The 2017 Triumph Bonneville is in fact the third iteration of a bike whose history stretches all the way back to 1959. The original model was produced until 1983, when Triumph went into receivership.
Between 1985 and 1988, a second wave of original Bonnies were produced at the new Hinckley factory under the ownership of John Bloor.
Production of the modern Bonneville range began in 2000 with an all new and modernised bike which retains the retro styling of its predecessors.
There are now several varieties of the Bonneville, which takes its name from the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in America, including the 900, T100 and T120. There have also been myriad spin-offs over the years:
They are all based around a parallel twin (of various sizes) and share a laid-back attitude and stylish, retro looks.
MCN Contributer Jon Urry talks about his experience of the Triumph Bobber Black in the video below. The Black is more than a standard Bobber with a lick of paint, it's a genuine upgrade on the standard version.
"Even taking into account Street Triples, Speed Triples and Daytonas, the bobber is Triumph's fastest selling bike ever"
Triumph Bonneville rivals
The retro market is enjoying a bit of a purple patch at the moment and there’s a few options around for the Bonneville to fend off.
The BMW R nineT, Moto Guzzi V7 and the Norton Commando are the main competition, but there’s also several scrambler ranges to contend with and not to mention Japanese manufacturers putting out retro-infused bikes like the Suzuki SV650X and the Honda CB1100. Anyone who likes the style and idea of a Bonneville but wants more performance would be interested in these.
In the case of the Triumph Bonneville America and Bobber ranges, there are plenty of other bikes to consider. Traditional rivals come from Harley-Davidson and Indian, but there are Cruiser rivals available from the Japanese manufacturers too.
Triumph Bonneville modifications
As well as a raft of factory options to look out for on the Bonneville range, there are also a number of popular mods that owners can do to tailor their bike to their own style.
Factory accessories include upgraded Fox shocks, various bench seat options, exhaust header pipes and endcans, and engine covers.
Clip-on handlebars are often fitted to Bonneville 900 and T100 models for a Café Racer inspired look.
"For a smooth, no hurries, no worries motorcycle the 900cc Bonneville is hard to beat"
The 2000 Bonnie struck a real chord with buyers
Triumph took aim directly at the Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster in 2000 with the release of their all new Bonneville. Initially released with a 790cc air-cooled engine, the Bonneville took all of its styling cues from its predecessors.
The new Bonnie struck a real chord with buyers who enjoyed a wave of nostalgia from the very British exhaust sound and relaxed riding experience.
In 2006, the engine capacity was upped to 865cc providing a little extra poke, but just enough to keep you interested and no more. The Bonneville is all about cruising around twisty B-roads and taking in your surroundings, it has never been intended as a speed machine, despite being named for legendary speed proving ground, the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Whichever engine you go for, it will have been tuned for riding comfort and smoothness
The Triumph Bonneville handles quite nicely, and the upright riding position means you can keep going for hours in comfort. The single front disc won’t get you stopped in record time, but if you’re worried about out braking yourself then you’ve probably chosen the wrong bike.
Whichever engine you go for, it will have been tuned for riding comfort and smoothness, rather than power. Capacity increased in 2006 and carbs made way for injection in 2008 but apart from that the engine has remained largely unchanged.
Despite the lack of outright power, the later 865cc versions are fast enough to be fun with a strong mid-range for easy riding. The exhaust note is great too (especially with some aftermarket pipes added).
With all the stylishness comes a need for meticulous cleaning and care. The finish will become dull and tarnished without close attention, especially if you use it through the winter.
Chains last for miles, as do tyres and it's easy on oil too
Bonnevilles are cheap to run thanks to the unstressed nature of the engine. Chains last for miles, as do tyres and it’s easy on oil too. They’re easy to work on at home if you’re that way inclined, but if not, an annual service will cost around £100.
The Bonneville is also cheap to insure as it sits in group 9 of 17, and they’re less attractive to thieves than sportsbikes or crossers. You can find insurance quotes at MCN Compare.
When the Bonneville was launched it cost £7,799 for a base model. You can find used Triumph Bonnevilles for sale for between £4,000 and £10,800.
There have been so many versions of the Bonneville over the years that your options for accessories and extras (factory or aftermarket) are almost infinite. Special editions have been made with various touches like paint schemes, different or embossed badges or cast alloy wheels. There are even kits available to convert the fuel-injected models back to carb.
