Why you want a Triumph Bonneville, even if you don’t know it yet

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Since 2001, the Triumph Bonneville has always just sort of been there as a good-looking, if unexciting retro bike. Reliable, shiny and affordable, but not the kind of thing you’d lay awake at night dreaming about. For 2010 and 2011, that’s just changed, totally. Triumph won’t tell you that the humble Bonnie is suddenly one of the most most desirable motorcycles on the market. But, don’t worry, we will. This is why you really, really want a 2011 Triumph Bonneville SE.

The first thing anyone will notice about the Bonneville is its looks. On the surface, it looks like something from the ’60s. Air cooled twin, carburetors, boring old school forks, twin shocks, banana seat. Take a closer look though. Are those really carburetors? What’s inside those 41mm forks? Are those 17″ wheels? All but the most fanatical motorcycle enthusiasts will never notice these things, but spend a little time on the bike, and you’ll eventually reach the conclusion that it’s a modern motorcycle wearing a vintage costume taken from grandpa’s closet.

After being discontinued in 1988, the Bonneville was reintroduced in 2001. Fuel injection came to American models in 2009, and minor changes to mapping and engine internals the next year resulted in a quiet motor that produces exceptionally smooth power and vibrates only enough to let you know it’s there. The 2001-present bikes are well loved, as evidenced by the steady $4500-$5500 prices on the used market, but the revised fueling from 2010 on really is a big improvement over carbs.

Forks and shocks aren’t adjustable for anything but rear preload, but Triumph did their homework and got the spring rates and damping right. The chassis those components are bolted to has a few tricks of its own. Wheelbase is 57.2″ and a very low cg make it feel slightly longer than that. Rake and trail are 27º/4.2″ don’t appear very sporting on paper, but when combined with a 17×3 front wheel and 110 tire, steering effort and feel are sublime.

Motorcycle companies don’t publish numbers for swingarm length, pivot height and angle or the position of the countershaft sprocket in relation to the swingarm. They should though because those factors determine how a motorcycle will handle under acceleration. Still, you can tell just by looking that Triumph got things right. I’ll show you what I mean.

I include the sportster because it’s the only direct competitor to the Bonneville. Take note how similar the swingarm angles of the bonneville and the 675R are. That’s no accident. Now, look at the Harley. See how its swingarm pivot is lower than the rear axle?

When you accelerate on a motorcycle, there are powerful forces at work between the motor and the ground. Power gets to the rear wheel through the drive chain and on its way, it tries to pull the rear wheel into the motor and compress the rear shocks. When the wheel is driven, it pushes on the swingarm and tried to squish everything in front of it. The people who design rear suspension for serious motorcycles take these rather significant forces into account and angle the swingarm so that chain pull helps stiffen (rather than compress) the rear end when under acceleration. They put the swingarm pivot higher than the rear axle for the same reason. Harley Davidson just bolts it all together, calls is “slammed” and hopes no one will notice that the bikes handle poorly and tend to bottom out under acceleration.

Claimed wet weight is 495 pounds and it feels about that heavy. The low center of gravity makes it easy to handle though and 67bhp from an air/oil-cooled 865cc parallel twin helps it get up to speed fast. Not sportbike fast, but you’ll still leave most sportscars for dead. An Iron 883 weighs 565 pounds and produces a pathetic 49bhp.

While the Sportster is the only direct competitor for the Bonneville, the only similarities are the size of their engines (865 to 883), price ($7,699 base, $8,399 SE, $8,699 SE two-tone vs. $7,999 Iron 883) and their vintage styling. In any test of performance, the Bonneville is far superior.

Riding the Bonneville is special. It’s impossible not to have some idea of what it will be like based on looks alone, and when you realize how well it performs, you’ll be surprised. For example, Wes realized that it wasn’t a slow vintage bike after he had to work to keep up with Ashlee and I on the 101 late one night. He was riding a CB1000R.

But it also makes a great bike for new riders. Ashlee rode it and after just a few miles she asked me how much and said she was going to buy one. She immediately felt comfortable despite her height (5’6″), admittedly poor balance and lack of riding experience. I hope she buys one so I can ride it too.

Sit-up ergonomics could best be described as stately or official. The banana seat makes it feel a little dirt bikey, but only in the best ways. There’s room to move around for both rider and passenger. Ride it slow, and it feels confident and planted. Ride it as fast as it will go and not much changes. Even when going from closed to full throttle in first gear with a peg dragging on cracked and broken pavement, a terrible idea, the bike stays composed and it almost feels as if it’s dealing with the hard stuff for you. Think APRC.

