I had diligently researched my next bike and had watched patiently for the last couple years for just the right deal to come along. My next bike would be a Triumph Bonneville, preferably an SE or a T100, with a strong lean towards the T100, with its old school looks.
The Bonnie has standard ergonomics, something not often seen these days. Most bikes are either cruisers with feet forward and seat low, or sportbikes with feet almost behind and an over-the-tank posture. There are some sport tourers with mid pegs, but they still have the plastic fairing look of sportbikes, which is not my cup of tea. My old CB350's standard arrangement has suited me well, and seemed to be the one position I can ride in for extended periods without a backache. So, after looking at the few other “standard” offerings, like the H-D Sportster and the Honda Shadow R-S, the power to weight ratio and whole package of the Bonnie just spoke to me.
I go on about riding what you have and making do and just getting out there, instead of waiting until the planets align, the bike is the perfect mount, and your gear is all top notch, but I also know an opportunity and an exceptional deal when I see it. So last month, I found a 2011 T100 with so few miles it could be called “new”, a warranty still in effect until spring of next year, and an added bonus of the expensive two-into-one Arrow exhaust. At thousands less than new and with an unexpected financial windfall having come my way, I was able to purchase the bike with almost two-thirds down resulting in a tiny monthly payment.
I have ridden this bike a few hundred miles now and have gotten the feel for the weight and the controls. Here are some of my impressions. Maybe it will be helpful if someone is on the fence about buying one of these bikes.
The ergonomics of the T100 are almost exactly the same as the CB350. The only differences I feel is that when underway I feel slightly higher than on the CB, even though I can flat foot this bike as easily as the Honda at a stop. The only other difference is it feels like the reach to the bars is very slightly longer. When I got home from picking the bike up (a hundred mile ride home on the Triumph) I immediately loosened and rotated the bars slightly back to lessen the reach. Feet are directly below my butt and my back is almost straight when riding. Seat height is about 31 inches, same as the CB.
The Riders View from the Saddle
The bike weighs in at about 450 pounds and produces 68 hp stock, while the CB350 weighs about 350 pounds and produces 36 hp. With the bike completely warmed up the titanium Arrow muffler is barely warm to the touch—no more burning the arm of my jacket if I lay it carelessly across the saddle when the motor is hot (as I recently did on the Savage, when I stopped on the roadside to put on a sweatshirt under my jacket as the night coolness was coming on). The Arrow pipes up the hp substantially; I was told in the neighborhood of 80 hp. I can't confirm or deny that figure, but I can say the bike has plenty of ooomph and will do the ton (100 mph) with plenty of throttle left. You can feel the difference in heft, but the weight is easily manageable. I was used to the difference in just a few miles of riding.
I am not a fan of loud pipes, but I do like a little rumble of authority under me. A friend of mine had test ridden a couple Bonnies with standard exhausts, and his one complaint was the pipes were so quiet you couldn't hear the engine at all when riding at speed. With the Arrow exhaust that complaint was silenced, so to speak, and the T100 has a nice growl without being obnoxious or distracting. The engine thrums along nicely and is just below 4,000 rpm at 65 mph in fifth. At 55 mph the bike has a pleasant low sound at about 3,000 rpm.
Arrow Two-into-One Exhaust
The handling with the stock tires (Metzelers; Lasertec 100/90-19 up front and Z2 130/80-R17 out back) is superb. I had the pleasure of riding back from the dealer on some of the few nice back country curvy roads we have down here in Florida, and the Triumph handled every curve from wide sweepers to tight right angles with aplomb. The bike never feeling squirrely or out of hand even at close to double the speeds I would take those same corners on the CB350; and the Honda was no slouch in the handling category. The T100 has more rake and trail than the base and SE model Bonnies and especially the CB350, which made it less work riding in a straight line and starting out from a stop on the new bike. The brakes matched the quality of the handling and brought the bike to a stop quickly and controllably. I have yet to scrape the pegs on the Bonnie, which was an occasional event on the Honda when pressing her hard.
