Review – Triumph Thruxton RS has stunning looks and is a pure pleasure to ride

When the world was young and we’d never had it so good, ton-up boys would buy Triumph Bonnevilles, strip them down, tune them up and fit clip-on drop handlebars.

Then they’d put a single on the jukebox at the Ace Café in London, climb aboard, race up the North Circular Road in traffic at 100mph, hurtle around the first roundabout, and get back before the single stopped.

I managed it once, but only after swapping the single for Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

In 1965, Triumph made café racers official when it started building a limited-edition racer based on the Bonneville T120 and called it the Thruxton after the race circuit in Hampshire.

In 2004, the reborn Triumph adopted the name for the lovely Thruxton 900, which, in 2016, became the Thruxton 1200, the most fabulous incarnation of which was the R version, with upgraded Öhlins rear suspension, Showa forks, Brembo brakes and beautiful attention to detail.

Until now, that is – enter the RS, which, since the R was so good, is an evolution rather than a revolution.

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It looks just as stunning, with a few more black bits and the same lovely details such as the brass caps on the throttle bodies, Monza-style fuel cap and elegant twin speedo and tacho, with discreet digital panels for more info, such as the three rider modes of rain, road and sport.

It’s also got a rare-earth alternator. Whatever that is.

Start up, ride off, and the first surprise is how light the new clutch is, which linked to the snickety-snick gearbox makes progress seamless.

Not that you need to use the gearbox much, with the engine pulling cleanly from 2,000rpm, a beautifully linear power delivery, more grunt on tap from 5,750rpm and the redline up 500rpm for determined engine thrashers.

Peak torque is 700rpm lower than the R at 4,250 and the torque curve is flatter than before, which added to a weight loss of 6kg gives a glorious swell of acceleration as you power out of corners, pass hapless car drivers and keep the engine singing in its happy place between 4,000 and 7,500rpm.

That weight loss also helps the handling, which is not quite as sharp as the same company’s Street Triple RS.

Mind you, the only thing sharper than the Street Triple’s handling is a brain surgeon’s scalpel, so that comparison certainly isn’t a criticism – the Thruxton’s is beautifully neutral and balanced, allowing you to soar through the fast sweepers which are the bike’s natural home with immaculate precision.

Handling’s also helped by the Metzeler tyres, which are stickier in a wider range of temperatures and conditions than the previous Pirellis.

The brakes, with new more powerful Brembo calipers up front, are as powerful and linear as the acceleration, while the nice bite and feel of the single disc at the back is perfect for trailing into downhill corners, a technique I use so often I may patent it, then sue anyone else who tries to use it.

The rider modes now also alter the level of traction control and, so far, I’d been in road, but switching to sport was like pressing the fast forward button and going from exciting to laugh-out-loud thrilling.

It’s a bike that would make anyone happy and glad to be alive as they dance through bends and power down straights with a song in their heart and a smile on their face.

Not to mention the fact that it’s only £600 more than the R, which is a small price to pay for a noticeable improvement and makes me wonder if anyone will buy an R again.

In fact, the only negative thing I can find to say about it is that the US version will have a pillion seat option, but the UK version is only available with a single seat.

I assume this is because US bottoms won’t fit on a single seat. Or maybe because UK bikers are lone heroic figures with no girlfriends.

I’ll ask my imaginary friend which it is when I get back to the Ace Café, and I’d better hurry, since I can hear the last few bars of the Ring Cycle even as I speak.


Engine: 1200cc water-cooled parallel twin

Power: 103 bhp @ 7,500rpm

Torque: 83 lb ft @ 4,250rpm

Colours: black, grey/silver

Price: £13,000

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