Taking the Bonnie to the store and running errands around LA is awesome. You don’t want to be a fast moving, aggressive rider on a loud sportsbike, the bike makes you even more obvious to police. My favorite thing is that it’s not a loud sporsbike, but it can get through traffic just as fast as one. I can go as fast as I want to most of the time and the only reaction from innocent bystanders is a friendly wave. Suckers. They think I’m out for a leisurely cruise on my lovingly restored vintage motorcycle.

There aren’t any real negative things to say about the Bonneville, so consider this nit-picking:
-The bars are kind of a funny shape and have about 1″ more pull-back than I’d like.
-Mirrors don’t always stay where you put them. I took them off and used a CRG blind-sight from my bike.
-495lbs is a lot lighter than 565, but there’s no reason this bike couldn’t come in around 400 with some fancier materials and generally dropping some of the unnecessary parts.
-17×3 and 17×3.5 wheels are good but 17×3.5 and 17×4.5,5 or 5.5 wheels would allow use of true sportsbike tires (footpegs and boots would wear out faster though, hm…).
-SE model is just polished sidecovers, chrome tank badge, nicer gauges, and different paint.


  • HammSammich

    I loved my 2007 Bonnie (purchased new) that I just sold in order to buy a Speedy or Street Triple this coming Spring…

    It’s nice to finally read someone in the press (is it okay to call you guys “the press?”) that realizes just how well sorted out this bike is and how much better it is than the other bikes in the segment it’s usually compared to. Even with the relatively crummy stock suspension, it handles well and keeps you looking for the twistiest roads you can find. I’m sure people think that I am full of shit when I talk about keeping pace with sport bikes along twisty mountain roads, but it happened several times. The torquey motor is great for slamming on the throttle coming out of a corner and taking off toward the next one…of course topping out at an indicated 113mph, meant that I wasn’t going to keep up on long straights.

    Clearance is a bit of an issue, but that can be improved with rearsets, and if you really want the bike to feel great, a set of progressive springs in the forks and even some relatively inexpensive Hagon shocks on the rear, make an amazing difference.

    I would recommend a Bonnie to anyone looking for an affordable, fun, easy to ride bike.

  • Joe

    I already wanted one before this article, now I want one even more.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t swing the price on a college student’s budget, so I’m restoring a ’78 CB750 instead.

    • The other Joe

      Sweet, Gotta love the old bike restoration! My cousin has a CB750 that he’s been riding for at least 20 years and he loves it. I used to have a ’77 Yamaha XS750 triple that I bought for $500 and spent about a month working on it to run again and a few other things like different handlebars and stuff like that. It was a blast to ride on the twisty mountain roads and always drew comments from other riders. Aside from all of that there is just something about bringing a bike back to life that makes it very special. Enjoy every minute of it man, both the wrenching and the riding!

      • Joe

        I hope my CB turns out as well as your XS750. It’s a winter project, so I’m taking my time to strip it down to the bare frame although it might not really need it. New gaskets all around, adjust the valves, powedercoat the frame, new paint, etc. I hope the project isn’t too ambitious so I can get it done in time for riding season.

        The more I see these Bonnies though, I’m second guessing my choice. Fuel injection, warranty, newness, andI fell in love with a Scrambler on a demo day ride. However, the CB was a great deal, is actually vintage, and restoring it to my tastes is def. an experience, so I hope I made the right choice for both my wallet and my heart.

        • M

          i think you made the right choice if you enjoy the process of restoration/personalization and maintenance, as well as have the time to put in to those things. with some research and persistance, most of the old ujm bikes make very decent daily drivers.

          just make sure you keep a little reserve in your bike fund for the day you want something a little more modern.

  • Victor Luft

    I think the SE (and the T100) also has a bit taller gearing than the base model, or at least that’s been the case in past years.

    • HammSammich

      I don’t believe the SE and the T100 have any difference in gearing…a lot of guys will put a different aftermarket rear sprocket on to give it longer legs, though…

      • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

        Same gearing. Little bit taller and longer bike.

        • Sean Smith

          Bigger wheels/tires give the effect of taller gearing on the T100.

  • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

    About time you assholes are on my side.

