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Motoring Review - Triumph Bonneville

PUBLISHED: 11:35 11 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:04 20 February 2013

Triumph Bonneville

Triumph Bonneville

Andrew Eyley takes the iconic Triumph Bonneville for a spin around Ladybower Reservoir.

Fish and chips fried in dripping and served on a bed of last week's Times. Pints of foaming ale poured from the jug by an attractive blonde with an eager-to-please smile. A small leather ball finding the extremities of the village green, seconds after contact with the batsman's expertly placed willow. Call me patriotic, but the distinctive roar from the Bonneville's twin megaphone exhausts has just been added to a list of things that make me proud to be British.

It's barely 9am, but I'm filtering through Chesterfield's busy commuter traffic, taking extra notice of several school run 4x4s which seem to be dodging from lane to lane. Collecting the keys to any new bike is always a pleasure, but one with such a heritage made it even more special. I had the day to myself, my camera, and the latest edition Triumph Bonneville. Within minutes I'm riding over the moors, dropping down into Hathersage, then turning right towards Ladybower. I'm constantly surprised at the ease with which the bike changes direction, stops and accelerates. It's relatively low 751mm seat height inspires confidence in even the tightest of feet-up U turns, enabling the best bends to be revisited time and time again. It is perfectly balanced.

After waiting for shafts of light to brighten the scene above Bamford's Derwent Dam, and being disappointed for over an hour, I hit the starter button and headed onto a misty A57 Snake Pass. The first series of tighter bends demand little effort, with the twin rear shock suspension coping well with uneven surfaces and the lightest twist of the throttle giving instant power out of each corner. But it's near the summit, when the tarmac smooths out and a long series of sweeping bends delights even the novice rider, that the Bonnie brightens up my day.

Flicking the bike from side to side, with the exhaust note and speedo singing and dancing in perfect harmony, I wondered why enthusiasts spend far more than the 5,439 otr asking price of this machine. My only complaint is that its beautiful noise is so muted; presumably down to some Euro noise regulation. On start up, she sounds sweet like a Singer sewing machine, but a blip of the throttle reveals a much wilder side.

The fuel injected, air cooled, 865cc parallel twin cylinder engine makes around 67bhp, but is so wonderfully smooth that there's constant power on tap. Dropping to as little as 35mph in top gear, there's enough torque to pull away without hesitation. The span adjustable clutch is light, and the 5 speed gearbox one of the best I've come across. The single front and rear disc brakes are more than capable of stopping this 200kg bike in its tracks, with the gentlest squeeze of the lever.

A legend was born the day a Triumph broke the motorcycle speed record on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, USA. The first production 'Bonnie' was released to the public in 1958 and was originally synonymous with independence and rebellion. Today's model, however, is one of the most user-friendly, sweet handling motorcycles available. Build quality and finish is superb.

Over the years, naming our bikes has become a bit of a tradition with my motorcycling mates. Gary calls his Kawasaki 'Kylie', Barry's Suzuki is 'Suzi' and Richard's Ducati is 'Daisy'. But one former Isle of Man racer, who lives in Chesterfield, felt so passionately about his beloved 1963 Triumph motorcycle that he named his first born daughter Bonnie.

Styled as a homage to the original T140E Meriden Bonneville of the late 1970s, even down to the polished seven spoke wheels, megaphone exhausts and retro indicator lights, the latest model looks great from any angle. But the briefest of rides confirms that it's a thoroughly modern machine, capable of thrilling even the hardest of riders.

As often happens, I found myself singing loudly into my helmet. I don't know why, but whenever I'm happy on a bike I strike up my favourite tunes, confident in the knowledge that no one else can hear the pitiful sound reverberating behind my visor. Not a bad day at the office!

With afternoon clouds no longer fluffy white reflections in the highly polished tank, and drops of rain falling ever stronger onto my visor, I wound back the throttle with youthful enthusiasm. I wasn't in the mood for another soaking, so headed for home. Trusting warm tyres, even on cool road surfaces, I upped the pace and wasn't disappointed. Glossop, Chapel, Bakewell and Chatsworth Park were visited. Derbyshire's main roads, back lanes, dual carriageways and the M1 motorway all played their part in this road test. 'Bonnie' impressed on each.

Due to a hectic work schedule, and looming deadlines, I'd not spent as much time aboard as I'd have liked. But if smiles per mile are the measure of a great bike, then this latest Bonneville is worthy of its iconic name.

Sipping Earl Grey tea from a china cup, and nibbling on my third cucumber sandwich, I suddenly realised that the days of the great British motorcycle have truly returned.

The history of Triumph motorcycles is well documented, from the halcyon days of the thirties, the rebellious fifties, swinging sixties and on to the troubled seventies - when industrial strife affected production at its Birmingham Meriden factory until it closed in 1983. Fortunately, astute businessman John Bloor bought the brand name and resurrected Triumph motorcycles. A state of the art factory was built in Hinckley and in 2001 an entirely new Bonneville emerged. Last year saw a striking pale blue and orange limited edition 50th anniversary Bonnie roll off the production line.

I admit to having ridden many others in the Triumph range during my time as a motorcycle journalist, and being impressed with them all. If the guys at Hinckley keep producing the quality of motorcycles currently on offer from this marque, then it's a big 'Rule Britannia' from me.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, my current bike was manufactured a few miles down the road and is appropriately called 'Trixie'.


For a test ride contact Paul and the team at Triumphworld, Chesterfield on: 0845 371 1922 / 01246 261261 www.triumphworld.co.uk

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