TRI­UMPH BONNEVILLE T100......................

Mar­ion Thirsk bought a Hinck­ley Bon­nie to use as a side­car tug, but liked it so much that it stayed a solo and be­came her reg­u­lar ride. How has it coped with 80 miles a day in the Scot­tish cli­mate?

Real Classic - - What Lies Within -

Mar­ion Thirsk bought a Hinck­ley Bon­nie to use as a side­car tug, but liked it so much that it stayed a solo and be­came her reg­u­lar ride. How has it coped with 80 miles a day in the Scot­tish cli­mate?

When John Bloor launched his Tri­umph dy­nasty in 1991 I was de­lighted, hop­ing one day there would be a new Tri­umph to suit me. I’ve never lusted af­ter a sports bike but oc­ca­sion­ally bor­row my hus­band Alan’s nice naked Tri­dent to play on when I want to be a hooli­gan. At 5’6” I find it pretty hefty and slightly too much of an arm stretch for me to use hap­pily on a daily ba­sis. It is, how­ever, ridicu­lously good fun, a com­pletely grin-in­duc­ing mus­cle­bike which of­fers se­ri­ous po­ten­tial to lose my li­cence very, very quickly.

A friend of ours dropped his Tri­dent ev­ery time he stopped on an un­even sur­face or bad cam­ber, so Alan very kindly re­versed the cam on our Tri­dent’s swing­ing arm to lower the rear end. This en­abled me to get my feet flat on the ground but made the cen­tre­stand harder to use.

The even heav­ier Thun­der­bird 900 triple ar­rived with a de­tuned ver­sion of the Tri­dent’s pow­er­plant, whose tall triple en­gine still re­minded me of Kawasaki’s GPZ900. A bit too mod­ern for my taste so I waited to see if Tri­umph would re­lease a lighter, lower Bonneville twin.

The first Hinck­ley Bon­nevilles launched in 2000 but they were 790cc and, as Alan’s Tri­dent was 885cc, I didn’t want any­thing much smaller. A few years later the Speed Triple came out in glo­ri­ously flam­boy­ant and bla­tantly unig­nor­able Nu­clear Red. At least, that’s what Tri­umph called it. For the rest of us, what­ever way you looked at it, it was un­de­ni­ably, scream­ing, in your face… pink.

It was such a ridicu­lous colour that it got me think­ing. A shock­ing pink bike would surely be easy to spot from a dis­tance when I for­got­ten where I’d parked it. No longer would older gents come over all misty eyed say­ing ‘I used to have one just like that….’, plus the colour would surely de­ter po­ten­tial thieves. My height ruled out con­fi­dent low speed ma­noeu­vers on a Speed Triple, but Tri­umph al­ready had the paint so they might be ac­com­mo­dat­ing. I trot­ted off op­ti­misti­cally to our friendly lo­cal Tri­umph deal­er­ship, who im­me­di­ately quashed any no­tion I had of ask­ing Tri­umph very nicely for a pink Bonneville.

By 2010 and with three chil­dren, Alan and I only ever got out on our bikes in­di­vid­u­ally. We re­sorted to a com­bi­na­tion of seven wheels (side­car and car) for ral­lies and hol­i­days. I was in­evitably stuck with the car, while Alan got to play on his Con­stel­la­tion with child/adult side­car at­tached. He proved re­mark­ably re­sis­tant to my re­quests to sim­i­larly bur­den his BSA A65, un­less it meant his Con­nie could fi­nally re­turn to use, as God and Royal En­field ob­vi­ously in­tended, as a solo ma­chine.

I wasn’t hitch­ing any­thing to my Honda CB400/4. Def­i­nitely only to be en­joyed solo, the Haynes man­ual agreed it was not a suit­able side­car tug, although ‘there is al­ways some­one who achieves the im­pos­si­ble’. It wasn’t go­ing to be me. As far as I was con­cerned Alan’s A65 was still the ob­vi­ous choice as an­other chair-puller, but I re­luc­tantly agreed to look at the pos­si­bil­ity of a sec­ond­hand Hinck­ley Tri­umph or a Kawasaki W650 and dou­ble-adult chair.

