While the triples certainly give Triumph performance credibility, the heart and soul of the proudly British marque rests with the Bonneville line of vertical twins. An iconic series that dates back to 1959, the Bonnevilles not only survived a major reworking in 2016—they thrived.This year, the range of Bonnevilles has expanded, with the Bobber being added to the 1200cc family, and the café racing Street Cup and dirt-ready Street Scrambler joining the racing-striped Street Twin among the 900s. Also joining the fray for 2017 is a pair of authentically retro-styled T100s, including the subject of this test—the 2017 Triumph Bonneville T100 Black.
I was an instant fan of the Street Twin, a very close relative of the Bonneville T100s. The low-revving 900HT motor offers bountiful torque at low rpm, as well as enough power to make it a credible casual canyon carver.At its heart, however, the Bonneville T100 Black is about image and accessibility. Triumph is an aspirational brand, and many hopeful riders look to Triumph as a destination for their passion for motorcycles. Rather than being restricted to the fire-breathing triples, a cruiser, or a big twin, the T100 Black makes entry possible, as well as highly desirable.The classic styling speaks for itself—from the dark aura conjured by the Black editions to the kneepads on the fuel tank, there’s no mistaking the historical intentions of this Bonneville iteration.Yet, underneath the traditional appearance lurks a thoroughly modern motorcycle. The T100’s eight-valve motor is fuel-injected, with the injectors camouflaged by an aluminum cover, and liquid-cooled (the radiator is discreetly placed between the frame’s steel downtubes). Beyond that, the Bonnie is fully ride-by-wire, with ABS and switchable traction control there to assist both new and seasoned riders to their destinations.Even less obvious are features such as a torque assist clutch (lighter action), underseat USB charging port (yes, it’s 2017), and an engine immobilizer built into the ignition system.More visible for those taken by the T100 Black’s styling, and any buyer will be, are the round twin clocks with analog-style readouts for road and engine speeds. The clocks also give you access to digitized info, such as odo/tripmeters, fuel level and consumption, range-to-empty, a clock, gear position, and traction control settings. A left-thumb button designated by an “i” permits quick scrolling through the data.Aboard the Bonneville T100 Black, the rider is rewarded with an amazingly neutral riding position. The seat/pegs/grips triangle favors comfort and control equally, satisfying both requirements without apology.With the comfortable bench seat and upright body position, all-day rides seem mandatory rather than optional. Pleasant vibrations from the 270-degree twin do nothing to dissuade you from taking long rides. Feel free to travel afar, as the 3.8-gallon fuel tank and claimed 74 mpg assures you of well over 200 miles between pit stops.With the 900HT engine, it would make sense that you’d need hefty clutch springs to resist slipping. Fortunately, Triumph tapped the latest clutch technology that uses engine torque to assist keeping the plates together during acceleration, so the spring rate can be lighter.While some may balk at the five-speed transmission, insisting that it’s a cog short, with the plentiful torque from the undersquare motor, the ratios are wide enough that the T100 works perfectly well in-town; top gear is more than freeway-capable. Shifting action is flawless and natural.Torque peaks at a mere 3230 rpm and maximum horsepower just before 6000 rpm. These are the sorts of numbers you expect from a cruiser, and in many ways that is what the Triumph Bonneville T100 is.The rake of 25.5 degrees is certainly relaxed, as is the 57-inch wheelbase. With a wet weight around 500 pounds, the T100’s handling won’t be described as lithe, even with the relatively narrow tires mounted on wire-spoke wheels.What you get, instead, is a motorcycle that is deliberate and stable. Experienced riders may balk at the effort required to change directions, and they’re certainly free to select a different motorcycle to ride. As the T100 is intended to be reassuring to new riders, the slow but sure handling is definitely a plus. Without any doubt, this is one forgiving Bonneville.In town, the T100 is rock-solid. You feel like you won’t get pushed around, and the upright seating position makes you visible, even with the moderate 31-inch seat height. This gives you an advantage over the traditional cruiser, which can position your head a half-foot lower.Although there’s only a single disc up front, it is a 310mm unit and certainly adequate. ABS is full-time on the Nissin calipers, so you can be aggressive if you like. I found the 255mm rear disc to be usable, especially in town. While you want new riders to learn to use the front brake, the rear brake is a good tool for navigating urban conditions.The Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires aren’t rubber we see very often, but the predictable performance was more than up to the demands of the T100.When both braking and cornering, there was nothing to complain about from either end. Pirelli focuses on straight-line stability with the Phantom Sportscomp, and it shows. Deep channels make this an excellent rain tire—a sign of the Bonneville’s British heritage.You won’t find anything special about the KYB suspension. Except for spring-preload on the twin shocks, the suspension lacks adjustment. Fortunately, Triumph engineers got it right and we heard no complaints from testers ranging from 115 to 190 pounds. If you’re somewhere in the middle of that range, you will be especially satisfied with the action.Neither oversprung nor underdamped, the T100 has a bit of a flowing feel—almost an idealized version of what you would want on a cruising motorcycle. It doesn’t wallow in turns, and takes on rough pavement with impressive poise.Wherever you go on the 2017 Bonneville T100 Black, you’ll turn heads. The dual peashooter exhausts set the right aural tone, while the authentically vintage dusky styling—down to the pre-unit look of the bottom end—enchants the soul. The ride doesn’t let you down, and the muscular torque will carry around whoever happens to ask you for a ride on the invitingly roomy saddle.Action photography by Kelly CallanRIDING STYLE
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends, the weekly podcast brought to you by Ultimate Motorcycling. My name is Arthur Coldwells.
Motos and Friends is brought to you by Yamaha. You can check out the amazing YZF-R7 at your local Yamaha dealer, or of course at YamahaMotorsports.com. The YZF-R7 is an amazing supersport machine that is comfortable too!
In this week’s first segment, Editor Don Williams takes the smallest BMW ADV bike on an urban adventure in Los Angeles. The BMW G 310 GS is a full size motorcycle with a modest engine, so of course we wonder if it is a little too underpowered and might struggle. Don put it through its paces and gives us his take.
In the second segment, Neale Bayly and Kiran Ridley have returned from the Ukraine to Paris where Kiran is based.
Kiran is an award winning photojournalist, and as an accomplished documentarian, he has covered stories as diverse as drug smuggling around the Mexican border, to the devastation of the Australian Bush Fires, to the tragedy of the Mediterranean migration crisis. Neale and Kiran reminisce about their motorcycle adventure in the Ukraine, and their observations and experiences with the incredibly resilient people of Ukraine, who have been put through such brutal hardship.