Triumph Bonneville vs GT1000 Touring

Bart Madson | September 2, 2009
2009 Triumph Bonneville SE
Retro motorcycle style with a modern presentation,Triumph and Ducati showcase their storied past in the Bonneville SE and GT1000 Touring.

Twin powerplant, wire-spoked wheels, dual rear shocks and simple, classic lines… These features define many a motorcycle produced during the great boom of American ridership in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Jump ahead a decade or four, and Motorcycle USA sampled the modern interpretation of these “classic” rides – the 2009 Ducati GT1000 Touring and Triumph Bonneville SE. What we discovered were two different approaches to delivering a retro-themed modern motorcycle.

But first the question: What is powering the vintage boom?

The term boom seems appropriate, as one explanation is the aging Baby Boomers whose demographic shifts continue to drive American culture and economy. The motorcycle industry is currently enjoying (or was enjoying) the return of many a Boomer, whose riding career began back in the ’60s and ‘70s. Capitalizing on the nostalgia of those riding days gone by, marques like Ducati and Triumph debuted entire model lines devoted to classic styling.

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And while Ducati’s SportClassic and Triumph’s Modern Classic motorcycles are the most prolific examples of the modern vintage niche – they are far from alone. Moto Guzzi has built “classic” models alongside its high-performance Twins, and Royal Enfield survives solely off vintage-inspired units. Even Honda floated a production vintage test balloon when it debuted the ‘80’s-styled CB1100F concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2007.

The success of the modern vintage niche is hard to argue against, with Triumph’s Parallel Twin-powered Modern Classics, of which the Bonneville is the flagship, a stalwart of the Trumpet line. The expansion of Ducati’s SportClassic line with the GT1000 Touring in 2009 is a clear signal its retro seeds have reaped financial rewards for the Italian marque as well.

2009 Triumph Bonneville SE
It’s not enough to just look good, as riders crave modern performance wrapped in a vintage skin. But which classic delivers best?

And, no, you don’t need to be an old fart (I use the term lovingly!) to appreciate the vintage lines. Clearly gentlemen of a certain age aren’t the only ones rolling off dealerships with vintage-inspired rides beneath them. Plenty of 30-something Gen X-ers like myself, many of whom weren’t even conceived when the original steeds stormed the American roadways, find the classic models quite fetching and a very tempting purchase… Depending, of course, on how they ride.

And there’s the rub. It’s not enough to make something that looks good. This is 2009 after all, so a “vintage” ride must function in a very un-vintage-like manner with an electric start, fuel injection, fiery motor, dependable brakes, sporty handling and near maintenance-free reliability.

Testing our vintage-themed duo, we tagged along for the inaugural Grave Robbers Run, a 750-mile ride through the mountains of Idaho and Montana (stay tuned for the motorcycle travel feature). The rally featured rides that had to meet two requirements: Be older than 1980 and cost less than $1000 to purchase and get in running order. What better way to sample the modern retros than riding alongside the real ones!

So let’s get our vintage verve on and see how the Duc and Trumpet fare…

Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.

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