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.