Ton-up Triumph a green and pleasant ride
No need to check whether the latest Triumph T100 can achieve 100 miles per hour (161kmh) like its ancient forebear could, and live up to the famous model name.
For the latest bearer of the evocative model nomenclature is 400cc larger than the original twin-cylinder T100 that Triumph released back in 1939, and the new 900cc parallel twin that motivates it comes equipped with higher technology like a single overhead camshaft, a soothing liquid cooling system, a ride-by-wire electronic throttle, and fuel injection.
There's also other contemporary must-haves aboard the bike like ABS-equipped brakes, LED lights, traction control, and even a USB port to charge your phone or connect a sat-nav, and these confirm that the newest T100 is a totally contemporary machine.
It therefore seems utterly irrelevant to apply a 1960s test of sporting prowess to such a 21st Century motorcycle, even when the bike in question looks like it has stepped straight out of the set of The Who's mods-versus-rockers classic rock opera, Quadrophenia. For it's a relatively easy bet that the new 54bhp T100 can top "the ton" without much raising of its engine coolant temperature.
Besides, the new Bonneville T100 isn't really that kind of machine. It might look like one of the hottest bikes of 1964, but the performance it delivers can be considered mellow and easy-to-handle by 2017 standards. Part of the second wave of new twin-cylinder models, it expands the range along with the café racer-inspired Street Cup, Bonneville Scrambler and 1200cc Bonneville Bobber this year.
Of these new niche-filling additions, this is the most traditional, and is pretty much a minor variation of last year's new release, the Bonneville T120. For it uses that bike's chassis and running gear but substitutes the 1200cc engine for a thinner-bored 900, and swaps the 120's six-speed gearbox for a five-speeder.
The powertrain downsizing results in a pretty decent purchase cost saving, the 100 listing for $17,995 instead of the 120's $20,990. And Joe Q Public isn't going to be able to tell whether the new Triumph twin is a 900 or a 1200 when he rushes up to the parked bike to declare that "I had one of those once".
Naturally, there are big differences to be felt from the rider's seat, and the T100 doesn't quite have the same tyre-twisting torque at low revs as the 120. It does do a pretty good impression of the larger-capacity machine, however, by delivering 80Nm of force at 3230rpm instead of the 1200's 105Nm at 3100. This allows the T100 to give similar access to the same easy-riding, no-sweat riding experience as its larger sibling. For there are few times when the shrinking of the cylinder bore and piston diameters result in any significant degrading of riding pleasure.
If you regularly carry a pillion, it's probably worth spending the extra of the 1200, but many solo riders will find that the 900 offers all the useful performance they desire.
So, this is another green and pleasant English riding machine; one that it is even greener than the 120. It'll use a litre less fuel over every 100kms travelled, allowing the capacity of the 14.5 litre tank shared by both T-badged Triumphs to last longer and roam further. If you don't share the Trumpian view that man-made climate change is a myth, the fact that the 100 pumps out a quarter less CO2 every kilometre than the 120 could be a Bonneville model decider.
For the T100 has the same offbeat timing to its firing strokes, same "pea-shooter" exhausts that muffle rather than smother those explosions, same smoothly counter-balanced response to the throttle. Same light controls too, the slipper clutch keeping the lever effort light, and the positive introduction of power-to-tyre making uphill starts a doddle. Despite a slight rise in seat height from 785mm to 790mm, the T100 is also the easier of the two Bonnevilles to manipulate in urban riding conditions as it weighs 11kg less than the 1200 (213kg versus 224kg).
Be warned that the T100 does lose more stuff than the 13mm shaved from the diameters of its pistons, and a sixth gear. Also missing are one of the bigger-capacity bike's front disc brakes, along with the pillion grab rail, centrestand, and the handlebar heaters. It's the loss of the disc that you feel the most, and the 900 needs some more committed lever input before it'll pull itself up as abruptly. On the positive side, that front brake deletion has added extra life to the steering of the T100, and it roll-rotates through any S-bends with increased enthusiasm than the bigger Bonny. Sticky Pirelli tyres and well-set-up KYB suspension at both ends remain T-badged Triumph twin riding highlights.
By introducing the more luxuriously-finished T100, Triumph have built a nicer-to-admire 900cc Bonneville alternative to the existing $15,990 Street Twin. The extra two-kay charged for the T-hundred will therefore appear good value to anyone who equates classic with cool.