2011 Triumph Bonneville 800SE

By Marissa Baecker

Some of the greatest fashion designers reflect upon time periods of the past. They take their favourite pieces for inspiration and then add in their take on the modern world and use the current technology to create a new ‘vintage’ piece even more spectacular than the original that inspired them.

The designers at Triumph motorcycles did exactly the same thing except that they reflected upon their own brand, used modern day technology and re-created a vintage looking motorcycle for modern day in the Triumph Bonneville.

The Bonneville first came off the Triumph production line in 1959 and was named after the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where speed demons gather annually to break land speed records on two wheels. Three original models were manufactured but fell off the North American production line in the early 80’s as a result of the Japanese motorcycle manufacturer’s increasing popularity.

Then, there were three models – the T120 (the model stuntman Evel Knievel chose to attempt a jump over the fountains at Caesar’s palace back in 1967), T140 and the Hinckley Bonneville (named after its production location), all sharing the four-stroke, parallel-twin engine. Now, still three models – the Bonneville (late 70’s look), T100 (classic wire-wheeled of the 60’s) and the SE (retro styling) – the model we Galz tried out.

While I can’t compare to the original, I can tell you that the Bonneville SE is a versatile bike. The early production Bonneville’s offered 650 cc which was later increased to 750 cc and today’s SE provides 865 cc with today’s fuel injection technology.

If you research the older marketing material of Triumph motorcycles, you really get a sense of how much the world of motorcycling has changed. One vintage poster shows a man riding a Bonneville and the caption reads “A MAN’S motorcycle for a MAN’S sport” and today’s Triumph websites now market with photos of women riding the bikes.

Nothing wrong with that as the SE is a perfect bike for lady riders. The 29.1 inch seat height makes the bike available to average sized riders. The retro one piece seat is perfect to adjust for an increase or a decrease in leg length. The weightless, tubeless 17” alloy wheels deliver a smooth ride in town yet follow the line on those out of town curves.

And the legend lives on. . .were the words that ran through my head as I released the kick stand, stood the bike up and with a look of disbelief, thought, “This thing doesn’t weigh anything.”

The bike is so light-weight (495 pounds all fluids in) compared to other cruiser style rides of the same caliber engine that it would definitely be an attractive ride for a smaller rider. Surprisingly when opening the throttle to highway speeds, the bike maintains its position and doesn’t wander with the wind of passing trucks.

No complicated controls, no digital displays, two gauges to worry about – speedo and tach – foot shifter similar to a dirt bike, drop it in gear and away you go. The light weight agility paired with consistent torque and 5-speed transmission make this modern re-styling of the Triumph a great ride for a new confident rider or for an experienced rider wanting to step up their cc’s and develop skills.

There is enough chrome paired with the two-tone paint delivering plenty of attitude that traffic will not challenge your road position and the larger full fairing cruisers will be happy to join you for a ride.

When you look at the bike, it is hard to tell if it is an older restored model or if it is new. The classic solid black, two-tone orange and black or Pacific blue and fusion white add elements of original style to keep onlookers guessing. This was put to the test when Marissa pulled in to a popular rider’s destination, parked the Bonneville amidst all the other big badass cruisers and had the matching bad ass riders admire the Bonneville and express looks of surprise when they were told it was a 2011.

Fuel economy is an added bonus in today’s market. City driving fuel consumption is 5.5 l/100km compared to 4.2 l/100 km on the highway. Here is the best part, MSRP is just under $10,000 for the two-tone colour SE.




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