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2013 Triumph Bonneville Comparison

Monday, May 20, 2013

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2013 Triumph Bonneville Comparison Video
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The 2013 Triumph Bonneville squares off against the 2013 Iron 883 and the 2014 Star Bolt in our Urban Cruiser Shootout. See how it stacks up in our 2013 Triumph Bonneville Comparison video.
Going into this test, we know the Bolt and Sportster are true direct competitors, but the Bonneville certainly competes for sales in the same demographic. Many OEMs are trying to figure out how to draw in the young, hipster, urban cruiser crowd these days. Like the other two, the Bonneville is powered by an air-cooled twin-cylinder engine, albeit Triumph’s Parallel Twin sports a much different character. And the engine performs much differently than the other two as well. The trio has the versatility to be a first-time buyers motorcycle but delivers enough performance to scintillate the senses of seasoned riders as well. An affordable price point lumps these motorcycles together as well, the 2013 Triumph Bonnneville coming in as the lowest priced of the bunch at $7699, with the 2013 Iron 883 priced at $7999 and the 2014 Bolt stickered at $7990. The R-Spec version of the Bolt we tested with the upgraded rear suspension, suede-style seat vinyl, black mirrors and matte grey paint pushed MSRP up to $8290.

Climb into the stretched saddle of the Triumph Bonneville and you’re sitting more on the bike than the other two. The seating position is upright with a forward slant, your feet are under you and small cutouts in the tank allow riders to squeeze in while the bars are situated down. At a 29.1-inch seat height, it feels much higher and open than the behind-the-bars feel of the Sportster and Bolt. Its seat doesn’t offer any lower back support and is fairly stiff, but it’s also the only one of the three that comes with pillion accommodations as standard fare.

Twist the Triumph’s throttle and it’s deceptively quick. Though it feels like it lacks the arm-stretching torque of the V-Twins, a peek at the torque chart shows that the Bonneville delivers 45.53 lb-ft at 3700 rpm, slotting in between the peak of the Bolt that comes on at 3400 rpm and the Sportster at 3900 rpm. The area where the Bonneville gets the advantage over the other two is that it doesn’t reach its peak of 46.24 lb-ft of torque until 5600 rpm and is still delivering in the 45 lb-ft range up to 7000 rpm. By that time, the motorcycle with the smallest displacement of the bunch starts putting out the most horsepower of the three, topping the charts at 60.35 hp at 7100 rpm. This means the Bonneville has the widest, most usable spread of power and allows riders to wind it out more between shifts. This becomes immediately evident right from first gear as the Bonneville doesn’t sign off until just over 50 mph whereas on the other two bikes have riders shifting into second gear at just over 40 mph.

In our acceleration tests, it was no contest. The Bonneville went from 0-60 mph in 5.25 seconds, a full 1.25-seconds faster than the Bolt. In the quarter-mile, same results, as its time of 13.87 and top speed of 97 mph easily distanced itself from the pack. Throw in the fact that the horsepower king is 55 pounds lighter than the nearest competitor and watch it check out down the strip. The only real demerit we found with the 2013 Bonneville’s powerplant is its subjective lack of character. At full song, long-time Motorcycle USA Editor JC Hilderbrand likened it to a Singer sewing machine. Managing Editor Bart Madson also picked up on this.

“The Triumph’s engine performance far outpaces the other bikes. It revs longer and feels peppier from top to bottom – it’s not really close. The Parallel Twin does emit a completely different character than the gruffer V-Twins. It gets the dreaded ‘feels like a sewing machine’ descriptor – and while it’s super smooth and powerful by comparison, it doesn’t emote the same image as the other two bikes.”

With a tighter rake  smaller front wheel  compact COG  and a different chassis  the Bonneville has a definite handling edge on the Iron 883 Sportster and the Bolt.
With a tighter rake, smaller front wheel, compact COG, and a different chassis, the Bonneville has a definite handling edge on the Iron 883 Sportster and the Bolt.
The red racing stripe matches the Bonnevilles sporting disposition and we milked its 4.2-gallon tank for 152 miles before a fill-up.
The red racing stripe matches the Bonneville's sporting disposition and we milked its 4.2-gallon tank for 152 miles before a fill-up.
We logged over 1600 miles in two weeks on the trio of bikes in our urban cruiser comparison before determining a winner.
We logged over 1600 miles in two weeks on the trio of bikes in our urban cruiser comparison before determining a winner.
Further disparity between the 2013 Bonneville, Bolt and Iron 883 was demonstrated on our run through the mountains. At 27-degrees, its rake is much tighter and the Triumph’s 17-inch wheels are much smaller and narrower. While the bike’s 4.2-gallon tank looks big, overall the design is svelte with the narrower engine and powertrain tightly packaged within the rails of its closely spaced, tubular steel cradle frame. This makes for a compact center of gravity. The placement of the foot controls are up and allow for a lot of lean angle.

