Paying Tribute To London’s Ace Cafe And The Original Café Racers

Triumph enjoys some of the deepest roots around, and it takes advantage of them with the new Bonneville T120 ACE. The “Ace” comes loaded with retro styling and old-school custom flavor for a double-whammy of dated British style. Under the hood, the Ace is a thoroughly modern ride with a robust electronics suite and powerful engine to go with contemporary comforts and convenience.

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE Design

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE
- image 809201
Paying tribute to London's Ace Cafe, so many elements tie it right in with the 1959 Bonneville that provided the inspiration for the look.

The T120 Ace pays tribute to London’s Ace Cafe, the original café racers and the bikey(r) culture associated with them, and it brings a certain exclusivity to the table by virtue of its limited-production, one-off design. I love when someone makes a new bike look old, so today I’m going to jump into Trumpet’s interesting little Ace to see what makes it tick.

The engineers went to great lengths to give this T120 Black-based bike a flavor all its own, and you can go ahead and pencil me in as a fan. Generous blackout treatment and an exclusive Matt Storm Grey paint scheme leaves the entire ride with an achromatic palette that lends it a bit of a sinister bent, and a look that suggests it spends much more time in a home garage than at a dealership/aftermarket shop.

An old-school strut supports the front fender between blackout fork sliders and bellow gaiters that keep the swept area of the also-blacked-out forks clean and free from seal-destroying grit. A single, round, DRL headlight splits the night ahead of a pair of analog clocks that display speed and revs. Indicator lights set in the blackout faces and LED screens cover the rest of the bases and serve as an interface between the rider and the higher electronic functions, such as the traction control and riders modes, for instance. A small taillight comes bundled with the rear turn signals — all LED — at the root of the mudguard that completes the spray coverage with the license plate pulling double-duty as an extension for same.

The blackout handlebar and heated handgrips encourage a forward-leaning riding posture that fits well with the “traffic light racer” theme the factory was going for, but don’t despair; you’re not locked into the jockey position since the rest of the rider’s triangle makes for a relaxed, upright posture with your heels just behind your knees, perfect for body English. Toward that end, Triumph graced the fuel tank with its typical knee-pocket design complete with rubber knee pads in a move that serves both practical purposes and vanity.

Tank and side covers bear the Ace Café icon, an Ace of Clubs, with “Bonneville T120” added to replace the “Ace Café London” script around the perimeter making up the model-unique badge. The teardrop tank sports the “Head Down – Hold On” graphic as it dives down to the tuck-and-roll bench seat that rides at 30.9-inches off the deck, and that height should work for all but the shortest inseams.

Though it’s a liquid-cooled mill, it carries the traditional cooling fins on the heads and jugs, and the blackout treatment swallows up the radiator visually to try and preserve some of that old-school vibe. Additionally, the blackout pea-shooter exhaust adds a classic touch that just seems to finish off the look quite nicely and tie it right in with the ’59 Bonneville that provided the inspiration for the look. The finishing touches include black intake covers, tank badge and engine badges along with tiny bullet turn-signal indicators.

Triumph and the Ace Cafe go hand in hand for me, with decades of riders turning up at the
cafe on the latest British Twin to chance their arm on the A406, and be top dog off the lights,
“ says Mark Wilsmore, Ace Cafe managing director. “This beautiful new Bonneville T120 Ace pays homage to those riders and our glorious shared history in style.

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE Chassis

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE
- image 809211
As expected, it has an eager demeanor in the curves in keeping with its stoplight-racing roots.

Tubular-steel members make up the double-downtube/double-cradle frame that completely supports the plant and derives most of its strength from a tough backbone member up top. A yoke-style, tubular swingarm articulates the rear wheel with dual KYB shocks to tame the motion. The rear shocks come with the obligatory spring-preload adjustment, but that’s the only ride-quality tweak you get since the 41 mm, KYB front forks come rwu and straight-up vanilla with fixed values.

A 25.5° steering-head angle and 18-inch front wheel give it 4.14-inches of trail and an eager demeanor in the curves in keeping with its stoplight-racing roots. A 17-inch rear rim rounds out the rolling chassis, and of course, the look of the laced wheels accentuate the dated panache of the bike and mount a 100/90 up front and a 150/70 around back.

