The modern interpretation of Triumph’s classis Bonneville T100 was unveiled at the Munich Motorcycle Show in 2000 and it reached Australian shores in 2002.
A 1969 Bonneville T120 was the styling template for the new design, but despite the authentic old school looks the new Bonneville T100 featured a relatively modern frame and all-new engine, with double-overhead cams instead of the old bike’s pushrod set-up.
The Bonneville has proven very successful for Triumph over the past 15 years or so and since its launch there have been various spin-offs, including the Thruxton, Scrambler, America, Speedmaster and, more recently, the larger capacity (1200cc) T120 models, the Bonneville Bobber and the Bonneville Speedmaster.
Then – 2002. When the Triumph Bonneville T100 was launched in 2002 it was an instant hit. The bike’s styling hit a chord with those enthralled by Triumph’s long (albeit chequered) history. But behind those retro looks the Bonneville offered a modern 790cc DOHC air/oil-cooled engine with four valves per cylinder and twin 36mm Keihin carburettors.
Engine output was a claimed 45.5kW at 7400rpm and there was a healthy peak of 60Nm of torque available from a low 3500rpm. Despite the overhead cam design, the engine even had a dummy external pushrod tube for an authentic old-school look. The twin was hard-mounted in the Bonneville’s frame and was mated to a five-speed gearbox (from the Triumph 955i) with a wet clutch and chain final drive.
Suspension was pretty basic – non-adjustable 41mm KYB forks and two KYB rear shocks with preload adjustment only – but the Bonneville was a competent and predictable bike to ride. The upright riding position, low seat height (770mm), wide handlebar and relatively generous ground clearance combined with modern rubber to provide easy manoeuvrability around town and decent handling on the open road… so long as you didn’t try to ride it like a sportsbike. And ride quality was about as good as you could expect considering there was no damping adjustment front or rear.
Triumph had really nailed the styling of the Bonneville T100 and its appearance remained the same when an 865cc (50kW/68Nm) version was introduced locally in 2005. And when the company then introduced electronic fuel injection to this engine in 2008, the Triumph designers went to great lengths to retain that old-school look, even disguising the 36.5mm throttle bodies by making them look like carburettors. The EFI version offered a claimed 49kW and 68Nm.
As well as the two-tone fuel tank with kneepads and big chrome badge, the Bonneville T100 featured a flat seat with a pillion strap, wire-spoke wheels and peashooter exhausts. And it had just the right amount of chrome, on the engine covers, around the headlight and on the mirrors and indicators, as well as polished engine-cooling fins.
Now – 2018. Announced in 2015 and launched in Australia towards the end of 2016, the current Bonneville T100 might look a lot like the previous models but it’s essentially an all-new bike.
Sure, it retains the signature two-tone fuel tank, still has just enough chrome, and has a flat seat with vintage-look piping, but it also has an all-new liquid-cooled 900cc SOHC 8-valve parallel twin engine that produces significantly more torque than its predecessor. Peak power is a modest 40.5kW but there’s now significantly more torque on offer with a claimed peak of 80Nm at 3230rpm. Triumph also claims a 29 per cent improvement in fuel economy, thanks in part to the liquid-cooling system, which also aids engine durability.
While the 790cc and 865cc Bonnevilles had a 360° firing interval, the new Bonneville T100 scores the same 270° firing interval as used on the old Scrambler, which provides the feel and sound of a 90° V-twin engine. The new Bonneville also has a ride-by wire throttle set-up and it’s equipped with ABS and switchable traction control.
The Bonneville’s gearbox is still a five-speed unit with a wet clutch and a chain final drive, and the suspension is still quite basic, with 41mm KYB telescopic forks up front and twin KYB shocks with adjustable preload at the rear. Other than the addition of ABS, the brakes also remain pretty much the same as they were with a 310mm disc up front and a 255mm disc at the rear, both with twin-piston calipers. But with so much torque available, who needs more than five gears, and the basic suspension and brake package on the Bonneville T100 was always more than acceptable for the performance on offer.
Despite its retro appearance, and somewhat basic spec, the Bonneville T100 offers a few concessions to modernity, with features such as an engine immobiliser, LED rear light, trip computer and USB power socket. But other than that, and the aforementioned traction control, the Bonneville still does old school better than most.
The 900cc Bonneville T100 is available in two models: T100 and T100 Black. And for those after something a little different Triumph also offers the 900cc Street Scrambler, Street Twin and Street Cup models. For riders who want even more grunt there’s the 1200cc (76hp/106Nm) Bonneville T120, the Bonneville Speedmaster and the Bonneville Bobber.
Words Dean Mellor Photos Triumph