Fresh off the Guzzi V7 Café, Bondo keeps with the retro theme and samples Triumph’s T100 Bonneville. Jolly good then.
There’s something mystical about a classic Triumph, which is why it’s hard to believe that the “new” Triumph Bonneville has been around for 10 years now.
And anyone who doesn’t know that Triumph made motorcycles prior to the early 1990s might also be surprised to find that Paul McCartney was in another band before Wings.
Instead of a leaky 650cc pushrod twin with a Lucas magneto (that occasionally generated random sparks) and ‘orrible Amal carbs, the 2010 Bonneville has a modern DOHC, four-valve, 865cc air- and oil-cooled engine with digital ignition and electronic fuel injection. Yep, those “carburetors” are really throttle body covers cleverly disguised to perpetuate the classic ruse.
Triumph is still using a 360-degree crank layout, which means the pistons are on a first-name basis as they go up and down together but dual counterbalancers quell the hand-numbing, bulb-shredding vibration so characteristic of the originals.
Over the past decade the Bonneville range has generated several specials and an array of spinoffs from the obligatory cruiser models of the America and Speedmaster, to the slightly hopped up Thruxton, to the high-piped Scrambler; it seems that there is a variation for every taste.
However, the Bonneville name still adorns two models currently available, the standard Bonneville and the Bonneville T100. Oddly enough, it is the T100 that has the most classic traits, most notably the spoked wheels over the cast units found on the standard model.
Both Bonnies offer a claimed 67 horsepower and 51 lb-ft of torque, and although they are no asphalt wrinklers, performance is, as Rolls-Royce used to say, “sufficient.”
But let’s focus on the most classic of the lot, the T100. Introduced in 2002, the T was a celebration of 100 years of Triumph motorcycles and differentiated itself from the standard Bonnie by the simple addition of a tachometer and a different paint scheme.
In 2005 it received the bigger 865 cc motor courtesy of the Thruxton (the standard Bonnie keeping the 790 cc version that year) and it replaced the standard Bonnie altogether in 2006.
The standard returned in 2007 but there wasn’t much difference between the two save for colours and a tach until 2009 when the standard model got straight pipes (shape, not sound), cast wheels and a blacked out motor, making the T100 definitely the more classic-looking of the two.
T OF THE CLASS
And what a classic it is. Triumph took a long, hard look in the rear view mirror when styling the T100 Bonneville. Check the classic 16-liter fuel tank, sweeping header pipes (that actually turn blue – just like the originals), rubber fork gaiters, flat seat, spoked wheels; twin chromed shocks and classic round headlight.
The 775 mm (30.5 inches) seat height should be manageable for anybody and the junction between the tank and seat is quite wasp-waisted to make it even easier for those with average inseams to touch the ground.
The fuel injection and electric start fire the bike up at the touch of a button in direct contrast to a 1960s Bonneville kickstarter oozing its way through 90-weight oil, treacle or blood pudding or whatever the hell they put in Triumph engines back then.
The instrumentation consists of a simple analog speedometer flanked by a similar tach. The warning lights (including a tiny “low fuel” light) live within the two dials, as does an LCD display showing time, odometer and tripmeter.
The ignition key is somewhat inconveniently located on the left
headlight “ear,” where the front turn signal interferes with any attempt
to insert or withdraw the key.
THE WIND IN THE WALLOW
Taking off from a stop, the Bonneville feels electric-smooth and the exhaust note emitted by the peashooter cans is eerily reminiscent of an original British twin – the tone is a bit subdued but still there.
Clutch action is light; the crisp, five-speed box shifts smoothly with a short, light throw, and the throttle response is linear and progressive. It’s a very easy motorcycle to ride.
The 41mm Kayaba forks have 120 mm of travel and do an admirable job of absorbing the bumps and potholes of daily riding. The twin rear shocks are adjustable for preload only and have 106 mm of travel. For relaxed riding, you won’t need anything more as the spring and damping rates are well matched to the chassis.
Dial up the “Sport-o-Meter” and the Triumph starts to wallow a bit as the pace overwhelms the suspenders, but that’s nothing that a good set of aftermarket shocks won’t fix.
Around town, the 19-inch front wheel makes for delightfully light steering while not feeling twitchy as speeds rise. My press unit wore Metzeler Lasertech tires and they were awesome, giving excellent grip, neutral steering and from experience, I know they wear like iron.
The single 310mm front disc squeezed by a twin-piston caliper has pretty good stopping power, but has a fairly wooden feel with average feedback. Adjustable brake and clutch levers should adapt to any size mitt.
WORTH A LONG HARD LOOK
Triumph lists the wet weight off the T100 as 495 lb, which when compared to its obvious “retro” competition is right in the mix. The Guzzi V7 Café is listed as 436 lbs – but the Italians have never been known for accuracy in measurements.
The minimalist Honda Shadow RS checks in at 507 lbs, the 883 Sportster is a porky 572 lbs and even the Yamaha V Star 650 is 512 lbs.
Which brings us to where the Bonneville T100 fits in the general scheme of things. Anyone growing weary of the increased trend towards more narrowly focused motorcycles should take a long, hard look at the Bonneville.
It’s not a sportbike, but it’s sporty enough. It’s not a touring bike but with a screen and luggage, you could tour on it, especially as 110km/h comes up at a comfortable and relaxed 3,000 rpm.
Commuters will appreciate the comfortable riding position, easy handling and outstanding fuel economy – in two weeks of fairly hard riding, my press unit returned an average 4.8L/100 km, or 60 miles per Imperial gallon.
Anyone interested in a standard cruiser should definitely consider the Bonneville. Cruisers are very one-dimensional motorcycles in that they go well in a straight line but that’s about it.
The Bonny will out-accelerate almost any cruiser on the market, leave them for dead through the twisties, and is lighter, more comfortable and easier to handle. Cruisers are supposedly all about looks, and what’s better looking than a classic, late ’60s Brit bike?
Not to mention you get a lot of motorcycle for the money. 2011 pricing hasn’t been set yet but this year’s MSRP showed the T100 Black (tested) listing for $9,839, the two-toned is $10,199 and the standard Bonneville (with mag wheels and no tach) goes for $8,899.
As an example of the motorcycle’s appeal, I took the T100 on our Sunday Morning Ride a couple of weeks ago and two of the hard-core adventure touring guys took it for a spin. Keep in mind these are guys who ride 30,000 to 40,000 kilometers a year and they both had ear to ear grins. “What a fun bike – I could see living with one of those,” was the unanimous consensus.
The second incarnation of the Bonneville isn’t a retro replica of the original – it’s a conception of how the Bonneville might have evolved had it not gone the way of the dinosaurs 25 years ago. It’s a taste of classic motorcycling without all the horrible baggage that accompanies a real vintage bike.
I just hope I don’t live long enough to see bellbottoms come around for the third time.
|T100 Bonneville Black
|four-stroke DOHC parallel-twin, air-cooled
|66 hp @ 7,500 rpm
|50ft-lbs @5,800 rpm
|Five speed, chain drive
|Single 310 mm disc with dual-piston
|Single 255 mm disc with dual-piston
|775 mm (30.5 “)
|1500 mm (59 “)
|230 kg (495 lb)