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Triumph Bonneville vs GT1000 Touring

Wednesday, 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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2009 Triumph Bonneville SE vs. Ducati GT1000 Touring
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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…

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Piglet2010   June 30, 2013 09:40 AM
The standard and SE Bonnies look better than the T100, ride and handle better at speed (the 11-pound difference is almost all un-sprung weight), and are easier to manage at low speeds. What's not to like?
Piggy -Comparisons to HD???  March 13, 2010 10:44 AM
Please - even in a 'retro' model, the Bonnie is a beautiful young woman to be wooed and enjoyed. The HD is a metalhead burnout whose makeup covers her wrinkles and whose clothes evoke images of motley crue and big hair, rather than sleek sophistication. Standard Bikes are akin to, say a favored T-shirt, comfortable and stylish. Big chrome cruisers are the equivalent of Freddie Mercury's wardrobe, all flash, and a little outdated in this, the modern era.
Finhook -Corporate Critic  January 10, 2010 05:36 PM
2007 Bonneville T100. Spokes. Carburetors. Right-sized front tire. Needed rejetting and new cans. They are tampering with what made the bike the bike.
Bike&Mike -"Vintage Boom"  October 16, 2009 11:03 PM
You're thinking too hard. There's not really a "Vintage boom",..there's an ergonomics boom.

A reasobale riding position will sell motorcycles. It doesn't hurt that the look nice,...but the primary factor in the retro boom (not to mention the super-scooter market) is that they can be ridden a lot of miles in comfort.

Yeah,...you can buy a HD or a Goldwing and get a comfortable ride,...but some people want an ergonomic motorcycle that weighs less than the falmily barge.

The Bonneville and the GT 1000 are middleweight bikes that can be "ridden".

It's not brain surgery.
Tom -Milw... *sigh*  September 4, 2009 12:26 PM
Oh man, now you really just went overboard with your nutcase HD loving. Did you take your pills today?

Man, HD's got nothing to do with these bikes, totally different. But YET, we should all buy the HD instead. LOL... you're delirious.

I think that people looking for this kind of 'homage/vintage' will not in the least be interested in sluggish, heavy pimp mobile cruisers. Are you shocked now? Did the world as you know it cease to exist?

Oh, and by all means, you tell me which HD I can buy for that amount of money that's as fast and comfortable and well executed as the ducati. Don't even bother with the triumph, no HD retails for 8000 dollar (except those REALLY girly sportsters)

Lol, HD's are slow noise machines mostly bought by inexperienced suburban daddy's and housewives, and triumph is the 'girlie' bike. lol

Oh, also, don't bother coming up with your resale argument. We've heard it a dozen times before and it's totally pointless. Who cares about resale if every HD costs 4-5k more then any equivalent bike to begin with. It also only shows how eager HD boys are to get rid of their bike after 3 years, because you keep bringing that up. It's very important to ride the very last modelyear at any time, right? Imagine being out of fashion with a bike that looks exactly the same as it did for 20 years. The drama!
milwaukee mike -triumph/ducati  September 4, 2009 09:07 AM
Both of these are kind of "girlie" bikes.
These aren't cruisers, touring, or even sport bikes.

Do you honestly think a real man would ride one of these when you could be riding an HD? Especially in the case of the Ducati.
Tom -@x2468 - Vintage  September 3, 2009 07:03 PM
Oh come on... You make it sound like there's no more high tech, funky looking, spacey carbon fibre edgy bikes left...

I agree with gliz, you get what you want and so can we. So what's your problem, man?

And it much less of an issue in bike world then with cars. I don't think I can name five bikes with a truly vintage/replica look (harley not included, but I don't include them in any comparo). There's the triumph/ducati/guzzi and that's about it. All Euro bikes by the way, and for a reason. There's some great heritage there to build some 'homage' bikes. None of the Japanese brands have heritage standards (again, cruisers excluded, but cruisers will ALWAYS look 'old' because that's just the way they are). And even in that style there's some effort to break new grounds (M90/109/...)

Again, I don't have one, but I also don't want to 'ban' them and ruin other peoples choice and favourite style. I'm <30 years old, and I would definitely want to buy one for a weekend spin if I had the money to spare.