Someone at the factory wants to make sure you have all the brake power you need, ’cause the Ace sports a pair of 310 mm discs up front, opposite a 255 mm disc out back with two-pot Nissin calipers to bind them. ABS protection comes with the standard package, so you can count on safely getting the most out of your anchors.

Frame: Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm: Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Suspension: KYB 41 mm cartridge forks, 4.7 in (120 mm) travel
Rear Suspension: KYB twin shocks with adjustable preload, 4.7 in (120 mm) rear wheel travel
Rake: 25.5º
Trail: 4.14 in (105.2 mm)
Front Brake: Twin 310 mm discs, Nissin 2-piston floating calipers, ABS
Rear Brake: Single 255 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Front Wheel: 32-spoke 18 x 2.75 in
Rear Wheel: 32-spoke 17 x 4.25 in
Front Tire: 100/90-18
Rear Tire: 150/70 R17

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE Drivetrain

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE
- image 809213
It has 54 percent more grunt than the previous generation, so you can count on this thing coming out of the hole like a scalded dog.

Power comes from a 1,200 cc “High Torque” parallel-twin that, although it’s water-cooled, maintains much of the old-school air-cooled look. The factory didn’t stop there; the engineers took the extraordinary step of designing the throttle bodies to look just like an old mechanical-slide carburetor from back in the day, and I tell ya’, I just love that attention to detail. That’s some frikkin’ pure-D awesomesauce right there.

A single over-head cam times the eight-valve head that caps a pair of 97.6 mm bores with an 80 mm stroke and a 10-to-1 compression ratio. Yeah, that’ll put you at the high-octane pump, but such is life if you want to tap that power the Bonneville mill brings to the table. What does that look like? Well, it puts out a total of 79-ponies at 6,550 rpm, and that comes backed up by 77.4 pound-feet of torque at a relatively-low 3,100 rpm. That’s 54-percent more grunt than the previous generation, so you can count on this thing coming out of the hole like a scalded dog.

As nice as that is, the electronics suite is still the belle of the ball with its full-spectrum protection. It starts with a ride-by-wire throttle control and a pair of Riding Modes — Road and Rain — so you can dial the power back for inclement conditions or pump it back up once the roads dry out a bit. Next is the switchable traction-control system that lets you take the anti-spinout protection or leave it as you please. Finally, a slipper clutch prevents excess backtorque from building in the system to prevent rear-wheel hop and/or skid on hard downshifts and engine-brake maneuvers. That’s just about everything you could hope for short of the lean-sensitive and race-style systems that sit on the top shelf with price tags as lofty as their perches.

A six-speed transmission and chain drive finished out the drivetrain, and I know I’m a perfectionist, but am I the only one who would like to see a kicker hangin’ off the gearbox? That aside, this engine is a perfect example of what I think of when I think of a British twin, and the look goes with the rest of the design like peas and carrots.

Engine: Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Displacement: 1,200 cc
Bore x Stroke: 97.6 mm x 80 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Maximum Power: 80 hp (59 kW) @ 6,550 rpm
Maximum Torque: 77 lb-ft (105 Nm) @ 3,100 rpm
Fuel system: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust: Black 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin black silencers
Final drive: X-ring chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate assist clutch, cable operated
Gearbox: 6-speed

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE Pricing

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE
- image 809215
MSRP is TBA, but its exclusivity will likely boost it over the T120 currently at $12k.

While the actual pricetag is still an unknown quantity as of this writing, we do know that the model it’s based on rolls for $11,800. Will the fact that the Ace will be limited to a total of 1,400 models worldwide boost the bill? Time will tell.

Instruments: LCD multi-functional instrument pack with analogue speedometer, analogue tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, range to empty indication, service indicator, clock, trip computer, scroll and mode buttons on handlebars, heated grip status, fuel consumption display, traction control status and throttle mode display.
Color: Matt Storm Grey
Price: TBA

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE Competitors

2016 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Roadster
- image 724346
2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE
- image 809212
You can tack on ABS and security options to the Roadster to match the Bonneville, but it still won't have the advanced-electronics that the Triumph brings to the table.

Indian has its FTR 1200, but that’s just a little too race-tastic for the Ace in my opinion, so instead I looked to the Roadster from Harley-Davidson. The Roadster is essentially a Sportster with some very specific equipment that sets it apart from the rest of the family line. It shows a performance-custom bent not unlike that of the Ace with heavily bobbed fenders at both ends and lots of blackout in between. Beefed-up tripleclamps mount inverted front forks that are as non-adjustable as the Trumpet’s stems, so neither gain any advantage here.