“Handling is where the Bonneville rips these other two bikes to shreds. For starters it actually has some ground clearance, where the others scrape pegs at even slight turns. Its smaller-by-comparison 17-inch wheel allows for much quicker transitions, and the Bonneville feels nice and planted in the bends,” commented Madson.

To validate its performance, I took the 2013 Bonneville down to Carmel with me for the 2013 Quail Motorcycle Ride. First I used it to pace through winding Carmel Valley while trailing an all-original 1971 Dunstall Norton, a motorcycle whose reputation is built around its handling, and the Bonneville did a fine job of keeping pace. The Quail Ride also included an opportunity for a handful of parade laps on the vaunted grounds of Laguna Seca where turn-in on the Bonneville was light and sharp, its stability at lean was impressive and the grip of its stock Metzelers exceeded all expectations.

We broke the ton down Laguna’s straight, the five-speed gearbox of the Bonneville hitting every shift on cue. The wet, multi-plate clutch ensures that gears catch smoothly and efficiently. When it came time to bank around for Turn 1, the powerful front brake came in handy. The Nissin two-piston floating calipers have a strong bite all the way around, but the front in particular is very bitey, enough to just about throw you over the bars if you’re overzealous with them. Used in tandem, the Bonneville’s brakes provide great feel at the controls as well.

“The Bonneville’s brakes are more effective, particularly the front. It delivers more bite, but it might feel stronger because the Triumph feels lighter than its heavier rivals,” said Madson.

And though the Triumph ticks all the right boxes in the performance category, the styling tends to be a bit staid. Painting its tubular frame a racy red and the racing stripe down its tank are nice touches, the chroming on the KYB shocks are stylish, and the minimal instrumentation, anchored by the analog speedo and digital odometer/clock/ trip meters, provide form and function. But overall styling is pretty vanilla.

The fake carbs over the throttle bodies are a curious addition, especially since the fuel-injected Triumph is still a cold-blooded starter. Even when you pull the faux choke lever out, manually wrenching up the idle, it didn’t want to catch several times and Madson couldn’t decide if it’s quirky cool or just irritating. The plastic side covers the pseudo carbs lead in to also detract from its fit and finish. We weren’t fans of those tall, thin-stemmed mirrors either. They work fine but on the aesthetic side, they don’t add anything to the style of the bike. The Bonneville doesn’t have any adjustability to its levers either, which the standard Bolt does.

“It lacks the fit and finish of the Harley,” said Madson. “If I were picking up a Bonneville, I’d definitely opt for the more retro-styled T100 version with its wire-spoked wheels and
The 2013 Triumph Bonneville continues the sporting heritage started by its T120 forebears.
The 2013 Triumph Bonneville continues the sporting heritage started by its T120 forebears.
more traditional looking seat.”

In the end though, what it lacks in curb appeal, it more than makes up for on the performance side. It left the other two competitors in the dust, both on the straights and in the turns. It has the strongest brakes of the bunch and the smoothest tranny, too. Madson’s final thoughts on the 2013 Triumph Bonneville sums it up well.

“I was actually quite impressed with the Triumph. It had been a couple years since I’ve ridden the Bonnie, and it’s a great standard/urban bike. It’s also a fantastic beginner bike that won’t bore more experienced riders.”

And on that note, you’ve got the clear-cut winner of Motorcycle USA’s 2013 Urban Cruiser Shootout.