    • HammSammich


  • Daniel

    I almost bought a Bonnie, but opted for the Street Triple. I guess my inner hooligan won out. After I get the triple paid off, it’s either one of these or the Tiger. Just give me one of every Triumph model and then I will be satisfied! Damn you, Hinckley! Too many good bikes and not enough dinero.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      Doin it in reverse. Once the Bonnie is paid off, getting the street triple.

    • Ken


  • robotribe

    A co-worker of mine has one and let me take it around the block a few times. I expected gutless and lethargic characteristics, but instead it moved and handled like some kind of awesome semi-muscular scooter. And I mean that in a GOOD way.

  • Thom

    Assuming you’ve got the money ( I do ) and the space in your garage ( I don’t ) Why wouldn’t you want a Bonneville ?

    To Hell with the affordability , its one mighty fine M/C and makes the Sporty look like the feeble old thing it is these days

    Toss on a retro styled modern construction M/C jacket , some cool shades , Dragin Jeans and a touch of attitude and you’ve got yourself a winner

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      Dragin jeans?

      • Sean Smith

        They look just like Lee jeans that have been washed one too many times, but there’s kevlar inside and a $120 price tag. I’m more alarmed that “cool shades” take the place of a helmet.

        • filly-fuzz

          Don’t be quick to hate the slix actually look pretty normal, are slim cut and crash very well.

          • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

            You mean they fit like “jeans”. To assume that any type of slim, skinny, tight fitting, etc denim pants are ‘jeans’ is a view taken by the smallest of minorities. Trust me, most American males don’t have the single digit body fat %’s required to wear those narrow legged, ass hugging things referred to as jeans by so many today.

            • filly-fuzz

              Ha! You got me they are quite ‘slim’
              But they do offer heaps of regular cut jeans as well as some stuntah stye camo stuff if that’s your thing, I just thought that the slix would be the only ones that Sean might dig.
              The company is pretty cool as well, I spoke to a draggin guy at moto gp a few years ago and he said that if you crash in the jeans and write in to them they’ll sell you a new pair at 50% off. I thought that was pretty sweet.

              • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

                I’m just breaking balls. I love picking on the HFL guys for their skinny jeans and hipster clothes. To me jeans are meant to be comfy and functional. Tight anything defeats the purpose of usable workwear. Levi’s 505′s, Dickies (we wear them as part of our uniform for the fire department I work for….. not wanna-be Jesse James), carpenter jeans, overalls, coveralls….. those are workingman clothes. But obviously none of them will get you laid. Unless you actually ARE Jesse James and dig chicks with paragraphs inked on their foreheads.

            • Ratlanta

              Yeah, but those of us who aren’t fat asses look great in them. :D

              • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

                According to my 16 year old niece, no, you don’t. “Boys should never wear skinny jeans” was her Facebook status a month or so ago.

                • Sean Smith

                  I usually go for ladies that are a bit older, so that’s probably a good thing ;)

                • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

                  Skinny jeans are the “Members Only” jackets of the future. LOL

          • Sean Smith

            The Draggin jeans Thom is referring to go well with white socks, old running shoes and possibly a denim shirt. Slix, which kind of make me wanna sing “hell bent for leather” are made by an Australian company by the same name.

            I wouldn’t buy from the American company because they look like Lee or Kirkland jeans and I wouldn’t buy from the Australian company because $240 is a lot of money for what appears to be faux-leather pants with no armor. Why not just wear real leather pants? Or Kevlar and armor under regular jeans?

            • filly-fuzz

              It’s just a waxed finish in the denim but yeah I see your point.
              Let’s just not let this turn into a skinny Jean debate everyone can just wear what they want alright.
              16 year olds change there opinion like the tides anyway i’m just gonna call em “racing fit” from now on

              • Sean Smith

                Ha, buy and wear whatever you want. I’m not the fashion police, those are just my own personal opinions and reasons for not wearing either Draggin Jeans brand.

            • R13

              Buy the Alpinestars Axioms! The look is not far from that of my 501′s and they have kevlar.

              • Sean Smith

                Indeed. Buy those. With T-pro elbow armor in the knees, you can pass for a normal non-armored person 80% of the time.

  • Lowell

    Bonnie is a great bike. Most of the observations also apply to the Ducati GT1000. Great vintage look with modern handling. The Ducati v-twin also has even more performance than the Triumph.

    • austin_2ride

      Less the affordability and overall comfort.

