▲ The 865cc Triumph Bonneville for 2014. The Bonnie has been improved in numerous ways since its launch in 2001. But to some riders, it still lacks the poise and elegance of the original bikes. Fortunately, there are plenty of factory extras and hundreds of aftermarket parts to carve this machine into new shapes. Regardless, few can claim that Hinckley Triumph hasn't steadily improved the breed.
▲ 2009 Triumph Bonneville Special; first
Hinckley Bonnie with cast wheels.
Riding the T100 Bonneville
Buying the T100
T100 Bonnie: fakery or homage?
So who are the T100 Bonneville customers?
Alternatives to the Triumph T100
790cc Bonneville quick review
Engine: Air-cooled, 360degree, DOHC twin.
Bore/Stroke: 90 x 68mm
Fuel injection: Multipoint sequential/SAI
Final Drive: X ring chain
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Frame: Tubular steel cradle
Front tyre: 110/70 R17
Rear tyre: 130/80 R17
Front fork: 41mm
Rear shocks: Twin, adjustable preload
Front brake: 1 x 2-piston caliper
Rear brake: 1 x 2-piston caliper
Seat height: 29.1in (740mm)
Wheelbase: 58.6in (1490mm)
Fuel capacity: 3.8 gals imp (16 litres)
Weight: 495 lbs wet (225 kg)
Maximum power: 67bhp @ 7500rpm
Maximum torque: 50 ft.lbs @ 5800rpm
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2001
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2002
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2003
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2004
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2005
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2006
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2007
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2008
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2009
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2010
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2011
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2012
▲ Triumph Bonneville - 2013
Triumph Bonneville T100 links
Carl Rosner Motorcycles
Long established Triumph dealer, Meriden and Hinckley
020 8657 0121
Ex-Triumph Development Engineer and aftermarket spares developer and supplier for Meriden and Hinckley bikes
01926 497 375
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MAKE NO MISTAKE, the Hinckley Bonneville is quite simply a classic in its own lifetime, a bike both worthy of the Triumph badge on the tank and worth every penny of the asking price.
Derided by some for being “soft”, “bland”, “gutless” and staid, the fact is that Hinckley Triumph knew exactly what they were doing when they launched the original 790cc bike back in 2000, and the company got it mostly right first time. That’s why it’s still one of Triumph’s top-selling models, and will likely continue to be so for some years to come.
▲ Above: The original 790cc Triumph Bonneville built back in the days before carburettors gave way to fuel injection. Triumph did a good job overall, but how we wished for just a little more [Quick review]
Built upon a formula dating back to the 1950s, the T100 Bonneville is a classic British sit-up-and-beg, “everyman” arrangement designed to accommodate and satisfy the maximum number of buyers whilst covering the broadest possible spectrum of motorcycle usage.
For everyone within the normal physical range, everything falls neatly to hand. The controls are light and smooth. The overall balance is good. The weight is 30-40 pounds higher than, say, that of a Meriden T140 Bonnie (circa 1980), but feels only slightly heavier. And pillions get a real saddle and (optional) grab rail and not merely an obscene perch and a pair of thumb hooks typical of so many modern velocipedes.
True, the bike may not have pushed the design envelope a single inch. But sneer ye not; the Hinckley Bonnie has made that envelope accessible and attractive to thousands of riders who otherwise might not have looked twice at a Triumph.
On the move, it gets better. The twin DOHC, 8-valve, air/oil-cooled parallel twin engine features a pair of counterbalance shafts fine-tuned to keep in check the vibes that plagued earlier T140 Bonnevilles. The 5-speed gearbox chops the power into easily digestible chunks that allow the bike to swallow endless miles of asphalt.
The brakes are, okay, hardly likely to burst a blood vessel. But they’re well within the stock performance margins and haul the bike up without fuss or drama. If you're looking to upgrade them, your first stop is Norman Hyde who can supply a fully floating front disc that will put a little extra grab at your fingertips whilst increasing feel (talk to Norman also about four pot calipers and a 902cc big bore kit).
