Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Bonneville Review

June is the month when Triumph's new cruiser is supposed to reach US dealers and it is being anticipated as the biggest cubic capacity parallel twin ever built. It comes as a 1600cc water cooled twin and the factory offers an extra 100cc as an optional kit for those seeking a full 100hp engine for the new cruiser. I'm no great fan of cruisers as they require sitting on one's tailbone, but it's a good looking machine, even in this rather inadequate photo from the Triumph USA website:This motorcycle is supposed to fill the gap between the 865cc cruisers based on the Bonneville engine and the massive 2300cc Rocket, and considering Triumph's marketing so far, the bike will probably do well even in a recessionary economy. What was more interesting to me when I visited the dealer was the new Bonneville known as the SE. Supposedly the bike is aimed at younger riders and women and as far as I am concerned they are welcome to it. Not that its horrid, but the changes they have made to modernize the bike don't appeal to me. Which, as I'm neither a new rider nor a woman (though I do have short legs) indicates I am not the target audience.
On the Pure Triumph showroom floor in Fort Lauderdale I saw a white Bonneville SE next to the old style T100 which remains in production. The T100 has the two tone color scheme and the tachometer so dear to bobskoot, and a bunch more engine chrome than my plain jane Bonneville which is no longer in production.The engines of all the Bonnevilles remain the same old 865cc air cooled twins with double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. However the new SE is distinguished by smaller wheels to lower the overall height of the bike and now they are no longer spoked like mine. The smaller, alloy wheel rims supposedly make the SE more modern by making the handling "lighter" than the more ponderous larger wheels my Bonneville comes with. For me the big advantage of the new wheels is that they take tubeless tires which deflate slower, and are easier to patch, when they get a flat. However the new wheels give the SE a rather small look, suprisingly dwarfish compared to the T100 alongside.Also the "pea shooter" traditional looking exhaust mufflers are gone, and the full fenders are cut back on the SE to make the bike look more modern, they say:So far I'd be buying a T100, but then one takes a look at the seat and that has been cut down to reduce the 31 inch seat height on my Bonneville, which keeps me on tiptoe if I have both feet down at once, but the traditional looking seat now has a step and the front portion looks awfully thin to my jaundiced eye. Nice for short women riders perhaps if they have iron butts:Those then are the changes and this is now the approximately $8,000 Triumph Bonneville SE (plus dealer fees which add around $2000 I think). The T100 costs a couple of grand more while the Thruxton Cafe Racer and the Scrambler remain essentially unchanged in the line up. For my money the T100 is a smarter ride but I'm an old fart so there it is, Triumph marketing triumphs once again!
Aside from the changes made to create the SE, all Triumphs are now sold with fuel injection to meet Eurozone pollution regulations, and for me that's another strike against them. I read a review in a motorcycling magazine which commented on that change saying new Bonnevilles benefit because fuel injection is more reliable than "old"carburettors. Over the decades I have found old fangled carburettors to be one of the least fussy elements of a motorcycle, and fuel injection to be one of the most inadequate changes made to modern motorcycle engines. I don't like all the engineering and electrons that are required, the pumps and the exhaust measurements and all the wires...The sender pump sits in the tank so they had to make the fuel tank bigger to accomodate it and keep the same amount of fuel. Next to the cut down seat it looks out of proportion on the SE:And I must be a geezer because I don't like the decal that says Triumph in place of the chrome badge my Bonneville came with. A screw-on badge no less, so Triumph could sell lots of different types of badges as after-market accessories. Pure Triumph also has Black SE Bonnevilles on display and one rather dashing old style Black Bonneville in matt, harking back to that other Triumph marketing tool: the late Steve McQueen:Given that I like carburettors and larger diameter wheels and pea shooter mufflers and big fenders I guess I would be out looking for a 2007 Bonneville if I were forced to replace my own machine. Pure Triumph had one in silver which isn't as pretty as my Goodwood Green Bonnie, but it has about 22,000 fewer miles at around 4,000 and the price tag was somewhere around $6,000 at the dealers if I remember correctly:It's a satisfying feeling knowing you still have the right model for your taste.

