2017 Bonneville T100 Review:
Words: Syed Shiraz Photography: Akshay Sharma (Daylight) & Himanshu Sharma
“I won’t be able to get eggs on these, right?”, asked my elder cousin pointing at the seating position of new-age motorcycles like the YZF-R15, which he doesn’t find conducive to get groceries on. He isn’t wrong. He had just one motorcycle, a KB100, in the mid-eighties which did it all. It took him to the nearby market, where he could get eggs from; it took him to a couple of places, where he could even fertilize some, and it took him to college, office, and to Leh as well. Therefore, discussions around the benefits of a Deltabox frame would have been futile with him as the mere mention of the word ‘Sportbike’ had him retort “why? I ride on roads, not on a racetrack!”. And it makes sense. See, not everyone wants to ride to work everyday on a razorblade; these people are the ones who do not hate their wrists and lower backs; they are not masochists. But, do not mistake them for softies – they might have ridden on and conquered the most treacherous places on their KBs and RXs more times than the total number of pictures of your Murthal / Pari Chowk / Manesar McDonald’s / Lavasa rides. And that too before you were born, probably. These folks have ‘been there, and done that’.
Fate or wife (or are they the same?) might have been responsible for their parting ways with motorcycling, but every now and then their urge to get back on two wheels flares hotter than their most vicious carnal desires. And that’s exactly the demographic Triumph India have in mind for the Bonneville T100. People who used to ride, and are now contemplating returning ‘For The Ride’ (I love it when a bike manufacturer’s catchline can fit so beautifully in any sane motorcycle conversation, unlike Bajaj’s naive ‘Leave Track Racing To Amateurs’!) are mostly the ones who will buy the Bonnie. Of course, others may buy it too; in fact, one of my friends rides one and it’s her first motorcycle! Her fiance rides one too, and then there is this girl in Pune who rides a green Bonnie. But we all know that buying a motorcycle (outside of commuter segment) is mostly a matter of heart; that is why people buy REs. Therefore, it’s my job to objectively review this one as well and see where it stands as a motorcycle, and not as a fetish.
Let me start by telling you where the T100 finds its place in the manufacturer’s retro lineup. Triumph India calls it the “Modern Classics” range and, in India, it comprises five motorcycles: Street Twin (INR 7 lakh), Bonneville T100 (INR 7.78 lakh), Bonneville T120 (INR 8.8 lakh), Bonneville Bobber (INR 9.09 lakh), and Thruxton R (INR 11 lakh). All prices mentioned here are ex-showroom, Delhi. At the very outset it is apparent that Triumph have ensured that there is no ambiguity in the positioning of these motorcycles. Please also note that the Street Twin and T100 are 900 cc motorcycles, and share the same engine, whereas the other three are 1200s, and they share the same 1200 cc engine as well. Coincidentally, the old T100 was the first Triumph I officially rode three years ago (link to review), and now, the new T100 happens to be the first from their range of modern classics that I had the privilege of testing recently. After the new T100, I also tested the Street Twin so its review would be the next in line.
Now I had requested Triumph India to give me the Street Twin first as I have been getting a lot of inquiries for that bike, and I too have been looking forward to ride it ever since it was launched – seven lakh rupees for a 900 cc motorcycle that looks so darn beautiful have caused me to randomly get up at odd hours of the night and do some calculations. I then have to put myself to sleep after hearing a condescending laughter from my chequebooks in the closet.
Anyway, I was told to pick up the T100 and that the Street Twin will follow subsequently. Honestly, I wasn’t very excited about the Bonnie. I thought to myself, “how different would it be from the last one? And if it is similar, why should I be testing it again? Okay so it has gained a few electronics and ccs, but…”. But work has to be done and so I went to Triumph One, which, if I am not wrong, happens to be their biggest showroom In India. It’s like a big candy shop for overgrown kids, and you’ve got to hand it over to Triumph – they really make some of the most gorgeous motorcycles of this world! The Thruxton R is the one to kill for, but it’s this one, the T100 (along with the T120, of course) that stays the truest to the lines and form of the original Bonneville. Your grandfather and father would immediately recognize it, and if they are those typical elders who are against the idea of big motorcycles, they might just succumb to the charm of this one.