"Easy on the eye and wallet, Triumph’s small capacity Bonnie comes packed full of retro charm"
In 2016, the T100 moved to a liquid-cooled engine, something the standard Bonnie never did
The Triumph Bonneville T100 started life in 2001 as an uprated version of the 790cc Bonneville. It went on to receive the same upgraded 865cc engine as the standard Bonnie and made the move to injection like the Bonnie too.
In 2016, the T100 moved to a liquid-cooled engine, something the standard Bonnie never did, when it took the 900cc lump from the Triumph Street Twin. In order to maintain the retro looks, the engine retained its now obsolete cooling fins.
This attention to detail and dogged commitment to visual authenticity has become something of a Triumph hallmark in recent years. Cooling fins remain where they are no longer needed, fuel injection systems are housed inside carb-esque housings and euro-compliant exhaust systems hide within peashooter end cans.
The engine is still a lazy lump which thumps along to a nostalgic beat
When Triumph ceased production of the standard Bonnie in 2016, the T100 became the base model for customers who wanted a new one. The T100 isn’t as spritely as the Street Twin from which it takes its engine thanks to longer forks and pegs located for comfort rather than ground clearance, but it is still more capable through the bends than previous Bonnevilles.
The engine is still a lazy lump which thumps along to a nostalgic beat, but improvements are found in a more usable mid-range and bit more poke at the top end. The main new additions come in the form of electronic wizardry behind the scenes. Traction control keeps you on the straight and narrow and there’s even anti-stall clutch technology like you find in a modern Suzuki SV650X.
There are small touches everywhere you look
As far as looks go, the T100 is unquestionable. There are small touches everywhere you look, from the chrome engine details, to the hand painted coach lines on the tank. The overall effect puts the T100 head and shoulders above the competition.
Taking all this embellishment and quality into account, the £8,300 price tag for the base model is truly incredible value. It also puts it squarely in line with its competition. You can spec your T100 up, of course. A quick clicking frenzy in the bike configurator on the Triumph website can have you up and over £13,000 quite quickly, but the base version is already a great bike.
On the used market, you can find a Triumph Bonneville T100 for sale for between £4,700 and £9,000 and many have some factory upgrades fitted already.
"A relaxed retro for the modern world"
A 1200cc version of Triumph’s luxuriant, classy retros
The Triumph Bonneville T120 in its current form was produced from 2015 onwards, and is a 1200cc version of Triumph’s luxuriant, classy retros.
If you like the look of the Triumph Bonneville T120, the chances are you will love it. All of the usual Bonneville characteristics are there. A lazy (although much bigger) parallel twin engine, gorgeous styling and a laidback approach to motorcycling.
It’s a more mature Bonnie for riders who don’t mind taking the scenic route. The 1200cc engine is tuned for maximum comfort and high-torque practicality. As long as you’re above 2000rpm you don’t need to consider changing down to accelerate with ease.
The T120 is every bit the Bonneville in the styling department
Cornering capability is handicapped by the 18-inch front wheel and low ground clearance, but the ride is smooth and comfortable and perfectly matched to the bike’s general feeling. The added weight of the T120 means an upgrade to twin front brake discs too.
Although the engine is in a low state of tune, you still get 79bhp to play with. The main thing you notice about the engine is how incredibly smooth and refined it is. The throttle response is calm and seamless, and there are virtually no vibrations to speak of.
The T120 is every bit the Bonneville in the styling department. It’s the kind of bike you will find yourself visiting the garage to admire with your morning cuppa. The quality of the finish is also excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Triumph.
So how much does a T120 cost to own?
A new Triumph Bonneville T120 will set you back £10,350, but you get a lot of bike for that money. As with the other new Bonnevilles, you can add an almost infinite combination of bells and whistles from the factory, or if you don’t fancy quite so much bling there’s a ‘Black’ edition which swaps out the shiny parts for matte black versions.
The engine’s service interval has been stretched out to 10,000 miles too, which helps with running costs, as does the 140 mile range from the 14.5 litre tank which is comparable to the T100 thanks to the engine's low state of tune and the resultant MPG.
