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Field Grade

Triumph Bonneville -- vintage or modern recommendations

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Field Grade

My older brother had a late 1960s-era Triumph Bonneville when I was a kid. Some of my earliest memories, 1970 or so, are of him setting me up on the tank and taking me for a spin around the block.

 

I was just going through some old family photos and there are some snapshots of the bike parked up on its center stand in front of the house, and me sitting at the handlebars, all of four or five years old.

 

I guess you could say nostalgia is a powerful drug -- you know what I mean if you like to hunt old SXS, or cast vintage cane rods.

 

I have had a few bikes in the past, a Honda 400 and Yamaha 650. But always thought the 1960s-70s Triumphs were some of the finest looking bikes ever made. Classic, clean, fairly lightweight, fairly simple engineering that stands the test of time.

 

Anyone else out there like the vintage Triumphs ( ? ) ... I know, I know, they are not Vincents or Ducatis but the Triumphs hold a certain charm. Yes, they could have persistent electrical issues (Lucas Prince off Darkness), and you might not want to take one on a cross-country trip, due to vibration at highway speeds. I would only be riding it conservatively, Sunday morning type stuff.

 

Looking around in want ads, Craigslist, etc., I think I could probably pick up a vintage Bonneville in good running condition for around $5,000. One of the considerations, though, is that I don't have any of the British tools needed to work on one of these old bikes. So that would be another investment. Along with various parts that need to be replaced much more frequently than with modern bikes.

 

The other option would be for me to get a modern Bonneville, used, in around the same $5,000 price range. More horsepower, electronic ignition, less general upkeep, similar vintage styling. (i.e., Triumph upgraded to fuel injection but still kept non-functioning Amal carbs on the engine for looks).

 

The new Bonnevilles are heavier by 100 pounds or so, which is one drawback.

 

Any suggestions welcome!

 

rjj

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Lurch

New ones would be more reliable (you mentioned Lucas), but don't have the soul of the old ones - think the new Indians vs the old true indians, or Panhead/Knucklehead harleys vs the watercooled or new electic versions.


If you want it just to hop an anytime you want and go as far as you want, go for the new one. But if you want an adventure, go with the classic (spoken from someone who <sigh> just ended his 20 year relationship with his 1940 harley😥

Don't be afraid of the old, there are numerous clubs and websites (not as great as UJ), who live and breathe the old trumpets, grab yourself a set of "Spanners" and get dirty!

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Irishwhistler

As Lurch stated, ye can't beat the appeal of a classic "Trumpet".   The new Triumphs are lacking something and dare I say, have a certain Nippon styling about them.  I sold my last bike around 1986 and that was a 1979 Bonneville Special with black teardrop tank, gold pin striping, lots of chrome, Lester mags, and two into one exhaust.  The bike was a beautiful chick magnet, cause I know it wasn't me 😂😂😂😂😂.  Put 6000 miles on that bike the first summer I owned her, and the seat behind me was rarely unoccupied.  Damn those were some fun times. 👍

 

Had to give her up, something just plain wrong with an Irishman riding a Brit bike 😂😂😂.    I came close to getting killed on her more than a few times, likely an Irish curse of sorts for riding a Limey bike.😩

 

Good luck in ye search.  Post her up should ye find one.

 

Mike ☘️🇮🇪🇺🇸

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Two Barrels

My father has a newer version of the Bonneville.  He went through this same process and opted for the new production.  He has had it at least 10 years and it is a good bike.  He has tried to sell it locally with no luck.  He is 77 now and just does not ride it much anymore.  

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Steve Hunts

If you have space indoors for wrenching and like that kind of thing get one either vintage or new.

 

I'm 60 and back into bikes again after a hiatus. Spent my youth riding dirt bikes but quit for many years because of kids, etc. I'm really enjoying having a bike again even though summers are short here in MT. I plan to keep riding for a few more years.

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Lurch

Sounds like we need to introduce Mr. TwoBarrels Sr with Mr. Fieldgrade.

 

Buy me a plane ticket to SC and back from  NY and I'd deliver it! Could certainly use some time with my knees in the breeze about now!

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KenB

I have the same set of photos, only it’s me on my fathers bike, a ‘60 Triumph T120.


Depends on what you want.  Electric start, radial tires, fuel injection, just put in gas and go?   Get a modern one. 
 