"However, with engine-remapping, aftermarket exhausts, the removal of the rev-limiter, big bore kits, plus a huge range of go-faster accessories now available for the Hinck, you can tear up the factory performance figures and pick some more interesting numbers to suit your need for speed. Which means you can have a power band instead of a power-bland."
If Triumph did anything wrong with these bikes, it's the lack of a distinct powerband “grunt” that made the (76mm x 82mm longer stroking) 44bhp T140 such dubious fun when you hit 4250 RPM. By contrast, the (allegedly) 61bhp Hinckley Bonnie gives you a smooth transition from zero right up to the redline topping out at a creditable 114mph – as speed-tested by Classic Bike magazine.
However, with engine-remapping, aftermarket exhausts, the removal of the rev-limiter, big bore kits, plus a huge range of go-faster accessories now available for the Hinck, you can tear up the factory performance figures and pick some more interesting numbers to suit your need for speed. Which means you can have a power band instead of a power-bland.
Most owners, however, will stick close to standard performance. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not a sports bike. It’s an all-purpose machine capable of returning 50-60mpg even when ridden hard. Country lanes and urban thoroughfares suit it perfectly (albeit with a tendency to wallow in the comfort zone on fast, bumpy bends). But you can equally tackle modern motorway mayhem and hang in there for as long as your arms can stomach the windblast—which, at 80mph, won’t be for more than a couple of hours or so (and less than that even if you’re honest with yourself).
But at more realistic speeds, the Hinckley Bonnie doesn’t bend you out of shape the way many of its up-tempo contemporaries will. And if your years are advancing a little faster than you’re comfortable with, this bike, in stock trim, will help keep that zimmer frame at bay for a few more precious seasons.
▲ Triumph Bonneville Thruxton; more bling than zing, but still a good fast-ish tourer. Take a look at the 2014 Thruxton Bonneville
It’s affordable too. The market is awash with Hinckley Triumph Bonnevilles, many of them having covered absurdly low mileages as satisfied owners move up and up and up, anxious to stay on the top line and enjoy the latest upgrades.
Spares and accessories are in abundance. And there are plenty of buyers ready to pick up where you leave off if it doesn’t suit. We’ve found bikes with mileages as high as 80,000 and beyond and still going strong.
In short, it’s a success story. And sadly there aren’t a lot of those anymore boasting a Made in Britain label.
In 2004, the Thruxton Bonnie appeared with a 10.2:1 compression ratio, hotter cams, bigger carbs and a lot to live up to. The original Thruxton Bonnies of the 1960s were, after all, 120mph trackstars capable of seeing off all but the most determined challengers. But if the Hinckley Thruxton has the looks (which it doesn't, really), it also has nowhere near the heart of its illustrious predecessor. Not that it isn't a decent enough bike with a little extra pep and poke, but it's more bling than zing and, as nice as it is, it's hardly worthy of the Thruxton epithet.
Still, you can't entirely blame Hinckley for that. Give the Triumph factory enough rope and these Bonnies would be seriously cooking. But modern environmentalists are keeping the whole planet on a short leash of noise restrictions and exhaust emission, and no modern motorcycle manufacturer can do just what it wants simply because it wants to.
It's a cruel world, brother
▲ Above: Bonneville SE for 2008. First of the series with cast wheels
In 2005 the T100 Bonnie was launched; essentially the same dish on a slightly different plate. The following year saw the launch of the 865cc engine. The extra capacity wasn't enough, but it was definitely better. By 2009, fuel injection had arrived. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the bikes because Hinckley, in its wisdom, stuck the injectors inside dummy carburettor bodies.
On the upside, you get to keep the cool-carb-cred (whatever that is). On the downside, you get a little more fakery—which is something of a sore spot with many riders in view of the fact that the Hinckley Bonnie is pretty much all fake. Call it a homage, or call it a cheesy fromage. Either way, it's a clever impostor of its predecessor complete with a fake front breather pipe masquerading as a pushrod tube, a fake timing cover mimicking the classic heart-shaped covers of another era, a fake gearbox cover covering a gearbox sprocket, and various other technical fig leaves strategically placed to hide the naked fact that this bike is not the real McCoy.
