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2016 Triumph Bonneville Should be Liquid Cooled


2015 Triumph Bonneville T100

As emissions restrictions tighten around the world, many iconic air-cooled motorcycles are switching to liquid cooling … even Harley-Davidson.

Now, spy photos posted on the net indicate Triumph is about to convert its beloved Bonneville to liquid cooling for the 2016 model year. We enjoyed our most recent test of the Bonneville, but modern levels of engine power from its 865 cc parallel-twin is not on the list of its charms.

With the change to liquid cooling, we hope Triumph takes the opportunity to significantly increase the horsepower of the Bonneville, and its related classic models. We should see the new Triumph models unveiled this Fall.





  1. Dale says:

    I’m lucky enough at this late stage to have multiple bikes in the garage – one of them a 2013 Brooklands Green Thruxton. This is a basic bike with no pretensions. The quality is high (yes I know, Thailand…), the seating position is very comfortable, it stops well (wooden brakes? I don’t think so, they are actually very progressive), and for 68hp at 507 lb. wet, it makes it’s way just fine, and can easily “keep up”. Even the stock suspension (yes stock) is excellent. I’m 5’8, 170 lbs., and the rear shocks are compliant and smooth on the softest preload. Could it loose 50 lbs. and gain 10hp? Sure, but it is just fine as is.

    The only real bone is tank size, but on the flip side, I know they had to hide the fuel pump somewhere, and lets face it, the move from carbs to injection on any new bike is worth the sacrifice of 25 miles less range.

    People need to ride the new Triumphs before criticizing. When it comes to the new water cooled Bonnies, I am sure Triumph is sweating every detail to make things right, and they will properly hide the radiator in an elegant way.

    Now, with all of this being said, the best comments this week are a resurrection of a true 1975 T160 Electric Start Trident. I owned one from new for 25 years and regret everyday that I sold it to pay kids college tuition. If I knew then what I know now…. The T160 has to be in the top 5 of the most beautiful production motorcycles ever made. Triumphs last gasp. Jewelry, with styling and sound that never got old. All of us Motorcycle Daily reader tend to buy and sell without any lingering doubts, but selling a mint condition T160 when I was the original owner – what in the world was I thinking???

  2. Fred M. says:

    I’d rather that they decrease the bore, increase the stroke, decrease the red line, and give it more torque in the rev ranges where people want to ride retro bikes. If you bought a Bonneville and are riding around at 7,000 to 8,000 RPM in order to get the most performance, you bought the wrong bike.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Have you ridden one? It already makes power in that part of the rev range. It makes power everywhere in the rev range, just not much of it. Why on earth would you want to tune the Bonnie like an 883 Sportster? Because it isn’t slow enough? Bonnevilles were sport bikes in their day, not boat anchors. Everyone is making retro in the latter flavor. I’ll take mine with a little spice, thanks.

      • KenHoward says:

        I agree. I’ve entered my 5th riding season with my Bonneville, and find that I can fully enjoy riding all day while keeping the revs below 4,500rpm. Basically, it makes at least 90% of its torque between 2,500 and 6,000rpm; while it doesn’t make enough torque to call it “torque-y,” it produces it everywhere in the rev range. I wouldn’t want Triumph to compromise that characteristic (though more power across-the-board – and ABS – would be nice).

  3. Tom R says:

    I have ridden a couple Bonnevilles. They aren’t that heavy. Those who think so are wussies.

  4. Gary says:

    No question, weight was the issue with Bonnies from the start. All else falls into place when mass is under control. I had an `02 and all of the other criticisms leveled are very livable considering this bike’s intent. Remember, it’s supposed to have that retro character.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “Remember, it’s supposed to have that retro character.”

      Yes, but weren’t they considered fast and agile for their day? Seems like you’d want to get a little of that kind of attitude into the bike. I’m clearly in the minority on that one, though. Which is probably why Triumph didn’t bother.

  5. Michael H says:

    Why not simply downsize the Thunderbird’s liquid cooled twin to 650, tuned for about 80 hp?

  6. azi says:

    1968 Triumph T120: 175kg, 45HP
    2015 Triumph Bonneville: 225kg, 68HP

    I’d be happy with a weight reduction, rather than weight + HP increase. The steel that’s used for the frames is probably cheapo hi-ten, and that would be an area where dieting can begin.