Search­ing on­line yielded some nice Tri­dent and Tro­phy out­fits. These ei­ther sported sin­gle-seater chairs, which didn’t meet our needs, or pris­tine, dou­ble-chaired out­fits which were scar­ily priced. The Bonneville and Bonneville SE of the time were ruled out. Although they had cast wheels which would have fit­ted in bet­ter with my ex­tremely re­luc­tant clean­ing regime, side­car tyres weren’t read­ily avail­able in 17” sizes. The T100’s 19” front wheel looked more favourable, so I was de­lighted to spot a rather nice, solo, blue and white Bonneville with red pin-strip­ing. It had pol­ished al­loy en­gine cas­ings which I knew could be prone to fur­ring when the lac­quer chips and wa­ter gets in un­der­neath, but it looked ab­so­lutely per­fect. Even bet­ter, the deal­ers were only 70 miles away, rather than hun­dreds of miles fur­ther south, so I ar­ranged a test ride.

Rather con­ve­niently two W650s were also on of­fer. A quick sit on all three con­firmed that the Bon­nie was the only con­tender. I’d fallen to­tally in love as soon as I spot­ted it on­line and in the flesh it was ab­so­lutely gor­geous. It might have a mod­ern en­gine, but with spoked wheels and peashooter exhausts it just looked right and I was con­vinced I’d be tak­ing it home af­ter the test ride.

Sadly it wasn’t to be. With size six feet, I had my right foot ver­ti­cal with no re­sponse from the back brake. The gear change was to­tally in the wrong po­si­tion so I had prob­lems chang­ing gear. Tri­umph had up­graded the Bon­nie to fuel in­jec­tion but this was an ear­lier carb model and didn’t pull cleanly at all. All these things could have been rec­ti­fied but the dealer wasn’t par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested or help­ful. I headed home de­jected and ready to give up, but Alan coaxed me into book­ing a test ride on a T100 at our lo­cal Tri­umph dealer.

A few days later, off I went on a brand new, fuel in­jected 865cc T100. What a

dif­fer­ence. No prob­lems with the brake or gear change and it was re­spon­sive, pulling ea­gerly. The T100 was still air-cooled with the fuel in­jec­tion hid­den within throt­tle bod­ies de­signed to look like carbs. The crank­case breather looks like a pushrod tube so the styling looked good. I was happy it had a rev counter, un­like the stan­dard Bon­nie, but didn’t like the dig­i­tal mileage dis­play or the way the nee­dles man­i­cally swung over to hit the stops and back dur­ing the pre-ig­ni­tion checks.

An hour later I ar­rived back with a big stupid grin; guilt and panic set­ting in as I re­alised I ac­tu­ally re­ally, re­ally wanted one but couldn’t af­ford a brand new bike, plus side­car and fit­tings. Re­signed to walk­ing away yet again, I headed back for one last look. Rounding the cor­ner of the shop I was sur­prised to see an­other, al­most iden­ti­cal Bon­nie parked be­hind the demon­stra­tor. I asked the shop about it. The owner had passed away and they were sell­ing it for his wife. This 21 month-old Bon­nie had less than 500 miles on it and although it was green, a colour I re­ally don’t like, it made much more sense than buy­ing a brand new bike.

Mulling things over, I de­cided I’d be too busy look­ing at the road to bother about the paintjob. It also had the ear­lier, nondig­i­tal clocks, chromed en­gine cases and the pre­vi­ous owner had sensibly fit­ted a cen­tre­stand. This would save me a bit of cash, although, with plans to fit a side­car, it would soon be sur­plus to re­quire­ment… I bought the Bon­nie the next day.

My 80 mile daily com­mute started high in the Scot­tish bor­der hills so a set of heated grips made sense. These were fit­ted and the bike ser­viced be­fore I picked it up. The jour­ney home kept a broad grin on my face, as did each sub­se­quent ride. I no­ticed that the tacho num­bers vi­brate in­side the clock, per­haps that was why a dig­i­tal dis­play was in­tro­duced?

I warned Alan not to give me too much time to en­joy the Bon­nie solo in case I fell in love with it. We al­ready had a chas­sis so bought a dou­ble-adult chair and Alan or­dered up a fit­ting kit for it. Within a month he was ready to fit the side­car – and I point blank re­fused. I was re­ally en­joy­ing play­ing on the Bon­nie un­hin­dered. A chair would have ef­fec­tively ruled it out for com­mut­ing, which at that point made up most of my rides. A solo bike could nav­i­gate the Ed­in­burgh by­pass grid­lock, while a com­bi­na­tion would have pro­longed the daily grind.