      • Thom


        Like the looks better ( Ducati ) but the ride, price and practicality a lot less

  • Alex

    I have a 675 right now and rode a Thruxton at a Triumph demo event and that thing put a massive smile on my face the whole time. I rode a Bonnie too and loved it but once I have the garage space, I’m definitely getting a Thruxton.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      Same bike. One has been “cafe’d” for you and the other let’s you do it yourself.

      • Alex

        Yeah, I know it’s the same engine but for some reason the Thruxton just did it for me a lot more, probably was the seating position and the fact that it had an Arrow exhaust on it already. Ugh that noise it made…

        • doublet

          Maybe it’s not still the case, or maybe I’m just incorrect, but I though the thruxton engine had a differently phased crank.. so it’s not exactly the same engine..

          • Sean Smith

            Nope, it’s got the same motor. The scrambler is the odd one out with the 270º crank.

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Man, Triumph is really killing it. I do believe my next bike will be one. If that time ever comes.

    • Gene

      Me too. And strictly because of HFL. According to anybody else, Triumph doesn’t exist.

      I did see a “How It’s Made” episode on how they manufacture their engines. Did you know they install the valves & head w/o the cams & buckets, then use a 3D laser measuring system to determine the shim thickness to install? Supposedly the 1st mfgr to do that, including the Japanese.

      • filly-fuzz

        Have you seen the Rocket 3 vid?

        “The first part of the bike to be added is it’s center of gravity”

        • Steven

          “smaller engines are immersed in a nutrient-rich bath and then left in cabinets in the copy room to grow to full size.”

          • HammSammich

            Triumph’s real-world performance testing of the Rocket III is particularly important to anyone who’s ever dropped their badger whilst crossing the street.

  • BenP

    My wife has a ’10 Bonnie T100 Black… I often find myself reaching for that bike over my STriple.

    It’s impossible to ride that bike without a shit-eating grin on your face.

  • http://twitter.com/JamesLeeFoley# jamesleefoley

    I have an 07 Bonnie I bought new in 08 and put 20k miles on it. I bought a Ninja 1000 a few months ago to have something that is more at ease on high speed, long distance trips and because the carbed Bonnie is a pain to start and run in the winter.

    I was going to sell it in the spring, but I’m having a hard time with the idea of it. It really does feel well sorted and surprisingly polished for how little they cost. It may be all the time I spent riding it, but it seems to demand an emotional response as well.

    It’s true about people smiling and waving too, no matter how aggressively I ride it. I never noticed until I got the Ninja and I get scowls just sitting in traffic.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      The only fuel treatment that worked for my carbed motorcycles in the winter: Star Tron.

      I still use it in my FI’ed motorcycles.

      E10 sucks.

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

      Fact; people see sports bikes, and it ruins their day. Especially when you pass them.

      There’s definitely something to be said for a below-the-radar bike like a Bonnie.

      • filly-fuzz

        Yep, had a Bonnie and it gets nothing but love, even knocked a dudes mirror off in peak hour and he didn’t seem to care. But riding anything sporty looking and you’re rolling cancer.

  • http://www.pedalgents.com holdingfast

    my friend just bought one as her first bike. she loved it instantly and still loves it. Its awesome to see how her riding has improved also thanks to the right choice in which bike to purchase. plus it matches my speed triple as in its also a triumph and they just look good side by side. triumph rocks. woo!

  • adrian

    British Customs offers a 5.5×17 rear conversion kit for spoked versions of the Bonnie/Scrambler/Thruxton.

    Also, I think it must be mentioned that the 2011 (and onward) 865cc Triumph family of bikes have 270 degree firing order. That’s the conversion all the Yamaha XS650 lovers convert to. That firing order brings the pistons’ rise/fall closer together and sounds awesome. Almost makes it a twingle.

    • 80-watt Hamster

      Bonneville and Thruxton keep the 360, Scrambler gets the 270 from the America/Speedmaster.

  • 80-watt Hamster

    On last year’s Demo Day at the local Triumph shop, one of the ride leaders (who’s also an amateur racer, I think) favored the Bonneville SE if it was available. I ran out of time and wasn’t able to give it a go myself.

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

    When I think “motorcycle”, the layout of the Bonnie comes to mind — my ’70s upbringing has a lot to do with that.

    I wonder if today’s retro-styled Honda CB223S is as modern of a motorcycle as the Bonnie. The CB223S too shares the layout that I think of whenever I recall my initial love for motorcycles. Too bad it’s not available in the U.S.