    (Drooling at the thought of a Thruxton special using a Reynolds/Columbus steel frame and lightweight forged spoked wheels)

    • Francois says:

      Yes, same with 1200 Explorer. Make that frame aluminium and it will be a much better bike – it will be really a better bike than the GS, which I ride.

      A friend of mine bought a 1200 and he says you can really feel it at slow speed and pushing it into the garage. Hell of an engine though.

      Lighter frame will also get better fuel consumption, which is one of it’s problems. Although, I know somebody that said that, at 120km/h the rpm sits at about 4200-4300 and he won’t get 400km from a tank.

      But when he rides slower during his day-to-day commuting etc, he keeps that at exactly 4000 rpm, ride a bit slower and get well over 400km per tank. I think he said 460km – big difference.

  7. todd says:

    Looks like the forks have 2 inches of suspension travel – or do they take the picture with a 400 pound rider then photoshop him off?

  8. TF says:

    I love the T100. I put about 500 miles on a rented unit in SoCal a couple years ago. If Triumph could subtract about 50 pounds, add 10-20 HP, and add a sixth gear all while maintaining the current pricing I would own one.

  9. Alex says:

    The way that the Daytona went from the 650 to the 675 is what I’m hoping will happen to the Bonneville. Make it leaner and meaner.

  10. Scotty says:

    Not sure this drive for extra power is all that desirable in a bike like the Bonnie. Its powerful enough – just neeeds to be a bit lighter! A few comparitive tests vs the V7 Guzzis have shown up the generally “heavier” and dare I say it ponderous feel of the Triumph versus the Guzzi. Of course if you like bench racing – the numbers are all that matters. Me, I like riding, and particularly around sweeping curves….

  11. fred says:

    wish triumph would just take a triple engine and give us a modern retro trident 3!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      They tried that before they introduced the Bonneville with the Thunderbird / Legend variants. I guess we didn’t buy enough of them.

      • MGNorge says:

        Seems to be a reoccurring theme. On paper such ideas sound good but if they fail to get enough people into the showrooms with money in their hands they fade away.

        I think too that a modern retro of bygone days sounds cool to many that recall the originals but the translation isn’t always perfect plus not everyone wants retro. Honda’s CB1100 got it pretty good.

        • Hot Dog says:

          Harley seems to be doing just fine with their retro line up. It’s not for me but many folks seem to want to go boldly into the past.

      • Bob says:

        I disagree that they made an attempt at offering a real retro trident 3. The three cylinder Thunderbird and Legend variants were part of a line of “modular” machines that had very little aesthetic relationship to the classic machines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The new Bonneville, on the other hand, was clearly an attempt to relate to the machines of the classic era.

      • Skido says:

        I worked in a Triumph shop when those triples were available and they were very popular. But they looked too water cooled. Benefit was they were fast.

    • Skido says:

      Just what I was going to say.

  12. rider33 says:

    ‘strange that they used an 865 for the cover shot of this piece, they must not have been able to get the rights to use the 2016 spy shots. If you look at the new bike tho It has a HUGE radiator tacked in front, almost as an after thought. The Beemers and the Harley’s which recently went to wet-head on some of there iconic models were far more artful in masking that, ‘sort of like Triumph did with the EFI in old looking carb bodies. Unless Triumph manages to solve that visual problem in final production, I predict a robust used market for the 865’s.

  13. Chuck Chrome says:

    This will be an interesting balancing act. Current bike is overweight. New bike will add liquid cooling and presumably more power. More power can quickly expose chassis flaws so will there be a redesign there and will the chassis get even heavier? They might get it right but it seems the bike is getting farther and farther away from the spirit of the bike it is meant to emulate.

    • Brian Hansen says:

      They might have to make a new frame out of Rearden Metal or maybe Unobtanium…

      • Seth says:

        nah, Chinanium – don’t rub it too hard or your towel fills with grey goo or “iron” filings.

    • Seth says:

      Go DR650 route, use an air-cooled engine with a ridiculously leaned out carb, so the aftermarket sells power-tuned carbs for a core exchange, at like $300. The EPA should sniff its own butt for a change.

