2010 Triumph Bonneville SE | Review

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Bonneville Touring Edition

We gave thanks this year for retro design melding with modern technology and celebrated with an all-day Thanksgiving ride on a couple of classically designed motorcycles. I’d already been commuting to work for a couple of weeks on the new 2010 Triumph Bonneville SE Touring Edition, enjoying the comments co-workers had gone out of their way to make as they appreciated the retro styling of the bike, and fielding questions about how it rides.

The bike does a fine job of getting me to and from work, and I get to look cool at the same time. Not a bad way to start, or end, one’s day. But now it was time to have some real fun, to ride the Triumph Bonneville SE the way I envisioned it was meant to be enjoyed, as it was equipped with a full array of touring accessories.

The Triumph Bonneville 865cc DOHC parallel twin starts easily with the push of a button thanks to electronic fuel injection. You wouldn’t know the Bonneville feature EFI, thanks to the faux carburetor (complete with choke-like fast-idle knob) keeping the retro look authentic. Through low-slung megaphones pipes, the engine idles surprisingly quietly. But click it into gear, ease out the clutch, and the smooth low-end power sets you on your way.

A quick ride through Topanga Canyon took us from valley to ocean, and was my first taste of the Triumph Bonneville SE off the suburban streets and freeways. It moves easily through turns. Riding casually, it feels light and responsive, and the relatively narrow 17-inch Metzeler MEZ4 tires are fully predictable. As we came upon my favorite section of the road, through undeveloped state parklands, I felt thrown back in time aboard this tribute to a 50-year-old legend.

Once we hit Pacific Coast Highway, we stopped to fill up the bikes for our journey down the coast. The Triumph Bonneville has an old standard designed gas cap (no locks here) and runs on regular (naturally). Spin the tripmeter back to zero (with an old-fashioned knob) and we were on our way again.

The first half of the ride took us down the coast. With the roads deserted due to the holiday, it was perfect for riding from one beach town to the next, enjoying the old storefronts and houses without the usual four-wheeled gridlock. In fact, this might be where the Triumph Bonneville really shines, in third gear, moving through the streets at an unhurried pace, getting a taste of each neighborhood we passed through.

With a comfortable, upright riding position and controls within easy reach, the well-balanced, not particularly heavy Triumph Bonneville (495 pounds, claimed wet, less touring accessories) is very easy to handle. The invitingly low 29-inch seat makes stops and slow riding stress-free, perfect for sightseeing. There’s no reason not to pull over for a quick snap of that scenic mural on the side of an old diner, or to attempt to capture the amazing view of Santa Monica Bay from the Palos Verdes peninsula.

When hunger reminded us that this was a day to feast, we decided to forgo the surface-street ride back up to Los Angeles proper, and accelerated onto the old-school Harbor Freeway at its terminus in roughneck San Pedro. There’s plenty of power under the two-tone, badge-adorned, gold-pinstriped tank and clicking up through the five gears is a seamless move. The freedom of letting the Triumph Bonneville run in top gear feels great, as does the air rushing by, cooling my legs that have gotten warm from the surprisingly toasty air-cooled engine.

The optional Triumph Bonneville windscreen deflects most of the wind blast and the bike feels solid to just past 80 mph. Checking the appropriately basic analog dash (speedo, tach, indicator lights and manual tripmeter, but no clock), I can see my comfort zone ended at 85, though the Bonneville has the will to go quite a bit faster. The well-placed mirrors were not bothered by the high speed; they reported clearly all that was receding behind me.

We exited in downtown Los Angeles and made our way over to The Original Pantry Cafe, which has been open every day for 85 years and has no working locks on the front door. The line outside dissuaded us from stopping, though, and we headed over to Chinatown looking for a less-traditional Thanksgiving meal. Multiple u-turns on the 2010 Triumph Bonneville were easily executed as we searched unsuccessfully for parking, but the busy sidewalks and streets indicated that this was just another shopping day.

As we headed over to Echo Park, the well-used, but not maintained, streets of Los Angeles remind me that the Bonneville’s low saddle tradeoff is short travel Kayaba suspension–4.7-inches in front and 3.9-inches of twin shocks in the rear. The bike isn’t thrown off its line hitting these bumps, but they do jar the rider.

We find a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place (El Huarache Azteca #2) and fill up on lamb, beans, and enchiladas, while admiring our bikes through the window (a Ducati GT1000 was along for the ride). The proprietress points to the Triumph Bonneville and asks if I’m not afraid to ride it. I shake my head no. There’s comfortableness about the bike that makes it seem familiar the moment you settle into the seat. With the easygoing power, the intimidation factor is zero. It’s a great second-step bike for riders who begin perfecting their craft on something like a Honda Rebel or V Star 250. The Bonneville also works for a rider who prefers to ride at a more casual pace, but isn’t smitten by traditional cruiser ergonomics or appearance.

We stowed our leftovers into the classically designed optional saddlebags and headed up into the Hollywood Hills to take in the views before dropping down to take Sunset to the ocean. The ever-manageable Triumph Bonneville had no trouble staying out of trouble on the suddenly busy boulevard. Clutch and brake levers are easy to reach and have smooth action, most appreciable when maneuvering amongst distracted drivers.

The final leg of our journey took us on a favored winding road where every turn was familiar, so I enjoyed pushing the Triumph Bonneville. While I wouldn’t be chasing down any sport bikes through the canyons, I felt confident enough in the bike’s single rotors–310mm in front, 255mm at the rear–to twist the throttle hard between turns. For such a mild-mannered bike with purely upright ergonomics, it handles sportingly enough and has reasonable ground clearance. So, it’s a total blast, even if it isn’t totally fast.

Triumph has done well by the Bonneville name, taking the upright classic and recasting it as a friendly do-it-all motorcycle for the 21st century. Naked, it’s a great cruiser with a more sporting image. Add a windshield and bags, and you have dashing retro tourer or fashionable commuter. Like the original Triumph Bonneville, it can be adapted to a variety of needs, just keep this iteration away from the salt flats.

Helmet: Suomy Vandal Flower
Jacket: Dainese Lucky Pelle Lady
Gloves: Dainese Motodon Lady
Pants: Icon Standard Jeans
Boots: Dainese Lola Lady

Photography by Don Williams 


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