    (And speaking of “styled” motorcycles from Honda that aren’t in the U.S., check out this Honda “Monster”.)

    • Jon B.

      That CB223S is rad.

    • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D

      Oh man, I saw one of those in SF the other day, and I’ve been wondering what the hell it was.

      God bless the grey market, that’s a cool little bike. Especially for the cute girl that was on it.

    • Campisi

      I walked into the Honda dealer back in the summer wishing this exact motorcycle would be waiting for me there.

    • M

      cleveland’s ace or misfit would be a good choice if you’re into the cb223s. basically the same engine, very similar specs all around, you get to support a small us business, and it even comes with a kickstand…

  • wwalkersd

    Don’t you guys consider the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport to be a competitor for the Bonnie? Sure, it’s down on displacement, but it’s clearly aimed at the same target.

    • HENRY

      i instantly thought of that bike when sean said the sporty was the only direct competitor

      • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

        Own a Bonnie. Had the v7 racer for a month as a loaner. V7 is for people with a lot of bikes who want the look and rarity but dont care that it rides like shit. Every time I got on it, I just wished I was on my Bonnie.

    • Campisi

      Indeed, I’m curious to hear how the two would compare. I love the Bonneville to death, but without riding either of them the smaller size and lower weight of the Guzzi wins it for me.

    • Thom

      I’ll be the voice of decent ( no surprise ) here

      The Guzzi is a stunner in the looks department , but a dog in reliability .

      • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

        Are they really? I assumed (I know, ass/you/me) that they were pretty much bulletproof which is why they stuck with the design. Never even known anyone that owned one, but I would love to see articles that are pro/con their reliability as they make dan good looking bikes.

        • Sean Smith

          I highly doubt Thom can speak to the reliability of a new Guzzi motorcycle.

          • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7


          • The Other Will

            Thom knows everything about everything.

          • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)


    • HammSammich

      The fit and finish on the 2009 V7 Cafe I test rode was very nice – probably superior to my Bonnie, but the performance and handling were disappointing. It sounds trivial, but the biggest problem I had was the ridiculous seating position on the cafe, owing to the clipons paired with standard mid-set foot controls.

  • Drew Shannon

    Right now I’m the process of researching my first bike, and it seems like the Bonneville has a great combination of affordability, vintage looks, and modern technology (and reliability). It’s tempting to get a used bike for quite a bit less money on Craigslist / eBay, but I’m assuming that in the long run, the blank slate of a new bike might be the better choice.

    • DavidMG

      Buy used for your first bike. Trust me. It won’t be your first bike for very long.

      • Drew Shannon

        Do you mean that as in, whatever I start out with, will seem inadequate soon?

        • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

          More that your first bike will likely get dropped, and beat up as you progress.

          In my experience, as I learned more about what I love about motorcycles, the first relatively clean runner I landed on told me as much about what I wanted in a bike as much as I didn’t. In truth, it told me I’m going to need multiple bikes, but that’s another story.

          I rode my first bike for two years (a really clean Kawasaki EX500 Craigslist find) and loved it, and passed it along to another new rider when it was her turn.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      Went the new route. Really wasn’t that much more expensive than used (assuming you’re looking at bikes in good shape) and that warranty is real nice to have. Financing was nice too (if that’s an issue)

  • ike6116

    Love the Scrambler.

    Bonneville = HFL approved, stock or Jack Pine apparently.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    my ’71 Tiger comes a little over 420 pounds wet. I think they could shave the weight of the modern Bonneville down just a bit-how much weight savings when you put on a Arrow exhaust? Also, is this an all-metal bike, or does it have plastic sidecovers/fenders?

    That Harley makes the same hp as my bike, heh….

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      Side covers are plastic. But you’re right, there’s lots of weight you can pull off. Pulling the fender, air box, etc and switching to the arrows made a big difference

  • BigRooster

    Great looking bike. Any reason to buy one over the base Striple? (Other than a preference for looks.) They cost about the same. I’m guessing the insurance costs and fuel economy are way better on the Bonnie but anything other than that? Performance is on different planets, no?

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      Definite performance difference. If you have any sporting intentions, get the street triple.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      Where do these cost the same? Bonnie was $6k new and street’s are $9k.

