Triumph Bonneville T120 Review
What Is It?
The Triumph Bonneville T120 is a retro style bike and is closely related to the Bobber, Speed Twin and Thruxton models.
Engine: 1,200 cc Parallel Twin, 79 bhp
Economy: 45 mpg, 140 miles
Seat Height: 785 mm
Wet Weight: 239 kg
What Is It Like?
|✓||Looks, low down torque|
|×||On the heavy side, range|
First off I must say I have always been a Triumph fan since 1976 when I had my Honda 250 and the Triumphs would roar past. I bought a new T140v Bonny in 1978 from the dealership in Codford St Mary as I was stationed with the British Army in Bulford at the time, I had this bike for 19 years. I sold it because I wanted something more modern. Having had only 3 Jap bikes since, and still have two of them, when I first saw T120 I knew I wanted one.
Went to the dealer in Fürth by Nürnberg in Germany and road tested it with my son in Aug 2016 and ordered one, they didn’t have the red I would have liked only the black/white and one other, wife and other kid both wanted this one so the deal was done. I picked it up on the 3rd of September and took it back on the 16th of September for its first 800km service but was over on 935km. The dealer is a good hour 20 minutes from home if I take the autobahn but there is a lovely road that skirts the Fränkische Schweiz (Little Switzerland area) but take two hours, no need to guess which I chose.
The only surprise is the cost of the service at €193.05 seeing as I provided the Castrol oil. I mean its just an oil change and some basic checks that should take no more than an hour. I can get a 4ltr bottle for €30(normal €50) when on special offer so buy 4 or 5 at a time as I have four bikes. While in for its first service I road tested the Explorer 1200 again and placed an order for that, picked it up mid October. Over here I have seasonal plates of 03/11 which means it can only be driven on the road Feb-Nov because of the winter tyre law and ice and snow so only did 1300km before winter as November that year was icy cold with temps below zero, if having an accident at those temps with the incorrect tyre not only is it not covered by insurance the Police will fine you, heavily if you have caused any 3rd party damage. My wife works for the American legal side and works closely with the Police and DA’s so wouldn’t want a ticket.
In 2017 I only did just under 4000km for the year (as I have the other bikes as well) I did have the recall letter in May for the wiring so that was done on the 6th of April with no problem.
In may after a bit of research I bough some Remus silencers. I really like the style of the standard ones but sounds too stifled so was going to get the Triumph ones but two UK dealers I spoke to gave me an honest reply that they wouldn’t sound that much different. So after a mess up by me ordering the Thruxton ones I shipped back to the UK seller and got the correct ones. They do sound better and quite loud with the baffles out, louder than when I ran for a minute with no silencers on. I have the baffles refitted as it sounds nice without having a chance of being pulled by the Police. The other good thing is the drive chain can be easily adjusted now with a couple of spanners. That reminds me of another gripe, you get no tool kit with this bike, nothing to adjust the chain just an Allen key that is for putting in the round hole on the rear shocks to adjust preload. This was easy as I had to put to max setting as it kept bottoming out, just be careful as I went slightly past max and there is no stop to stop it going too far so popped over to the lowest setting with the adjust hole on the inside.
The highlight of the year was going to the ex trip-Days Club of Newchurch in Austria. I wanted the Triumph wax cotton panniers but could not find any for months and with time getting close Triumph Germany said they would not get them in till after June, same for Triumph UK so too late for the trip mid June. I ordered the SW-Motech Legend Gear side bags from Louis with the most racks, they arrived in a few days but the left side bag was not available and would come later, it didn’t before the trip. So we set off the Mrs and I with out clothes and wash gear all crammed in one side bag and an old tank bag which was OK for four days away. It was on this trip I found the first failing and that was of range, tank was full and said 180+km range as we headed down the Autobahn from Weiden, thinking I would fill up when we get on the A6 to Munich. I wasn’t paying attention to the fuel gauge and just passed Regensburg when the fuel light came on and only done 110km but had been going 140-160kph. Panicking I had to turn off to find a fuel stop, after that we made sure we stopped every hour and topped up. The only other niggle is the front brakes make a noise when braking hard which I mentioned at the later service but nothing found.
