be fitted to a Thruxton because of a different swing arm and the placement of the catalytic converter, is a significant weight saving. Last, I am pretty sure the Thruxton has single wall exhausts  (which turn an attractive dark blue in use) whereas the Bonneville has double walled pipes that retain at least most of there chrome glory.   That is probably another couple of pounds at least. I began to sense where the 40 pounds came from. 

I rode the Bonneville a couple of days later to confirm my impressions. It felt like a cross between a Goldwing and the recliner chair in my den!  Much more comfortable, much quieter, and the handling is just fine but far more relaxed.  The Thruxton dives for a corner, while the Bonneville waits for an invitation.  The Thruxton wants to go fast all the time, while the Bonneville can go fast but sends you messages like “Really?  What a nice day!  Look at the scenery?  Why rush?  Enjoy the ride.”

My riding consists of a lot of rides of a few hours up to a day, plus several longer adventures of 4 to 9 days a year. Yes, retirement is all it is cracked up to be. So here we are – the Thruxton for short and the Bonneville for long. Perfect.

What if you combined the best features of both for a super Bonneville?  Opinions differ, but my druthers would be to keep the Bonneville frame and center stand, use both the steeper front fork and the rear shocks from the R, use painted wheels and the shorter Thruxton mufflers, and keep the Bonneville handlebars with the heated grips, etc.  I would use the Thruxton engine as well.  It could be called the “Bonneville XTR” and would be a “halo” model to get people into show rooms. Possible produce one per dealer worldwide and see what happens?

That would be an awesome motorcycle methinks, and the most expensive in the Bonneville line.  Dear Triumph – I will accept one as payment for this fantastic idea. 

Possibly only bettered by the fortunate few who can have a Bonneville AND a Thruxton. 

Like me.

Triumph Bonneville T 120 “touring mode”






Triumph Thruxton with R model rear shocks. 


Copyright 2018                          David Preston



About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, 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 own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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3 Responses to Triumph Bonneville vs. Triumph Thruxton

  1. Patrick Doran says:

    How fun… 🙂

    IMO the best of both worlds exists in the Triumph stable…. This is the 2018 Street Triple R 765…. It’is tamer than your Speed Triple was, more refined than both the Bonneville and Thruxton, and a comfortable long runner and a sporty day ride…(they even have a ‘Low’ version of the R).

    Theoretically, since you have the means, you could trade-in both of the twins… and simplify things dramatically… Just say’n…


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