Retro is the new black

Retro is the new black

Triumph called the party; let’s see who else showed up

In certain circles retro bikes are becoming the new black, the coolest bikes to have. The machine that set the retro standard is the Triumph Bonneville T100, so we put some other retro classics up against it – the Ducati GT1000 Touring, Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic and the everything-that’s-old-is-new-again Honda CB1100.

Forget about speed. Forget about power. These retro rides are all about styling borrowed straight from the 1970s. Think simple classic lines, no fairings, single round headlights, plenty of chrome and the obligatory twin rear shocks. But look closely and you’ll see a few modern niceties, too.

Our plan was to pay homage to this quartet by photographing them on one of the oldest motorcycle haunts in NSW, the Bells Line of Road to Lithgow. Unfortunately thick fog cut our photo session short and we were forced to head to another classic bike meeting place, the Mount Victoria Hotel, where we thawed out.

A little bit of this…

Mixing old with new can be a delicate juggling act. The mission was to achieve modern day performance and function with fuel injection, and reduce emission control, all without ruining the classic essence. All four manufacturers have done themselves proud.

The Triumph T100 is probably most true to the ’70s classic with its peashooter exhausts and the company took pains to make the fuel injection housing look like carbies.

The Guzzi is just that, a Guzzi, with a big cylinder head poking out from each side. It has a clean, sweet exhaust note and ’70s café racer class.

The Honda CB100 is the most modern retro and the designers chose wisely in picking an air-cooled engine to retain the period look.

For its retro, Ducati borrowed an engine from the old Multistrada, which still looks classic, and added chrome pipes which are an aural treat.

The Triumph, Ducati and Moto Guzzi have spoked wheels in keeping with the period; the Honda’s wheels are based on the brand’s Comstar mag wheel of the ’70s and the result is a more custom look that’s still true to the period.

Of course, all four bikes have lots of chrome but for those who are never satisfied, there are still plenty bits and pieces that can be chromed.

Handling

Riding these bikes attracts a lot of attention – some onlookers don’t know the bikes are new; others just appreciate them for what they are.

The handling of all four is good but the Honda’s is outstanding, with the right amount of feel turning in at the apex and coming out fast or slow.

The Ducati has great handling but its engine let it down a little. The Guzzi was nice at most speeds but the lack of grip didn’t let it reach its potential. The wolf in sheep’s clothing was the Triumph which sounds like a sewing machine but boy, does it hustle through corners! The front geometry is a little top heavy but once you get used to it, the Triumph can be motored if you feel the need for you-know-what.

Engine characteristics

The Ducati engine was particularly harsh with lots of vibration under 4000rpm but it went well over 6000rpm.

We all loved the classic character of the Guzzi, even though it had the least amount of power in this group. When it was cold, we had to use the choke but when it was warm it had enough torque to make it a really nice (licence keeping) bike to ride.

The Triumph delivers a linear spread of power and is easy to ride; just stick it in whatever gear you want and twist the throttle. The same goes for the Honda – except it has much more power for you to play with.

Be seated

If you’re after the classic position, bolt upright and feet just forward, the Triumph ticks the box. The Honda suits shorter riders because it has a low seat to peg height. The Guzzi also suits shorter riders because it’s reasonably small. The Ducati will suit taller riders to 180cm and more because the seat height is taller and there is more room for your legs.

The Ducati, Honda and Triumph have upright bars. The Guzzi is true to the café racer essence with forward bars, so if you want to ride, um, well, to the café and maybe head out for a day ride here or there, it will suit you but if you want to tour, consider the other bikes. This is also true when it comes to carrying luggage. The Guzzi has a single seat and no provision for carrying luggage whereas the Ducati has a rack, the Honda has an accessory rack and there are accessory panniers and a rack available for the Triumph.

The only bike in this group with a screen was the Ducati (which was set up as a tourer) but I would remove it or cut it a bit shorter as we all found the wind buffeted our helmets and eventually gave us all headaches.

Dash layouts all have the classic theme and Honda has gone to the extent of using a dark green background, the same as the original 1970 CB750. The Ducati and the Guzzi share the same dash panel, but with different information, and the Triumph’s dash is very retro and replicates the cut out metal bracket look to which the speedo and tacho are attached.

Fuel usage on all bikes was surprisingly frugal, with the Honda using the most and the Ducati the least.

Stop that!

The four of us agreed on the braking performance of the quartet. The Honda’s brakes had the most overall feel and power. The Ducati’s front brake was powerful but the rear lacked feel. The Triumph’s brakes were neutral front and rear and had adequate power and the Guzzi’s brakes lacked power at the front but gave good feel from the rear. All of the brakes were pretty much in line with what you’ll need, considering their performance.

Gear changes were smoother or harder depending on your bike. Honda and Triumph were the smoothies, with light changes and light clutches, whereas the Ducati and Guzzi had firmer changes and medium-weight (Italian) clutch lever pull.