ABS is a $795 option on the Harley instead of stock like the Triumph, so don’t forget that when you get ready to check out. The security system is another $395, and that adds up fast if you’re trying to match what the Ace mounts stock. H-D also falls behind in the tech department with no rider modes or traction control to be found. I’m sure it’s coming down the pipe, but it ain’t here yet and that’s all that matters.

H-D powers the Roadster with a 1,202 cc, Sportster V-Twin design that first saw light of day all the way back in 1986. That’s a nice long run, so this is a proven design that has been refined over the last 30-plus years and it’s safe to say the MoCo has gotten it right. Power falls a skosh short at 76 pound-feet, even, against 77.4 from the Ace, so I reckon that’s close enough.

Price on the Vivid Black, base-model Roadster is $11,299, and while that’s in the neighborhood, it’s going to be the prouder item once the options are tacked on and it still won’t have the advanced-electronic yummy-goodness that the Triumph totes.

He Said

“Of those two, Triumph is definitely offering more bike for the buck. It’s tough to beat the look of the Ace, with so many Easter Eggs sprinkled about on top of that already-jammin’ British style. Classic looks and modern fandanglery; what’s not to love? The only thing I’d change is to add some adjustable stems up front and expand the ride control out back, but other than that, I’d run it as-is.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “This is a lovely tribute bike; all sinister and blackout. I believe it’s the the second Ace-partnership bike Triumph has done. The matte black paint is in line with the early stoplight racers and then the Ace Cafe graphics adds a touch of class to the whole look. If you’re going to celebrate the early café racers, you’d better do it right, and I think Triumph is spot-on with this one.”

2019 Triumph Bonneville T120 ACE Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Displacement: 1,200 cc
Bore x Stroke: 97.6 mm x 80 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Maximum Power: 80 hp (59 kW) @ 6,550 rpm
Maximum Torque: 77 lb-ft (105 Nm) @ 3,100 rpm
Fuel system: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust: Black 2 into 2 exhaust system with twin black silencers
Final drive: X-ring chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate assist clutch, cable operated
Gearbox: 6-speed
Chassis:
Frame: Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm: Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Suspension: KYB 41 mm cartridge forks, 4.7 in (120 mm) travel
Rear Suspension: KYB twin shocks with adjustable preload, 4.7 in (120 mm) rear wheel travel
Rake: 25.5º
Trail: 4.14 in (105.2 mm)
Front Brake: Twin 310 mm discs, Nissin 2-piston floating calipers, ABS
Rear Brake: Single 255 mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper, ABS
Front Wheel: 32-spoke 18 x 2.75 in
Rear Wheel: 32-spoke 17 x 4.25 in
Front Tire: 100/90-18
Rear Tire: 150/70 R17
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 85.4 in (2,170 mm)
Width (Handlebars): 30.9 in (785 mm)
Height Without Mirrors: 44.3 in (1,125 mm)
Seat Height: 30.9 in (785 mm)
Wheelbase: 56.9 in (1,445 mm)
Dry Weight: 494 lbs (224 kg)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 3.8 gals (15 L)
Fuel Consumption: 63 mpg (4.5 l/100km)
Details:
Instruments: LCD multi-functional instrument pack with analogue speedometer, analogue tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gauge, range to empty indication, service indicator, clock, trip computer, scroll and mode buttons on handlebars, heated grip status, fuel consumption display, traction control status and throttle mode display.
Color: Matt Storm Grey
Price: TBA

Further Reading

Harley-Davidson Roadster

2016 - 2019 Harley-Davidson Roadster
- image 755228

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Roadster.

Indian Motorcycle FTR 1200

2019 Indian Motorcycle FTR 1200
- image 798704

See our review of the Indian Motorcycle FTR1200.

Triumph Bonneville T120 / T120 Black

2016 - 2018 Triumph Bonneville T120 / T120 Black
- image 766962

See our review of the Triumph Bonneville T120 / T120 Black.

Triumph Motorcycles

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- image 791470

Read more Triumph news.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: triumphmotorcycles.com, indianmotorcycle.com, harley-davidson.com

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