We recently spent a week up in the mountains riding two lovely but very different motorcycles. It was an adventure packed with freezing fingers, and what I'm now convinced is the best motorcycling road in the world. But I'll leave it to Ashok to regale you with that tale in the November issue of OVERDRIVE. Right now we're going to talk a little about the motorcycles.
The 2015 Triumph Bonneville and the Ducati Scrambler both sell themselves on their retro charms, but that's where the similarities end. I spent a majority of my saddle time on the Bonneville. Here's what I loved.
To be honest, I didn't really like the Bonnie for the first half hour. It wasn't very quick or exciting, things I crave for in a motorcycle. But as time went by, I started to like it more. Yes, it feels very old school - the gauges give you almost no usable data except for speed and a couple of trip meters. But as we flowed through the smooth and winding roads going out of Leh, the Bonnie proved to be surprisingly willing. Want to cruise? No problem. Step up the pace? The Bonnie will keep up. It even corners decently too and can stop when you need it to. Old school, but not in a bad way.
Choose a gear, choose a speed and the Bonnie will almost always be happy to oblige. It will potter around in fourth at less than 30kmph. Fifth gear is all you'll ever need for the highway, even for overtakes. Naturally, that's mainly down to the 61Nm from the big 865cc parallel twin, but also because the gear ratios are quite closely packed.
Comfort is one thing on the open highway but it's quite another when you're ten thousand feet up and gasping for air. At high altitudes, the Bonnie is really easy to ride. The throttle response is ultra smooth, riding position relaxed and the seat is soft and generously accommodating. I could happily imagine touring the entire country on one of these.
No really, the Bonnie is rather capable on bad roads. Ashok was getting all motocross on the more capable Ducati Scrambler on the rough stretches but I was right on his tail, until he decided to really lighten it up and both the Bonnie and my aching muscles had had enough. It has this impervious feel, that it can just keep on rolling no matter what. I found that it handled gravel and loose rocks confidently and the soft suspension actually made it less of an effort in the rough stuff. It did scrape the ground a couple of times but on closer inspection, it turned out it was just the bottom of the double cradle frame that was grounding, no harm there. The rear tyre is just a 130-section Metzeler but it generates plenty of grip and almost never spins up unless you really provoke it.
To the average idiot whose first reaction when he sees a big bike is to sit on it and start with the selfies, the Bonnie is nothing but a modified Bullet with two exhausts. The people who do know what it is are usually the appreciative types who will come up and chat but generally respect the space you'd like for your motorcycle.
1. I personally love a bike that blends in but most people don't agree. That's why I considerthe Bonnie's relatively incognito looks asone of its negatives.
2. The second thing is a bit of a double-edged sword. That comes down to the feel of the motorcycle. I gradually fell in love with it, to the point that I'm now convinced I someday want to own one. The issue is that I'm also convinced that that day is far, far away. This bike is something I'd love to spend my golden days on. My ride into the sunset if you will. It's not really a bike for a young man, or for that matter a young biker. It takes a certain amount of maturity that only comes with years of biking to truly fall in love with a bike like the Bonnie. Either that, or if you're graduating from a Royal Enfield. In which case, this is the most logical upgrade.
Oh and it's about time Triumph gave it ABS.
On the 2016 Triumph Bonneville range: