My local Triumph shop was having an open house for their Ducati lines, but it gave me the chance to jump on the new Bonneville T120 and the Street Twin, back-to-back, and run the same course. In this case, it was a short 15 minute ride with some in-city, some long highway runs with a few good places for high-speed turns.

Both bikes look great and the attention to detail — in styling, fit and finish — are excellent. The Street Twin is lower, with a shorter wheelbase, and the weight is less by about 50 lbs and is carried much lower. Otherwise, they have a similar look to them.

The Bonneville uses their new 1200cc liquid-cooled “high torque” parallel twin, and it is fast. Off the line, I was at 60mph in maybe four seconds, in first gear. I never got over fourth gear during the entire test, including a short run at 100mph. The torque is always there. The bike jumps to it, with a bit of snap to the initial fueling, and passing is absolutely effortless. The seat is comfortable, the seating position neutral and will be good for long rides, and the suspension was set a bit soft, but it didn’t effect the handling. It was a far cry better than the usual stock Triumph suspension, and it is the same as what the new, base Thruxton will have.

It turns well, and stops great — it’s a vast improvement over the older Bonnies and Thruxtons. One place I found a nit to pick was on the grooved concrete that they love to make highways from  out here: like my 2010 Thruxton, the Bonnie gets a bit of head shake from the grroves as the tires try to track. I suspect this is a function of the wire wheels, as the Street Twin has the same tires, but cast wheels.

Having zipped around on the T120, I swapped to the Street Twin, as the salespeople wanted my opinion on the two bikes, side-by-side. The Street Twin is noticeably less powerful, but it’s still very fast — faster than my Thruxton. Instead of hitting 60 in first gear, I had to shift at about 45mph. I did get into 5th gear for the highway. However, the bike is much more maneuverable. It’s lighter, much more nimble, and other than missing a few bits like the dual clocks (there’s not tachometer on the Street Twin) and the heated handgrips (standard on the T120), I found I prefer the smaller bike.

Both of these are going to be great bikes for nearly very use — from popping around town to canyon carving to long touring — but I suspect the Street Twin will be better at the first, and the Bonnie will be better at touring. I’m expecting the Thruxton to be superlative.

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I’ll admit, I was among the skeptical about the new Street Twin: How the hell could a larger displacement motor only make 54hp? Is the torque really going to be there across the band. Triumph shit the bed.

I was spectacularly wrong.

I got a chance to demo the Street Twin 900 this morning, and while I didn’t have it long enough to get an idea if the gas mileage estimates are true, or if the seat will be comfortable over long rides (I suspect it will be on par with the standard older Bonneville saddles), I have a really good idea of the handling and power. The torque comes on immediately and doesn’t let go until about the ton. Yes, I got it over 100mph and it still had plenty of power. It’s a squirty bike, blasting through traffic effortlessly.

I found I was cruising at 35mph in town in second gear. I didn’t go into fifth until I had gotten over 80mph. Passing a tree-filled truck on Old Route 66 outside of town, I popped the throttle in fourth gear and jumped from 75 to 85 in a blink. Similarly, passing traffic on the highway was easy. My guess — top end is between my 2010 Thruxton’s 122 and 130mph.

Handling — the bike is smaller than the old Bonneville, it’s lighter, the center of gravity is very low. It turns as easily as the Ducati Scrambler, is well mannered and stable, and the slipper clutch is effortless. I can’t stress how easy this bike is to ride, and ride hard.

If you don’t want to pay the $11k or more Triumph will be asking for the Bonnevilles and Thruxtons, you are not going to be disappointed with the “small” Street Twin — it’s brilliant!