We fit­ted a rack to give a bit of lug­gage car­ry­ing po­ten­tial, but I wasn’t con­vinced throwover pan­niers would sit very well with the an­gle of the shocks. A friend, ‘Mud­guard’, had re­cently traded his Bon­nie in and sold me his Givi pan­niers, com­plete with tow bar. This pro­vided a nice so­lu­tion, with an­other friend, Steve, build­ing a trailer for me so I can carry ev­ery­thing when I go tour­ing. Tow­ing is not a prob­lem, pro­vided you re­mem­ber the trailer’s there and al­low a bit more time for brak­ing.

The up­right seat­ing po­si­tion suits me. The front end can be a bit light and twitchy at higher speeds or when you have a load of camp­ing gear on the rear. I’m con­sid­er­ing a steer­ing damper, and some own­ers fit af­ter­mar­ket bars, help­ing them get a bit of weight over the front end. A screen might help too, but I pre­fer a naked bike. The stan­dard sus­pen­sion is pretty soft; I re­ally wasn’t happy with the cor­ner­ing but ad­just­ing the sus­pen­sion to the sec­ond firmest set­ting trans­formed things. Some own­ers opt for af­ter­mar­ket shocks. Hagons are pop­u­lar and rea­son­ably priced. Front tyres last about 10,000 miles with the rear only man­ag­ing about 6000 miles.

A search for the Bon­nie’s tool­kit re­vealed a lone Allen key, lurk­ing be­hind the side panel. You are meant to be able to undo the side panel with the aid of a coin. If it’s nice and se­cure then you’ll need a screw­driver. The Allen key is re­quired to re­move the screws which hold the seat on, en­abling ac­cess to the bat­tery. This might in­di­cate the Bon­nie’s an­tic­i­pated re­li­a­bil­ity, or that Tri­umph want you to use a dealer for ser­vic­ing and di­ag­nos­tics. The al­ter­na­tive is to pur­chase an ap­pro­pri­ate lead, down­load the soft­ware and do it your­self. I find it strange plug­ging a bike into a lap­top dur­ing a ser­vice to ad­just the air/fuel ra­tio but it’s a cheaper op­tion out­side the two year war­ranty pe­riod. If per­for­mance rather than re­laxed cruis­ing is your thing, then the en­gine can be remapped and tuned.

The Bon­nie copes well with any­thing you throw at it. It’s fine on sin­gle track roads and the wee twisties. It ac­cel­er­ates well and is ob­vi­ously much faster, with con­sid­er­ably bet­ter brakes, than my 400/4 and 350 Bul­let – but they are more flick­able. To me this equals more fun, al­beit at lower speeds.

I tend to use the Bon­nie when I need to be some­where quickly or carry a lot of stuff. It’s ideal for long dis­tance work and can eas­ily cover 400 to 500 miles in a day to a rally, with a high pro­por­tion of mo­tor­way work. The fuel in­jec­tion is re­spon­sive with brisk ac­cel­er­a­tion and it’ll cruise hap­pily at 80mph with plenty in hand for high speed over­tak­ing. Sit­ting at about 50mph, it’s easy to open it up to over­take a line of slower traf­fic, look down and re­alise you’re fast ap­proach­ing the ton.

Of­ten how­ever, af­ter even a rel­a­tively short ride, I won­der if the seat will ever bed in and get more comfy. By 100 miles I’ve had enough and need a break. Some own­ers opt for Tri­umph’s gel seat or a larger gel pad. An­other friend took pity and very kindly bought me a sheep­skin to ease the pain. Although I’m sure folk will get the wrong im­pres­sion and think I have piles, I’m look­ing for­ward to fit­ting it and hope­fully ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new level of com­fort.

Un­for­tu­nately if it’s wet you’re meant to re­move it, shake it and re-se­cure it. Not easy with a fixed seat ar­range­ment. I dis­cov­ered the hard way that the Allen bolts and spac­ers which se­cure the seat need to be re­ally tight or they’ll fall off and you’ll lose them. A hinged seat would be eas­ier.

The 3½ gal­lon tank has no re­serve. I was ini­tially con­cerned when the petrol light came on at around the 120 mile mark. Mud­guard as­sured me it came on far too early and the range should be about 185 mile. I soon found out the hard way that the range is ex­actly 155 miles, sadly about 44mpg. Many thanks to Martin of Henry Col­becks, for com­ing to my aid at North Ber­wick, sav­ing me a long up­hill push to the petrol sta­tion! More re­cently the petrol warn­ing light is com­ing on closer to 140 miles. Per­haps I’m eas­ing up a bit, or the sen­sor might be on its way out!

