The legend of the Triumph Bonneville harks back to the late 1950’s, where the motorcycles were not only functional, but were also able to achieve blisteringly fast top speeds. The bike has earned its name from the brand’s land speed record attempts on the fabled Bonneville salt flats in Utah, USA. Over the years, Triumph has continued the Bonneville legacy by infusing it with modern elements, in a bid to make it relevant and even more engaging to ride. The 2016 iteration of the Bonneville T100 has undergone a sea of changes, but does it manage to win over the hearts of classic motorcycle enthusiasts? Let’s find out!
Design and Features: ‘Elegant’ is the word that best defines this motorcycle. Compared to cars, motorcycle manufacturers have more liberty in developing a classic-looking product because unlike car designing, they don’t have to worry about pedestrian safety and crash dynamics. Triumph has made a beautiful blend of powerful, modern motorcycle with retro design. The silhouette looks simple, perhaps may even pass off as a modified ‘Bullet’ to the layman (happened with me and it is frustrating indeed) but trust me, there’s more than what meets the eye. The motorcycle is packed with minute attention to detail, oozing class and quality.
The round halogen headlamp is adorned with a twin pod cluster with brushed metal finish at the top, which doesn’t just sit there to look pretty - it is exceptionally feature-packed! The cluster has an analogue speedometer and tachometer. There are two digital insets- one in each pod which have the odometer, dual tripmeters, current economy and average economy (in litres per 100 km), time, gear position indicator, traction control status display, fuel gauge and range to empty reading. Other tell-tale lights like the indicator lights, ABS light, low-fuel light, security light, engine coolant light, high-beam light are all incorporated in the analogue display - now that’s a lot of useful features on an entry-level big bike!
The gaitered 41mm black KYB forks at the front and hydraulic KYB shocks at the rear hold the spoked wheels that are shod with Pirellis. The large 14.5-litre fuel tank has an offset fuel cap, which discreetly houses a key slot while maintaining the look of a simple lid. The one we got came in a beautiful dual-tone paint job on the tank called ‘New England White’ with ‘Intense Orange.’ The paint job with the combination of chromed-out, 3D Triumph badge and black tank knee pads on the sides of the tank complete the retro look while offering practicality at the same time. The long bench seat ends with an LED tail-light mounted on the rear fender. It is a tad too high, revealing the unattractive gap between the tire and the fender. I wish the fender could've been designed to be more flush with the wheel and give it a more cohesive look. The minimalist saree guard is cleverly designed. It not only covers the wheel, but also doubles up as a grab rail for the pillion.
Coming to the heart of the motorcycle, the engine is a liquid cooled unit which is designed to look like an air-cooled one; complete with fins to maintain the vintage feel. Triumph has taken a lot of effort to preserve the timeless charm of this bike. Even the radiator neatly nests on the chassis down-tubes, without sticking out like a sore thumb. Sadly, the carburetor-shaped throttle bodies are covered in the 2016 model, but are done well with a perforated brushed metal finish. In fact, a lot of shiny parts of this motorcycle are all finished in brushed metal and they look really premium. Another great design element is the Triumph logo ensconced within a golden ring on the crankcase. These little design elements reinforce the fact that it may be an inexpensive, smaller-engined Bonneville compared to the T120, but never a cheap one! The simple looks may not appeal to everyone, but wait till you swing your leg over this motorcycle.
The Ride: The engine that does its duty on this classic motorcycle is a modern liquid-cooled, parallel-twin 'High Torque' unit, which churns out 55 PS of power at 5,900 rpm and a whopping 80 newton meters of twist at just 3,230 rpm. No matter what speeds you do or which gear you’re in, the generous torque makes this bike surge ahead with aplomb. The powerband thins out only once you cross 4,500 rpm, but there’s plenty of grunt available till then.