2013 Triumph Bonneville Comparison
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Piglet2010   January 18, 2014 11:01 AM
@ PowerSquat: The only time I noticed wind blast being an issue is when passing several slower vehicles at once, as above 90 mph it feels like you are running into a soft "wall" of air. But no issue riding at ~75 mph on the freeway. As for the seat, I have the gel upgrade, and it is fine for a tank of fuel (120-130 miles before the reserve light comes on), but on a 500-mile ride it becomes painful for me. The only other real complaint I have are the rear shocks having too much high speed compression damping, which makes faulted crack-control joints highly annoying - an upgrade is next on my list after adding a tachometer (which Triumph sells a kit for).
PowerSquat   January 1, 2014 09:10 PM
I own a 2013 Bonneville and there are a number of discrepancies with posts on this subject on this discussion. The Bonneville, SE Bonneville, and T100 are the only Bonneville models. Someone mentioned the America and Speedmaster. Those are not Bonneville models, they are completely different bikes unrelated to the Bonneville, except that they engines are similar in displacement, but firing interval is different. The article also is wrong in implying that you can take a Bonneville up to 50 mph in 1st gear. There is no way that is possible, you would be redlining at 40 mph. You need to be in 3rd gear at that speed and with the other two makers bikes as well. The Bonneville was compared against the Harley 883 Iron and Moto Guzzi V7 Stone in a national magazine. For those that have ridden older Guzzi's, the modern V7 still shakes and has clunky shifts. The cylinder heads also have to have rubber covers because of the odd orientation of the block. The Harley vibrates too much, when it visibly shakes, I'll pass on the numb hands that inevitably result on rides of 20 minutes or more. I have leaned the Bonnneville over almost till I scraped my knees on the road. I like the agile way it handles corners and accelerates on city roads. I will admit that on the highway at 65 mph the upright riding position can make you grip the bars tightly, but the bike actually seems to prefer riding at 70 mph vice 60. The stock seat is thin, but even on hour long rides it supports well enough. And a poster mentioned that the clutch and front brakes are adjustable. The article was describing the shift pedal and rear brakes pedals as not being adjustable, which they are not. At the price point the Bonneville sells at, some things are no included and those are two of them. Overall, it is a great bike and I would buy it again.
Piglet2010   August 29, 2013 09:29 PM
Anyone considering buying a Bonnie should be aware that the handling between the standard/SE versions and the T100 is different, as well as the available tire choices - more sporting tires are available in the 17-inch sizes. Other than looks (arguable) and slightly more seat to peg distance and softer ride, there is no advantage to the T100, and the standard/SE have better handling and braking, as well as lower MSRP.
Piglet2010   August 29, 2013 09:25 PM
I bought a standard Bonnie about a month after this article came out, and while it is a bit quirky, it is a wonderful bike to own and ride, other than the hard saddle and stiff rear suspension. The engine is as flexible as the flat torque curve implies - while not nearly as fast as a super-sport above 40 mph or so, the performance is a lot easier to actually use when riding at real world street speeds. And the special version must have different control - mine came with 4-position adjustable clutch and brake levers.
Rykelee   May 28, 2013 08:12 PM
I'm somewhat baffled why the test included a standard Bonneville, when there are two legitimate cruiser variations, namely the Bonne. America and the Speedmaster.
Racer1   May 24, 2013 01:37 PM
phx - no-one would accuse the Bonnie of having sportbike-like quick handling or engine performance for that matter... as to how ANY motorcyclist wouldn't worry about ground clearance, I just don't understand. The point is - as was clearly stated in the article - people ARE cross shopping between the Bonnie and the 883, so a comparison is not only valid, but especially useful to those people. If the point of a manufacturer is to make solid, well performing motorcycles, then Triumph is the clear winner here. If the point is to market a "lifestyle" and sell merchandise out of dealer/boutiques supported by ho-hum performing motorcycles with nice paint, then Harley clearly wins that comparo.
RENDELL   May 23, 2013 08:27 AM
I have been watching the Bolt since it was first announced in the media. It appears to be the perfect in town bike and I was ready to buy one. After reading how it scrapes pegs all the time I will have to pass on it. Maybe I could go aftermarket and get the pegs up and back an inch or two. Minus that it seems like a bike I would really be happy with it.
tankerman   May 22, 2013 03:33 PM
Nice comparo, at least the Triumph does not try to be a Harley that segment is probably best left to the "motor company" any thing else is and looks like a copy. Where the Triumph is trying to be a good all around motorcycle something at which they are very good at.
phxrider   May 21, 2013 06:03 PM
Really...? Not exactly a cruiser, the Bonnie... If you're going to rate cruisers, at least *try* to get into the mindset of a typical cruiser rider. They don't worry so much about ground clearance and sportbike-like quick handling. Engine character, comfort, stability on the open road, ease of riding - those are more valued by cruiser riders. I like my Judge for entirely different reasons than my 990 SMT.
Piglet2010   May 20, 2013 08:07 PM
How about comparing the Bonnie to the Honda CB1100 and Moto Guzzi V7 Stone in a classic standard comparison? (Too bad Kawasaki does not import the W800 to the US.)
Piglet2010   May 20, 2013 08:02 PM
So a standard wins a cruiser shootout - hmmm....