Triumph Bonneville. A memory

Recently I drove for a client on a new one Triumph Bonneville. An iconic motorcycle type from a brand with an illustrious name. A tribute to everything that was once British. Oh yes: the new Bonnies are made in Thailand. But Benelli is now a Chinese brand and Royal Enfield is working overtime in India.

Triumph Bonnevilles today are good and positive. But they don't hurt me emotionally. They have become too big and bulimic. I find it almost perverse to name and look against the original.

Bonnie are you coming out to play?

And then you dream away about some Bonnies from the past. Not Bonnie St. Clair of course, but the real one.

TriumphIn the late 160s, legendary Bonneville was just the thing if you as a hormonal postpuber wanted to adorn the girl of your dreams. Real men's motorcycles, they were! Walked over XNUMX - at least in the cafe - and steered like a bat with ADHD. If you see such a superbike at the time, it is especially sweet. And very beautiful of course! But especially sweet in the sense of: sweet, small, civilized, neat. The drum brakes still look impressive. The standing twin on the shiny crankcase is also there. The buddy is tough, wide and flat. The lines on the tank are to dream away quietly on a summer evening. And to think that these engines were from the tire of the Triumph factories rolled ...

With unknown pasts

Nobody knows for sure what happened in the meantime. What is certain is that Triumph Bonneville sometimes ended up with Onno. And Onno is restoring Triumphs to near optical perfection. He usually leaves the beautiful patina on the block and hubs that makes it clear that the bike has indeed had a whole life behind it. And that makes you so fresh and technically reborn Triumph just dare to use and do not put it in a glass cabinet in your living room.

On a beautiful spring evening we did a round Achterhoek. The legendary bad reputation is completely unjustified after the loving treatment of Onno. All electrics are from the original Lucas manufacturer, but it works as it should and there is no drop of oil in places where it should not. So just float, put your hand on the choke and kick it. Onno's trained leg gets the cold engine running within two steps. We take a little longer, but the extensive experience in kicking off the editorial sidecars comes in handy here. Once started, the two-cylinder immediately runs nicely. A dark BROEPBROEPBROOPBROUP comes out of the exhausts. Magnificent! And that will only become more beautiful when the block has warmed up a bit and we can carefully accelerate a bit more.

Everything used to be… Smaller

Sitting on the wide saddle gives a familiar feeling. With a length of just over two meters, it looks a bit like your little brother's Kreidler. So endearing. Hands and feet pretty much fall into the right place by themselves. Although the bike used to be seen as quite sporty, the seating position is nice and upright by modern standards. Cup in the wind and go! Switching is on this English classic with the right, the rear brake is on the left. Leave the street and brake in front of the roundabout because the steering wheel seems to be loose. That is of course not possible!

Rubber against vibrations

The restoration is as original as possible and so the steering wheel is secured in rubbers, which gives a wobbly feeling. Why it hangs in rubbers is soon clear when we wind up the local country roads: the block is and remains a parallel standing twin with the associated vibrations. By mounting the handlebars in rubbers, these vibrations do not come through too hard in the handlebars. However, your bottom does not benefit from rubbers and the thin saddle does not really damp. But that vibrating, together with the mechanical sounds of the valve train from the front, gives you the feeling that you are on the road with a Very Real Motorcycle. The modest yet emphatic thunder from the exhausts makes the grin under the open helmet extra wide…

Also nice: Triumph Thunderbird - A Thunderbird and a girl

Triumph Bonneville was very sporty

That the Triumph Bonneville used to be known as sporty is not so strange. Even now you can use it very well on the Achterhoekse roads and those are the kind of roads where all the great stories were born in the past. Highways were a lot less then and as far as they were there, they were probably as boring as they are now. At most there was less traffic jam… Obviously you have to see everything in perspective. Onno drives along with his Buell XB12Ss and if he wants he of course spins around the Triumph Bonneville, but the English senior citizen is surprisingly well. The frame and suspension can handle a more brave driving style with ease and the block does not budge either. As long as you keep everything neat. If you constantly chase this Bonnie against the red speed range, he will undoubtedly die as glorious as his many predecessors. However, if the twin is used for pleasant explorations in the hinterland at a medium pace, it will last for hours and hours.

Also read: BSA A65. A nice machine, a bad start

A grin and a sore butt

The rider then becomes the limiting factor, after an hour or two your butt feels so dead that you like to exchange the saddle for an oak bar stool. All in all, such a classic English motorcycle is a great purchase. If you feel like it, you can indulge in the kind of road that screams to be driven through the narrow tires. Otherwise, you can spend hours dreamily staring at all the beautiful details in your garage. You will not be bored with such a moment Triumph Bonneville! And Onno Ruttenberg is a murder guy!

Also read: Triumph Bonneville. Not really original




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  1. Dear Dolf,

    Just a correction: the Triumph Bonneville is not from 1969, but it is a T120R from 1968. The only year of production with the version with the horizontal brake lever on the anchor plate of the front brake.
    Sorry for this omission.

  2. Dear Dolf,

    Thanks for the interesting article. In addition to your article and the photo of the 1969 T120 Triumph Bonneville (with the red / gray tank). This bike has been completely overhauled by Piet Mangold from Land's End Motorcycles from Hengstdijk. He has brought this bike to absolute new condition. A top performance! This Bonny ❤️ has been overhauled from the counters by Hans Peters to the rear light. Meanwhile I have built up a complete library from revision instructions to the better suppliers of Triumph parts etc.

    It was quite a job, but the result speaks for itself. Thanks to Jan Eggink Photography for the great photos.

    For further information and / or questions feel free to email me.


  3. Yes a bonnie from, I had 69, I couldn't tinker until I exchanged it for a trident 1st type that was more reliable but not really driven much Japanese any longer but now back to an (English ??) triumph an adventurer 900 from, 99 drives like never before but the starter motor is Japanese dynamo Japanese clutch Japanese gearbox Japanese but engine block English, so you can see again where cooperation can lead after 31 years

    • Totally agree. And they are made in Thailand or something. It doesn't matter where you come from, but who you are. My son's Hondaatje is from India, Benelli is a Chinese brand. And it is just like with dogs: the most 'purebred' cause the most problems

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