2001-2008 Triumph Bonneville

Smart Money

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Triumph

It was the one motorcycle John Bloor's resurrected Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. had to build, though they waited until 2001. Resemblances to the storied late-'60s Meriden Bonneville are purely intentional, if less than 100 percent faithful. The Hinckley version had to be reliable first and pledge allegiance to the past maybe third or fourth. It's bigger, and, at 499 pounds wet, almost 100 lbs. heavier than its forefathers. Starting with the DOHC eight-valve vertical-twin, every deviation from Edward Turner's original recipe helps deliver a better balance of nostalgia and practicality. Pistons rise and fall together in 86 x 68mm cylinders, spinning a 360-degree crankshaft with four main bearings. Dual balance shafts in the horizontally split crankcase allow solid engine mounts. Subtracting a cog from an existing six-speed gearbox and flipping the result put the clutch on the left, and the final-drive chain-along with the signature triangular engine cover-on the right.

The result scores more points for congeniality and good looks than sheer aggression. A healthy 790cc version sends about 58 horses to the rear wheel, delivering convincing thrust from 5000 to 7000 rpm. The 865cc twins in '07 and later Bonne-villes tack on 2 horsepower and another 6 lb.-ft. of torque. Shifting is excellent, though abundant midrange means you needn't do much of it. Given enough real estate, top cog is good from 30 to 110 mph if you can tuck in tight enough.

Mannerly handling favors predictability over quickness, and the soft suspension behaves well enough for a casual backroad scrape. Blatantly cheap shocks and a lackluster solid-mount front disc begin to encourage moderation about the time the footpegs grind. Actual shocks and a Norman Hyde brake kit will cure most of that. A new rear hub stopped spokes from breaking on later models, but check early ones carefully. Other initial bugs-clutch chatter and oil infiltrating the airbox-should have been exterminated under warranty, and the factory was pretty much sorted by '04.

Production moved from the UK to Thailand in '06, but build quality doesn't seem to have suffered. Stock mufflers still make the bike sound like a 500-lb. blender. Aside from lean jetting that makes for long morning warm-ups, the standard CV carbs are quite good. Expect a bit of a buzz through the bars and pegs above 70 mph, but vibration really isn't a problem.

A Daytona 675 it's not. And it won't pass for a pristine '68 T120R either. But even if you're old enough to remember that Gary Nixon had nothing to do with Watergate, it's easy to love a Hinckley Bonneville for being everything that pristine '68 Bonne-ville isn't: oil-tight, dead reliable, readily available and, all things considered, a resounding British bang for your hard-won '09 buck.

Cheers
An oil-tight, reliable sequel to Britain's legendary twin.

Jeers
Underwhelming thrust, cheap suspension, limp front brake.

Watch For
Loose/broken spokes, warped rotors, spongy brakes, bubbles in chrome.

Verdict
The quintessential British twin for those who'd rather ride than polish.

VALUE
2001 $4130
2005 $5380
2008 $6535

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