Triumph claims (optimistically) 43 City/57 Highway mpg. I didn't expect the top of this range, but would have been happy in the middle at about 50 mpg. I was a bit disappointed, however, by the 38 mpg I got on the ride home from the dealer. Apparently the Arrow pipes (with baffles removed, according to the maintenance records) and subsequent remapping, while upping the performance reduced the fuel efficiency substantially. Since that initial ride I have gotten close to 40 mpg, but on my ride back from Daytona Beach Bike Week about a week ago I managed almost 48 mpg. Now that's a figure I can live with. The ride home that afternoon was mostly open country, running though the Ocala National Forest with very few stops and gos, so I surmise from this that how I ride this bike will greatly determine the mpg and range between fillups.
Speaking of fillups; the tank holds 4.2 US gallons. There is no petcock on the tank so there's no “reserve” option switch, but the reserve light comes on when about 9/10 of a gallon is left in the tank, giving one plenty of time to find a fuel station. On my Bike Week return trip the trip odometer got to 131 miles before the light came on. I have had great luck with Starbright's Startron fuel additive in the CB, upping my mpg by close to ten miles per gallon, so next up I will treat the Bonnie's fuel with Startron and see how that goes, now that I've checked the Triumph's warranty and found it does not forbid the use of the additive. With any luck, and careful conservative riding, I might be able to get to over 150 miles on the trip odometer, with conservatively another 45 miles worth of fuel left in the tank, giving me a nice range for those long road trips. Another option I have for testing what will give me the best mpg is using non-ethanol gas. I'll report back here what I find once the test is conclusive.
One of the biggest complaints about the Bonnie I have read (and there are few others) is the saddle. Most find it extremely uncomfortable after just a hundred or so miles. I've now ridden mine a couple hundred in one day on the stock saddle and can understand what they are saying. However, I am used to the saddle on the CB350 which is clad so thinly over the metal pan that it is almost a mockery to call it a saddle; platform may be more accurate. Compared to the CB the saddle on the Triumph is a dream. One thing they did wrong is put piping along the top seam of the saddle where it turns to form the sides; it doesn't take long for that piping to start biting into the inside of your thighs. I will eventually replace the saddle, probably with a Corbin, the only aftermarket seat I have found for the Bonnie.
You've probably guessed by now, if you've read my other entries, that I love long road trips, so the Bonnie will soon be converted into a touring bike. Of course, the Corbin saddle should help a lot, but I will ride stock until I have another windfall before dropping the cash for the Corbin. The saddle area is much longer on the Bonnie, too, which will be nice for loading up my tent and sleeping bag behind me on road trips, where they usually interfere with my riding position on the CB, forcing me to the very front of the saddle and not giving me much wiggle room to change position as needed as soreness sets in. The Cortech sport saddlebags I recently bought for the CB fit on the Bonnie perfectly and the windscreen swaps over, too.
The one thing this bike is missing is a hard tail rack, but the sale of the Savage (sold almost before I could post it) paid for a Triumph rack and left enough to make a couple payments. I was sad to see the Virgin Whore go, but realistically it was too small for my body and not very comfortable for extended rides. The new owner is short and the Savage fits her perfectly. The new rack was back ordered until last Wednesday, so it should be showing up any day here for me to install. This will give me a platform for either the First Gear Silverstone II tailbag I use on the Honda or the Keryakin tailbag I had used on the Savage, which I kept when I sold the bike. The First Gear Onyx tank bag also can make the swap from CB to Triumph. Being able to use all this gear on either bike saves me a lot of money outfitting the Bonnie for the road. The only other piece I may buy is a handlebar bag to store small stuff like spare light bulbs, sunglasses, etc. On the Honda a handlebar bag would not work in conjunction with the tankbag, but the Bonnie's tank is big enough that the two will not interfere with each other. On the 350 I use a fork bag for this kind of stuff, but the Bonnie's oil cooler is directly behind the fork and I don't want to reduce air flow over it by sticking a bag there.
This bike did not come with a centrestand, one thing I would like to add. Looking online at the Triumph site (http://www.triumph.co.uk) and using the "Build Your Triumph" app I noticed that if you order the bike with the Arrow exhaust you cannot add a centrestand. I may order one after a while and see what is required to modify it to fit. A centrestand is a great help when it comes time to tighten the chain, pull the wheels for new tires, and a bunch of other maintenance tasks, and I have gotten use to that convenience on the CB350.
Overall, I am very pleased with the T100 and look forward to racking up plenty of miles on her. The only problem now is I have to fight the tendency to spell everything using their British spellings.
"Ride Your Own Ride"