Compelling motorcycles are a rare breed these days. There are motorcycles that tempt and entice but those are, just like the effect they have on you, temporary. A compelling motorcycle is one that presses you to leave logic and reasoning behind. It makes a passing want turn into a must. The Triumph Bonneville T100 belongs to this category of motorcycles. I wish it didn’t.
To say it in an uncomplicated way, the T100 is exactly what you’d imagine the T120 minus 200 cc to be. And yet, there is an individuality to this motorcycle which compels me to tell you a story about it. It wouldn’t be wrong to call it the retro version of the basic Bonneville Street Twin but it’s not all about the chrome and wire spoke wheels. The T100 is a machine with an attitude, with character. Its core lies not in how different it is but in what it is, on the whole.
The headline of this story, and this is to bring in the much warranted context before I delve deeper into the T100’s skin, is borrowed from a Daft Punk single of the same name from its 2005 album Human After All. What exactly does a French electronic music duo have to do with this shiny new Triumph? The interpretation of technology, that’s what. At a time when music was predominantly analogue, Daft Punk rolled in the synthesizers and created sounds that were, in technique, bold and outlandish but in its essence, music. Daft Punk’s interpretation of technology was not a diversion but a contemporary medium. Change is as inevitable as the needs it arouses but that didn’t have to mean doing away with the basic premise of music. This is the kind of thing Triumph has attempted to create with the T100.
Now that you have the context, it’s easier to explain what the T100 is really all about. Amidst the sweaty mosh pit of captivating motorcycles lies a breed that continues to expect motorcycles to be their very definition – cycles with motors. Something as threadbare is, of course, not entirely welcome in this age and this is where technology comes in, as a bridge between eras. The T100, in a way that only Daft Punk fully understood, uses the crutches of technology not to complete its structure as a motorcycle but as something to help anchor it to all kinds of living, breathing generations. Its brochure enlists the inclusion of ride-by-wire, traction control, ABS and even a USB power socket but these are things that help broaden its appeal to those who want it for being an expensive motorcycle rather than just a motorcycle.
What makes it the latter is its 900cc, fuel-injected, parallel-twin engine that sits neatly within the tubular steel frame; as old school a setup as it gets. This is a street motorcycle, sort of a daily runner but with the legs to help you escape banal urbanity. Its handsomely chiseled motor banks on its 8.1 kgm of torque output more than its 54 bhp and its 5-speed transmission only re-affirms this. The T100’s universal premise is that of a simplistic, easy-to-live-with machine and any of its mechanical components give this away in an instant. This simplicity is not to be confused with compromised quality, however – it’s anything but. Triumph has really raised the bar when it comes to quality machining and that it hasn’t spared even its relatively cheaper range of motorcycles this opulent quality is something to be lauded.
It’s this very feel of ‘quality’ that comes through from the moment you snick it into gear and let go of the clutch. I think I might have said this in my story about the T120 as well, but Triumph really has achieved a BMW level of engine and transmission refinement and, remarkably enough, has still managed to make everything feel mechanical. The muted, mildly bassy rumble from the very Bullet-like end cans adds to this sense of refinement although it does feel like it could do with lesser restricted vocal chords, something Triumph’s impressive range of aftermarket accessories can easily address. The ergonomics are straightforward in that no singular part of your anatomy is stressed. This changes three hours into a ride, however, thanks to the seat which is soft but slim – again, a Triumph accessory list fix.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the T100, riding it gets even simpler. Its nature belies it but the T100 is actually a quick motorcycle, one that will take you past 160 kph, at which point things do get a bit too blurry for comfort. What this motorcycle does with ease, though, is cruise at high speeds. You can slot it in between 100 to 120 kph and the T100 is at home, completely unruffled. Of course, the T120 is even better at this but if you never got around to riding it, you’d call the T100 perfect. While the T100 makes do without riding modes, its precisely tuned fuel-injection unit along with ride-by-wire makes it perfectly adaptable to all kinds of riding styles, rarely ever acting out of character. This is a textbook motorcycle when it comes to responses – predictable, easy to modulate and is neither too fast nor too slow for a vast array of senses.
Another highlight is its inherently good chassis which, despite its added girth (it is 15 kg heavier than the Street Twin and 11 kg lighter than the T120), delivers a stable and conservatively flick-able package. The understeer-y feel of the old Bonneville is gone for good and the more time you spend with the T100, the further you can revel in its cornering potential. What perfects this neutral, friendly character is the plush suspension, a conventional setup which works overtime to give you a butter-smooth ride. With two generously built adults on board, it can bottom out although the bigger concern when riding with a pillion is the room on offer, which is a little bit cramped, especially with that helpful but intrusive backrest. If you, like me, imagine the T100 to be your globetrotting companion and therefore envision is as a rider-only (with lots of luggage) motorcycle, you have nothing to worry about.
Coming back to where I began, the T100 is not a motorcycle that’s polluted by technology. It’s only gotten sweeter and closer to its basic premise of being a trustworthy, honest and timelessly appealing motorcycle. It’s not a tech-heavy motorcycle by today’s standards, but its technology has the backing of logic and rationality.And is that Rs 8.55 lakh price tag backed by reason, too, considering it’s only a lakh off the T120’s price? Yes, perhaps, if you are comfortable with how the T100 feels at 120 kph as compared to the T120 and if you don’t want riding modes, apart from the marginally higher EMIs. What makes the T100 compelling, however, is not its logical technology or its sublime engineering. It’s the fact that all of it is tucked away and yet comes together to give you what is, without a doubt, the best street motorcycle in the world. I wish it didn’t.
TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE T100
Displacement: 900 cc, parallel-twin
Max Power: 54 bhp@5900 rpm
Max torque: 8.1 kgm@3230 rpm
Type: Tubular steel dual cradle
(F/R): 41 mm telescopic fork / twin-shock
(F/R): 310 mm disc / 255 mm disc
(F/R): 100/90 R18 / 150/70 R17
L/W/H (mm): NA/715/1100
Wheelbase: 1450 mm
Kerb Weight (kg): 213 kg (kerb weight unspecified)
Fuel Capacity: 14.5 litres
PRICE: Rs 8.55 LAKH (ex-showroom, Mumbai)