The engine is mated to a five-speed transmission with well-spaced ratios that’s tractable enough for congested city riding and also laidback highway touring. The torque-assist, adjustable clutch is light and lovely to use as it sifts through the precise gears with grace. The fifth gear pulls right from 55 kph with the tacho hovering at 2,000 rpm. The T100 is virtually silent at 100 kph with the engine humming away at 3,200rpm - that’s where the maximum torque is produced, resulting in effortless cruising. The T100 is most comfortable at speeds oscillating between 100 and 120 kph. The vibrations are minimal as long as you keep the bike under 4,500 rpm. Once you cross 130 kph, vibrations creep up on the footpegs and handlebars. It is bearable, but annoying when sustaining those speeds. I was able to reach around 160 kph but the wind blast is enormous. Triumph’s optional windscreen should effectively alleviate the issue.
The best thing about this engine is that the thermal management is kept very well under control. I rode the bike through busy streets of Central Delhi and deliberately kept the engine running at long traffic stops. The radiator fan switches on automatically once it gets a bit too hot to handle and flushes the heat out really well. Worst case scenario - your calves warm up a bit and if you place your feet on the ground you wouldn’t feel even that! So all in all, the T100 is a perfect big bike for commuting as well as touring.
The icing on the cake is, it is commendably efficient as well. The T100 returned 22 kpl in city and 23.8 kpl on the highway doing around 120 kph. I’m sure if you keep it at or under 100 kph, the mileage will even cross the 25kpl mark. Speaking of the exhaust note, the stock pea-shooters are very silent. It lets out a whine at slow speeds and the characteristic ‘British Twin’ exhaust note is very subtle as the revs rise. This exhaust is perfect for people who are looking for a refined aural note. I’m sure the optional Vance and Hines units would sound sportier.
Handling: The Bonneville T100’s KYB suspension is set up on the softer side, which is perfect for Indian roads. The ride is wobbly at high speeds but hey, the Bonneville is never meant to be a corner carver! It does the job its supposed to do without complaints and with 120mm of travel on both ends, it glides over bumps and potholes with a surprisingly steadfast poise even at higher speeds.
The Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tyres do a decent job of keeping the rubber side down and the handling is further enhanced by the ABS and switchable traction control. The T100 is equipped with a front 310mm disc and a rear 255mm disc, both with Nissin twin piston floating calipers. The braking is progressive, but the rear lacks feel and feedback. The bike swiftly comes to a halt by the combination of 70% front and 30% rear brake.
The long, flat seat has enough cushioning to keep both the rider and the pillion comfortable, although the optional ribbed seat would provide more traction for the bum during those enthusiastic runs.
Verdict: The Bonneville T100 is an ideal motorcycle for the enthusiast who is graduating to big bikes as it offers a fine balance between practicality and classy riding experience. It is worth the premium over the Street Twin because the T100 comes with a bigger fuel tank capacity, feature-packed twin-pod cluster, longer wheelbase and a slightly relaxed rake angle which makes the bike more highway-worthy without compromising intra-city usability. Triumph has made a Modern Classic that truly lives up to its name. At INR 7.78 lakhs, ex-showroom (Delhi), you get a very well-rounded package. Classic looks? Check. Modern engine? Check. Nimble handling? Check. Controllable engine heat? Check. High-speed manners? Check. Efficiency? Check. Safety features? Check. What else do you want?
The optional windscreen would help reduce the rider fatigue considerably while riding on the highway:
Love how the Triumph logo is embossed on the front fender support:
The adjustable brake and clutch levers are light enough to be used with only two fingers:
The throttle response is linear, but on-off throttle transitions could've been smoother:
Horn is a bit feeble for Indian traffic. The 'i' button is used to toggle through various features in the digital display. Overall button quality is pretty solid.
Even the footpegs exude quality:
The brushed metal injector cover:
The 2A USB port is located under the seat, just above the battery. One will have to buy a USB extension cable and mount the other end on the handlebar for convenient charging. Triumph also offers optional handlebar-mounted port and mobile phone holder.
That's the underseat saddlebag clip mount present on either sides of the seat. Ideal for soft panniers. How thoughtful!
The indicators are bulb-type, but optional LED indicators can be availed from Triumph: