A Triumph T 120 Bonneville at 10,000 miles

The Triumph Bonneville T120 at 10,000 miles

The odometer clicked over to 10,000 miles last week, a good chance to look back on 16 months of ownership of my 2016 cranberry red and silver Bonneville.

Cut to the chase – a fantastic design, and one of those machines that does exactly what you imagine it will do while you stare at it on the showroom floor.  It is not a sport bike, although it can be ridden in a “lively manner.”  It is not a long haul luxo tourer, yet I have taken three multi-thousand rides on it so far, with the next one a week away. It is not the fastest or most powerful bike I’ve ever ridden – by quite a long shot, but I did not expect it to be.  It has been reliable and comfy and beautiful.  Always beautiful.

To the details.  When I first saw one I was smitten by the appearance.  I immediately started thinking of the reasons I should not purchase, while chatting with Andy the amiable salesman.

“Well, I would want heated grips.”

“They come standard.”

“I would want those kneepads on the tank.”

“Also standard.”

“And ABS brakes with triple discs.”


And a few more comments like that.

To his credit Andy did not laugh at me.  Everything I would want in a new bike.  Aha!  Spoke chrome wheels mean no tubeless tires. Oh well.

Maintenance has been minor, to put it mildly. Not only compared to Triumphs of old, but to almost any other product that is used hard and (occasionally) put away wet.  The oil change interval is 10,000 miles, which seemed absurd to me. I had the oil changed at 8,000 miles, because I had a long ride coming up, and because I could not stand it any longer.  I also had a “chain service” at that time, which meant a good cleaning and possibly a small adjustment.  This dealer service shows that I am old and lazy and have more money than I did back in the day. 

On the same day, as I rode to the dealer, the low beam failed in the headlight, so I had that changed as well.   That one bulb is the only mechanical issue to date.

There have been two factory recall notices, both of them minor, that mainly sufficed as excuses to go hang around the dealership for a bit and spend more money!

Additions.  I have a Nelson-Rigg magnetic tank bag that is on the bike almost all of the time. In a fit of hubris, I wrote on this site a month or so ago that I have been using tank bags for over 40 years and have never seen a scratch in the paint.  No surprise that one appeared two days later. I believe the Triumph tank has a coat or three of clear over the color, and that clear coat now has a micro-scratch or two that shows if you cock your head at the correct angle in bright sunlight. Serves me right, but not a huge bother.

A friend loaned me a pair of Cortech saddlebags for my first long ride, and I added a black “jock bag” to the top.  This worked so well that I ordered my own set of Cortechs and added the Cortech top bag that plugs into the saddlebags.   This gives me all the space for luggage I need, although the right hand bag now had some abrasion where I overstuffed it and it chafed on the tire a bit. Must be careful of that.

I also ordered the Triumph “fly screen” in the cranberry metallic color, and while this does take some wind of your chest and arms, it is 98% cosmetic in practice. Which is what I expected. 

Oh yes, a pair of Triumph valves stems I transferred over from the Speed Triple before I sold it.

Riding the bike is a total pleasure.  Not many motorcycles can be fun to ride just puttering around your local area, and also on the freeway and also on winding roads far from home.   The Triumph seems happy and capable of anything I ask of it, and also returns 50 mpg or more on regular fuel.  The Speed Triple I owned previously struggled to top 33mpg on mid-grade.

That said, the Speed Triple would turn into a corner RIGHT NOW, whereas the Bonneville is much slower to react.   This takes some adjustment, but is in keeping with the overall nature of the bike.

All motorcycles have a personality, and the Bonneville personality is friendly and laid back.  It sort of says to you “We can go much faster if you want, but is it worth the effort?  Why not just relax and enjoy?”  Sound advice. The clutch pull is light enough that I think a ten year old child could handle it.  The brakes are progressive and easy to modulate.

