Triumph Bonneville 2009

TriumphBonneville_09_07By Kevin Ash


Pictures: Triumph Press





Triumph’s Bonneville has always been one of the more convincing among the breed of retro motorcycles, in the way it looks at least. It might bear the name of the definitive sports bike from the Sixties, but if any modern bike carries the original’s spirit forward now it wears a GSX-R tag. Instead, the new Hinckley Bonneville is these days a gentle machine suited to relaxed sight-seeing and first-time, big-bike riders.

 Triumph_Bonneville_09_02Click on image for gallery
The first Hinckley Bonneville was if anything too gentle, its 790cc, parallel-twin motor feeling unenthusiastic to the point of lethargy. That was back in 2001, now in 2009, the 50th anniversary of the first Bonnie’s appearance in showrooms, the engine has grown to 865cc and with some gentle development over the years, a more satisfying, relaxed and muscular feel.

It’s no ferocious road burner still, but then it’s not meant to be, this is a bike aimed at those more interested in its style and an easy ride than going especially fast. But what you get these days is an immediate response to the twistgrip, a mellow purr from the reverse-cone megaphone exhaust and pleasingly strong acceleration even in higher gears. Triumph has taken the detailing very seriously too, to the point of disguising the fuel injection to look like a pair of CV carburettors. It`s so convincing, right down to the operative choke and even the feel of the throttle response, when I first wrote this report I thought the bike still did have carbs and the specs were wrong! A phone call to Triumph put me right, but when you next see an 09 Bonneville take a look and have some sympathy for me!

Triumph claims that some 90 per cent of the maximum torque is on tap from a lowly 2,500rpm right up to the red line, although on the base model Bonneville there’s no rev counter so you won’t know exactly where that is. Not that it matters, the engine works well and only feels weak where you’d expect it to anyway, such as passing the 90mph mark or revving it too hard. It certainly doesn’t vibrate like an old one, just a few tingles here and there and nothing to trouble the rider, thanks to its pair of balance shafts cancelling out the configuration’s inherent shakes.

The handling’s benign too, with neutral steering at low speeds that makes life simple for the inexperienced and good stability when going faster. It doesn’t change direction especially rapidly, and the suspension does get a little out of shape when pushed hard on poor surfaces, but in all it’s a stable, confidence-inspiring platform. The ride is on the firm side and more suspension travel would improve comfort, but this is quibbling, it really doesn’t matter on a bike of this nature, and I’d argue this gives the bike a more convincingly retro feel anyway.

The brakes have improved since the first model and now demand less of a squeeze of the lever. The feel is not bad and the single disc offers sufficient power. And if that all sounds like faint praise, it’s not, this is an ideal set-up for many of the Bonnie’s potential riders. I’d like to see more tank capacity though. The 3.5 gallons it has is adequate at the 50mpg you get in gentle use, but ride harder and you’re down in the low 40’s, when the fuel light comes on at 100 miles with a gallon remaining. It’s okay for this kind of bike but could be better.

There are four Bonnevilles available from Triumph this year. The basic one which I rode and the SE (which does get a rev counter, as well as a chromed tank badge and polished engine casings rather than black) have a Seventies look, with alloy wheels and those silencers. Alternatively there’s the T100, which has wire wheels and ‘pea-shooter’ silencers in the Sixties style, or the 50th Anniversary, essentially a T100 with orange and blue paint similar to the ’59 original’s, plus other detailing including a numbered brass plate on the handlebar clamp.

The detailing is thoughtful on all versions: it was pleasing to see a traditional trip meter with numbers turning on their barrels, zeroed by a thumbwheel rather than the ubiquitous LCD display, with button warning lights in chrome surrounds and chunky footrest rubbers with big ‘Triumph’ logos. The base model’s exhaust follows a smoother line than the T100’s kinked pipes, a criticism of the style from the outset, but engine strength aside, the changes a rider is most likely to notice over previous models are the inch lower seat and handlebars pulled about the same distance further back. This sits you more upright and comfortable but because you’re also lower the windblast doesn’t feel any worse.

The oil-cooler is well hidden behind the frame tubes – take note Harley-Davidson – although the SE and T100’s shiny engine casings are far preferable to the very non-period, matt black of the base Bonnie. There are some fabulous two-tone paint schemes too, available on all but the standard model.

This is a bike which has matured well over the last eight years and it’s still looking like good value, just as long as you have the right expectations. Think of it as a cruiser, which after all is what most of its competition is, and it’s an exceptionally good machine which looks great, is satisfying to ride and will happily and dependably commute as well as cruise or even tour.



Price: £5,599 (Bonneville)
£5,999 (Bonneville SE)
£6,399 (Bonneville T100)

Available: now

Contact: Triumph Motorcycles Ltd, 01455 251700, www.triumph.co.uk

Navy Boy
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Joined: 12/02/2009

Nice report Kev. One thing though. Those carb-alike fuel injector bodies have even you fooled. The Bonnie models have been injected since 2008!

