First Ride Review
Triumph’s Bonnie business is booming, but the top seller isn’t the sporty Thruxton, the distinguished T120 or the stripped-bare Bobber. Nope, the best-selling Bonneville of them all is the affordable, accessible, ripe-for-customization Street Twin. The Street Twin is everything you need and nothing you don’t: it looks like a motorcycle should without trying too hard, with enough modern performance and technology to remain relevant and fun.
It’s the rare bike that transcends age and gender; according to Triumph, Street Twin buyers represent the widest age range of any of its Bonneville models and many are new riders, plus more than twice the “normal” number are women–no doubt attracted to the Twin’s sub-30-inch seat height.
The year after its 2016 launch, the Street Twin spawned two derivatives powered by the same liquid-cooled 900cc SOHC parallel twin, the Street Cup café racer and the Street Scrambler, each with its own purpose-built chassis and distinct personality. For 2019, the original Street Twin as well as its Street Scrambler sibling are getting some notable updates, including a bump in power, revised front suspension and brakes, new ride modes and a light style refresh. Street Twin version 2.0, here we go!
First let’s talk power, a claimed 18 percent more peak horsepower to be exact, plus a flatter torque curve that delivers in the “real-world” range of 3,500 to 5,500 rpm, achieved via a minor retune and a few lighter bits in the engine–a magnesium cam cover, a lighter crankshaft, dead shafts and the balance shafts that ride on them, a mass-optimized clutch cover and a lighter clutch. Based on the Jett Tuning dyno results in our Rider Test of the 2016 Street Twin, the increase should translate to 62 peak horsepower arriving close to the higher 7,500-rpm redline, with peak torque unchanged at 57 lb-ft at 3,200 rpm. The seat-of-the-pants result is a new sense of urgency and more get up and go in the mid- to high-end; on our first ride in the mountains near Lisbon, Portugal, I felt it most noticeably during 40-mph roll-ons and when accelerating out of corners, reducing the need to downshift.
The dual-counterbalanced engine has a bit of a V-twin character infusion thanks to a 270-degree firing interval, with a feather-light assist clutch (with adjustable lever, thank you Triumph!) operating the five-speed gearbox. The Street Twin is geared fairly tall, and I didn’t find myself missing a sixth gear even cruising at 70 mph on the freeway; I’m guessing most Twin buyers aren’t looking to do much more than tickle the “ton” anyway. The soundtrack is classic Triumph, surprisingly throaty and with a pleasant amount of burble on deceleration.
Harnessing all this is a smooth throttle-by-wire system with standard 2-channel ABS and switchable traction control, but new this year is the addition of Road and Rain ride modes, easily switchable on the fly via a large button on the left switchgear. Road is the default setting; while Rain softens throttle response and increases traction control intervention, power output is unchanged.
Performance from the single 310mm-disc front brake has been improved, with an opposed 4-piston Brembo caliper replacing the old 2-piston Nissin unit; a floating 2-piston Nissin still squeezes the 255mm rear disc. The difference is noticeable, with more bite up front and better lever feel, increasing confidence when riding aggressively or in the rain.
The Street Twin also boasts a new 41mm non-adjustable KYB cartridge fork, and although it has the same 120mm (4.7 inches) of travel as before, it has a wider stance and feels just a tad beefier. Rear suspension, with 4.7 inches of travel and adjustable for preload only, is unchanged. At 135 pounds, I weight less than the “average” rider for whom most bikes this size are sprung, but I could still detect an improvement in rebound damping up front that made for a slightly more plush ride. The rear is still rather harsh, so if it were mine, I’d invest in lighter springs up front and a set of Triumph’s accessory Fox shocks for the back.
Our riding day in Portugal was blessedly sunny, but it had rained for several days prior so we were warned to use caution (and Rain mode) on the shady, twisty mountain roads. In a unique twist, Triumph was letting us ride both the Twin and the Scrambler; we were assigned one model for the morning and one for the afternoon, swapping at lunch as well as the four photo stops, giving us the unique experience of getting to ride these similar yet oh-so-different bikes back-to-back. It quickly became apparent that they are indeed two distinct motorcycles that will likely appeal to different riders, and not just because of their aesthetics.
I started the day on a Street Scrambler, and with its wide handlebar and footpegs mounted below and a bit forward of the 31.1-inch seat, it fit my 5-foot, 9-inch frame well. Settling onto its lower 29.9-inch seat the Street Twin, by contrast, felt much more compact–almost too much so for my 34-inch inseam. As it turns out, Triumph actually added 10mm (0.4-inch) of seat foam to improve rider and passenger comfort, increasing the seat height correspondingly and placing the rider in a slightly sportier position over the handlebar. On the brief photo shoot passes and even during the longer stints on the afternoon ride, the compact riding position never bothered me–in fact I was grinning madly inside my helmet as we chased the curves down to the crashing waves of the Portuguese coast–but if I were to choose one I’d say the Scrambler fit me better.
In the morning, when the roads were still quite damp, I kept my Scrambler in Rain mode; because it maintains full engine power, I found the slightly softer throttle response to be easier to modulate as we negotiated the unfamiliar–and often quite bumpy–twists and turns, without feeling too heavily reined-in. As the roads dried out and I swapped back and forth on each bike in Road mode, I found myself appreciating their unique experiences. The Street Twin felt smaller, lighter and surprisingly sporty. Its tubeless Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires (rolling on cast aluminum wheels, 18 inches up front and 17 at the rear) were working better on the dry pavement than they had in the morning, and despite the narrow bar I was able to flick the Twin through corners easily.
At the end of the day, the Street Twin is designed to be fun, stylish and accessible to a wide range of riders. With thoughtful touches like the easy-pull torque-assist clutch, low seat height, adjustable brake and clutch levers, enough tech to have your back without requiring a small supercomputer, 10,000-mile service intervals (20,000 miles for valve inspections) and a reasonable price tag, the Street Twin is easy to ride, easy to own and easy on the eyes.