Triumph Bonneville – a conversation


urbansix (me): I am not sure why, but I suddenly have my eye on a Triumph Bonneville. Has anyone here owned one? What can you tell me about them? Any known shortcomings or flaws? Chronic issues? How does it handle, considering the throwback frame and suspension configuration? Is it (or Triumph/British/non-Japanese bikes in general) less bulletproof than the V-Strom?

I know it’s a completely different animal than the Wee Strom. Practically, I would want to outfit & farkle it for the same purpose as my Wee currently – allweather sub/urban commuting and light touring. I just like the character of the bike. I was imagining it would be a pretty nice looking bike with hard side cases. Then I found this thread over at ADV to further whet my drool button and prove that I wasn’t the only one thinking this way. Currently trying to locate on I can ride, to feel it out.


LeeStrom: I had the same bug recently and rode one at a local dealership. Nice ride but definitely not for me. IMHO, it is too small feeling and underpowered — it’d be fun putting around town but not out on the highway for too long.

I had a ’99 Speed Triple and still regret selling it. Each ride left me grinning like an idiot. I think Triumph’s quality and reliability are fine and I can definitely see myself on one of their triples again in the future.


urbansix: I too am always baffled how they manage to squeeze less power out of a larger engine. Is it simply de-tuned in the name of “retro feel” & character, or is there some engineering reason that a 850cc twin couldn’t kick a little more ass. Or is it mainly the weight?


Stromtech: Flirted with one before I married my Wee and then I took the Bonny for a test ride. I had wanted one since I was a teen but after the test ride I realized that it had just been a teenage crush…as pointed out by Leestrom, too small for me and not nearly as much fun or useful as a Wee. Funny how some of those old high school flames don’t work out so well later in life. I’m glad I didn’t get married back then either.


K1W1: Triumph could put way more power into the bike if they wanted to but that’s not the design intention. It’s a retro style bike for weekend fun riding or even commuting and for that use it has more than adequate power.

There are no major short comings or flaws or reliability issues and fit and finish levels are something Suzuki can only dream about.

If you are concerned about the power side of things then it’s not the bike for you as you probably don’t fit the buyer profile..


Snab: Triumphs are a bit overpriced for what they are, but they’re lovely bikes to ride. No real mechanical/reliability issues to worry about but remember: they’re made in Thailand these days, so its not really a “British Bike”.

You ultimately pay a “cool retro tax” because strictly speaking, it’s a lot of money for not much bike, but your money buys you a lot of the ‘cool factor’, oodles of charm, and a lot of people going ‘Hey man nice resto job’.

I actually think the Moto Guzzi V7 classic or the Kawasaki W800 are much better bikes. Both have less power (not really important in this segment), but they both have torque like a Peterbilt, and are absolute gems to ride.

I too am always baffled how they manage to squeeze less power out of a larger engine. Is it simply de-tuned in the name of “retro feel” & character, or is there some engineering reason that a 850cc twin couldn’t kick a little more ass. Or is it mainly the weight?

They’re basically understressed engines in a low state of tune. They’re tuned to have a lot of torque low down, and relatively low redlines, to ‘feel’ like an old bike.

As power is basically torque x RPM, having your maximum torque at low RPM’s, and a relatively low redline, means that the engine doesnt spin fast enough to generate much power. Its for the same reason you’ll see a truck with 500 horsepower pull 30 tonnes, but a Lamborghini with 500 horsepower couldnt tow a toothbrush.

Don’t be fooled by the relatively low figures, the amount of torque they produce puts a smile on your dial.


elbrown: I had a 2002 with the smaller engine and I found it to a most enjoyable ride. I toured (NC to Nova Scotia, NC to New Orleans), commuted, rode with sport bikes and, with the exception of the brakes (squeezing a twinkie) the thing was fine (well, chasing sport bikes was a bit of work). It was as good on dirt roads as the wee but of course, to quote MS, the Romans paved the roads for a reason. I found the wee (2005, sold with 32,000 miles, no problems)and the bonnie to be similar bikes: comfortable, user friendly, built to a price point regarding suspension and brakes. The bonnie had a much better finish than the wee and drew more favorable reponses from folks. I traded it at 25,000 miles (absolutely no problems) for a Buell white lightening. I was drunk at the time. The Buell was not as adept at keeping the oil and electricity contained as was the Bonnie. Now that the new model is a year or so old and lightly used examples are available, I’d buy another.


urbansix: ‘Coming from a Vulcan…’ A review on the Bonnie that I found was definitely coming from the midsize cruiser perspective, as they talked about it having plenty of power, and impressive handling. A peek at stats for a HD Sportster 883 makes the Bonnie’s numbers even more impressive (esp. the price!!). Which I find laughable considering the badass image that goes with it. Cruisers are all about the low end tourque. I had a Suz Intruder 800-derived VX-800 ‘standard’ my 1st bike, with grin-inducing mid-range at relatively low RPM’s. Going to the SV and Strom it took some getting used to being in the upper rev ranges.

Riding one tomorrow.


eladoppel: As the other posters have mentioned, both are good bikes. I have a 2008 DL650ABS and a 2009 T100 Bonneville. Personally, I find the Triumph to be a nice around-town ride. It has adequate power (not overwhelming by any means) is very nimble and easy to handle. It isn’t a sport bike and doesn’t pretend to be. I take the Wee if going over 100 miles as I find it to be more comfortable on a longer ride. One key difference (at least for me) is the reactions of other people, especially non-riders. Last summer my cousin and her four kids all came to my house and wanted rides. None of them had ever been on any motorcycle before. They all ignored by Wee, and my HD Road King w/sidecar and said they wanted a ride on the Bonneville because it looked “cool,” and it does.


urbansix: Hey I just got back from test riding one. And…. Let’s pretend like none of this ever happened. Thankfully my wife never has to know…

Seriously though, I’m with LeeStrom on this. That thing feels tiny after being used to the bulky-for-a-650 Strom. It reminded me of a late-80’s Virago or Route 66, viewed from the seat – the skinny tank and the shape of the bars. While it sounds fantastic, there is no real surge when you crank the throttle at roll-on speeds. I used to be disappointed in the Wee’s roll-on performance after months on an SV-650, but am much happier with it after feeling this for comparison.

The Bonnie’s steering felt very strange – a geometry thing or a center of gravity thing? It seemed to resist leaning in to the turns – almost had a “hump” in the steering feel, that you had to push through to get it to lean, then it would snap upright when you let off. Quite the opposite of the Strom. But if you hang your body off the bike and lean in to the turns (leaving the bike more upright) it feels extremely stable, and a blast. At slow speed parking lot turns, there’s that hump again, and it feels like you are pulling against the wheel going full-lock.

Felt like a toy after the Wee. And the owner said it would run away from a Sportster on the open road. I never knew that about Sportsters.

Like some of you said – fun bike but not nearly enough bike for my needs. Maybe I will paint my Strom, then.


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