The true spiritual successor to the old Meriden Bonnies should really have been the Speed Triple. But as one Triumph dealer pointed out, you "can't have a three-cylinder Bonnie, can you?"— never mind that we've had a three cylinder Thunderbird (now a twin) and a three cylinder Daytona.
It was, incidentally, the same dealer who suggested that the "new Bonnie is so refined that your grandmother could ride it". Which, sadly, just about sums it up. What used to be an edgy tourer back in 1959 is now, apparently, just one step away from a free bus pass and a hip replacement.
▲ Above: Triumph Scrambler for 2014. Click for more details.
So the Hinckley Bonnie is basically rubbish, huh? Hardly. For all the fromage, it's still a great bike and gets better every year. The styling is good. The build quality is good. The ergonomics are good. The rideability is good. The reliability is good. It's all just ... well, good. Grandmother good. And the entry price is always right.
Moreover, there are new variants popping up all the time along with an increasing range of quality aftermarket goodies, which is always the sign of a successful product.
On various occasions we've enjoyed long distance (350 mile, one-day) blasts on these and can't really find much to fault, except perhaps that extra oomph is needed to decisively pass faster-moving modern traffic
Naturally, there's always measurable stretch in our arms from hanging onto the cow-horn bars at 80-plus on motorways, which is where the Thruxton, with its dropped 'bars and rear sets, comes into its own. And there's always lots of wowsing interest from pedestrians and passing traffic instantly impressed by the cut of the Bonneville jib.
Overall, these Triumph's are about as safe as a straightjacket and a padded cell (which is both their strength and weakness), and fuel consumption was impressive at around 52-56mpg—which is exactly the target that Hinckley is aiming at.
The average age of a "new Bonnie" customer is, after all, said to be around fifty. Of course, a modern fifty isn't the same as the worn-out, beaten-up, tuberculosis fifty of yesteryear. But that figure nevertheless tells you more about this bike than any Triumph sales brochure or salesman can.
Plenty of these born-again Bonneville owners already have a stable of bikes in the garage, mostly British, but by no means exclusively. The old British iron, unsurprisingly, are the "Sunday best" rides leaving the T100 to handle the day-to-day chores and generally paying for its keep.
But keep an eye on the future because the T100 is headed the same way as the legendary Triumph Speed Twin or the original Bonnevilles or any of the other "classic" Triumphs. Hard to see it from here, of course. But once you get there, it will all become clear.
▲ Above: Why is the T100 Triumph Bonneville so good? Because this is so good. It's the Kawasaki W800, and it helps keep Triumph working harder and harder. Does competition improve the breed? Seems so.
Would we buy one? Yes. And we're working around to it as soon as we can clear some space in the garage and summon up the courage to take a hammer to the piggy bank. And certainly there's little else in its class to seriously consider, except perhaps the Kawasaki W650/W800 and the Harley Sportster, both of which are competitively priced and have their pros and cons. The Kawasaki, for instance, has more plausible/convincing retro credentials, but the badge on the tank is never gonna make you the leader of the pack. The Harley, meanwhile, has a fantastic aftermarket spares back up and a ready-to-ride image straight out of the box.
And then there's the current range of fuel-injected Royal Enfields, of course. But although Enfield has done a remarkable job in dragging the Bullet into the 21st century, it's not quite in the Bonnie's class. Moreover, the Enfield is in danger of pricing itself out of the market now that it's no longer the cheap and cheerful Indian take away that it used to be.
So it's back to Triumph.
But if it's teenage kicks you're looking for, try the Triumph Speed Triple or Daytona. However, if you're too old to be bold and would rather act your age, you're going to be in good company on the Hinckley Bonnie.
It's a modern classic.