This is the first in a series of articles reviewing the 2010 Triumph Bonneville T-100 over the Christmas Holidays in the Phoenix Area, 2010.
A couple of months before Christmas, I had a few plane tickets that needed to be used before they expired. Sheila said that she wanted to go to Scottsdale between the holidays to get together with her closest girlfriends and their kids. Sounds like a great idea — although I thought I might enjoy it more if I could break away from time-to-time and ride on the roads that I spent the first 40 years of my life on.
A call to my friend Johnny Scheff, the Triumph Dealer in Chicago (MotoWorks Chicago), got me in touch with their National Marketing crew, and a bike was arranged. I would need to pick it up in Anaheim and drop it off there, but that just meant that I would have a great “getting to know you” ride on the 380 mile trip out, and then make a great ride back on one of my favorite rides — Phoenix-Wickenburg-Parker-29 Palms-LA. That was the plan, along with a ride up to Globe, AZ and some nice around town stuff.
Time marched towards the date, and the bike firmed up to be a Triumph Bonneville T-100. I kept checking the weather, frowning at all the rain that was pouring down over the Southwestern United States. California was getting plastered. Arizona was getting the leftovers. The temperature was plummeting. I kept looking at the reports. At the last minute I packed all my late fall gear and resolved to make the best of it. 61 degrees in LA when I landed.
The 2010 Triumph T-100 Described
The Triumph T-100 is a throwback-bike. It’s made to look like a 1960’s T-120, but the similarities end at the looks. This T-ball is all new, from the fuel injection that inhabits the carburettor-like intakes to the disc brakes, electric start, modern Metzler tires and… Gear selection with the left foot.
The audience for this bike is fairly wide. Number one would probably be the now-to-familiar “re-entry rider” that rode when they were kids, then had their own, and now, as they get older, are ready to get back on the bike. The Bonneville was the classic Bike for years. Brando, Fonzie and “The Steve” all were Triumph people. The heroes of one’s youth are revisited in a most natural way on the modern Bonnie.
The second audience would be someone that wants a “town” bike. Not everyone embraces the forward-lean of many mid-level bikes, and often the whole dual-sport look is best left to those that can’t leave their house without all their tactical gear. Many people just want
A Nice, Normal, No-BS Bike.
One that they can ride around town easily and well, take short trips to some curves, and just have a reliable, well-handling standard bike. A bike that is tough to describe, but you sure as hell know it when you get off it after riding around for a few hours. This is the bike I had hoped to find when I decided to brave the weather and spend a week with a new Triumph Bonneville.
The Long Ride Home
I picked up the bike after taking my first and last Prime Time Shuttle ride from LAX to Anaheim. The local shop that cares for the demo fleet had a bevy of old BRE Datsun 510s (yes, those 510s!) and I knew right away I was in a Gearhead Paradise, one of many pocketed away in the small industrial parks around the LA basin. I could’ve stayed and talked all day, but it was already 1pm and I knew that I was losing an hour crossing the AZ border, so I had to get on the road.
I had read the manual for the T-100, available on-line, a few days before from the Triumph Website, so I was familiar with any details that needed to be covered. Poring over the details I found only this — the choke, located under the tank on the left, can be pulled out all the way for very cold weather, or halfway for mildly cold weather — once warmed up, just push it in. And that’s about as eccentric as it gets.
I took the 91 out of town through Riverside, since it was right there and I was familiar with it. It was the second day after Christmas, a Monday, and this early in the afternoon I expected the traffic to be light. I was wrong. There are malls scattered across the Chino Valley/San Bernardino area, with the Largest Outlet Mall on the Planet on the extreme East end in Cabazon. I hadn’t lived or rode in LA for two years, but I soon remembered how to split lanes. I’m not a hot-rod lane splitter on my best day, but it took a long time to get out of town. I looked down at the trip meter when traffic finally broke. I had split lanes for 50 miles and taken 2 hours. The sun was now way behind me as I dropped into the Santa Catalina Valley to ride past Palm Springs and Indio. I stopped for gas. The desert was getting cold. I added layers, thinking about maybe getting some Coconut Cream pie at Chiriaco Summit with a hot cup of coffee, another 50 miles up the road, at the highest point on the trip.
On the climb up to Chiriaco Summit, you actually start in Indio, which is just below Sea Level. You then climb 4500-plus feet in less than 25 miles. The climb is so steep there are warning signs to turn off your A/C in the summer, and six or seven water stops so you can quench an overheating car. No worries about overheating today, and the just-under-900cc engine of the Triumph T-100 just made the hill into something as flat as Nebraska. Tons of torque and mid-range, I slalomed through the slower traffic like a Jack Russell Terrier through an obstacle course. Fun stuff, even in the rapidly declining temps.
I arrived at Chiraco Summit just as the sun dipped behind the Santa Catalina Mountains. I realised that I had 230 miles to go, all in the darkness, and I knew that the Arizona desert punished people with sever temperature declines after 10pm. No pie today. I topped off and knew that I could make Quartzite before seeing the low fuel light again. Time to drop the hammer and see how these lights work.
Plenty of light. The Low Beams light the road in front of you with a very predictable beam, and the high-beams give you the light you need to really drop the hammer and cruise 80mph, as long as it is on an Interstate and a road that you know. I know this road, having run it easily 200 times. I arrived at the Love’s truck stop in Quartzite shivering cold. I couldn’t get warm, was coughing and DEFINITELY not happy about it. Still the T-100 Bonneville was such an easy bike to ride, I might have been in an old Pontiac Station Wagon had it not been cold. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but after 4 hours of seat time and two hours left, my butt wasn’t screaming like it might have been on a lesser bike. comfortable. Hell, could this bike be a sleeper on long trips? I’m not tired, not sore, and definitely not feeling well, yet this bike, sitting underneath me at 75-80mph, is hardly noticeable. Between the weather and my cold, I have problems, yet this bike not only isn’t one of them, it feels wonderful beneath me.
I just wished that it would shed a little more heat off the engine. Not really much of a nit to pick?
I finally hit the outskirts of Phoenix about 9ish, filled up and noted that it was cold enough indeed. I knew that I wasn’t going to die of hypothermia at this point, but Scottsdale is on the other side of Phoenix, and Phoenix is One Big Damned City when you take land area in Consideration. Somehow I felt better, knowing that this bike was just a wonderful long distance bike — something that I hadn’t expected — and now with the short distances, I gathered the strength to ride through a few nice freeway transition ramps presented to me and arrived into the welcoming arms of my wife and wonderful daughter. Two days after Christmas, and a warm family and fun bike to ride for a week. Santa not only hung out late on Christmas, he stayed and brought dessert.