I've got mine.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Key Lime Square

I took advantage of a few free moments to yesterday to take some pictures of a nook off the 500 block of Southard Street. It's a small enough space but in a town renowned for all things small that is no great crime. To make this a proper outdoor space it needs some seating arrangements which I am sure are absent thanks to the swarms of street people who gather close to Duval Street and would doubtless invade this quiet space,which is home to realtors, restaurants and appartments.There are conveniently situated planters to allow some form of sitting in the shady square, but a better option is to get something to eat. I've ordered quesadillas to go from the Mexican Cafe and they were quite adequate:You can see Duval Street all the way through the restaurant. The draw for me is the outdoor eatery known as Lobos at the far end of the square, past the moped (and motorcycle) parking:They make hamburgers but they are known for their wraps, so many different types of wraps they can't fit in one picture but they are all less then ten bucks and they are a lot of food:The main entrance to the square is off Southard Street across from the (mostly) vegetarian cafe across the street:And the square itself is a useful parking place if you have a scooter and want to be within a half block of Duval Street:Or if you want to check out my doctor who advertises that he will see anyone even snowbirds and tourists which is very broad minded of him I think.Dr Norris' surgery is the one not covered by hurricane shutters. Key Lime Square is also handy as it has two other pedestrian exits, one alley goes out into the parking lot in back of city hall,and the other alley connects to Duval Street next to the Mexican Restaurant, which may or may not ever be a useful thing of which to be aware. But now you do know where a facsimile of an old fashioned barber's pole can be found in Key West.
I like the square, not just because I suffer blood letting here from time to time but because I like the shady ambiance of the place:And Ed Swift also built seven affordable rental units here for a few lucky residents. They don't have to step far to be in the middle of the action of Old Town Key West. For those that like such things.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thinking Caps

I have pointed out that summer is here and the sun is starting to beat down strongly upon us all. Daily temperatures are getting up around 90 degrees (32C) and the humidity is going up too. It's the time of year when hats become a requirement, though I should say that visitors to Key West even in winter like to cover themselves in tropical head gear even under the weakest of winter sun. Some people can carry off the straw hatted look quite well:Other people like to look dapper in their fedoras:I am not much of a fan of head gear so I like sunscreen to protect my mediterranean skin from the sun, others prefer something more ample and possibly floppy:Wait a minute, that hardly qualifies as floppy compared to some people:I used to have a straw hat years ago, a seven dollar Albertsons special and it survived a trip to the Bahamas, but too many dunkings while getting in and out of the dinghy put paid to it. My second straw hat got torn to shreds riding my Honda scooter back and forth to my boat captain's job, where I really needed it day after day panting on the water. A bit like this guy:Other people seem to take good care of their straw hats:Some people express their personality with a palm frond hat purchased from the weavers on Duval Street:And sometimes that isn't enough so they embellish them further:My headgear of choice is something like this under the cargo net, even though it's not a legal requirement in Florida for riders over 21, and I don't always wear it, or it's open faced cousin every time I ride:And though I do wear a baseball cap from time to time, one has to acknowledge it doesn't give much cover from the cancer-inducing rays of the sun:On the other hand people who wear visors, I don't get at all.But there again perhaps they just like wearing something on their heads, in equal proportion to how much I don't. I was struck recently by headgear while watching an old episode of Sherlock Holmes which I had ordered from Netflix. It was the excellent Jeremy Brett series and I noticed how much people bothered with hats, a different hat for each different outfit with gloves to match. Then we went to see the Red Barn's last live theater production of the year and the patron sitting next to me, a man probably no older than thirty years of age, kept his baseball cap on throughout the production. I have a tendency when I go indoors be it only to eat or see a movie or a play, to remove my headgear, and in this day and age I have no idea who rates as most eccentric, him or me.
I don't much like fora on the Internet and don't participate much on websites where people are busy posting rapid fire comments, but in my nocturnal web wanderings I came across a group of people who expressed enthusiasm about vactioning in Key West. To get to read their comments I had to register and that led to an invitation to meet one of them last week, as Shazbo17 reads this blog from time to time. Which meeting was quite an education as I discovered there are several dozen of them who gather from all over the country and talk about I'm not sure what. A fondness for vactioning in Key West seems a rather narrow basis for friendship but they were all terribly hail-fellow-well-met with each other at Conch Republic Seafood. And several were wearing hats, which was convenient for me at the time:And Shazbo who posed in her topee:Key West Spirit is an interesting web site, if like me, you had never thought Key West alone would be enough to sustain an interest between a group of strangers. Of course my Key West is a good deal different from theirs which appears to be powered a great deal by alcohol, if reports of their visits to the city are to be believed.
And in closing this essay a few variegated headgear wearers I came across recently:Neither a bowler nor a derby and certainly not a deer stalker among the lot of them.