2017 Tri­umph Bon­nie T100

Can the thor­oughly mod­ern 2017 T100 hold its own against the raw au­then­tic­ity of the out­go­ing Bon­nie?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Jon Urry MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

To me, a retro bike is sim­ply one that car­ries a flavour of the old in its ap­pear­ance and, to be bru­tally hon­est, I don’t give a fig what is go­ing on be­hind the façade. ABS, trac­tion con­trol, ride-by-wire… the damn thing could be pow­ered by dilithium crys­tals as long as it sounds and feels the part be­cause styling only gets you so far. The key point of any bike is how it rides.

And that is the un­der­ly­ing philoso- phy with Tri­umph’s new Bon­neville mod­els. The guys from Hinck­ley have de­cided that when ap­plied sym­pa­thet­i­cally, tech­nol­ogy isn’t some­thing to be afraid of, even on a retro bike such as the T100. But is this think­ing cor­rect?

Face- off

Putting the two T100 Bon­nies next to one an­other throws up an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion. Can a retro bike look out­moded? It’s a bit of a con­tra­dic­tion, but the odd thing is that the old bike does ac­tu­ally look dated against the new Bon­neville. Small things such as the way the larger front wheel kicks up the nose, the low seat that sits re­ally flat on the mud­guard and even the tall bars make the air-cooled T100 ap­pear, well, old. And not in a good way when com­pared to the lat­est in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Bon­neville.

Side by side you can’t help but ad­mit the new T100 just looks more con­tem­po­rary and cleaner in its styling than the pre­vi­ous bike. To me, and here is where it gets re­ally con­fus­ing, it ac­tu­ally ap­pears far closer to the orig­i­nal 1960s Bon­neville mod­els than the other bike. So the newer bike ap­pears more con­tem­po­rary thanks to the fact it looks like an even older ma­chine! I told you this was go­ing to be con­fus­ing.

But it’s more than just the styling that sep­a­rates these bikes; it is the at­ten­tion to de­tail. When you look closely at the air-cooled bike it is a bit rough around the edges. The fake carbs are ugly and have a choke lever, the en­gine’s fin­ish isn’t great and there are nu­mer­ous small de­tails that let it down. The new bike, how­ever, is hard to pick fault with as it is beau­ti­fully styled and fin­ished. The coach lin­ing on the tank is stun­ning, the seat is stitched to per­fec­tion with

white high­lights, the chrome is deep and I love the small de­tails such as the Tri­umph brand­ing stamped into var­i­ous com­po­nents such as the retro plug caps and mud­guard sup­port.

Mod­ern mo­tor­ing

A key part of the old Bon­neville’s charm is its re­laxed at­ti­tude, which could so eas­ily have been lost in the tran­si­tion from air to wa­ter-cool­ing. Yet, and I had to dou­ble check this, the new Bon­nie is ac­tu­ally less pow­er­ful than the old one. Isn’t progress meant to see power fig­ures in­crease? Not in the retro mo­tor­cy­cle world it seems.

To be fair, while peak power has dropped, a larger-ca­pac­ity mo­tor has seen the new Bon­nie gain torque through­out its rev range and that means, back-to-back, the two en­gines feel very sim­i­lar. The move from a 360-de­gree crank to a 270-de­gree item gives the new Bon­nie a no­tice­ably smoother mo­tor, and the ride-by-wire throt­tle is far more re­fined and less abrupt at dis­pens­ing the power, but over­all both en­gines per­form sim­i­larly. The air-cooled twin has more of a thump­ing power de­liv­ery with less re­fine­ment and a heav­ier clutch ac­tion, but it’s not that far be­hind in terms of out­right per­for­mance. The new en­gine has that pleas­ing par­al­leltwin grum­ble, which although muted is still ap­par­ent, and punches harder low down while los­ing out slightly at the top end. So, over­all, much of a much­ness. The key thing is the new (Euro4-spec) wa­ter-cooled mo­tor still de­liv­ers that feel­ing and vi­bra­tion that Bon­neville own­ers ex­pect, it just does it with more re­fine­ment and that makes it a bit nicer to ride and more fru­gal.

Turn­ing the clock for­ward

When it comes to rid­ing po­si­tion and han­dling these two Bon­nies might as well be from dif­fer­ent eras. Com­pared to the new bike, the rid­ing po­si­tion on the old Bon­nie feels hor­ri­ble with tall bars and high pegs. Tri­umph have given the wa­ter-cooled bike the same er­gonomics as the T120 and, with its low pegs and flat bars, it’s ex­tremely com­fort­able.

Bon­nevilles have never had much in the way of ground clear­ance, but the new T100 is even more lim­ited. This is a prob­lem Tri­umph have brought on them­selves as not only are the pegs lower, the chas­sis is also con­sid­er­ably bet­ter han­dling and the sus­pen­sion plusher, al­low­ing the bike to cor­ner

far faster than the old. On the pre­vi­ous bike the 19in front wheel gives a vague feel­ing in cor­ners while the new Bon­nie’s 18in front is se­cure and far more con­fi­dence in­spir­ing. At last you can en­joy bends on a Bon­nie at a rea­son­able pace, and even stop safely should you re­quire.

One of my bug­bears about the old Bon­nie model has al­ways been its brakes. The sin­gle twin-pis­ton front caliper has a dead feel­ing as well as a lack of power. In the dry this is OK, but in the wet it’s not great plan. While the brake set-up on the new Bon­nie is the same and does lack bite, the ad­di­tion of ABS means you don’t have to be so cau­tious when it comes to pulling on the lever. Speak­ing of tech­nol­ogy, does the Bon­nie re­ally need trac­tion con­trol? Not in my book, but I sup­pose it is nice to know it is there and if you can’t see it, what harm is it do­ing? Like I said, sub­tle tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are never a bad ad­di­tion, even on a retro.

■ Find about Tri­umph’s new Ap­provedUsed scheme on page 49.

19in front wheel makes the older bike look oddly dated Sharp new han­dling high­lights the lack of ground clear­ance Old retro meets new retro… the new bike (left) is far more classy

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