Greetings fellow enthusiasts. This is a first time participation into the forum environment (newbie). I’m looking forward to discussions and sharing impressions and experiences on this marvelous machine.
Background. We had just moved to the west coast in the spring of 2003 from Edmonton (as George Carlin once said, “if you don’t like the weather, move.”). My wife and I sold our BMW bikes (F650GS and R1150GS) to get a quick down payment on a house. We weren’t long without a bike though -- my loving wife got the hint with repeated statements like “imagine this bend on a bike!” She knew what motorcycling brought to life, and what better motorcycle to bring it to us than a Triumph Bonneville.
I’ve been riding the 2003 Bonneville for one year now (bike #8 for me). Delivered in a crate to us on the Sunshine Coast from Edmonton (we did a search, Edmonton had what I wanted with the basic black with brushed aluminum cases, had it fitted with tacho conversion, knee pads and silencer option -- de-silencer actually). However, a few bugs did need to be worked.
Electrical. First ride revealed a loose starting/charging connection (under the seat). Figured it was not secured at factory and missed by the dealer on the PDI. After a pull start (rope, truck, dark cold night) got me home into the light of the garage, a simple trace of the electrical system revealed the culprit.
Allen key for under seat access. Kind of a cruel joke really, the allen key supplied (on bike) to remove the seat was the wrong size. With no access to under seat the first time I needed it, I had to pull start the Bonneville on that mid-November night when I decided my inaugural ride. The parking lot did not have convenient hills to aid a push start on my own, nor was I adept at the clutch-run-skip-jump-clutch-go method. The parking lot did provide a convenient phone booth to call home to my wife to come and give me a tow start.
Intake Rubber. Rode for 1,000 km unaware of a leaking intake rubber on the right cylinder, sorted thoroughly with the first service by the great folks at Western Power Sports in Langley. They felt the intake rubber may have been compromised by the Edmonton dealer when jetting the silencer option. The right cylinder exhaust pipe is just slightly bluer than the left. Watch/listen for this with any silencer upgrades. The intake noise was quieter when fixed too. The only point of reference I had with intake noise is what I’ve enjoyed from previous Triumph triples (96 Sprint, 2001 Tiger, 2001 Thunderbird), so I thought it was all part of the free flowing exhaust.
The fact that it was hard to start and idled roughly reveals my lack of mechanical know-how. I had thought it was a brilliant engineering touch to recreate an authentic British bike experience. Speaking of which, absolutely no leaks with this 2003 Bonneville (all our previous Triumphs had their own little rubber mats placed under them when parked, kind of endearing in an incontinent kind of way).
Riding Impression. I have finally found the perfect fit with the Bonneville. Ideally suited to my riding style and the twisting pavement of the Sunshine Coast (delightfully scraping pegs when the conditions are right—wife can’t read this). The bike mass and rider mass is wonderfully balanced. Rider and machine move together in harmony with natural acts of counter steer and weight shift from corner to corner. The Bonneville provides a brisk pace when encouraged and rewards the rider when technically precise, yet forgiving when the human factor inevitably steps in.
Starts well when ridden consistently. Warm up time is definitely needed with the air cooled twin (time to do my preflight check). The engine pulls nicely to 120 km/h and sounds great with those free flowing pipes. Throttle response is great (I’ll take carburettors over fuel injection any time). Cold weather performance is excellent. The engine is really coming into its own after 2,500 km. Patience is rewarded.
Shifting is smooth, effortless and precise (throw in a couple attempts to an imaginary 6th too). Braking is consistent with the classic bike theme, certainly what one would expect from a single disc, adequate but not inspiring (twin disc Triumphs are brilliant). Pads need to be seated-in gradually for best results. Apart from emergency breaking, I find managing speed with gear selection removes any issues with the stock break set-up.
The narrow tire profile makes the Bonneville quite nimble (like my old Honda XL650 and Transalp), plenty of grip with the factory rubber when scrubbed in too. The framework/suspension is fine. Possibly some frame flexing in corners -- could be the tires or the wire wheels, but not upsetting. Some slight wobbles at 120 km/h over pavement undulations, but nothing progressive. The ergonomics allow the rider to participate actively in the suspension and weight distribution as the situation arises.
I like the extra clearance the kink in the exhaust pipes provides over the historically correct aesthetic of straight pipes (not to say I don’t drool over the 1938 Amaranth Red Speed Twin). I am disappointed with the plastic ‘chrome’ tail and front signal lights. That being said, the Bonneville is satisfying to gaze upon when it’s parked (not for too long though). Thank you Triumph, once again.
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