Triumph Bobber Black – my 2 Year Review

Summer 2019 and after a break of around 20 years I decided to get back into biking. Call it a midlife crisis if you like, why not, literally everyone else did. Once a man finally gets some time and expendable income, the hobby he has been yearning to get back to for years becomes the “crisis”. With 3 children I was naturally a bit nervous about becoming the subject of one of those sad road-side memorials decorated with sun-bleached fake flowers, so I took a few hours of lessons to hone my skills. It turns out riding a bike is, well, just like riding a bike and the instructor was happy to sign me off as a safe biker.

Naturally I carefully weighed up my options and… well, actually I just walked into a Triumph dealership and tried out a Triumph Bobber, loved it, thought about it for 1 night and went back and ordered the Bobber Black model, in black, Matt black – because the standard black wasn’t black enough. The primary motivation for a bobber style bike was the single seat, I didn’t want the temptation of popping to the shops with one of my precious family members on the back only to be taken out by the ubiquitous pushy 4×4. This was my adventure and my risk alone.

I could talk about my first impressions, the exhilarating torque, the looks – both the stunning look of the bike and the looks from other bikers thinking “I bet he is having a mid-life crisis”. But this is a 2 year on review so let’s just break it down into pros and cons because you have things to do.

– Those looks – 1950’s styling, very eye catching.
– It’s quick – low, grounded and it’s torquier than the Fawlty Towers hotel (I came up with that, you can tell, it slightly clever and not funny)
– Handling – low, grounded. You feel glued to the road, balanced between the two bespoke Avon Cobra tyres. Bespoke tyres, hmm, what could go wrong.
– Gadgets, it’s got a few – rain/road modes, cruise control, very sensitive abs.

– Those looks – the bike that GQ called “the coolest bike on the planet”, the only reason they didn’t sell millions is that man-buns don’t fit comfortably under helmets. It’s pretty small, like it’s been designed for people with no upper body strength and skinny jeans. I saw a photo of me on it, I’m 5’11” – it looked a bit daft. Let’s face it – it’s too much form over function, but I will get to that…
– Fake bits – fake carbs, fake air inlets, fake rigid frame concealing the “crap” (technical term) rear “suspension” – it looks cool but it’s clever engineering with the only goal of looking cool.
– Rear suspension travel. 2”. Need I say any more? I will – this bike was not built for British roads, hitting a cat’s eye can be a painful experience. I’ve bitten my tongue more than once not to mention almost broken a tooth. It makes you nervous, which makes you tense, which adds up to poor riding.
– Exposed – the bike’s muscular brutalist design leaves you exposed to the elements. 70mph feels like 120mph. Not only do your neck muscles get a work out, you hang on to the handlebars, forearms gripping like you are hand-gliding over the alps without a harness. Realistically it’s a bike for the slow lane. Distance? Unless your destination is a chiropractor – don’t think about more than 100 miles.
– Cornering – the handling may be great, but I lost count of the number of times I scraped the pegs just going around a moderate curve. It lulls you into a sense of security with its balance and centre of gravity then immediately triggers pant changing moments as the edge of your foot hits the tarmac and you start to drift out on a corner. I’m not talking knee down here, just roundabouts at low speed. Shocking, frustrating and frankly irresponsible.
– The tank looks big but that’s a style thing again, the actual fuel tank is 2.64 gallons, the fuel indicator lacks accuracy. Low fuel light popping on after 50miles then it’s 20 miles before you are riding on a prayer. This is pretty limiting, it is hard to get off the beaten track when you have to think about the way back to the petrol station. On a positive note I became a master at opening the incredibly fiddly fuel cap.
– Headlights, great looking triumph lamp, but the LED didn’t thrown out enough lumens for me. Felt weak.

For every pro there is a fairly devastating con. I feel bad listing the niggling negatives because I’ve enjoyed every minute of this ridiculous, impractical bike, a wonderful piece of engineering, for all its flaws – it’s just superb, exciting, grin inducing, amazing and I am not ashamed to say I love… hang on, what’s going on… damn a puncture. Ah well, pull out the nail, break out the “tyre weld”, pump it up and I’m on my way…. That’s how the story would end for literally any other motorbike made since the first tubeless was rolled out in 1927. But alas the Triumph Bobber designer’s fanatical adherence to retro styling extended to the spoked wheels and tubed tyres with the deadly “rapid deflate on puncture” function. So after my heart stopped racing from the hairy experience, I sat in the rain for 4 hours, I missed my kids big day at the indoor skydiving park, I then paid £250 to get my damp bike and slightly damper rider home, every uncomfortable minute of the journey squashed between the driver and his mate, mid-pandemic, I planned what sensible – albeit less exciting – motorbike I would buy next.

So it’s goodbye Bobber. You were a wonderful machine and every GQ subscribing hipster in surrey agreed.

You are probably reading this because you are looking for validation to buy one, go on admit it. Now you feel slightly resentful that I am throwing cold water on your cool biker aspirations. Well, get one, but also get good reliable recovery insurance – you will be needing it.

enough is enough