Pimping the rides

Numerous accessories are available from each manufacturer and there are plenty of after-market suppliers to raid. Of course, exhausts are high on most new owners’ lists and so is more chrome. You can never have too much chrome on machines like these.

The finish on all four bikes is as you would expect. The Honda is five-star quality and the other three are finished in line with modern standards, yet with retro charm.

If you have reached a period in your life (and no, you don’t need to be an old fart) where you’re over being booked for doing mind-bending speeds and would love to chill out with an ultra-cool retro ride, any of these four will do the job. It’s up to you to choose the one that complements your style.

The Triumph has picked up some good company.

SW

Quickspecs

Model: Triumph Bonneville T100

Price: $13,990 (plus on-road charges)

Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance

Servicing intervals: 10,000km

Engine: Air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin, 360 degree firing interval, four-stroke

Bore x stroke: 90 x 68mm

Displacement: 865cc

Compression: 9.2:1

Power: 49kW @ 7,500rpm

Torque: 68Nm @ 5,800rpm

Transmission: Five-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive

Suspension: Front, 41mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable, travel 120mm. Rear, twin-shock, adjustable preload, 106mm travel.

Dimensions: Seat height 775mm, kerb weight 230kg (wet), wheelbase 1500mm

Tyres: Front, 100/90/R19. Rear, 130/80/R17

Frame: Tubular steel cradle

Brakes: Front, single 310mm disc with twin-piston caliper. Rear, 255mm disc, twin-piston caliper.

Fuel capacity: 16 litres

Fuel consumption: 4.64 litres per 100km, premium unleaded

Theoretical range: 344km

Colours: Forest green/New England white; jet black/fusion white

Verdict: Wolf in sheep’s clothing

Quickspecs

Model: Ducati GT1000 Touring

Price: $18,990 (plus on-road charges)

Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance

Servicing intervals: 12,000km

Engine: Air-cooled, two valves per cylinder SOHC, Desmodromic L-twin, four-stroke

Bore x stroke: 94 x 71.5mm

Displacement: 992cc

Compression: 10.01:1

Power: 67.70kW @ 8,000rpm

Torque: 91.08Nm @ 6,000rpm

Transmission: Six-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive

Suspension: Front, 43mm inverted fork, non-adjustable, travel 120mm. Rear, twin-shock, adjustable preload, 133mm travel.

Dimensions: Seat height 810mm, kerb weight 185kg (dry), wheelbase 1425mm

Tyres: Front, 120/70/R17. Rear, 180/55/R17

Frame: Tubular steel, trellis frame

Brakes: Front, twin 320mm discs with twin-piston calipers. Rear, 245mm disc, single-piston caliper.

Fuel capacity: 15 litres

Fuel consumption: 4.54 litres per 100km, premium unleaded

Theoretical range: 330km

Colours: Black-white stripe; red

Verdict: Classic Italian beauty

Quickspecs

Model: Moto Guzzi V7 Café Classic

Price: $14,690 (plus on-road charges)

Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance

Servicing intervals: 10,000km

Engine: Air-cooled, two valves per cylinder V 90 twin, four-stroke

Bore x stroke: 80 x 74mm

Displacement: 744cc

Compression: 9.6:1

Power: 35.5kW @ 6,800rpm

Torque: 54.7Nm @ 3,600rpm

Transmission: Five-speed, dry single-plate clutch, shaft final drive

Suspension: Front, 40mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable, travel 130mm. Rear, twin-shock, adjustable preload, 118mm travel

Dimensions: Seat height 805mm, kerb weight 182kg (dry), wheelbase 1449mm

Tyres: Front, 100/90/R18. Rear, 130/80/R17

Frame: ALS steel tubular dismountable twin cradle

Brakes: Front, single 320mm disc with four-piston caliper. Rear, 260mm disc, twin-piston caliper

Fuel capacity: 17 litres

Fuel consumption: 5.01 litres per 100km, premium unleaded

Theoretical range: 339km

Colours: Lime, white

Verdict: True café classic

Quickspecs

Model: Honda CB1100

Price: $14,990 (plus on-road charges)

Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance

Servicing intervals: 6,000km

Engine: Air-cooled four-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline-four

Bore x stroke: 73.5 x 67.2mm

Displacement: 1140cc

Compression: 9.5:1

Power: 64kW @ n/a rpm

Torque: 92Nm @ n/a rpm

Transmission: Five-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive

Suspension: Front, 41mm telescopic fork, adjustable preload, travel 107mm. Rear, twin-shocks, adjustable preload, 120mm travel.

Dimensions: Seat height 775mm, kerb weight 248kg, fuel capacity 14.6 litres, wheelbase 1490mm

Tyres: Front, 110/80/R18. Rear, 140/70/R18

Frame: Tubular steel

Brakes: Front, twin 296mm discs with four-piston calipers. Rear, 256mm disc, single-piston caliper.

Fuel consumption: 5.63 litres per 100km, premium unleaded

Theoretical range: 259km

Colours: Candy glory red; pearl milky white

Verdict: Perfect gentleman

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