      • John

        If you look around deals can be had on the Streety. I picked up my 2010 new this summer for 7k…

      • BigRooster

        2012 Bonnie Se, MSRP $8399 (more if you get the fancy color combo)
        2012 Street Triple MSRP $8899

        That seems pretty similar to me. Also, the price is quoted in the article above.

        • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

          There’s isn’t a single reason not to go for the street triple r which is $9500 (and I haven’t found a single one offered at less)

          • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

            I picked up my ’11 Street Triple R for about a grand less.

            • BigRooster

              I’m considering a 09 S3. May look at it this Saturday – $7,599 with only 1700 on the clock. Insurance quoted at only $232 a year, full coverage! I wanted the Street but this may be too hard to pass up (and I cant find a pre-owned Street.) Plan to look at a new Bonnie SE at the same time.

  • Johndo

    I went from a 2009 Speed Triple to a 2010 Scrambler the next year. I was afraid of missing the Speed’s torque and power. But that Scrambler is one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden (yeah the Speed was fun too, just harder to keep your license when having fun on that bike). Was comfortable with a passenger and the Arrow exhaust just sounded crazy good. I’ve ridden with sportbikes, and in the twisties they had a hard time keeping up (had updated my suspensions though). Really it handles like a charm,looked great in matte green and is just a conversation piece wherever you stop for more then 30 seconds. If you’re not a people person, don’t buy this :)

  • cliffordb

    Just go buy one.. had mine since 03 and will never sell it. Granted, straight off the showroom floor the motor could do with a little more character but Staintunes and lots of miles have created a faithful steed with heaps of personality.

  • gaudette

    I’m extremely jealous of your relationship with Triumph Motorcycles.

    • cliffordb

      I actually cheat on the Triumph with an old Ducati Pantah when I get boy racer urges.. don’t tell the missus.

  • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

    After attending a Triumph demo event this summer, I fully intend to acquire a Bonnie or Thruxton to live along side my Street Triple R. The blue and white SE is at the top of my list.

    I went to a Harley Demo event the week before Triumph event. There is no comparison with regards to overall handling between these companies. The one exception is the XR1200 which was a very nice ride … It just needs to shed a few pounds.

  • jim

    america, t100,scrambler. loved each one more than the previous one ! …and what johndo said about not being a people person : funny and accurate.

    full disclosure: the 750 dorsoduro followed the scrambler ;^)

  • markbvt

    Glad to see this article. The new Bonneville is one of the most underrated bikes on the market, IMO. I’ve got an ’01 that I bought with 3000 miles on it in ’04; it now has close to 30,000 miles on it and has been trouble-free. That engine is bulletproof, and the whole bike makes a great platform for modification. The older carbed 790cc engine responds extremely well to opened up intake and exhaust; the stock rear rim will fit a 150/70-17 tire for a beefier look and increased cornering clearance; and a set of Thruxton-length aftermarket shocks (about 1″ longer) and progressive-wound fork springs plus heavier fork oil massively improve the suspension and quicken the handling. There are plenty of aftermarket options for replacement handlebars, exhausts, seats, etc. Set up to suit the rider’s taste, the Bonnie is a wickedly fun bike. It handles great, a set of pod filters on the intakes plus less restrictive pipes inspire some pretty aggressive throttle work (it may not be a sportbike, but it still moves pretty nicely, and oh my god does it sound awesome with pod filters and a set of British Customs Predator pipes), and it’s comfortable enough to ride long distances.

    Suddenly I wish it weren’t December. I want to take my Bonnie out for a ride.

  • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

    I don’t think comparing that particular Sportster with 1″ of rear travel is a fair comparison. The XR1200 has the rear axle below the pivot. It’s just a matter of shock length (which is why their lame low bikes get that whole 1″ of travel).
    As for wheels, there are sticky tires available that fit a 3″ wide front and 3.5″ rear, they just cost more than the 3.5 and 5.5 ones do. Not tires you should be doing track days on, but they are out there from the big name tire companies. If you really wanna run 120/70 and 180/55 than you can run spoked rims and have new hoops laced on them or send your wheels up the coast to Kosman to get them widened (bout $800 a wheel and the weld is the pure moto porn ). That is if the bike has enough clearance to fit wider rims and tires. Expect slower steering once you do go wider.
    Otherwise I agree, the new Bonnie has become timeless. There is no need for the factory to make drastic changes to it because it is a bike that can be made to do so many things. You just need some extra cash and skills. Obviously you guys have shown how bikes like the Jackhammer can off road and I believe I just read that Triumph will be offering a factory flat track bike or at least sponsoring a team. There is a story for you to do. Flat track……. where you can be a man among men.

