1972 Triumph T120R Bonneville
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Because of delays when introducing the new oil-in-frame Bonneville the previous year, a backlog of thousands of unsold 1971 models existed and disenchantment among dealers was widespread. The eventual lesson would be that early ’70s Triumphs could be sorted out and made whole, but love and patience were required.
When the 1972 Triumph T120R Bonneville finally arrived in the United States, it was distinguished by its tank, painted Tiger gold and Cold white with black pinstriping. The fenders were gold. The seat dropped to a reasonable 31-inch height after the besieged engineers lowered the rear subframe. The Girling rear shocks and other back-of-the-bike components had to be altered as well. While the 649cc parallel twin engine was starting to seem dated, especially when compared to the competition, it would benefit from a revised cylinder head and new rocker box with integrated inspection covers for valve adjustment. The exhaust pipe mounting system was also revised but not for the better. The air filters were hidden by the side covers, which had fake grilles and actually drew in air through low-mounted snorkels.
A magazine test clocked the Bonneville’s quarter-mile in 13.91 seconds at 94.53 mph. And weighing in at less than 400 pounds, the bike still handled just fine. Another shortcoming had been the four-speed gearbox but finally the T120RV Bonneville now incorporated a five-speed supplied by R.T. Quaife Engineering. This was a $200 option, and objections were immediately made on the T120RV’s price of $1,725. Another magazine’s review commented on the Bonneville’s anachronistic character, with ample vibration and the propensity to leak oil, but it was precisely these characteristics that led many loyal riders to still consider it the archetypal motorcycle.