It was at the Club of Newchurch event I bought the only other add on and that is the Union Jack covers for the sided of the carb looking intakes. Due to a work accident in September I had to hang up the helmet for the year and also the annual service due had to be put off, after speaking to the dealer he said it would be no problem. I took the bike down on the 2nd of March 2018 for its first annual service in the back of my camper van as it was around zero and icy, not the weather for a 90 minute ride and dangerous to boot. It was another shock to pay €160.35 for the service and I provided the oil again.
So far I am thoroughly enjoying being back to my roots with the first big bike I owned but modern under the hood. There has been mention of the mirrors being useless but I have found them to be OK without vibration although the view could be better. I had always planned for bar end mirrors but not found the ones I want yet. I like the Triumph ones but they are fixed and I want the ones that fold in for parking and to load on the camper. I also polished the engine cases, at first I liked the matt look but after a wash they ended up with stains so out came the Auto-sol and a short while later nice shiny cases. I don’t have any plans to change anything at this time as its a very nice machine as it is but I think I will have to get better rear shocks as at 94 kilo and with the wife on they don’t do a very good job.
What I like about this bike is its light weight and very easy handling, others say its heavy but I have the 1200 Explorer and a Kawasaki ZZR1100 and ZZR1400. If I was going on a round the world trip I would take this over the other three but would have to carry a fuel can I think. The Explorer is only a road machine and has been heavy and not stable on the little gravel tracks in the woods here while the T120 has been more sure footed due to its lighter, lower weight.
Oh just remembered early last year early I was looking for a different seat as the standard one is quite thin and maybe uncomfortable after a while and there was one being sold on one of the Triumph FB pages, it was for a T100 but was told it would fit the 120 so my son drove down to Mitcham to pick it up and I collected on my next trip home. Its the genuine Triumph one and is very nice and not too much problem on the 6/7 hour ride each way to Austria so that gets a 10/10 as no skews or tools just put in key remove seat and fit the new one.
Not long after purchase a few km west of home and reminds me I ordered it with the sissy bar and backrest to help the Mrs feel more secure but as it didn’t look good (family opinion) and seat is small it had to come off after a week or so. Wife has MS now so this was another reason to get this being lower and now the only bike she can get on with help and back rest was impossible for her to get the leg over.
- Marc S, 2018
How Does It Compare?
The Second Opinion
I got this 2016 bike from the newly established Newcastle Triumph (was their second Bonnie) and they were great. I absolutely love the bike. It's low and just feels so manageable that its weight is never an issue. The engines lovely, gearbox and clutch the best I've come across, comfortable and build quality is very good. This is the 7th modern Triumph I've owned together with some seventies Italian and Brit stuff.
What have I changed well a few things but it's down to me rather than shortfalls. Being heavy and especially occasionally two up (hence not a thruxton) the rear shocks were struggling so I invested in Hagon nitro shocks which improved things immensely and later put some TEC progressive fork springs which smoothed the front out nicely.
I liked the look of the OE exhausts but not the sound so a pair of Remus cans were added with baffles out just right and not over loud. A small 260mm (I think) Triumph fly screen helps with the wind blast and a compact racing Scottoiler fits behind the side panel and has meant no chain adjustments in 3,500 miles.
A sump guard and soon to be added mudguard extension should keep the cow shit from cooking on the catalytic converter and a Triumph Chrome rack and grab rail adds practical style.
On the Christmas list are some Chrome trim bits and bar ends as the mirrors could be better but aren't bad or vibrate as such. Debating panniers either a fitting kit for my Motech blaze ones or do I go for more retro looking ones?
Other thoughts...retro fit cruise control? Maybe new tyres soon, same again or a different brand, debating this over the winter. What would I change but can't? A little bit more horsepower would be nice, who knows if remapping might become available.
- John T, 2016