The pol­ished stain­less steel down­pipes on the Bon­nie are prone to blue­ing. Some own­ers em­brace this, claim­ing that if they aren’t blue, you’re not rid­ing it enough…

I am of­ten quizzed about the Bon­nie, par­tic­u­larly by gents con­tem­plat­ing buy­ing one to re­place a long cher­ished, kick start-only bike. The elec­tric start makes life eas­ier but it’s still a hefty lump of a bike. Four stone heav­ier and a lot chunkier than an orig­i­nal Bon­nie, the cen­trest and con­se­quently takes a lot more ef­fort in use. It is noth­ing like the easy up and on achieved by sim­ply stand­ing on the cen­trest and lug of a nicely bal­anced, pre-unit T120. I tend to just use the side­stand, which is re­ally easy to ac­cess.

With a 29” in­side leg, on the Bon­nie I can get both feet al­most flat on the ground, gen­er­ally finding ma­noeu­vring no prob­lem. Last year how­ever, I ended up on a nar­row sin­gle track road com­ing down­hill to a bad T-junc­tion onto an­other sin­gle track road with a bad cam­ber. I had to turn right at a re­ally acute an­gle. At­tempt­ing to open the throt­tle gen­tly, the power and weight of the bike took me across and al­most off the road. On a smaller, lighter bike it might not have been such an is­sue.

At first glance the Bon­nie looks like an older Tri­umph; the paint scheme helps. This evokes a fair bit of nos­tal­gia and of­ten con­fu­sion with folk try­ing to place it, ask­ing if it’s per­haps a Tiger 110 – but Hinck­ley’s T100 and T120 are def­i­nitely not Tigers.

It fre­quently at­tracts peo­ple who say they can’t wait to hear the en­gine. It is how­ever a thor­oughly mod­ern bike. Meet­ing noise and emis­sion lim­its, the T100 is no­tice­ably smoother and qui­eter than an orig­i­nal Bon­nie. A friend kindly de­scribed it as ‘re­fined’ rather than muf­fled. The Bon­nie is easy on my hear­ing but a louder ex­haust would suit me bet­ter. Tri­umph of­fer a range of op­tions to pimp your ride, with plenty of af­ter­mar­ket op­tions to en­hance power, per­for­mance and sound.

At night the head­lamp is ab­so­lutely bril­liant com­pared to my older bikes, but an­noy­ingly you can­not turn the lights off. I’ve con­sid­ered fit­ting a switch from an ear­lier model to over­come this. The lights and pre-ig­ni­tion checks prob­a­bly don’t help the bat­tery ei­ther. One day I was head­ing out and Alan started my Bon­nie long be­fore I was ready to go, so I turned it off. A few min­utes later it flatly re­fused to start again. Although the bat­tery was show­ing a healthy charge it wasn’t enough and I had to buy a re­place­ment. Other own­ers re­port sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences de­spite us­ing an Op­ti­mate charger. Next time I might try a gel bat­tery.

Other­wise the Bon­nie has proved ex­tremely re­li­able and it’s dif­fi­cult to find fault. It’s an easy bike to ride, han­dles well enough and takes ev­ery­thing in its stride re­gard­less of bad road sur­faces or lousy weather. It is for­giv­ing when I go the wrong way down the box, get the brake and gear lever mud­dled up or try, in vain, to en­gage sixth gear! It does feel like it needs an ex­tra gear; some own­ers add an ex­tra tooth with a 19T en­gine sprocket.

Ad­justable brake and clutch levers are handy but the 1” han­dle­bars are no­tice­ably chunkier than I’m used to. Fit­ting the heated cruiser grips has re­sulted in an even larger grip. With arthri­tis in my thumb joint, rid­ing the Bon­nie can be­come painful over time. Oc­ca­sion­ally I for­get to pull the clutch lever in be­fore press­ing the starter and won­der why the en­gine won’t start!

The ig­ni­tion key sits at the side of the head­lamp so it’s easy to for­get to re­move it. I wasn’t happy with a key fob at­tached as this flut­tered about when rid­ing and would wear the paint away, so re­sorted to a keyring with a rib­bon at­tached to a clip. The keyring holds the steer­ing lock key (one day I may use it), the pan­nier key and the key for my lock. The clip acts as a re­minder that some­thing’s miss­ing, prompt­ing me to at­tach the ig­ni­tion key when it isn’t in the switch.