      • Tom R says:

        Do you LIKE dirty air? Perhaps Suzuki could bring that 24-year old engine into 21st century so that it develops more power without using antiquated leaned-out carburetors.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “This will be an interesting balancing act.”

      this will be an interesting train wreck.

      pretty sure all the characteristic “buzz” I love about bonnies will be lost to the ages once that blood sucking, sound dampening water jacket surrounds me combustion chamber. ah well, time to make a run on remaining bonnie inventory.

  14. dman says:

    The Bonnie and Scrambler need to shed weight, not necessarily add power. And if water-cooling is needed to meet emissions or sound regs, they still need to lose weight.

  15. Sam says:

    I had a new 2010 Triumph Scrambler and although it was nice in almost every way, it lacked any kind of excitement being so down on horsepower, with lethargic 400cc type acceleration at anything over 70 mph. My old 1962 Honda 305cc Superhawk outran the original bonneville,s and would probably do the same to the current new ones. I bet the rear wheel HP can’t be over 45 or so. Now the new WC model, with more displacement and almost double the HP may find a place in my garage with the rest of the toys.

  16. xLaYN says:

    Spy photo has dual front disc brake setup, maybe to keep braking side in line with the increased power?.
    I haven’t had too many motorcycles to speak but doesn’t water cooling in order to improve efficiency correlate with higher temperatures? (in order to burn better fuel remnants after combustion?), I mention this because water cooled, high performance motorcycles in the middle of traffic (add Texas or California weather in summer) equals to portable personal hell.
    If I had to take and “looks old” but it’s modern bike the CB1100 would be, but personal preferences apart, it is so fake to have a bike with those exhausts, fins, “carburetors” when nothing of that is actually real, nor how it handles, I wonder if the buyer doesn’t have that “treachery” feel inside his heart.

    • 70's Kid says:

      “it is so fake to have a bike with those exhausts, fins, “carburetors” when nothing of that is actually real”

      The fake carbs are somewhat cheesy, but passable. Cooling fins on a water-cooled engine would be a lot cheesier. I don’t think that Triumph would actually do this.

      • mickey says:

        With targeted water cooling they can cool the hottest part of the engine, around the cylinder head, and still use engine finning to keep cylinder temperature in check, so not really fake fin. They will be there for a purpose.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        As Mickey said, the cooling fins will be functional. Even if they weren’t, I am sure Triumph would still add fins (and they wouldn’t be the first). A fake carburetor shows that they are very serious about their cheese.

        • 70's Kid says:

          Ah, okay then. Thanks guys.

          “Serious about their cheese” Well put, they have been amply rewarded for it.

          All in all, I fall into the camp that would rather see them drop weight from the design while retaining the air-cooled engine. Especially given the type of bike it is, But with emissions requirements being what they are and only getting tougher, I can understand Triumph’s decision.

    • Xootrx says:

      I can tell you from personal experience that the water cooled bikes I’ve owned put out a lot less radiant heat than all the air cooled bikes I’ve ridden. This was in the desert climates of both California and New Mexico deserts. The level of discomfort was always higher with air cooled bikes.

      • xLaYN says:

        Interesting and in line with Jeremy comment below, I guess there is nothing like taking a ride for any potential customer.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The water cooling is to keep the engine at a consistent temperature all the time (as well as to keep it from getting as hot as an air-cooled bike can get), and max temps are definitely lower than air-cooled bikes I’ve owned.

      Get stuck on my Buell XB in a stop-and-go traffic during the summer for more than 10 minutes, and it would melt its way to the Earth’s core.

      • Francois says:

        I am all for water cooling, but my 2008 R1200GS air-cooled has not once overheated on me in South African summer – even in traffic. Emissions might be another story.

    • Dave says:

      Re: “doesn’t water cooling in order to improve efficiency correlate with higher temperatures? (in order to burn better fuel remnants after combustion?)”

      Water cooling allows engineers to better control material expansion, especially with blocks and cylinders being made of aluminum, Liquid cooled engine can be built to much higher stress levels, hence the higher power that is achievable.

  17. mickey says:

    Been following this for awhile now. They are talking 90 ish hp. New frame, tank, side covers engine covers exhaust to more closely resemble the iconic Triumphs we all loved. Can’t wait to see the final product, however I am still madly in love the my air cooled Honda CB 1100 DLX.

