Say ""Triumph Bonneville"" to almost any motorcycle fan and you’ll get a dreamy smile in response. One of England’s most famous motorcycles, the original Bonneville was introduced in 1959, and despite its many mechanical quirks (every owner learned to be his own mechanic), won lasting devotion. After all, its fans uniformly refer to it as ""Bonnie."" In 2010, Triumph released a 50th anniversary edition of the Bonneville, which had been completely revamped in 2009. The base model is essentially a carryover, but the T100 Anniversary Edition replicates the original machine’s two-tone blue paint scheme, blade-style mudguard, and Triumph’s idiosyncratic 1960 integrated headlamp and instrument housing.
The four Bonneville models on the market for 2010—the base, the SE, and the T100 and T100 Anniversary Edition—share an air-cooled, 865cc parallel twin engine. Triumph updated the motorcycle’s fuel-delivery system in 2009, replacing the carburetor with fuel injection while retaining the retro look of the carburetor by concealing the fuel injectors behind a pierced housing. Suspension for all four models is the same: Kabaya forks in front and dual shocks in the rear, with a steel twin-sided swing arm and an adjustable spring pre-load, also from Kabaya. Hydraulic disc brakes front and back, with two-piston floating calipers, provide stopping power. Standard instrumentation includes a tachometer as well as the odometer and speedometer, along with turn signal and high-beam indicators, which can be hard to see in full daylight. The gas tank on all models holds 4.2 gallons. Triumph does not provide an official estimate of the bike’s fuel economy; one long-term rider figured his SE averaged 45 miles per gallon.
A vast array of chrome accessories are available for the Bonneville, among them a chain guard, grab rail, high or low sissy bars, luggage rack, and side panels (which are also available in colors to match the bike). You can also choose one of three different seats, leather or fabric saddlebags, city bags, or a tank bag to supplement the standard underseat storage. A skid plate, an auxiliary power socket, and an alarm/immobilizer are practical additions, as is the color-matched fly screen if you plan to spend much time on the highway. Each model comes in a specific color; the base is available in black or white; the SE in black or blue and white; the T100 in green and white or black and white; and only the Anniversary Edition comes in the classic two shades of blue.
In keeping with the retro look of the original, the Anniversary Edition’s seat is slightly higher—30.5 inches—than the other models’, which are a low 29.1 inches. That makes it easier to keep both feet on the ground when you need to push the almost 500-pound machine off its stand, but taller riders might find it a little cramped.
Riding the Triumph Bonneville might best be described as an exercise in joyful nostalgia. It draws admirers and compliments with its retro looks; it even sounds like the old bike. Its performance is lively, polished, and fun, taking curvy country highways with aplomb and good acceleration.