By Anandarup Dutta
Indian bike enthusiasts have never had it so good. The legendary beauties that were confined to huge glossy posters on the dorm walls until recently, are now burning up the tarmac. Over the past few years several super bike companies have set up shop here in response to the surge in demand for luxury wheels. Some four months ago, Triumph too launched its entire range of bikes in India, with the setting up of a store in South Delhi. The Enthusiasts are trooping in. And the presence of heavy cruisers and fast superbikes notwithstanding, it is the adorable white and cream vintage Bonneville that is stealing the thunder. Five decades after the first Bonnie sashayed out of Coventry, it still remains the belle of the ball.
The Bonneville Store in Delhi
Enter the Triumph showroom in South Delhi, and one is immediately struck by the neat arrangement of the bikes – clean rows, demarcations between the classics, cruisers, roadsters and dirt bikes. And in the very centre, subtly, shyly drawing you to it is the T100 vintage – the very same ovoid cream and golden fuel tank, the flat long seat and bug eyed headlamp. The Triumph Company has retained those elements that made their bikes so widely loved – the classic looks – even as it boosted performance standards to match popular demand. “It is not what we have added to these iconic classics, it is about what we haven’t taken away…” says a plaque on the wall above the Bonneville, and it is true. However, the old classic looks fail to deceive – it is clear that even this seemingly wizened specimen meant for collectors, packs a punch to rival any luxury cruiser in the market.
The Bonneville Name
First introduced to the British elite consumer in 1959, the Bonneville – or just‘Bonnie’ for its lovers, earned this name by setting countless speed records in the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The Bonnie was never meant to be a high selling bike – its creators believed it would be eyed only by those with a taste for anachronisms. Enthusiasts across Europe though, had other ideas. The Bonnie has since gone on to become one of the most legendary classic cruisers of all time – it is to the biking world what the Aston Martin DB5 is to luxury cars. The second highest selling British twin, and the inspiration for countless watered down adaptations across the world (which includes the Royal Enfield bullet), theTriumph Bonneville is now gracing showrooms in India with both the vintage T100 and its 21st century variant to choose from.
The Bonneville Experience
The first thing that comes to mind when sitting astride the Bonnie is the striking resemblance in feel to a Royal Enfield Bullet 650 – it’s comfortable, it’s easy. Fire up the engine and it settles into a languid gurgling idle after an initial formidable rumble. You pull out into the driveway and it is smooth with a soft backbeat from the twin peashooter exhausts. It lives up to all it claims to be – easy handling and soft cornering. The KYB chromed spring twin shock suspension with a rear wheel travel of 106 mm seems well suited to Indian road conditions. But more than anything else it is the attention that this bike gets when on the road that makes the Bonnie T100 such a prize catch. The Triumph logo on prime leather; dual tone paint; spoked wheels and forked gaiters reminiscent of the 70s – all come together to give you a feeling of being transported in time.
Meanwhile, for those insistent on gradual change, or those who swear by tubeless tyres, there is the modern, slightly primed version titled quite simply “The Bonneville”. An upward curled chrome muffler, tubeless tyres mounted on chrome alloy wheels, a lower seat and frame height makes it a little sportier; the engine and suspension remains the same as the T100 vintage. One looking for more than the standard white or cranberry red T100, the modern Bonneville comes in a wider range of colours.
Its 865 cc air cooled DOHC engine gives a respectable 50 kW (67 bhp) at 7500 rpm, reaching a peak torque rating of 68 Nm at 5800 rpm. An ample ground clearance and a height of 1.1 metre makes this a comfortable and safe riding option on battered Indian roads
Founding of Triumph
Circa 1883, a young German named Siegfried Bettmann leaves his hometown Nuremberg and undertakes a long journey to Coventry in the British Isles with a dream of setting up his own venture. A brief period as a clerk in a sewing machine company, and he establishes an import business for German sewing machines in England. His focus soon shifts however; soon he is marketing bicycles manufactured in small workshops in Birmingham and Coventry. A year goes by, this little firm is named “The Triumph Cycle Company”. Come 1902, cycles pave way for motorbikes and the legacy begins. In 2014, it is here in India.