Living with a 2009 Triumph Bonneville

A posing bike for the poser, Barry Tavner tries to capture the 'cool' on the Triumph Bonneville

August 2009

The Bonneville had its 500-mile service this month (£105), giving me an opportunity to stretch its legs on the open road. Or in this case the M1, the quickest route from London to Hinckley.

As you’d expect there’s no hidden surge of power as you gas it, but the Bonnie comes along in its own time and there’s enough to get past most motorway traffic. I say “most” – a chap in a white Porsche 911 GT3 almost laughed when I attempted to overtake him.

Motorways are not the Bonneville’s forte and certainly long distances would be exhausting without a screen of some sort. I felt very exposed and took a battering at anything over 70mph. It’s funny how much difference a small screen makes as the journey back down on a Street Triple with its micro-fairing was considerably easier, even at higher speeds.

I’ve put an order in for a small screen for future long trips. That’s in the pipeline but for now I’ve taken delivery of a new seat. And it’s brown. Lovely.

Slightly narrower and firmer than the sofa that comes as standard, the “Contemporary” brown saddle adds another touch of class to an already good-looking bike.

While many in the office would laugh at my next statement, I really do think this is one of the easiest-riding bikes I’ve ever had. The turning circle isn’t hugely impressive but the steering is light and the riding position allows you so much freedom to manouevre.

The only thing now is to convert the sewing machine noise to the raspy brapping of its forefathers and stick some pipes on.

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009
PARTS ADDED: Contemporary brown seat
TOTAL MILEAGE: 1324 miles

June 2009

Coming back to my flat after a hard day in the office last year, to find that the Abus lock I use is more than up to the job of deterring London bike thieves was a good thing. Realising that all they had left me was the lock and the back wheel of my KTM 990SM wasn’t so great. Bastards.

My longterm choice for 2009 had to tick two boxes: the first was the need to keep it under the radar of prying eyes. The second: it had to be cool enough to satisfy my eye for detail. Seeing the 2009 Triumph Bonneville in the flesh during the Bennetts calendar shoot 3 months ago, it was clear it ticked boxes.

Since picking it up a couple of weeks ago I’ve racked up a steady 180 miles in completely standard but oh-so-retro trim. I’m learning to thoroughly embrace the slightly slower pace of life that comes with the Bonnie, short-shifting my way through the power. It’s the relaxed riding position and the sofa of a saddle that reins-in any thoughts of pushing the pace.

There is much to be had from the Bonnie if you take your time and enjoy the view. Riding through London on a sunny Sunday I spotted six other Bonneville riders, a mix of original and new examples. All of the riders wearing the same nonchalant, ‘take it easy smile’ that I’ve developed since picking the bike up. Plans for the bike include increasing the sound if not the speed and adding my own twang to the looks.

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009
PARTS ADDED: none yet
TOTAL MILEAGE: 337 miles

October 2009

A whole new sound and look for Bazza’s Bonny: Oh yes, he’s still loving it...

The love affair with the Triumph continues but now with new, improved and very much fruitier sounds. Yes, the muted expulsion of exhaust gases that sounded more sewing machine than dream machine has finally been replaced by an ear-splitting rasp that’s got me grinning from ear-to-ear in my open face lid, all the while granting the Bonneville an even broader stage on which to gather more admiring glances.

It used to turn heads as it passed bus stops on the way into work and now with the new system people can hear it half a mile away and can be prepared for it’s, erm...magnificence.

I have to admit to not really liking the look of the Arrow system when I saw it in the brochure at the beginning of the year. There are several good looking pipes for it, most notably from britishcustoms.com in the states that do a stunning matt black system which I’ll have posted on the visordown blog by the time you read this.

Getting back to the Arrow system though, and I was amazed at just how light and well made it all is. It’s not cheap at just shy of £900 but it has transformed the whole character of the bike - whether or not that’s just my ears playing tricks on me, the harmonious sound of those twin-pots simultaneously spitting out of the twin pipes invading my senses or a genuine increase in performance, is probably a little more than questionable. I’d like to think it’s a blend of both, though performance isn’t what the Bonneville’s all about; it’s all about feeling good, be it pottering around town giving it the Steve McQueen scowl or laughing frantically as the old-school chassis struggles to cope with my enthusiasm, rattling down the country roads I use to escape the claustrophobic

congestion of the Metropolis at the weekend.

Not that there haven’t been a couple of things that have made me swear this month. Miller managed to snap the clutch lever last month and to prove that I’m equally clumsy, I’ve gone and broken the steering lock key. I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s done this - you unlock your bike, forget to take the key out of the steering lock and... ping! The key’s snapped off flush with the lock barrel. So now I can’t lock it until i find a locksmith that will swap his skills for a free subscription to the mag... I’ve also realised that hanging your house keys off the same ring as your ignition key isn’t a great idea either - my left-hand side panel is starting to look distinctly secondhand. Next month we’re off on holiday together.

I can’t wait...

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009
PARTS ADDED: Arrow exhaust system
TOTAL MILEAGE: 2031 miles

December 2009

With the much-promised Indian summer finally arriving in October I decided it was time I took the old girl on a trip to the seaside. Happily my new Triumph fly screen (£115) had arrived in the post a few weeks earlier, so this little adventure to Deal on the south coast presented not only the perfect opportunity to get some fishy fingers, but also test its effectiveness. First problem, however, was I had to fit it...

In the past I’ve had a few bad experiences when it comes to attaching parts to bikes, but even for a mechanical Neanderthal like myself fitting the screen was simple. Two bolts to free the light (making sure to mark its angle so I won’t have lights that only illuminate passing aircraft when I reassemble it), slip the screen in, tighten bolts up. Job’s a good one!

What a difference. I only wish I had fitted the bloody thing before embarking on that 2,000- mile trip to the South of France! Lookswise I’m not a fan, but it certainly does a good job of stopping my head getting battered by the wind and seeing as it only takes about five minutes to fit or remove I’m going to leave the Bonnie naked and bolt it in again before I leave on any big trips. Perfect.

Finally, the Bonnie has developed a slightly concerning leak from one of it’s engine case bolts. It doesn’t look too serious but as it’s due a service I’ll let a proper mechanic investigate.

DATE RECEIVED: 27th March 2009
PARTS ADDED: Triumph flyscreen
TOTAL MILEAGE: 4,386 miles