However, they might not like the sound, or the lack of it rather, of the latest Bonnie. That’s the first thing my father said when I got this one home. But he wasn’t abrupt. He just said that the old Triumphs, Nortons, and BSAs, etc., could be heard from a mile away (okay dad, be ready to shell out INR 71,910 for the Vance & Hines slip-ons, then!). But I guess he meant it in a good way. Back then, even factory bikes were loud, so this one must have brought some relief to his ears literally (especially with so many imbeciles running loose on their REs with the crappiest-sounding exhausts ever! KTM guys, you are safe.). I, for one, am not a fan of unnecessarily-loud motorcycles, so the new Bonnie works for me.
Okay, upon deeper introspection, even I would have liked it to be a notch or two louder. At idle (in fact through the entire rev range) it has more bass than the previous Bonnie, and on the move too it is just right for the rider – involving, but not disturbing. But it doesn’t really announce its arrival, which it should, according to a few shallow people who strongly believe that kindness nowadays is interpreted as weakness. Although I don’t subscribe to their philosophy of life, even I feel that the sound of a 900 cc motorcycle, at least when you hit that starter button, should not wake up the dead but should turn a few heads. The T100 also does, but mostly for its looks and not for the sound, I believe. I apologize for sounding shallow as well. Check the video clip below and tell me if what you think:
Bonneville T100 Review: Exhaust Note
But let me tell you something else too – everywhere I went, I got appreciative glances (okay, it was the bike!), and never did I get a contemptuous stare from anyone. It would matter to you if you’re not a sadist (like those aforementioned sterile-bull riders). The appreciation was definitely due to the Bonnie’s looks, and the lack of contempt was due to its calm disposition, thanks to its stock silencers.
And calm is one word I think I’ll be mentioning more than a few times in this review. I say that not only because of what this motorcycle is, but also because of what it does to you. I’ll speak about the latter a little later; let me talk about the former first. See, that 900 cc motor is super-smooth. In fact, it is so smooth that it feels like it was dipped in butter, rolled in silk, and then marinated in honey before it came anywhere near gasoline and engine oil. But it still retains that all important character that has always been associated with British bikes. Or, in simpler words, it doesn’t feel Japanese, despite being smooth. So though at first you don’t expect it to be a redline-in-each-gear kind of a bike, you get pleasantly surprised (Akshay was!) when you hit the rev-limiter in the first gear! And you can redline it in all gears all day long and the bike won’t complain! Here’s how it feels:
Bonneville T100 Review: Acceleration
As you can see the T100 hits 100 km/h in less than six seconds, while the ton (100 mph / 160 km/h) comes up in less than 18 seconds from a standing start. Old man’s bike did you say? The chaps at Triumph know very well that horsepower does not mean anything in this segment, torque does – top-end does not matter, mid-range does. Therefore, though the hp has come down from 60 to 54 (that’s still more than the H-D 883’s 49 hp), the torque output has become bigger and better than even the before-and-after results of body builders endorsing ‘get-big supplements’ on Telebrands. From 61 Nm it has jumped to a stomping 80 Nm! That too at just 3,230 rpm! For perspective, the Iron 883 of the perceived torque masters, Harley-Davidson, puts out 70 Nm at 3,600 rpm, and it is 34 kilos heavier than the Bonnie! Which essentially means that it doesn’t matter which gear you’re in, a twist of the wrist is all you need to overtake all the irritant forms of traffic – no downshifts required. And that 5-speed gearbox has to be one of the most precise units in this segment. I had the bike for a decent amount of time, but, in the entire duration, I encountered no missed shifts, no trouble in finding neutral, no fuss, no drama, just precise engagement of gears with the shifter providing a solid reassuring feel. For people with numb feet and brain, this time around the Bonnie comes with a gear-position indicator as well.
In fact, Triumph have given a lot more within the beautiful analogue dials this time. If you have read my previous Bonneville T100 review, you would know that I had strongly pointed out the appalling lack of a fuel gauge, among a few other things that included a bizarre position of the ignition key slot and an unlockable fuel-tank cap. I am happy to report that Triumph have rectified everything and more! The key slot is where it should be; the fuel lid is now lockable; and not only do you get a fuel gauge, you also get real time and average fuel efficiency; a range (distance-to-empty) indicator, and a distance-to-mate indicator as well. Of course, I made the last one up, but seriously, I really didn’t expect all the grievances to be addressed at one go!
