Motorcyclists today have a tremendous range of choices. Even if you want retro-style, you can find a reasonably priced new bike with authentic looks backed up by modern technology and solid reliability. This week we are taking a look at two such bikes on the market, beginning with Triumph’s Bonneville (to be followed shortly by a review of the new Moto Guzzi Stone).
The first Triumph Bonneville was introduced in 1959 (the T120). Early British bikes were not known for their reliability, but Triumph continued to refine its design, and the Bonneville significantly increased in popularity by the late 1960s. Sales of the Bonneville began to decline in the 1970s with increased competition from the Japanese.
As the old Triumph faded and died, a British industrialist named John Bloor bought the rights to the marque and re-launched the brand in Hinckley, England. A Bonneville model was released in 2001 displacing 790cc in a parallel twin configuration like the original bike. Eventually, displacement was increased to 865cc, and carburetors were replaced with fuel injection in 2008. There are currently three versions of the Bonneville available, but we chose to test the standard Bonneville that comes with relatively light cast 17″ wheels that allow the fitting of modern tubeless rubber. Together with a single front disc brake 310mm in size (squeezed by a Nissin two-piston floating caliper), the Bonneville has pretty low reciprocating mass in its wheel systems (the tires are slender 110 section and 130 section units). The result is a light and nimble feeling bike.
The standard Bonnie lacks a tachometer, but the big twin sends plenty of signals to the rider about when to switch gears on the five-speed box.
With a claimed 67 hp at the crank (roughly 58 at the rear wheel), the Bonneville has a healthy, flat torque curve that delivers surprising thrust from as low as 2,500 rpm. The bike pulls well across the band before hitting redline at 8,000 rpm.
Vibration is well controlled considering the parallel twin configuration and 360 degree firing interval. The air/oil cooled DOHC motor has plenty of power for two-up cruising, and Triumph offers plenty of accessories (windshield, bags, etc.) to transform your stock machine into a capable long distance hauler.
Riding the Bonneville was very enjoyable. The bike feels much lighter than its claimed 495 pound wet weight (with 4.2 gallons of gas). It is low and compact, with a seat height that allows even the shortest riders to place both feet flat on the ground when stopped.
The narrow tires certainly add to the nimble feel, but still provide decent grip for big lean angles when aggressively attacking the corners.
For a single disc set-up, the front brake offers surprising power, together with decent modulation. The suspension is firm enough to avoid dive and squat, and we had no complaints with the fork. The rear twin shocks, however, transfer sharp bumps harshly, at times. The only adjustment available on the suspension is rear spring preload.
The ergonomics are comfortable if a bit tight for taller riders. If you are long legged, you may lack for leg room, but most riders won’t complain. The seat is comfortable for shorter rides, but starts to feel hard and uncomfortable after an hour or so in the saddle. Of course, Triumph and third parties offer optional seats for the Bonnie.
At a U.S. MSRP of $7,699 ($7,999 for a two-tone paint job like our test unit), the 2013 Triumph Bonneville is a lot of motorcycle for a reasonable price. You get retro styling that is very appealing to a large group, but you need not sacrifice modern performance in the bargain. The torquey motor, coupled with the lightweight wheel/tire/brake combination, offers a punchy riding experience and quick handling that never feels twitchy. The bike has been around long enough now that reliability issues should be well sorted.
If you like standard-style motorcycles, and the styling appeals to you, the 2013 Triumph Bonneville is worth a close look. Take a look at Triumph’s web site for additional details and specifications.