"Bonneville-based retro cruiser has real cred and is effective too"
The Triumph Bonneville America has real heritage
Plenty of Triumphs made their way stateside in the ‘60s and ‘70s they often got modified to suit their American owners. This means that the Triumph Bonneville America has real heritage and avoids the ‘Harley clone’ accusations which can be levelled at other manufacturers’ attempts to enter the cruiser market.
Looking distinctly American with a low-slung seat, swept back bars and more shiny metal than you can shake a stick at, the America was Triumph’s first modern take on the cruiser.
Several versions of the America were produced between 2001 and 2015, initially with a 790cc Bonnie engine, and then the larger 865cc version. The America backed up its cruiser credentials with a 270-degree crank which sounds more like a V-twin than the 360-degree version used in the Bonnie and the T100.
The America is capable of being surprisingly nimble on back roads
As the name suggests, the Bonneville America was aimed at the American market and fewer were sold this side of the pond. It managed to keep pace with its larger displacement rivals by being lighter than they were and is a much more manageable bike as a result too.
The America is capable of being surprisingly nimble on back roads, but the bouncy rear shocks aren’t up for anything too taxing. Leisurely, relaxed riding is the order of the day (as with most Bonneville variants. If you push it too hard, things get a bit vague and uncomfortable.
Although it’s light for a bagger, the single front disc still struggles to bring you to a swift halt but it’s perfectly capable of handling the sort of riding the America was intended for.
Triumph were somewhat guilty of making the later Americas a budget version of their heavyweight cruiser, the Thunderbird
The build quality and reliability are typical of a modern Triumph, the under stressed engine will go and go if it’s looked after. Although the America is pretty durable compared to some of its American rivals, it will suffer if you use it through the winter without due care and attention.
Triumph were somewhat guilty of making the later Americas a budget version of their heavyweight cruiser, the Thunderbird. There was a distinctly budget feel about some of the equipment and the real bling was reserved for the bigger and newer model.
So, how much does it cost to own a Triumph America?
All versions of the America fall into insurance group 10 of 17, one group higher than a standard Bonnie. You can find insurance quotes at MCN Compare.
If you can find a used Triumph Bonneville America for sale, they represent pretty good value compared to their new price of £7,199 for the original. Expect to pay somewhere between £3,600 and £7,700. An annual service will only cost £50 and you get 180 miles between fill-ups courtesy of the 17-litre fuel tank.
There were lots of upgradable or custom parts made for the America, including touches you might expect like foot boards, luggage and touring screens.
"Combining post-war styling with modern day performance."
The surge in popularity of cruisers has led to a second wave of bobbers
Following behind the fashion for modern retro bikes has come a second wave of café racers (bikes like the Bonneville with the addition of clip on bars and custom, half fairings). Likewise, the surge in popularity of cruisers has led to a second wave of bobbers.
Bobbers, or bob-jobs as they were originally called, take a donor cruiser and modify them by stripping off as many superfluous parts as possible. The front mudguard is ditched, and the rear is cut short or bobbed, hence the name.
Triumph unveiled the Bonneville Bobber in 2016 and it became their fastest selling bike of all time. In 2017 they added the Bobber Black to the range too, which replaces all the brightwork with matte black parts, swaps to a smaller 16 inch front wheel with a fat tyre making up the rest of the circumference. The Bobber black also got a much-needed upgrade to twin front discs.
The Bobber goes, corners and steers like a much more practical looking roadster
The small tweaks applied to the Bobber Black make what was already a fantastic motorbike even better. As with the rest of the Bonneville range it is all about cruising and low speed cool, but it will surprise you with just how nimble and quick it can be.
Anyone who sidles up to a Triumph Bonneville Bobber in a car park would assume that it is a bike which puts form over function, it wouldn’t look out of place at a custom bike show. But astonishingly, they’d be wrong. The Bobber goes, corners and steers like a much more practical looking roadster.
The ground clearance will always be an issue on this kind of machine, but the Bobber is so much fun to ride within its limits that you don’t need to go scraping the pegs at every opportunity.
The standard Bobber’s single front disc meant that you could feel you were running out of brakes
The standard Bobber’s single front disc meant that you could feel you were running out of brakes and a dose of rear was sometimes necessary to bring things to a halt, but the twin disc on the Black sorts the issue completely.
A low seat will make the Bobber easy to manage for shorter riders but it’s perfectly comfortable for taller people too. The Bobber is more than comfortable enough to ride for hours without trouble.