    • Sean Smith

      The XR looks very much like a modern bike; Showa BPF forks, 180/55-17 rear tire, radial brakes, complex bodywork, etc. It also costs $11,799, has a remarkably tall seat and isn’t anywhere close to as smooth as the over $3000 cheaper Bonneville.

      • http://www.mcfw.com/ quint7

        I was only talking from a frame geometry pov. HD doesn’t offer different frames, just different suspensions. Like I said, the Bonnie is the bike to buy between the 2 of them. Devil’s advocate and all that.
        (tall seat….. bah! My 78 Honda 750SS, now that had a tall seat! And I’m 6’3″. Guy that bought it had to have me help him up onto it to ride away.)

    • BigRooster

      The SuperLow has the same crappy suspension but at least it has real wheels and tires. The XR is the best Sporty ever made but it still costs far too much. Not a bad choice used for less than 8k though.

  • nwdothage

    At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, I’d have one each of Triumph’s current line. And maybe something with the old 955i as my retro bike.

    • Joe

      I would agree, but I’m an unabashed Triumph fanboy.

      • The other Joe

        Same here, Triumph is my second favorite, right behind BMW, and I mean “right behind”, so close you would think BMW and Triumph were gay lovers!

  • Padraic

    I can attest to the Bonneville’s first-motorcycle friendliness. My 09′ is my very first motorcycle and has incredibly light steering and a forgiving demeanor. After riding almost nonstop since march I still haven’t lost interest.

  • Marlon

    Hmmm. A while ago HFL was saying that the Bonnie was a good, but bland ride compared to the Scrambler. Different writer, but I wonder if he’s warmed to it over the years…

    • Johndo

      I had a Scrambler and tried the Bonneville. I’m 6’1″ and the Bonneville just felt too small for me. Both are great fun bikes. And I think what makes it so enjoyable is it’s simplicity. No gimmicks. On the Scrambler it’s just 2 wheels an engine and handlebars (not even a tachometer). You have nothing in front of you but the open road. You really gotta try it to fully appreciate it :)

    • Sean Smith

      Scrambler makes less power and more of a potato-potato sound. Different writer ;)

      • Johndo

        Didnt hear potato-potato with the arrow exhaust fitted hehe The stock exhaust on both scramblers and bonnevilles sound like a sewing machine. As for the few HP less on the Scrambler didn’t bother me, had plenty of torque for that small 60HP…In the twisties at 130-140km/h you ain’t missing no HP :)

        • Sean Smith

          Ha, that sewing machine sound is one of the best things about the bike! Make it any louder and people will hear you.

  • john

    I get people coming up to me at gas stations parking lots and red lights telling what a nice bike.
    My 07 has never had a problem. Its been a great bike. I love it

  • oldblue

    Now that I’m racing more than road riding and less interested than ever in pushing hard on the road, a bike like the Bonnie makes a lot of sense.

  • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

    Everyone needs an ’09-up Bonnie base or SE in the stable. Trust me.

  • Devin

    I had to buy used due to cash considerations, and found a deal too good to pass up on the Bonneville black with the larger front wheel.I don’t mind it as I have lots of straight roads with transport trucks that tend to blow me around and the Bonnie is one of the most stable bikes I’ve ever ridden. If you live somewhere with lots of twisty or heavy city traffic the 17″ wheels are much better suited.

    Other notes: The steering “amount” left to right is very tight, so you end up doing 5 point turns to get in and out of tight parking places.

    • Sean Smith

      Turn the bars to the lock and lean the bike over as far as your arms can support it. This tightens the turning radius and works for Ducatis too.

      • Devin

        OK I’ll give that a shot Thanks.

        • Devin

          Forgot another unloved quirk: If you two-up suspension is set to anything less than rigid, the weight of the passenger will pull up the headlight, making night time driving not so hot. So there is a bit of tradeoff between optimal solo and duo headlight aim.

  • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

    This give me an urge to go try it.
    And since my corsaro was just stollen i have the perfect excuse to do so…

  • Mr.Paynter

    I tested the Bonnie at an open-day, got up to about 110mph, she was very slick, much more hustle than I expected and just beautiful. I wanted one and rode it because my grandfather had one and that yearning multiplied a whole heap after that ride!

