While it’s not the only motorcycle company with retro-style models, Triumph is one of the most prominent. The Bonneville, for example, is arguably the best example of a neo-classic bike. But the British marque has more to offer. For instance, the Triumph Thruxton RS, which is Popular Mechanics’ best retro motorcycle for 2020. But is it the only one that’s worth looking at?
For Popular Mechanics, the 2020 Triumph Thruxton RS is a retro motorcycle done right
The 2020 Triumph Thruxton RS belongs to the café racer segment. Today, the term ‘café racer’ is as much about looks as performance, Cycle World reports. However, as Popular Mechanics explains, the Triumph Thruxton RS’s strengths are more than skin-deep.
The $16,200 2020 Triumph Thruxton RS is the new range-topping model of the Thruxton lineup, Motorcyclist reports. It has an upgraded version of the lineup’s 1200cc parallel-twin, rated at 103 hp and 83 lb-ft, and a 6-speed transmission. The engine also redlines higher, and makes peak torque earlier, than the version in the Thruxton R, Motorcyclist reports. Plus, with a 434-lb dry weight, the Thruxton RS is 13 pounds lighter than the R.
Besides the extra power, the Triumph Thruxton RS has a few hardware and electronic upgrades over the R and base model. It has upgraded Brembo brakes, Metzler Racetec tires, a fully-adjustable Showa fork, and fully-adjustable Ohlins rear shocks. The RS also has more riding modes, a revised throttle-by-wire system, and upgraded traction control, Visordown reports. Plus, there’s a new lighter-weight throttle-assist clutch, ABS, and even a lighter battery.
As a café racer, the Triumph Thruxton RS isn’t the best choice for long-distance riding, Visordown reports. But that’s more a function of its somewhat aggressive riding position, Bennetts reports. On twisty roads, the bike is very stable thanks to excellent steering and well set-up suspension. Plus, its tires grip better than the ones on the R. Combined with the added power and upgraded brakes, and it’s worth the upcharge over the R, Bennetts reports.
The 2020 Triumph Thruxton RS is an excellent retro motorcycle, but it might be a bit expensive for some. Plus, while the café racer look is in vogue, not everyone likes the riding style.
Are there other retro motorcycles worth considering?
Luckily, Triumph has a solution also recommended by Popular Mechanics. That’s the 2020 Street Twin, which was also Cycle World’s Best Standard for 2016.
For 2020, the Triumph Street Twin’s 900cc parallel-twin makes 64 hp and 59 lb-ft and is linked to a 5-speed transmission. The Street Twin is also slightly heavier than the Triumph Thruxton RS. It does have an LCD screen with a fuel gauge, but it only one physical gauge: the speedometer.
However, the Street Twin is noticeably cheaper, with a starting price of $9300. For that, you get a Brembo front brake, ABS, an assist clutch, traction control, and 2 riding modes, Cycle World reports. Plus, this retro motorcycle has a comfortable seat big enough to carry a passenger. It’s not as sporty as the Thruxton RS, but it makes a great commuter or fun weekend cruising bike, Revzilla reports.
If you want retro motorcycle looks, though, there’s also the Moto Guzzi V7 III lineup. Every V7 III has a 744cc transverse V-twin with 52 hp and 44 lb-ft and shaft-drive, Motorcycle Cruiser reports. Only the Racer model has Brembos and adjustable Ohlins rear shocks, but every V7 has standard ABS and adjustable traction control. Plus, with fluids, some V7 models are lighter than the Triumph Thruxton RS without fluids.
I say models because the 2020 Moto Guzzi V7 III lineup includes a variety of trims with different accessories. Some models have 2 gauges, others only one. There are V7 models with passenger grab handles, while others have grab straps. Some have LED headlights, others don’t. But they’re all priced within the $8990-$9990 range. And while it’s not a sportbike like its predecessors, the Moto Guzzi V7 III is a unique take on the retro motorcycle, Motorcyclist reports.
The sportier alternatives
While both the Triumph Street Twin and Moto Guzzi V7 III have the retro looks down, they’re not quite at the Thruxton RS’ performance levels. For some, that’s not an issue. But there are other retro and vintage-inspired bikes that come closer.
If you’re into light off-roading, the 2020 Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is a throwback worth considering. A race-prepped version recently won the Mint 400 desert race. And while the racers used a few custom parts, the production bike isn’t just a scrambler in name only.
The $11,995 Scrambler Desert Sled has Ducati’s 90° 803cc V-twin (L-twin) engine with 73 hp and 49 lb-ft, a 6-speed transmission, and ABS. The Desert Sled also comes with a stronger frame and reinforced swingarm, a skid plate, and Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR dual-sport tires, Revzilla reports. It also has mudguard fenders and a headlight grille, Rider reports. Plus, it has more ground clearance and suspension travel than the standard Scrambler. The Desert Sled’s not exactly a dirt bike, but it comes close while being significantly more comfortable on-road, Silodrome, and GQ reports.
If you’re more into riding retro motorcycles on-road, but want some more performance than the Street Twin, there’s also the Triumph Speed Twin. It borrows the Thruxton’s 96-hp 1200cc engine, its frame, and some of its electronics, Cycle World reports. That includes ABS, traction control, multiple riding modes, a torque-assist clutch, and a Brembo front brake, Cycle World reports.
However, the Triumph Speed Twin actually weighs slightly less than the standard Thruxton. It’s also cheaper, with a starting price of $12,200. The Speed Twin isn’t quite as sporty as the Thruxton, but it’s an excellent all-arounder.
Which is the one to buy?
Purchasing a motorcycle, retro or not, depends on how comfortable you are on it. If you’re unsure which one of these bikes is best for you, go for a test ride on them.
Ultimately, though, they serve different purposes. The Triumph Thruxton RS is the closest thing to a sportbike, just with a bit more on-road comfort. The Street Twin, Speed Twin, and V7 III, meanwhile, are closer to standard bikes, with a mix of fun casual riding and commuting capability. They’re also lighter than the Bonneville. As for the Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled, it too is a standard, but with added off-road chops.
And while these motorcycles may have some retro looks, their performance and technology is anything but.
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