Agree with your thoughts though. The Bonnie's a lovely machine.

kevash
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Joined: 05/10/2008

Ha, I forgot to change that! I wrote this soon some time ago after I'd ridden the bike and having seen them I assumed they were carbs. Then I looked through the specs and it said fuel injection, so I phoned Triumph to see what was going on as I thought there might even have been a mistake, and they confirmed it is indeed fuel injected. I changed the text in this piece accordingly when I was sending the story to a foreign magazine, but this is the original unchanged version and I didn't read it through again before posting it here...
I'll change it shortly, but thanks for pointing it out!

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

:-) so has Hinckley managed to make the injected bike feel like it is carburetted ?

kevash
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Joined: 05/10/2008

Absolutely! That was another reason I was fooled, the fuelling has that soft edge which makes carbs feel more rider friendly where fuel injection is so often sudden or harsh. Again this was apparently part of Triumph's aim, they look at feel and sound as well as looks these days, and they're proving to be rather good at it.
By coincidence, another freelance journalist, Roland Brown, was talking to me yesterday on the MV Brutale presentation about the Bonneville, and he said he rather liked it now where the first models left him cold, which was pretty much how I feel too. They've always looked the part but the engine used to be very flat and disappointing, but now it's grown 65 cc across the range and the fuelling is improved too and while it's still not fast it does feel good and it's satisfying. It's matured very nicely.

shuggiemac
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Joined: 23/11/2008

My first 'big' bike was a 1981 750 Bonneville (T140ES) which I still have and will never sell but I can't in all honesty use it as an every day machine. It would be really interesting to try one of the new Bonnevilles, which I have resisted so far as I had widely read them as being a bit soft and I did not want to be disillusioned, as I really like the styling of the Hinckley interpretation. Maybe now I will give it a go.

Navy Boy
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Joined: 12/02/2009

I had a 2008-model Thruxton for a while and really enjoyed it. The injection system is really good and the engine was one of the best aspects of the bike for me. Having said that I did have the Triumph 'Off-Road' pipes fitted!

PeteV
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Joined: 24/10/2010

I've had a black Bonnie Basic to which I added a tacho and rear rack from new since the end of May this year. I added a Scottoiler to take care of the chain and I love this bike.
There's nothing like a nice sunny day on the Bonnie, sit up and take in the world around you whilst still having a terrific mid range roll on which sees off any caravans or the like with a simple twist of the throttle.
The seat must be one of the hardest known to man and whilst one got used to it I've had it recovered with extra padding to give a bit more comfort.
One disappointment is Triumph's attitude to corrosion and cleaning. They say in the handbook to wash and dry off the bike after every time it is used without exception. This smells of a cop out for warranty claims against corrosion, they just tell you 'read page 63 of your handbook.'
It is fortunate that I am one of the army of fastidious Bonnie owners and the bike still looks like new, but it is still a cop out by Triumph.

PeteV
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Joined: 24/10/2010

Got myself a T100 earlier this year, I knew what to expect ride wise because of my previous Bonnie above. This bike is a bit more convincing as a retro because of the chromed wire wheels, fuller mudguards, green and white paint and rubber knee pads.
The seat is a little more comfortable than the basic Bonnie and flat so I can shift backwards easily to give my legs a a bit more room on longer journeys.
I use the bike like a cruiser as Kev says and am extremely pleased with it. It has plenty of zip if you want it but that's missing the point, this is a competant easy bike to ride and inspires confidence even if it is a little heavy for it's size. Gear changes can be kept to a minimum because of the torque available from way down the rev range.
I had considered the W800 before this bike but in the end chose the Bonnie mainly for the tank badge and the seat, it was a close run thing though.

Navy Boy
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Joined: 12/02/2009

I was reading the latest issue of Bike magazine last night and see that they've done a full test of the 110th anniversary edition Bonneville.

Being a little surprised (This isn't really a model I was expecting Bike to spend the time putting through their full road test regime) I found their report to be a good read. It reaffirmed for me the joys of the Bonnie and how it delivers something that we could all benefit from - That is a simple, no-frills, biking experience which will never go out of fashion.

All this talk of engine modes, semi-active suspension et al has made me yearn for something a whole lot simpler. Am I the only one to think this?

Don't get me wrong; I'll be riding a Trophy with its electronic enhancements as soon as I can but this contrast was really refreshing. I guess it takes all sorts...

Navy Boy
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Joined: 12/02/2009

Whilst my Sprint GT was in having its annual service yesterday I enjoyed some 115 miles on a 14-registered Bonnie in standard trim.

The ride, with some fellow IAM riders, simply confirmed for me what a cracking machine the Bonnie still is. A simple, no-frills riding experience with a pleasant soundtrack and a comfy riding position. I really did feel as though I could have carried on riding all afternoon.

Anyone else had a similar back-to-basics experience recently?