The engine in the Bobber is the same 1200cc parallel-twin you find in the Bonneville T120 but it is tuned for a 10% increase in power and torque low in the rev range, making progress very easy indeed.
The slash cut exhausts give the Bobber a pleasing, guttural engine sound all of its own but there is little vibration to be felt through the bars. The exhaust note only gets better as you rev it, but get overexcited on the way out of a corner and the traction control will have to step in to keep everything in line, especially in the damp.
In the world of bobbers you do get what you pay for
Gear changes are smooth and effortless, and the slip assist clutch is light and easy to use and the ride-by-wire system manages to be modern without detracting from the overall feel of the bike.
A standard Triumph Bonneville Bobber costs £10,500 and the Black is a little over £1,000 more than that. This puts the Bobber at the top end of the market compared to its competition. The Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight, Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber and Yamaha XV950 are all cheaper, while the Indian Scout Bobber is £1 cheaper than the standard Triumph.
In the world of bobbers you do get what you pay for, though, and none of these options can match the sublime opulence of the British version. Plus, with the Black model you get cruise control, Showa forks and that extra front disc with a Brembo caliper.
You can find a used Triumph Bobber for sale with a few thousand miles on the clock for around £8,500, which is already a considerable saving. The Bobber Black is still too new to have appeared on the used market in a significant way.
The tank is small for aesthetic purposes, but you still get 138 miles from the 9.1 litres of fuel the standard bike holds thanks to a relatively frugal engine (for a 1200 anyway). The Black is reduced by a negligible 8 miles to 130.
The Bobbers are surprisingly well-equipped, too. You get switchable riding modes (wet and dry), ABS and cruise control. There are also over 150 factory accessory options to choose from.
"A kind of cruiser variant of the Bonneville’
It took until the latest incarnation with the same 1200cc engine as the Bobber for Triumph to really hit their stride
Triumph launched the modern Speedmaster in 2002 as a cruiser variant of the Bonneville. It had the same 790cc engine as the standard bike and, to be honest, it wasn’t very good. It neither looked like a cruiser nor a proper Bonneville, it was underpowered and it was terrible for a pillion.
Things improved with the 2010 version which managed 60bhp and was more comfortable in its skin as a junior cruiser, but it took until the latest incarnation with the same 1200cc engine as the Bobber for Triumph to really hit their stride.
Ironically, the Speedmaster is actually a dressed-up version of the Bobber, rather than the other way around. It gets the same 10% low down engine tweak and the Bobber Black’s twin front discs, too.
The overall effect is a much stronger offering than before
The latest Speedmaster also divests itself of its predecessor’s twin shocks for the concealed mono shock system you find in the Bobber. While none of these changes in isolation would have saved the Speedmaster, the overall effect is a much stronger offering than before, although the pillion provision is still weak.
In 2002, a Speedmaster would have set you back £6,949, the price had increased to £7,199 with the 2010 iteration. The latest version costs £11,650 which is quite a big leap in price, but it is a far superior bike. If you never carry a pillion, the chances are you would go for the Bobber Black which costs the same but is much better looking.
Both previous versions suffered with being underpowered. The Speedmaster has always been a fairly heavy bike (around 250kg), and the 54bhp and 60bhp versions were not powerful enough to compensate. The 2018 model is up to 76bhp, which still doesn’t sound like much, but the extra torque you get from the 1200cc engine more than makes up for the lack of outright power.
The modern Speedmaster has much more equipment than any of its predecessors, as you’d expect. As with the Bobber you get ABS, cruise control and over 100 factory options to choose from.
The current Speedmaster is every bit as solid as you would expect from a modern Triumph
Whereas the original Hinckley Triumphs carried a few teething problems and questions were raised over quality control, by the time the second version came along this was a thing of the past. The 2010 version had its own issues, however, as some of the components felt cheap or budget. The wheels are a particular sticking point, as is the finish around the headstock.
The current Speedmaster is every bit as solid as you would expect from a modern Triumph. Attention to detail is apparent everywhere you look and the finish is sublime. The engine has a proven track record in other models too, and the under stressed nature of it means it should run and run.
If you do decide that you want an older model, have a really thorough probe around for corrosion. They do tend to go off quite quickly if they’re used as anything other than a fair-weather toy. You can find an old Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster for sale for around £3,200.