    • mickey says:

      Ps the one in the pic above is an air cooled 2015 model and not the 2016 water cooled model, and the watercooling is supposed to be targeted like the Harley and BMW boxers, not total water cooling. Supposedly new Sreet Tracker model as well.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        A street tracker would be great. And 90-ish horsepower sounds just about right for a bike like this.

        • Seth says:

          with EPA approved carb, you get half that HP, but then you can depart with the fake carb look and the liquid cooling. I don’t see retro bikes as the place to invest HP R&D. The Bon should be the snobby man’s DR650.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Don’t want anything to do with carburetors… or drum brakes or points or kick starters, thanks. Retro – yes. Vintage – no. I’d rather the Bonneville be a snobby man’s Bonneville. A modern one.

  18. mg3 says:

    I don’t know. When I look at those ‘spy’ photos I see a 1960’s motor, with a washboard tied up between the downtubes. Looks totally fake to me.

  19. DaddyKoolJim says:

    The radiator is visibly unobtrusive tucked away behind the frame’s down tubes. Now if they could just get rid of those now non-functional cooling fins it would look perfect.

    • al says:

      If they get rid of the cooling fins they will also rid themselves of all of their customers. The fins give it the look.

  20. Andrew says:

    The radiator looks relatively inobtrusive (compared to HD Street, for example) but I still think this is a very disappointing development and the potential pay-off of increased power is not a sufficient compensation for me. I think current Bonnie has enough power for what it is – although I would welcome some weight reduction instead of power increase! (and that clearly is not on the cards, not with the extra plumbing). Most of all, while Bonnie is admittedly not a powerful motorcycle, it simply doesn’t matter. If I wanted to have a 100hp+ machine, there are plenty of those to chose from. Buyers of Bonnies want the traditional aesthetics, not power.

  21. Jeremy in TX says:

    It is sad to see air-cooled bikes going the way of the dodo, but ’tis the way of the world now.

    I am really eager to see what they do with the Bonneville line. Will they chase, with at least one Bonnie derivative, the performance envelope of the Ducati Scrambler? Or will the bikes remain heavy, slow and competent machines content with delivering pleasant mediocrity to those who could not care less about silly things like performance envelopes?

    • Stuki Moi says:

      With today’s tires, “performance envelopes” equates to a choice between a 33 inch seat height or no legroom. Neither of which is very Bonnevill’esque. Nor particularly necessary for delivering excitement on two wheels. After all, motorcycles were always plenty exciting, even back when they had objectively measured “performance envelopes” even lower than current Bonnies’.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Not sure what you mean, Stuki. Ducati managed to make a pretty exciting package with 18″ wheels, sticky tires, a low seat height, decent suspension bits, good brakes and very low weight. Despite its rather modest 75hp at the crank, it seems to set a relatively high performance envelope for the class. It looks the part and performs like a modern bike.

        With the chassis flex, terrible brakes and scary tires of yesteryear, I have no doubt a 50hp bike was more than exciting enough for sane people back then. Just not today, IMO.

  22. brian says:

    The bike looks dreadful and most everyone who loves the traditional Triumph aesthetics will be aghast at that heinous washboard of a radiator hitting you right in the eye when you look at the bike from any front angle.

    • Gary says:

      I disagree. Plus, it is impossible to know what the final bike will look like based on the spy pic. Chances are, the new bike carries a lot of the old bike’s hardware to camouflage it.

      Triumph has proven itself to be pretty expert to hiding modern accouterments with old-style shrouds. Similar to how the hide fuel injectors inside fake carb housings. I’m fairly sure they’ll be able to engineer a radiator that is not overly conspicuous.

    • Seth says:

      Thats why I want real retro, adjusted for the EPA Experience of course, like late ’70s Vettes that went pffffft when stomped, like Kananga meeting his end in “Live and Let Die”, for glacial 11 second 0-60 times. BTAIM, there is one unfilled niche to fill the hipsters’ momentary urges – the discount retro, from making a DR650 into a motard and restyling with H-D accents.

    • Francois says:

      I do not understand the problems of the looks of a radiator. Looks fine to me, it is part of the engine/technology which I like. Get that HD, TECHNOLOGY.

  23. Bob says:

    I really like what I see in the spy photos. It seems like they have also been working on engine proportions and aesthetics to make it even more true to the original.

    • Seth says:

      The point of my excessive commenting is, this is a place to go downscale not upscale.

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