2002 Triumph Bonneville America
Peachtree City, Georgia, October 4, 2001 -- We all know that cruiser sales are dominating the motorcycle market. Visit any general motorcycle dealership and you're sure to see at least a small contingent of floor space devoted to these highway monsters. It seems that every manufacturer has at least one model that harkens back to the days of old, when your hair blew free, prostitution was a good thing and fuel injection was the manner in which gasoline was pumped into the tank.
Kawasaki has their W650, Suzuki has their GS1200SS retro sportbike that's again not for import into the U.S., and the list goes on. Point being, while some manufacturers are attempting to produce heritage and nostalgia, there are certain companies that already had it to begin with.
Harley-Davidson for example, and don't forget Triumph. They first started producing motorcycles very early in the twentieth century and, except for a brief period when the Coventry factory was bombed during World War 2 and, oh yes, that little period in time when they had no money, they've been building them ever since.
As of recently, Triumph has been redefining its model line-up, a natural extension of what it was already producing.
The addition of their 600cc Supersport, and sharpening of their liter-bike only confirms the existence of another player in the high-stakes game of sportbikes. However, the addition of another machine, the Bonneville America, will further define this company.
While on the outside, it bears a striking resemblance to the regular Bonneville, a closer inspection will reveal that very little has been carried over. The engine, for instance, looks like the unit found in current Bonnies, and for good reason. They both share the same 790cc parallel twin engine design. Also shared are its dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder arrangement. However, that's where the similarities cease. Whereas the standard Bonneville features a 360-degree firing order, the Bonneville America features a firing order of 270-degrees. In order to suit this new firing order, new dual balance shafts and camshafts have been implemented.
These new engine modifications gave the machine a very unique feel. Although the firing order was chosen to give the motor character at higher revs, the engine has actually smoothed out a bit. However, the vibrations were never really intrusive to begin with. Suffice it to say we would've liked a little more vibes, er, character. Triumph also reported that, despite these engine modifications, peak power and torque remained the same (61 hp @ 7400 rpm, 44 ft/lbs @ 3500 rpm). Thank dual 36 mm carburetors and revised camshaft profiles for that. Perhaps a pair of not-so-street-legal open pipes are in order. Oh wait, did we just say that?
Out on the open roads of Georgia, site of the new Bonnie's unveiling, outright chassis stability was not able to be challenged. No matter, as is typical of cruiser fare, footpegs will touch down far before any disturbing chassis elements show themselves to the rider. One thing that we did notice of concern was the rear end felt loose during high speed sweepers. It almost felt as if the rear tire was underinflated, or as if the swingarm did not posses enough torsional ridgidity. Unfortunetly the few hours that we had on the machine were not enough to ascertain and identify such small foibles. Thankfully, the suspension has a good set-up and is well balanced.
Other foibles? The indicator lights are far too dim to be noticed during direct sunlight. The rear passenger accomodations appeared to be a bit sparse, though certainly in line with what other manufacturers are producing these days. Oh yes, and did we mention that the engine could use a bit more bite?
Also positive are the ergonomics. While some of the motorcycle press lamented its bar positioning in relationship to the seat, we found the position to be very standard-like with forward controls that were placed in a very natural position. Our only real complaint was with the rear brake pedal. It was tilted in a manner that made accidental application too easy. Overall, we were very happy with the Bonneville America. It gives the riding public a machine that is a very far departure from the generic cruiser, while still retaining all the qualities that make cruisers what they are -- cool.
With a suggested selling price of $7,999 (USD), and a wide selection of factory offered options (such as bags, various windscreens, the aforementioned pipes and such) that are available, the America should be on every cruiser buyers list of bikes to check out.