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Tell me about a Bonneville

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Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: landcrab » Sat Dec 19, 2015 12:44 am

Winter is hard upon me. My scooters are abandoned to their storage. The plows have built mounds of dirty snow around me. I am abandoned to my dreams. It is a time of dreaming.

Tell me about a Bonneville!
Since my youth in the “60’S” I have admired the look and mystic of the Bonneville and with the upcoming release of the T120HT in April, I find myself focused on Triumph. I remember a story about having to drink warm beer because you have a Lucas refrigerator. I have sat in the seats of a Bug Eye Sprite and find them flat and lifeless. The Landrover down the street smokes and leaks. Tell me about a Bonneville. If I had one in my garage, what would I be fixing?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: faffi » Sat Dec 19, 2015 11:21 am

So you are talking about a proper Triumph and not a current Hinckley version? What you will be fixing or not will depend on the previous owner and what he's done with it. Fully sorted, an old Triumph will be as reliable as a current bike if you take care of it and accept shorter-than-current service intervals.

So what is properly sorted? Blueprinted engine with balanced crank, upgraded pistons, valve guides and bearings. Modern Amals, which are better than Mikunis. Electronic ignition and good coils. 12V alternator with fully electronic regulator/rectifier. Sorted wiring harness. Not mandatory but still nice to have would be improved instruments and switchgear and headlight. Brakes should be gone through with new brake shoes and, if present, new seals and pistons in the caliper and master pump together with new brake hose and pads.

If it isn't sorted, you risk oil leaks, heavy vibrations, high oil consumption, carburation issues (old Amals wear out their piston bores) and any electrical gremlins you can think of. It doesn't have to happen, but the chances are much greater for trouble than with a Japanese bike of the same vintage.
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: Tritonkev » Sat Dec 19, 2015 1:17 pm

As above build them right and they will be as reliable as any Japanese bike

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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: mark75 » Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:54 pm

faffi said ...
"... oil leaks, heavy vibrations, high oil consumption, carburation issues (old Amals wear out their piston bores) and any electrical gremlins you can think of. It doesn't have to happen, but the chances are much greater for trouble than with a Japanese bike of the same vintage. ..."

regarding most "vintage" bikes described I would say :yup: but I have some reservation with "much greater for trouble... "

IMO there is only a bit higher chance of those problems over the vintage Nippon bikes - much depending on the individual bikes' history.
many 'back-in-the-day' did have a propensity for some of the problems detailed, but many survivors have been "fixed" or at-least addressed by now.

my :2cents:
"Over the Mountains of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride" ... E.A. Poe


Time flies >>> whether you're having fun __ :bike: or not :fan: ---

Any day above ground is a good day.
so Laissez les bon temps roulez. just roll safely --- Semper Vigilans...always watchful

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The views, opinions, and experiences expressed in this post are mine and may not necessarily represent views and opinions of other VTF members, so feel free to agree, disagree, or ignore them.
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: faffi » Sat Dec 19, 2015 6:10 pm

I agree - it depends on how the previous owners have treated it. Bone stock, though, and 40-60 years old, you are likely to be in for big bills to put it right. But that could be said for any old bike, I guess. My brother has had on Triumph 650 and owns a 750 triple T150V and also a Hinckley 900. He is a Guzzi and Triumph fan. We also have a mate who is die-hard Triumph fan and has owned lots of 500-750 twins as well as the odd Hinckley. On some, there has been a huge amount of wrenching and repairing, others have just worked after being handed a full service. Some have been smooth running but slow, others have been shaking more and been faster as well. Anyway, he loves them. Personally, I think they are nice from a distance, but the closer I get, the worse they seem. I very much prefer the sleeker Japanese designs. Luckily, there are Triumphs etc. for those who fancy something else than rice cookers, and plenty of rice cookers for us who prefer that :bg:
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: nanno » Sun Dec 20, 2015 5:12 am

Triumphs can be sorted up to a certain point, but overhere in metric-land (Continental Europe) one of the tougher calls due to the inavailability of imperial fasteners, you mostly find lots of bodged threads and the like. I do not agree with the call on Amals being more reliable than Mikunis, especially not the new copies/replicas.

Couple of things I did to get a T100R back on the road in proper fashion:
* lots of re-threading and proper fasteners
* deal with the clutch and primary chain (normal wear and tear)
* electronic ignition (Boyer)
* Twin Mikuni VM26
* all new wiring with a single double-fire coil from some Kawasaki Zed I had kicking about and a new reg/rect unit
* bushed out the gearbox cover
* new tyres
* new brake-shoes

Not perfectly cheap, but my mate's enjoying the bike like never before and it's quite reliable. Over the course of winter it will receive a new set of crankshaft seals, new rings and lapped in valves and then it should really be good for a lot of riding next year.
http://viragotechforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=43227 - Nanno's accumulated findings (and blatant show-off) - infos on my TR1's, my performance and reliability mods and a bit of show-casing of the stainless steel exhausts I build

http://greasygreg.blogspot.co.at (My blog - Greasygreg.blogspot.co.at)
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: landcrab » Sun Dec 20, 2015 9:20 am

Everything that has been mentioned above fits my expectations although changing to electronic ignition seems questionable. Sitting on the side of the road with failed points can be corrected without needing to call in a trailer.
As seen in the attachments of a couple I am looking at, I am not that specific to Bonneville, The only difference I can find between some of these models is the number of carbs they wear. The two bikes shown are very original, the gold one hasn't been ridden in 15 years.
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If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: faffi » Sun Dec 20, 2015 1:30 pm

The A65 engine is questionable unless the crank main bearing and oiling has been upgraded. A mate has one - it's the hardest vibrating bike I have ever ridden. Past 2500r rpm the vibrations become painful, above 4000 it is literally impossible to see clearly as the eyeballs rattle in their sockets. Don't know if it is typical for the engine or not, it could be that his is terribly unbalanced. Or it could be representative.
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: nanno » Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:48 pm

faffi wrote:Or it could be representative.


