A not so fast review of Triumph Bonneville T214
A bike too many? Here comes a Triumph fan who bought two Triumph machines within a year.
Almost. Exactly 14 months since I owned the first Triumph which is the Street Triple, a radical decision to purchase another of Triumph product, this time classic Bonneville special edition T214 Blue-white.
As it normally goes, a big bike owner usually will upgrade to a bigger bike, or bigger cc bike. In my case it is true by the displacement figure, though power wise, it can be considered a downgrade (from a 105bhp Street Triple to a mere 68bhp Bonneville).
The Bonneville T214 is in principle the same as Bonneville T100 with some make-over to commemorate the historical achievement made by Johnny Allen when he set world record as the fastest motorcycle with his Triumph-powered Texas Ceegar Streamliner, clocking 214.4mph (read it correct, yes 214.4 miles per hour or 343km/hr!). The occassion took place at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats back in 1956 (I suppose where they got the name of the bike then). Of course the special edition Bonneville T214 does not have the same performance as the Ceegar, and it is now equipped with modern fuel injected engine (parallel twin).
Why a classic?
It is a magnificent classic bike. It brings along with it the history, the build, the retro look, and yet its a modern bike disguised in a ‘old’ looking machine.
There is no denying that the greatest reason of buying the classic bike is its look. Yup, I like the retro bike from first sight, but decided against it the first time, for some practical reason. Then I made attempt to come close again, just 9 months after acquiring the STreet, I hired the Bonneville for a trip to Tanjung Piai Johor to ‘test’ the machine, and were impressed by its rideability and easy handling. What more, the special edition comes with a beautifully crafted, hand painted white and caspian blue colour scheme, with predominantly black painted metal instead of pure chrome colour. No doubt it’s an eye catcher anywhere I go there would be people who stopped me and started asking about the bike. Mostly the middle age or older who have experience the nostalgia of the 60’s.
The second reason, which is the most important driving factor, is the desire to ‘slow down’. Ever since I had the ‘accident’ with the Duke, many thought have come to my mind as how I can improve safety further. While speed is not everything, one thing I realised with riding a naked sportsbike is the temptation to sprint fast, indeed it’s a kind of people’s expectation to a naked bike rider, hence the term ‘ride the bike as if you stole it’…With the Bonnie, I would be under no pressure to speed up, if I ride ‘santai’ (Malay word for easy riding), I will not feel ‘guilty’ as the bike is not made for performance anyway. Having said that, the bike is capable enough of sprinting to some extent, enough to keep up with most machines on the road, or during convoys (I had tested the bike performace wise, you see, during the above trip to Tanjung Piai, indeed a few friends were pleasently surprised at its steady performance).
Practicality and ease of riding and handling has to be a big factor too, and this I have testified from the long distance test ride. Since I began serious riding (as you know by now, my main ride interest is commuting to work and short rides), I always yearn for a practical, easy to handle bike that more or less behave like a motorcup (‘kapchai’), however has a big personality. Suitable for public appearance like visiting relatives, frequenting the mosque or other public places and meetings. It has to be highly capable of manouvering daily traffic jam. The bike comes with short rack and trail making it easy to manouver in corners, in fact I had more confident with cornering since riding this bike.
My personal perspective
Aesthetic & build
It is a beautiful bike, if you have a classic mindset, ie for someone who appreciate the build, will be an instant attraction. On the road, it easily turned many heads. Indeed when I first visited the Fastbike hunting for the STreet Triple, my eyes immediately fell on one of the Bonneville. But not everyone likes it, particularly young people. There were a few young lads who really were impressed, but majority of them, given a preference, would rather adore the sportsbike, in this case they would go for the Street.
It is not a superbike
Yeah, it can be considered a big bike, but no way a superbike, in look, handling, performance or any part of it. Though, on the road it could easily catch up with the big bikes, it does not handle like one. If you ride it to a bike festival, the parking staff will instruct you to park along ‘others’ apart from the Superbike. They would lump it along with the Harleys and other easyriders.
So, if you are out looking for a superbike, you will be disappointed.
It certainly is not a sprinter. Though on the road, it would outdo a 250cc Sportsbike, or those low-medium powered 4cylinders 600cc bikes, but it doesn’t feel anyway near a sportsbike. No loud engine hum, it’s not as agile, and it has no ABS – though the brakes are very reasonable and satsfying. On a highway, it would happily cruise to 140-150km/hr anytime. 160km/hr is possible to do in a comfort style once I have fitted the windshield. Beyond that you are asking for too much. I had continuously ridden it at 170km/hr plus, even with two passengers (felt better in fact!), and occasionally could reach 180km/hr or beyond if you are lucky. That will require full throttle shift. What separates it from a sportsbike, is the sprint capability, it could go fast, but wont be as fun as a sports bike. As such, reaching a 180km/hr spee would have made a headline, whereas on a sportsbike, it considered a routine stuff.