  • Harry

    I bought a 2011 T100 leftover in September. Dark green/cream/gold stipe beautiful. Have since put Race Tech springs/shocks/emulators and Pilot Road 3′s on it. Removed airbox/AI/O2′s, remapped and re-mufflered. It now handles and runs perfectly for me. Of the many bikes I’ved owned (45 years worth) I have never had this much fun.

    • http://www.twitter.com/wessilerfanclub a hipster (’75 CB750 SS, ’10 Bonneville…….obviously)

      How do you like those tires? Been using the bt-45′s but they don’t last as long as I would like

      • HammSammich

        I know they’re more of a cruiser tire, but I was pleasantly surprised when I fitted Metzler ME880 Marathons front and back on my 07 (19″ front wheel limits tire choices). They honestly felt just as good as the stock LaserTec/ME Z2 combo (after a longer warm up period) and they easily last twice as long. Maybe on the new 17″ front wheels there are better options that make a more noticeable difference, though…

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    I love my 04 Thruxton. Not a big fan of the mag wheels on the newer bonnies, too 70′s for me. Small nitpick though, I’d take one for sure.


    the best part is the nerdly (but vicious) US Attorney on Sons of Anarchy rode a Bonnie. I think it was an old one though.

  • Dana Seero

    It’s amusing to me you guys love the Bonneville, but hate on the V-Strom, a much better bike.

    • BigRooster

      You cant really compare a V-Strom to a Bonnie. They have almost nothing in common. I expect very few cross shop the two so it makes little sense to think of them as an either or. The V-Strom may be considered crap as compared to its competition, which a Bonnie is not. If you compared this Bonnie in the same class as the V-Strom, the review may be different – but that would be stupid.

    • Sean Smith

      If you can objectively explain to me why the V-Strom is a better bike, I’ll buy you a beer. Seriously.

  • Terry

    Had an ’04 Bonnie Black.
    Loved it Stupid.
    Have owned 3 Sportsters … Loved them stupid also.
    Although it would seem natural to compare them, they really are dramatically different scoots. The Bonnie has more finess, and grace, the Sporties deliver a more raw visceral experience. Forced to choose, I would scoot a 1200 Sportster. I’d have a little more hand of god a my back and and a slightly bigger grin on my face.

  • Mark Hagge

    I had a strong desire for a Bonneville until I discovered today that Triumph builds them in Thailand. Considering this, Bonnevilles should be about half the price…

    • clive reynolds

      Most of the production is at Hinckley in the UK. I believe engines are made in Thailand, but the end result is far superior to any far eastern bike I have ever owned

  • RMUT

    Best part of the bonnie (reason I got it over the triple) is that they have a great seat when you need to put your date on the back. I’ll take a lower ‘performance’ bike that gets me laid more any day :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beauregard-John-Murphey/1034750053 Beauregard John Murphey

    I dont know if it matters at all, but I bought my Bonnie 3 months ago and it was the best decision I have ever made. Its sporty enough to surprise sportbike and harley riders alike. I have to ride through a bit of traffic after work though and have ridden behind much louder bikes, harleys mostly and I got to saw I wish my Bonnie was a little louder. I mean dont get me wrong the nice little ticking and tocking noises that come out are great for those early morning start ups and you dont want to wake the neighbors. But as it looks right now I got a small list of parts. I plan on getting a 2-1 exhaust with a predator tip, airbox removal kit EFI, maybe some shorter racer handlebars and Im done. I will prob drop 50 pounds and increase my horses by 15-20 and my gas efficiency will go through the roof.

    Being as trustworthy she is I dont plan on ever getting another bike.

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  • http://twitter.com/Jericho7 Josh Manning

    Just now reading this article now and have to say it’s one of the funniest comment threads I’ve ever read. Long live the Bonneville!

  • Eric E Brors

    Just purchased an 08, T100, with 889 original miles on it. Found it in a small town in Kansas.

  • rudedog4

    I got my 2012 Bonneville SE last month and I love it!

  • Kerry Snyder

    I can confirm many of the assertions of our humble author. As my first bike, my 2012 Bonnie has been a champ. Never dull, always stable and supportive. It’s got plenty of pep, handles predictably and well, and can beat an E55 AMG to 55 or so if said Mercedes is driven by a red-faced, sexagenarian, stoplight revvin’, turd burglin’ wannabe ex-fratboy. For real though, it’s fast enough, and gets along with your friends and your wife.