2003 Triumph Bonneville
A beautiful, capable, versatile and reliable modern classic
Some bolts are prone to rusting. Suggest replacing with stainless.
Found two loose bolts that connect one of the frame's downtubes together. Not good. I reported this to a group of Triumph owners, and no one found theirs loose, so it's a fluke. All other bolts were properly torqued, and have stayed tight.
Battery hold-down strap rotted and snapped (very common).
The stock horn is wimpy, and quit working after 10,000 miles. A louder aftermarket horn works better.
Engine died while riding in heavy rain 4 times in the first 3 years I owned it, but started right back up. The tank vent tube was crimped, causing a vacuum in the gas tank, which basically sucked fuel right out of the carburetor bowls. Once I re-routed the vent tube to the other side of a wiring harness, the problem has not reoccurred.
It is a little hard to start when cold. It starts immediately, but takes a few times to keep it running. I have neglected carburetor maintenance and balancing, however, so it's hard to blame the bike.
After riding Meridian Triumphs (60s-70s), which leaked oil, vibrated, had unreliable electrics, but looked good enough to not care, I find the modern (Hinckley) Bonneville to be smooth, leak-free and reliable. I never worry about breakdowns. I rode the bike around the United States, over 10,000 miles, and I wanted to keep going when I got home.
The stock seat is very uncomfortable. I switched to a Thruxton gel seat, which is a vast improvement and looks good.
The bike is not a powerhouse, but can get you up to freeway speeds at a very satisfying rate. It has excellent roll-on acceleration for passing, best between 3,000 and 5,500 RPM. I rarely approach the 7,000 RPM redline.
Gearing ratios are well thought-out, although I feel like I need a 6th gear with the stock 16-tooth front sprocket. A 17- or 18-tooth sprocket will bring the cruising RPMs down, with only a barely noticeable hit on low-gear performance. This is just a matter of personal preference, as opinions on this vary both ways. With an 18-tooth sprocket, on the open road, the bike seems to like to settle in around 90 mph, and around 75 to 80 with the stock 16-tooth. It will easily cruise above 100 mph, and also behaves very well at legal speeds of 55-70, with plenty of roll-on power in top gear. Only rarely do I feel the need to down-shift to pass, usually only when overtaking more than a couple of vehicles.
I would not recommend sustained high-speed cruising with luggage or in windy conditions, as this is a naked bike, and therefore much more prone to aerodynamic instability. With side and top bags installed, the bike did not feel stable above 90 mph, and even less in side winds.
Handling in the twisties is quite simply fluid. I have seriously out-performed more powerful dual-sport and touring bikes, and even the occasional sport bike, much to their surprise. With good tires, properly inflated, I lean into corners with full confidence on wet or dry roads. The foot peg balls will scrape with plenty of tread to spare (my "chicken strips" are about 1/4" wide, so I don't even push it as far as it is capable).
The bike is a perfect choice for shorter riders (I'm 5'9") who like to plant both feet on the ground at stops. It has a comfortable, nearly upright riding position, which you can adjust with bar risers and/or different bars. Long-distance riding can feel a little cramped, though. I use highway pegs on trips for relief.
A commonly reported issue is that the shift lever is easy to bend if you drop the bike on its left side. This happened to me, and I had to also replace the shifter shaft and the left side cover. Triumph or after-market crash bars will prevent this (or just not tipping the bike over, but it happens).
Engine and tank styling is very reminiscent of Meridian-era Bonnevilles, and the two-tone paint schemes on all years are simply gorgeous.
Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 10th June, 2012