Every butt will tell a different tale about a motorcycle seat, but for me the Bonneville is comfy.  On my last trip, I was determined to drone up I-5 from somewhere in Oregon to Chehalis, because I knew Chehalis to home would be a one-shot deal.  To my surprise, my three friends shot by me on the right and raced to a rest area exit.  I swerved right to join them.  They felt forced to stop because they were in butt agony, while I was fine.  They were on a Ducati Multistrada, a BMW R1200RS, and a Honda cruiser.  Your results may vary.

Tire wear seems excellent, but then most of my previous bikes had much more horsepower. The BMW K 1300 S needed at new rear tire at 6,000 miles, as did my Kawasaki ZX1200R.    The Bonneville looks like the rear tire will go 13-15,000 miles and the front 18-20.  Again, your results will vary.

Improvements?  Sure, we all want to make improvements.  Two Bonnevilles with aftermarket pipes joined us at a motel in Oregon, and they both sounded terrific.   I could replace mine, and may at some point, but at times I also enjoy the peaceful thrum.  A better set of rear shocks might help both the ride and the turn-in.  I don’t know if the high zoot shocks on the Thruxton would be a bolt-on, and perhaps the Thruxton front forks as well?   Again, on my mind but not imperative.   Perhaps some boffin at Triumph will ideate putting the Thruxton “high power” engine and the suspension on the T 120 and call it the T 120R – THAT would be tempting.

Last thing to note:  with this bike you will have conversations with people. A lot of them. People who know nothing of motorcycles will tell you your bike is beautiful.  People who think they know a bit will ask what year it is and when you had it restored, which gives you a chance to point out the small radiator and the fuel injection components disguised as carburetors.  The truly knowledgeable will ask questions and pore over the bike, because they may have never seen one up close. I’ve had people give me a thumbs up, and even take pictures of the bike.  In America, if you are away from a big city, a Triumph, almost any Triumph, is a rare sight.

Fantastic design, and I think Triumph has earned all the praise they have received for the entire Bonneville line.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

About david

I am a 69 year old motorsports nut who lives in Bothell, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I have been married forever and have two grown children. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Bonneville T 120 , a Triumph Thruxton, a Fiat 500S and a VW Tiguan. What else would you like to know?
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3 Responses to A Triumph T 120 Bonneville at 10,000 miles

  1. Patrick says:

    …. A suggestion to improve the ride-ability even further… Something I suggest for every rider and suggested when you first got the T120… Install Dynabeads in your tires, you will be amazed at how this tames little oscillations and smoothes-out the ride. Your tires will wear perfectly, giving you some more miles on them… My first ride with Dynabeads, blew my mind when I hit a newly paved stretch of near virgin asphalt… It was like riding on air! Zero oscillations..! Until you experience the difference you will never know. If you have ever been water-skiing on glassy water, it was like that… So you know that those oscillations are taking a toll on the bike, tires and your body…

    When you were describing some possible ‘wants’ for the T120, The new 2018 765cc Street Triple S came to mind… It gets 49 mph with a 4.6 gallon tank and has sophisticated Traction Control with 5 rider-modes with an advanced on-board computer that gives you two trip displays, average and instantaneous fuel consumption, range to empty, service information, etc. It is @120lbs lighter than a T120 and that extra 1.8 gallons of gas in the tank gives it farther range than the T120. It has all the modern suspension parts and adjustability and a comfortable riding position, with a price-tag in the same vicinity of the T120. Heated grips are an accessory as well as a rear pinion bag and tank-bag and fly-screen extension for a little more slip-streaming.

    Now… The Street Triple S is not going to attract the attention of folks that think you are riding a well-kept classic from their high-school days or from the ancient history of motorcycling… So, you can’t have everything… I really wonder how long the mighty twin will survive… We may see where Triumph is going with the twin very soon, as they are expected to reveal some new bikes next month…

  2. Kirk says:

    David, Thank you for your nice write up.
    I just turned 5,000 on my 2017 T120 so I will do an oil change myself. I don’t care much for the tires and I’m looking forward to changing to Avon Roadriders. I changed the rear shocks to Ikons and like them. I also changed the front rotor from the original Sunstars to the Brembo that come on the Thruxton R. They are half the weight.
    Cheer, Kirk

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