With the engine such a key component of the born-again Bonnie in styling as well as mechanical terms, the chassis team had to plan far ahead since, for the first time on any Triumph, the Bonneville's steel swingarm pivots in the engine crankcases as well as through steel chassis forgings in the interests of rigidity. The T120 was swiftly rejected as a design benchmark (apparently it was quite alarming how unstable test riders could persuade it to get at high speeds), while other candidates like the 90-mph 883 Sportster simply weren't fast enough. Triumph had a 115-mph target for the born-again Bonnie, which they say the new bike amply fulfills in production guise, and has been proved in testing to be stable in turns at that speed, even with a passenger. The engine is solidly mounted in the frame at five spots, with counterbalancers removing the need for rubber mounts. In fact, Triumph engineers have dialed some vibration back in by altering the bar weights to restore a little "character." The cylinder head is braced to the headstock to add extra stiffness, and twin front downtubes-compared with the old T120's single chassis downtube-pick up the engine at the front.
In keeping with the marriage of opposite design goals, twin Kayaba rear shocks adjustable only for preload are fitted in a semi-laydown position that Triumph says represents a compromise between the retro-upright look of the T120 and its ilk, and the modern slanted position of a twin-shocker like the CB500 Honda. These are matched to a non-adjustable 41mm telescopic Kayaba fork, set at a kicked-out 29-degree head angle, with 117mm of trail. Connecting them is a spine frame redolent of the early range of bikes from the Hinckley era.
"Stability was key, as well as the retro look, and the company has a good reputation for building solid-handling bikes," says Clifford. "We wanted our new-generation owners to experience the satisfaction of light steering with secure handling, hence the spine frame." This employs a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear-the bigger front primarily to get the look right with modern lower-aspect 19-inch front tires, Triumph says. Bridgestone tires are fitted, the front a 100/90R19 and the rear a 130/80R17. The long, 58.8-inch (1493mm) wheelbase and relatively low 30.5-inch seat height-an inch lower than the original T120-emphasize the lean appearance of a 452-pound motorcycle on which shorter riders (and women) should feel at home, and which will be offered only with a sidestand (though with an optional centerstand), and with a flat handlebar fitted as standard. Unlike the old days there'll be no high-rise option for North American customers. A single front and rear disc, each gripped by two-piston Nissin calipers, are fitted; Triumph says it decided not to fit a second front disc for both styling and cost reasons. Equally, a rear drum was never an option: "We benchmarked the smaller W650 Kawasaki in terms of stopping power, which we've achieved, and for our target rider the rear brake is important," says Clifford. "That's another reason why there's no provision for a kickstart-our projected customer base looks for convenience over period quirkiness. This is a modern motorcycle in period dress, with all the attributes which this entails."
That it is. And after waiting patiently for a decade while John Bloor and his men brought Triumph back from the dead and secured the company's future, traditional enthusiasts now have the long-awaited opportunity to welcome back one of motorcycle history's best-loved models, in vastly improved guise-all for a projected sum of about $7000 in the USA, where 30-40 percent of the total production of 4000-5000 is likely to be headed.-Alan Cathcart
Riding The Bonneville
A Preproduction Bike, But A Functional Success All The Same
The first thing you notice when you hop aboard the new Bonneville is its excellent riding position. The old clich about "controls falling readily to hand" was never more true; the handlebar's shape and positioning offers comfort and control all at once. The entire cockpit, in fact, feels right. The same goes for the drone coming from the twin exhausts once you've thumbed the starter; Triumph has recaptured The Sound just as it was, but not the vibes that came with it. The Bonnie tingles just enough through the bars and pegs to remind you what it is you're aboard, but doesn't become tiring to ride even during longer stints, before you stop for coffee and reflect how much fun you're having.
The Bonneville's easy pickup off the mark and crisp throttle response belie the fact it only has carbs fitted, not fuel-injection. The easy power delivery and flat torque curve make this a relaxing ride that can also be invigorating if you want to push things a bit harder. You get spirited acceleration from low rpm, with a fat midrange that will have most owners shifting at around 5000- 6000 rpm. The gearbox shifts impeccably, and the closed-up bottom four gears with a gap to fifth complement the way you'll want to ride the Bonnie. Clutch action is light and progressive, which keeps one's hand from cramping while riding around town.