The 2016 Triumph Bonneville is about to be launched, but the model name goes back almost 60 years. The first Triumph Bonneville went on sale in late 1958, as a modified version of the Triumph 650 Thunderbird. The name was a reference to Johnny Allen's 214mph run on a Triumph Thunderbird-powered streamliner at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The Meriden factory carried on making Bonnevilles right up to the end. When the Triumph name was resurrected by John Bloor at Hinckley in the late '80s they initially shied away from anything too retro, but in 2001 the new Triumph Bonneville arrived and has been a global hit ever since.
The old Triumph Bonneville evolved from a relatively sporty four-speed 650 to a five-speed 750 that couldn't hold a candle to the Japanese opposition. The Hinckley Bonneville evolved from a 790 with carburetors to an 865 with fuel injection. Throughout, it's been a naked air-cooled twin with simple styling. Various spin-off models have been offered, most successfully the Triumph Scrambler and the Thruxton Cafe Racer. For 2016 the Triumph Bonneville becomes liquid cooled.
It handles fairly well and the engine's fine, but the Triumph Bonneville's appeal is predominantly to do with the simple, elegant retro looks. You're riding alongside the twinkle-eyed ghost of Steve McQueen.
There's a tendency in certain quarters to be sniffy about the Hinckley motorcycle's lack of authenticity, but in Italy, France, the US and elsewhere the modern Triumph Bonneville is celebrated as fun, stylish and easily personalized.
The current Triumph Bonneville is on the heavy side for something so low, narrow and air-cooled – at 225 kilograms, it's a whopping 39 kilogram heavier than the Ducati Scrambler. The performance is shamed by a modern roadster such as Triumph's own Speed Triple.
Without the Triumph Bonneville. Who knows, but it might be the case that without the Hinckley Bonneville as a ready source of reliable hardware, the current retro cafe racer scene, and the custom hot house around the motorcycle, might never have happened. Tag: TriumphBonneville865ccParallel-Twin2016Retro-StyleCafe-Racer