The Bon­nie is over-en­gi­neered but rel­a­tively easy to work on, and the gen­uine ser­vice man­ual helps. The rear wheel is dif­fi­cult to re­move, due in part to the si­lencers but made worse on mine by the tow bar. The spin­dle comes out on the left hand side so the left si­lencer needs to be re­moved. Once the wheel is back in place, the right hand si­lencer needs to be re­moved to en­able the use of a torque wrench. We used to find it eas­i­est to drop the back end over the edge of our bike lift which gave enough space to drop the wheel out. Now I find it eas­ier still to call Strat­hearn Tyres at Cri­eff, who don’t charge ex­tra for re­mov­ing the wheel for tyre fit­ting. Although it’s a bit of a gud­dle, what with the cen­trest and and tow­bar, they pro­vide a rea­son­ably priced, quick and re­mark­ably cheery ser­vice.

Re­mov­ing the rear cal­liper to re­place the brake pads is an­other si­lencer-off job. Rear pads last about 12,000 miles; front pads about 16,000, and both can be had for about £20 each on­line.

A dip­stick would’ve been eas­ier than the oil sight-glass which re­quires the bike to be up­right. The oil and fil­ter only need changed ev­ery 6000 miles. The petrol fil­ter lives in the petrol tank, and is changed ev­ery 12,000 miles, along with the rub­ber gas­kets on the bot­tom of the petrol tank. At around £100 us­ing gen­uine spares and con­sum­ables, this ser­vice isn’t cheap, but the ser­vice in­ter­vals are gen­er­ous with rea­son­ably priced pat­tern spares read­ily avail­able.

The RAT fo­rum can be in­for­ma­tive, a source of amuse­ment, com­mis­er­a­tion and in­spi­ra­tion. That’s where I got the in­spi­ra­tion to use the stain­less steel cups from a pair of Ther­mos flasks to cover the base of the clocks and add some bling. The owner who used tin cans com­plete with Del Monte la­bel gets my vote!

An­noy­ingly, some git in a car bumped the Bon­nie when it was parked up so the lac­quer on the rear mud­guard is slightly crazed. No one would no­tice, un­less I pointed it out, but this may give me an ex­cuse, as it de­te­ri­o­rates, to fi­nally opt for a Nu­clear Red colour scheme!

And what hap­pened with the side­cars? The A65 ended up with the side­car af­ter all and it took a long time to re­turn both it and the Con­stel­la­tion to solo use. So I can’t com­ment on the suit­abil­ity of the Bon­nie as a side­car tug but I do have a brand new, un­used mount­ing kit for sale if any­one’s in­ter­ested?

Room for all the camp­ing kit. Just about…

Fake throt­tle bod­ies can lead to lively de­bate. Can it look right with­out real carbs?

Look closely, can you spot the tool­kit?

Dis­tinc­tive, de­cep­tively slim­ming styling and colour scheme, but the mod­ern Bon­nie is a lot chunkier than its name­sake. Mar­ion’s mods in­clude heated grips, rear car­rier and pan­nier sys­tem with tow­bar. The de­light­ful brown tape marks where the trailer...

Bal­anced evo­lu­tion. Hinck­ley’s 900cc Tri­dent led to the Thun­der­bird, fol­lowed by the Bonneville, equally en­joy­able and a bit less of a stretch but sadly no ‘Made in Bri­tain’ badge…

Re­as­sur­ing­ly­fa­mil­iar en­gine shape,al­beit on steroids com­pared to Meri­den’s finest

Ex­haust pipe blues, the crank­case breather is dis­guised as a pushrod tube. Dinky finned ex­haust clamps, some rust ap­par­ent. Mar­ion freely ad­mits that she’s not a ded­i­cated pol­isher

The Lambda sen­sor (not to be confused with that en­er­getic Brazil­ian dance, the Lam­bada) mon­i­tors oxy­gen lev­els in the ex­haust gases. This en­ables elec­tronic ad­just­ment to con­trol com­bus­tion ef­fi­ciency and keep emis­sions low. The RAT fo­rum has a large...

Pho­tos by Mar­ion Thirsk

Be­low: A con­sid­er­ably prac­ti­cal ma­chine. Clas­sic styling, de­cent per­for­mance and even a cen­tre­stand to ease the main­te­nance chores. Less won­der­ful is the seat, which needs as­sis­tance in the com­fort stakes

The Bon­nie’s rear shocks re­cently started leak­ing, and the spokes are show­ing some rust. Can that be con­sid­ered par for the course with an eight year old mod­ern mo­tor­cy­cle? And check out the tour­ing ex­tras, too

1” bars re­quire even larger heated grips. Mar­ion finds smaller bars are more com­fort­able with eas­ier steer­ing on tight ma­noeu­vres

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