Wait, there’s more. While the Bonnies were always air-cooled (the new gen did get oil-coolers though) the latest Bonnies finally get liquid cooling. Like I explained to one of my very good ‘influencer’ friends, all Bonnies are air- and liquid-cooled now. Would that be all? No. There’s even more: ride-by-wire throttle, traction control, and ABS.
And I felt that the ergonomics have become even better! They were already brilliant (read the previous review, if you haven’t already) but I felt more comfortable on this one. The bike felt lighter and putting both feet down now feels even easier. I checked the website and found that the new T100 is around three kilos lighter and the seat height, at 790 mm, has also come down. If I remember correctly, the previous one’s was around 800-810 mm high.
Just so you know, Akshay is 6’3” and he was also comfortable on the new Bonnie. And so was my friend as a pillion who had the privilege of getting a ride on the T100 consecutively for three days. For the record, our commute back from office can range from 32 to 40 km, and 1.5 to 2.5 hours, depending upon the route we take. It should be a comfortable motorcycle for both while touring as well, then. She also confesses that the Bonnie is THE machine that has compelled her to now learn to ride a motorcycle.
This reminds me to tell you what I had touched upon earlier – the effect of this motorcycle on the rider. I shall, in a bit, after I have discussed the ride, handling, braking, and fuel efficiency of the T100. I already told you that this one feels lighter and more manageable than the last one, which means you’ll find it to be more agile than the previous bike as well. Of course, it is no Daytona and initially, for the first km or two, the steering feels obnoxiously slow as well. But you immediately adapt to the riding style that the Bonneville gracefully gestures you to follow, and then it dances to your tune!
This bike can be ridden hard and it sure is fun but when you do that you almost feel guilty of treating it like this. It’s like asking an elegant lady for a dance but behaving like a monkey with her on the dance floor. She is considerate (read: “ride-by-wire, traction control, good brakes, grippy Pirelli tyres, and ABS”) and will play ball, but you do know that it’s just not acceptable behavior in such company, right?
The ride quality is brilliant and this has to be one of the most cosseting bikes I have tested yet. The new Bonnie also happens to be the most fuel-efficient BIG BIKE I have tested yet! I had to calculate the fuel efficiency thrice because I just could not believe the figure to be true the first time! Sadly, for the competition, it is true. So here it is ladies and gentleman, the average fuel consumption figure of perhaps the most fuel-efficient 900 cc twin in the world – 25.84 km/l! Take a minute and let that sink in. This figure is despite being stuck in bad traffic on my way home. DAILY. Take two more minutes now, and a glass of water. You would have already noticed that I did not do my usual top-speed runs with this one (I did take it to around 170 km/h more than a couple of times though), but that still is an astounding fuel efficiency figure for such a big engine.
And that brings me finally to the part I have been mentioning intermittently throughout the review – the effect of this motorcycle on the rider. You just read that I did not test the top speed of this motorcycle. Let me tell you that I could have, but I just did not feel like doing that. I have also explained the reason above. See, I’ll have to confess that I am an impatient rider. I am almost allergic to traffic; you’ll smirk and say that we all are, but I have realized that my tolerance levels have diminished to almost zero over the past 25 years of my motorcycle riding tenure. Therefore, irrespective of the bike I ride (be it a TVS Victor or a Triumph Daytona), I ride it like it’s my last chance to get away from all the clutter.
But, for the first time ever in my life, I suddenly found myself to be absolutely relaxed irrespective of the traffic conditions around me! And this was during the peak summer that we just crossed in Delhi! The feather-light pull of the clutch; the perfect fuelling; the incredible balance of the chassis (I was putting my feet down half a second after the bike came to a complete stop) – all that definitely helps a lot in city traffic, plus, the engine does not overheat as well. My friend said that the calm nature of the Bonneville T100 has rubbed off on me. I don’t have any reason to disagree.
Now, even when it comes to bike-per-rupee, the T100 is a sweet deal. The nearest competitor, the H-D Iron 883 is slower, heavier, and still 33 thousand rupees dearer than the T100! So it’s quite evident that you do get a lot of motorcycle for your money if you choose the Brit. Moreover, on the Triumph, you’ll find it easier keeping up with your superbike pals. But, most importantly, it’s the everyday usability that makes the Bonnie T100 such an attractive proposition. Being able to get closer to find your transcendental self is a big bonus. Really recommended if you are facing anger-management issues. It worked for me. And then I got the Street Twin…
Next Read: Triumph Daytona 675 Review: Comprehensive Road Test [Top Speed & Other Videos]