Want kick start, limited tire choices, pot metal carbs that quickly wear, and have a place and desire to wrench?  Get a vintage one. 
 

Whitworth tools for the vintage bikes are easy to come by and not expensive. Parts prices are comparable for each.  If you’re concerned with the price of a set of wrenches, vintage might not be for you. 

 

How about service?   Both modern and vintage will need service.   Will you do it yourself, or is there a shop for one or both nearby?
 

I’m down to six vintage British bikes.  Four or five are roadworthy.  Four I’ve owned going on 30 years.  I do almost all of my own work.  If you have questions on specific models, I’d be happy to help.  Electric start bikes are appreciating faster than kick start bikes right now as the vintage Brit bike crowd ages.  

 

hth.  Ken

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Swampy 16

Go modern ! Getting stranded just sucks especially on a bike. I’ve always been a Harley guy, they’re all I’ve ever owned. When they went to fuel injection it changed everything. 

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Virgil Kane

Although not a Triumph, I can remember the day my brother came home with a brand new 850 Norton Commando. Parked it at the end of the driveway and walked up to me by the garage only to turn around and see his new bike going up in flames.  Something on the electrical system shorted out and started the bike on fire, only thing left was the metal parts, everything else melted off in the flames.

And he always made fun of my old HD panhead. huh! ¬¬

 

Virgil

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Field Grade

Guys, thanks for all the responses. Looks like we could start an entirely new section here on UJ -- vintage bikes.

 

I will keep looking and saving my spare change... it will be months before I can pull the trigger.

 

Part of the fun is in the search.

 

Will keep you all posted.

 

rjj

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Field Grade
36 minutes ago, Virgil Kane said:

Although not a Triumph, I can remember the day my brother came home with a brand new 850 Norton Commando. Parked it at the end of the driveway and walked up to me by the garage only to turn around and see his new bike going up in flames.  Something on the electrical system shorted out and started the bike on fire, only thing left was the metal parts, everything else melted off in the flames.

And he always made fun of my old HD panhead. huh! ¬¬

 

Virgil

That is a frightening scene right there.

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kgb
56 minutes ago, Virgil Kane said:

Although not a Triumph, I can remember the day my brother came home with a brand new 850 Norton Commando. Parked it at the end of the driveway and walked up to me by the garage only to turn around and see his new bike going up in flames.  Something on the electrical system shorted out and started the bike on fire, only thing left was the metal parts, everything else melted off in the flames.

And he always made fun of my old HD panhead. huh! ¬¬

 

Virgil

 

A friend has a Norton and put lettering on the gas tank so it would say "No ton" as it won't even go over 90mph.  He owns it just because it's a cool old bike.

 

 

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Lurch
2 minutes ago, kgb said:

  He owns it just because it's a cool old bike.

 

 

Trumpets, Snortin' Nortons, Z1, indians, Vinnies, excelsiors  - ALL old bikes are cool bikes!

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DonT

I have 1 vintage bike and 1 retro modern, sold off 2 vintage bikes recently. Mine aren’t Triumphs but i have friends that are heavy in to these and Norton’s, well over 100 bikes between a doz guys.  All but 1 guy has some sort of a modern bike, that they ride- the vintage bikes are to work on and play around with.  
The old bikes don’t have brakes- whatever you thought 50 years ago has changed. When that abs equipped car stops in front of you on a dime and you need 20 car lengths, scary. 
I like riding county roads, 50 mph on a vintage feels like 100 and you’re working the bike, it wears you out, the hi way is no fun at all.


I’m in my late 50’s and have been riding all my life, age may have something to do with my opinion. 

 

A friend had 3 bikes, a norton, late 60’s Bonneville that he owned for 50 years and a modern Honda. He moved the Honda for a retro Triumph (900cc cafe style).  After that he moved the Bonnie, he like to ride- a lot, so much easier on a modern.  
I still like to ride the vintage to a friends house or a cruise night. 
 

no right or wrong answers here.

i always enjoyed the search. 
good luck. 

If you’re near NJ I could help you out.  

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hayslope

Rob - I have a friend in Bedford that has a modern version.......maybe 7 yo.  He absolutely loves it. He rides it up to VT when they go on vacation. Sweet looking ride!

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