Triumph Thruxton Retro (2003 - ) review
Authentic, stylish, easy to ride and even easier to maintain. A café racer in name only, but it feels as good as you hope you look.
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The modern Triumph Thruxton has its origins in the mid-1960s when a small number of Bonneville Thruxtons were supplied to dealers for production racing. There are plenty of references to that bike, including a triangular engine cover, teardrop fuel tank and lower ace bars but when you glimpse the scales (230kg wet), you’ll know the Thruxton is a café racer in aesthetics only. Look beyond the excellent paint finish and you’ll spot some questionable detailing too, from exposed screwheads to a poorly located rectifier, letting the overall finish down.
With high knees and hunched shoulders, the Thruxton purports the essence of a café racer and yet the riding position isn’t anywhere near as extreme as it looks. The clip-on handlebars put very little pressure on your wrists and the seat is spacious enough to move around in. Both Bonneville and Scrambler siblings will feel comfier for longer, but if the café racer stance holds any romantic appeal for yesteryear, then this is as comfortable as it gets.
With the exception of both clutch and brake levers having adjustable span, plus a racing cowl that can be removed to accommodate a passenger, the Thruxton offers little in the way of practicality. Key frustrations include no lock on the fuel filler cap, an awkwardly located sidestand, no heated grips and chrome brightwork that is irrevocably tarnished by rain, dirt and especially, salt. Trying to ride a Thruxton exclusively on sunny days may be quite limiting in Britain, too.
Performance & braking
The Triumph Thruxton uses the same fuel-injected 865cc parallel-twin that features in the Bonneville, complete with throttle bodies designed to look like a pair of AMAL carburettors and, weirdly, a choke lever (which advances ignition rather than altering the fuel/air mixture to help early morning starts). It develops 68bhp, which may be 1bhp more than the Bonneville and 10bhp more than the Scrambler, but performance can only ever be described as playful, rather than powerful. Similarly, the brakes are basic items that don’t like being tested too heavily.
Ride & handling
If you’re willing to embrace life at a more modest pace, as you would a Bonneville, then the Thruxton is easy to appreciate and enjoy. But try to push harder and harsh vibrations transmit through the handlebars and you soon find the suspension’s limitations. It’s a giggle to bounce down a B-road at speed, occasionally being popped out of the seat on the rebound, but upgraded items would help improve comfort and connection. Dynamically speaking, the retro-styled BMW R nineT is in another league of accomplishment.
The Triumph Thruxton consistently returns 50mpg on the combined run, and with service schedules every 6,000 miles, is a simple and relatively inexpensive to maintain. It also benefits from solid residual values, thanks to consistently high demand as a secondary, ‘Sunday best’ motorcycle, with passionate owners keeping hold of their examples for a long time.
The low state of tune and long production run has helped give the 865cc parallel twin an enviable reputation for reliability. We’re not talking about leaky Meridien twins anymore, but you’ll still be kept busy replacing chains, chain guards and all of the chrome.
Warranty & servicing
Triumph includes a two-year unlimited mileage warranty on the Thruxton, and there’s a 12-month warranty on all replacement parts, too. Service intervals are stated annually, but after a 500-mile checkup, there then follows a minor 6,000-mile service for oil, oil filter and plugs, followed by a major 12,000-mile service that includes valve clearances, balancing injectors and brake fluid.
Standard equipment is pretty lacking, but the Thruxton represents a canvas ripe for customisation. There is an expansive selection of accessories available from centrestand and grab rails to an Arrow performance exhaust but upgrades aren't limited to the official parts brochure. There are loads of talented workshops taking advantage of a burgeoning custom movement.
This is a mild-mannered motorcycle with modest capabilities but exudes feel-good factor and can be easily tweaked to reflect your own style. You don’t have to be a middle-aged media type or dentist to get that.