It is. A mate has got a genuine Spitfire Mk III and I always thought it was due to the high state of tune (hi-compression engine with two Amals) on his specific bike, but really seems to be a more general issue.
http://viragotechforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=43227 - Nanno's accumulated findings (and blatant show-off) - infos on my TR1's, my performance and reliability mods and a bit of show-casing of the stainless steel exhausts I build

http://greasygreg.blogspot.co.at (My blog - Greasygreg.blogspot.co.at)
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: Rebel » Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:17 pm

I have owned two of them, a 1979 T-140D, and a new style 2002 Bonneville. IF you are wanting one of the newer ones that is more authentic, then go with a 2005 or older. The original new style Bonneville has a 360 degree crankshaft, which has the "proper" sound. The newer ones use a 270 degree crank, which sounds more like a "V-twin". As others have mentioned with the older ones, there are issues with the Amal's and yes, vibration, and yes, electrical issues. Also, with the vertically split cases of the engine, they were more prone to oil leakage. My 2002 was flawless. I sold it to buy another BMW, and wish I still had it. VERY reliable, and no issues much like a Japanese bike. It still had character, and was easy to work on. The newer ones use an air injection system to pump air into the exhaust for "emissions purposes", so blue pipes at the headers are normal for these models. Clutch, transmission, and overall was very good quality. I did all of my own maintenance and rode the hell out of the bike on a regular basis, and no issues. I sold it right after it had turned 25,000 miles, and it was still within tolerance for the shims for the valve adjustment. VERY nice bikes, and never an oil leak!!
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: faffi » Mon May 16, 2016 3:35 pm

Hinckley Triumphs tend to be good, yes. My brother has a 900 triple. Not the same as your twin, but very well made and durable.
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: Artie » Mon May 16, 2016 8:57 pm

I cant comment on anything late-ish.... my experience is that of a 1954 Speed Twin 500. I bought a few boxes of bits which the PO insisted was a complete bike. Turns out it almost was....

a year or so later its registered and I rode it for many years...many busy years....

You couldnt ride it near or over 60mph, your vision blurred from vibrations (seriously!), after a while your fingers grew numb on the handgrips from the vibrations, yes, it leaked oil.... lots of it, so much that you had to consider just WHERE you parked it...often out in the gutter at friends houses...
My left boot was nice and supple, the right was old hard and cracked... again, oil soak from the primary case.

But I loved it..it was a sweet thing to ride, and as I had rebuilt it from the last screw and nut, it never gave me a breakdown worry, it was very high in maintenance though...luckily I love fiddling with bikes.

I sold it in a moment of weakness, and I now regret it...I wouldnt put myself through it again, but I miss the old girl sitting in my shed, ive never sold another bike though, learnt my lesson on that one.

An old pic of her in the last years .....

Trump2.jpg
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: faffi » Tue May 17, 2016 4:45 am

I know that if you pour money into them and have the engines blueprinted and upgraded with more modern parts where sensible, they can be both oil tight and relatively smooth and utterly reliable. But not cheap.

As a curiosity, I once made a brief test ride on a 140V and it was the smoothest engine I have ever felt, bar none. It made little power as well, which may be part of it, but below 3500 rpm - which was as high as I revved it - you simply couldn't feel the engine running. Nothing shook, mirrors were crystal clear. And the gearbox was so precise, with ultra-short yet light throws, that it must be considered a marvel in itself. But what kept me from buying it was how these bikes fall apart when it comes to the details. Like an old BMW airihead, the closer you get and the more you look, the cruder they become. As they say, looking good from far, but far from good. To me, at least. But we all have different tastes and preferences, and I can see why many find them charming. And there is nothing to deny that they have "soul" - they are not mere appliances.
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: guitardave » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:39 pm

Rebel wrote:I have owned two of them, a 1979 T-140D, and a new style 2002 Bonneville. IF you are wanting one of the newer ones that is more authentic, then go with a 2005 or older. The original new style Bonneville has a 360 degree crankshaft, which has the "proper" sound. The newer ones use a 270 degree crank, which sounds more like a "V-twin". As others have mentioned with the older ones, there are issues with the Amal's and yes, vibration, and yes, electrical issues. Also, with the vertically split cases of the engine, they were more prone to oil leakage. My 2002 was flawless. I sold it to buy another BMW, and wish I still had it. VERY reliable, and no issues much like a Japanese bike. It still had character, and was easy to work on. The newer ones use an air injection system to pump air into the exhaust for "emissions purposes", so blue pipes at the headers are normal for these models. Clutch, transmission, and overall was very good quality. I did all of my own maintenance and rode the hell out of the bike on a regular basis, and no issues. I sold it right after it had turned 25,000 miles, and it was still within tolerance for the shims for the valve adjustment. VERY nice bikes, and never an oil leak!!


From what I've heard, I'd say that you were right on.
For my money I'd be looking for a great deal right around the 2002 years.
There's sure to be a low mile garage ornament out there that can be had for a good price,
and you still get the Bonneville character without many of the reliability issues.
It would be really nice to have a cool bike like that and only be into it for gas, oil & tires.
I wrench all my own stuff, but when it comes down to it, I'd rather be riding than wrenching.
Follow your dreams gentlemen. Life is short.
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Re: Tell me about a Bonneville

PostAuthor: Matt230 » Mon May 08, 2017 7:13 am

Definitely on my list of bikes to own

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