Cruising at modest speed of 110-130km/hr is where it is best, you feel comfortable at its upright sitting position, keeping between 4th. to 5th. gear. Settled at 5 between low speed of 50-60km/hr it could sprint all the way beyond 140 without needing any downshift, however if quicker pace is needed, starting at 3rd to 4th. would give better pick up.
What it is good at?
If all you want to do is get from point A to B in good style, smoothly filter the traffic, on a machine that does not look overly agressive (like many of the superbikes), a go-anywhere bike that can blend in a variety of crowd or events, for a short to medium distance convoy ride in a relaxed manner, it offers you the perfect solution. Or having a pillion passenger that can sit truly upright at same level with the rider, then this is the bike. What more it handles easily, good at cornering and capable to keep up with modestly high speed traffic. If sports performance and speed is not your concern, this bike suits you well.
Over 12,000 km fantastic journeys
Within 8 months I have clocked over 12,000km.
Most routine use of the bike – commuting to work. Its just a perfect bike, it does not tire you, due to an upright and low sitting position. This particularly helpful during heavy congestion, maneuvering lane splitting is a doddle, and with its lowish seat height, it gave me more confidence to ride at crawling speed. I would have to play with the clutch more at low gears (comparing to the Street), and the ‘jerk’ that came occasionally would be controllable once you are used to it.
Next is doing a bit further like attending functions, events, lectures and conferences etc which involves riding into the city or a medium distance ride. With its generous luggage capacity I could conveniently carry most of my need. It certainly is less cumbersome to ride into the parking with this bike comparing to a more intrusive sportsbike with loud pipes and agressive look. Occasionally, for very short distance and ‘easy’ riding, I could do without any accessories leaving my gloves, heavy jackets all in the saddle bags, just the helmet and riding boots, making for an open air ride, cool – this is not to be done seriously or at high speed obviously. This kind of ride is often done within the confine of the ‘village’ such as going to the mosque, neighbours or nearby shops.
I had done a number of long rides – Sg. Petani, Alor Star, Kuala Kangsar, Kuantan, Batu Pahat, Malacca. On state (sub-urban) road it performed as a capable and smoooth cruiser, would happily keep up with other riders or drivers, and I had no problem to sprint ahead of the ‘competition’ to keep myself clear of the crowd of vehicles. Negotiating turns and corners is a pleasure which can be accomplished often with much less efforts.
At highways, it is equally capable at moderate speed up to 140-150km/hr. Going beyond this, the windblast is too strong, and sometimes feel impossible. Since I fitted the windshield it felt much more stable, and I was ablet to push my luck beyond the 160km/hr, though a lower speed keeping it below 150km/hr is best for smooth and relaxing ride. At this steady speed I could go on for up to 200km stretch which is just enough distance to be covered before the next refuel.
The dark side?
Am I missing something? Yeah, the fun of a sports or big bike. It doesn’t feel at all like it. Not in performance, appearance or feel. That’s it, it gives you fun in a different manner.
It also gets hot quickly. Since there are many exposed metals especially the long exhaust pipes, I had suffered various kind of burns to my skin, clothes, shoes etc. I like to hang shopping bags on the handles when riding to the neighbouring groceries. Once I hanged a loaf of bread on the handle, without realising, as result of it dangling over the top metal pipe, I reached home to find a perfect roasted slices of bread!
It felt like ‘old’ bike sometimes. The gearshift, the choke, fake carburators, of course the classic looking lights and indicators. On a bad day, you could feel like coming from the 60’s getting lost in the middle of civilisation…surely many of those onlookers who were amazed with the bike retro look could equally be puzzled with the aging bit.
Though I mentioned the bike was easy to handle and ride, it is not so at stationary. It took some effort to move the bike (awefully heavy at 220kg), and trying to manouver it can be very tiring. The stand, which is too much leaning to the left, may be a bit tricky to straighten up the bike at rest, once, I nearly lost control and drop the machine, saved only by the left leg, which felt horribly sore after that!
If I were given a choice to redesign the bike? Well, I keep the classic look, its good enough. All I like to see is a Bonneville fitted with a Street engine perhaps, wow that would amplify the fun in riding this classic machine, though I bet it would make the retro machine rather awkward and kind of out of place. (I am aware of the new Vulcan S easyrider bike from Kawasaki, which is fitted with a sporty engine of ER6). A classic is meant to be ridden like one, or else you might as well ride a different class of bike!
Great bike once you are prepared to accept it as it is. Then you get endless joy, magnificent looking machine which is so easy to ride and control. Will I keep it – yes, for now, and for a fairly distant future I say. Would I buy another classic bike, hmmm that would give the answer in negative. Yes there are now the more powerful engines and more radical look, and performance from the same line (newer series of classic bikes from Triumph) – but I have to excuse myself as I think owning one is more than enough for now, either I will keep it forever, or trade it in for another class of bike (unlikely), but not for the newer version.
Specs: (adapted from Topspeed.com)
price: RM69k (got special discounted price)
Engine: Air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin, 360º firing interval
Horsepower @ RPM: 68
Torque @ RPM: 50
Energy: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Displacement: 865 cc