Like I said, cars are much worse these days. I'm European, but to us it seems that every car sold to youngsters over there is a 'retro' muscle car. Walking the streets in Michigan seems like it would make you believe it's 1960 again. Just try to picture the futuristic images from magazines in the 1960's about what current cars would look like. I guess they would be duly dissapointed.

Fiat 500/Mustang/camaro/new beetle/challenger/300C to some extent/mini cooper/...

And to your 'sociological' argument: you're just plain ignorant. That's what happens if you try to live with so many people in such a tiny space. I wouldn't want you running your two stroke through my neighbourhoud either, just to show how 'cool' you really are. There's no need for it, and it's annoying. Your freedom only extends to limit of nuisance of others, it's not a free pass for just about any antisocial behaviour. But hey, it's easy to blame the 'old farts' for the complex society we've gotten to live in... (as I said, I'm not a baby boomer, I'm <30) I'm a realist.

Closing tracks for dirt bikes is all about not trashing valuable nature (we've done enough of that already) or intruding on residential areas. In europe most of these tracks are heavily regulated or closed. Again, lots of people, so little space.

Buy yourself an island if that's what you want

Zac -Bonneville SE ruined the line  September 3, 2009 10:38 AM
In my opinion the modifications made for the SE to the Modern Classics line are awful. The mag wheels and lower seat are more reminiscent of the 80's bonnies. The Bonnies from 2001-2008 were much more 'classic' looking in my opinion (hello spokes!) I love my 08 bonny, and I am not a boomer. I just wish it didn't sound like a singer sewing machine.
jsh1120 -Oh, come now...At least compare the Duck with a Thruxton.  September 3, 2009 08:54 AM
I realize that moto-journalists often have to concoct a "comparo" from whatever happens to be available at the time, but comparing the Bonnie SE with the GT1000 Touring is a comparison of apples and billiard balls. If you're going to compare "retro" bikes, at least give the Triumph the benefit of assessing the Thruxton (or at least the T100.) The Bonnie SE is simply another entry level Bonneville with a lower seat. It's a nice bike, though not my taste, but the differences between the SE and the Thruxton are almost as great as those between any of the Bonnevilles and the the Duck. And sorry, folks, but a "classic" by definition comes with spokes. (We boomers get to set the standard.) :) And before the inevitable comment about the trials of touring on the Thruxton, I'd suggest looking at the 2009 model with higher bars than its predecessors. It makes a fine sport touring bike (assuming a "sport touring bike) doesn't have to include mountains of plastic and at least 1300 cc's.
gliz -x2468 - baby boomers  September 3, 2009 05:13 AM
these bikes represent such a small segment of the market, there are plenty of techno-gee-wiz bikes out there, it is nice to see some classic lines for a change. You get the bike that you want and so can I.
x2468 -baby boomers  September 2, 2009 02:02 PM
i really can't wait until the baby boomers effect on world trends is over. The 60s and 70s looked awesome. but then once all the baby boomers turned 40 in the late 80s to early 90s everything got so boring. land closures for dirt bikes, sound limit laws, 186mph speed limit, disappearance of 2-strokes and any motor with some real character for that matter. It's like now all they want to do is play their boring, quiet game of golf and all the fun stuff is too ruckus for anyone to do. You might think none of those things are related but I'm starting to think it's a sociological phenomenon associated with the general aging of the majority population. I have no evidence to support this, just a hunch. I'll be curious to see what shift we see in motorcycling once their influence is gone and demographic sizes turn back to normal.
jan timberlake of Worcester -My love for both  September 2, 2009 05:35 AM
For years I hve been saying I love my Bonneville and love the lines of a Ducati GT1000, so have been puring over pictures of the Duc, for years.

Now someone has noticed the link for both bikes, they are both gorgeous to ride and oh so sleek to ride, test drove one in the narrow lanes in Somerset and my smile was beemed back at the Bike Dealers. Wow what a bike, but I can't part with my Bonny, so that will always be mine, and I'd love to park the GT1000 up against it....