Triumph Bonneville

Due to a technicality, the FIM refused to recognize Johnny Allen’s 1956 top speed run of 214 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats aboard a modified Triumph T110 Tiger. Nonetheless, in 1959 Triumph used the unofficial record to construct a new model motorcycle touting the bike’s performance by naming it the Triumph Bonneville.

What mainly separated the Triumph Bonneville from the Tiger that first year was the use of twin carburetors on the Bonneville’s parallel twin-cylinder engine compared to the Tiger’s single carburetor. The extra carburetor was enough added performance to overwhelm the Tiger chassis, and in 1960 the Triumph Bonneville boasted a new twin-cradle frame.

In 1962, American Bill Johnson set an official world speed record of 224.57 mph riding a 15-foot-long, tube-framed streamliner powered by a modified Triumph Bonneville engine burning nitro fuel at the Bonneville Salt Flats. In 1963 the Triumph Bonneville received a “unit” engine (engine cases and transmission cases cast as one piece). In 1971 Triumph moved oil for the dry sump engine from the side of the bike to within the bike’s frame. By 1972 an estimated 250,000 Triumph Bonnevilles had been sold worldwide. In 1973 the Triumph Bonneville’s engine capacity was increased to 744cc, but Triumph was in financial trouble and only managed to stumble along the next few years until going into receivership in 1983.

2009 Triumph Bonneville

When a revived Triumph was launched in 1991 there was no Bonneville model. In 1995 Triumph launched the Thunderbird, a retro-styled motorcycle powered by an inline three-cylinder engine and meant largely for the U.S. market, but the Triumph Bonneville wouldn’t make an appearance for a few more years.

In 2001 the modern Triumph Bonneville, complete with a traditional parallel-Twin engine, was launched to the motorcycling public. The new Triumph Bonneville’s air- and oil-cooled, 790cc, DOHC, eight-valve, parallel-Twin engine featured a 360-degree crankshaft (so the new bike sounded like a traditional Triumph Bonneville) and produced 62 horsepower at 7,400 rpm. Triumph Bonneville models through 2007 had twin carburetors, but in 2009 fuel injection became the new method for fuel delivery. To maintain an authentic look, Triumph disguised the fuel-injection components to resemble traditional carburetors.

A variety of models utilizing the Triumph Bonneville’s platform have been launched since the new Bonneville’s introduction. In 2002 the Triumph Bonneville America, with a longer wheelbase from a more raked-out front end, and forward footpegs was introduced. The America also had a lowered seat height and its engine was reconfigured with a 270-degree firing order (instead of the Bonneville’s 360 degree) to compete with established cruisers in America while also maintaining Triumph’s identity. In 2007 the Triumph Bonneville T100 (100-mph top speed) with a new 865cc engine was added to the Bonneville lineup. The Triumph Bonneville SE, with either mono- or two-tone paint, a tachometer, polished engine covers and tank badges, was made available in 2009. Also based on the Triumph Bonneville platform are the Thruxton, Scrambler and Speedmaster models.

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