Thruxton, a Royal Air Force base built in 1940 in England, became a racing circuit in the 1950s. When Triumph launched their own cafe racer version of the new Bonneville in 2004, Triumph’s marketing material stated that they named it a Thruxton to commemorate Triumph’s first, second and third place in the 1969 Thruxton 500 mile race. However the Thruxton 500 has an association with Triumph which dates back to the race’s inception in 1958 when Mike Hailwood and Dan Shorey won the 800 km endurance event on their shared Triumph 650cc.
Edward Turner, the bombastic but brilliant motorcycle and engine designer whose designs include Ariel’s Square Four, the Daimler’s Hemi V8 engine and many of Triumph’s models of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s such as the Tiger and Bonneville was Triumph’s Chief Executive up until the early 1960s. He did not support motorcycle racing. He believed that developing GP racing machines and focussing resources on racing instead of producing good, rideable motorcycles for the market would lead to financial ruin. If one looks at the history of the motorcycle brands that were GP obsessed, Turner was not far wrong. He did however make an exception for the Thruxton 500. Because this race was for tuned, supposedly showroom standard motorcycles, he saw the value in entering the race. Good results in this endurance race increased sales the next day.
After the 1958 win, Bonneville 650s which were sold only for racing purposes were unofficially known as Thruxtons. There were between 49 and 52, depending on the information source, official factory Thruxtons produced in 1964 and 1965. They were built to meet the race’s minimum sales figure required to enter as a production motorcycle. These 54 hp, 220km/h road racers are hugely valuable today.The modern Thruxton has remained basically unchanged since its launch in 2004. The addition of fuel injection and more comfortable handlebars are the most obvious changes. Its 865cc engine produces 70hp and has a top end of about 180km/h. Sales of this model were initially slow but have increased drastically as more and more riders discover the joy of riding an old school cafe racer.
Although the Thruxton has better specification wheels and components than the standard Bonneville, the guys at Duke and Duchess have taken this featured Thruxton to a whole new level. Kyle who customised this beauty, has installed components which save weight and improve handling. The Norman Hyde rearsets are 3kg lighter than the originals and the Zard exhaust loses another 10kg. Ikon rear shocks are fitted and Ikon front fork internals replace those fitted by the factory. Kyle feels that these suspension changes are the most relevant to improving the Thruxton. A Norman Hyde steering damper has been fitted for high speed stability.
The fuel tank’s original paint has been stripped. The bare metal tank was polished and then sprayed with clear coat paint. A Norman Hyde aluminium tank cap is fitted. The original gauge cluster has been replaced by a single, small speedo. A small taillight from Startline keeps the rear tidy. Great looking cafe racer!
Triumph have succeeded in capturing the look and feel of the late ’60s cafe racers with the Thruxton. Now, almost ten years into production, these motorcycles have developed their own heritage and following. I know that I want one.