Continuing our Rider’s Rides! Each month we feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
This month we have Jono Wiles and his Bonneville.
Well this looks familiar; but which specific flavour of bike are we looking at here?
It’s a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 Black edition.
And how long has this example been lurking in the shadows of your garage?
I bought it back in November last year.
Did this replace another bike, or is it an addition to your fleet?
Whilst I would love a garage full of bikes it’s my only ride! It replaced an older version of the Bonneville, an air-cooled T100 SE.
There’s a lot of choice in the retro/classics segment at the moment; did you go straight for an upgrade or consider anything else (e.g. Moto-Guzzi V7)?
As I had already ridden a Bonnie I didn’t look too closely at other options. As before, I wanted a classic-looking bike with modern performance, and personally think that Triumph have done a great job in creating a fantastic range of old-school-looking bikes. I do like the look of the Moto-Guzzi, and I also considered the BMW R-nineT, but I still feel Triumph pip them both on style, quality and reliability.
The older Bonneville’s were fairly basic bikes, tech-wise. Was there anything in particular you were hoping to get from this upgrade?
I loved my old Bonnie but it was missing some key features: ABS, traction control, heated grips etc. The new one is a comprehensive ground-up redesign with twin front brakes, electronic ride-by-wire system, riding modes, torque assist clutch, LED lights and, in the T120, a much more powerful 1200cc water-cooled engine. Combined, these make my new T120 a much more responsive, safe and powerful bike. The clutch is a dream and really light, which is great when riding for extended distances. The engine delivers 50% more torque and 20% more power than my old bike and sounds great with the pea-shooter style exhausts. Contrary to expectations, it also handles well on both twisties and the open road.
Sounds like you’re a big fan! I’m guessing you collected this one from an equally enthusiastic dealer?
Yep – I bought it from Laguna in Maidstone; at the time these models were hard to find second hand, and I didn’t want to buy new and take the hit on the initial depreciation.
How did that work out?
They were okay to start with, but after I got the bike home I noticed the hazard lights weren’t working. Laguna picked the bike up again, fixed the problem and got it back to me within three days but it was a bit annoying, to say the least. I have to question if they really performed the promised checks that were claimed to have been carried out, and one of the key reasons I wanted to buy from a dealer.
I normally stick to Jack Lilley Triumph in Ashford; they maintain my bikes as they are local and are a great bunch who I would thoroughly recommend. For example: when I took the T120 in for a recent service, I mentioned the front brakes squeaked a bit when used at low speed. Apparently this was a common problem for the early T120’s and Triumph issued a fix, but my bike was just a few months out of warranty by this point and so wouldn’t normally be covered.
But the guys at Jack Lilley called Triumph and persuaded them to sort it out at no cost, which they really didn’t have to do. Considering the fix included a new front wheel, discs and pads, which would have cost me £1,200 + fitting, I was understandably delighted. It shows that they really care about their customers. In fact, this was another thing Laguna should really have resolved before selling it to me five months earlier!
I’m no expert, but that bike looks a little different than the examples I’ve seen. Have you made some changes?
The Bonnie came with some modifications already fitted, such as a tail-tidy, different indicators, suspension and an upgraded Vance & Hines exhaust. I have since added a Dart fly-screen which makes a huge difference to wind buffering for such a small bit of plastic, and finally panniers to make it more suitable for touring.
So not just a Sunday cruiser then!
I only started riding two years ago when my best mate (who had ridden for years) arranged a biking trip to the US for his 50th. So I thought: why not? I passed my test and three months later I was riding an Indian Roadmaster 2,500 miles from Colorado, to California, passing through Ohio, Arizona and Nevada on our way to LA and San Francisco.
It was a fantastic experience on an absolute beast of a bike and a real baptism of fire. As a novice rider I learnt a lot very quickly, but it got me hooked and I have not looked back since. Since then I have been to Holland, France and Spain, and plan to go on at least one or two trips away each year from now on. The TT and Balkans are already in the diary for 2019!
The T120 is quite a bit more powerful than your old T100; has your riding changed at all as a result?
The T120 has allowed me to progress my riding – especially the cornering side – but I still see myself as a beginner, which is why I joined TVAM. Being a member gives me the opportunity to improve my capability as well as socialise and ride with a bunch of like-minded people. It’s been fantastic! Only a few weeks ago I went away on the ‘Let’s go to France’ trip for a long weekend. Expertly organised by John Rodda it was truly excellent. There were six of us altogether, everything was planned well, from the route to hotels and the daytime activities. Everyone looked out for each other and John was a brilliant tour leader.
Sorry I missed it! Did the trip highlight anything lacking that you missed from your old bike?
I certainly don’t miss the manual choke or woolly front brakes! But then this new bike had been customised by a company called 8 Ball who are commissioned by Triumph to fettle some of their bikes, so it looked mean and sounded great.
On the flip side, even with the indicators fixed they were still not great quality and rather small. Equally, whilst the rear light looked good and fit the aesthetic, it too was quite small, and I received some feedback during TVAM rides on how ineffective they both were. As such I have just swapped the tail tidy for an R&G racing set-up which was a bit pricey, but after doing some research it came back as the best option. It also allowed me to reinstall the rear grab-rail, which is handy for pillions or attaching extra luggage when touring. I then fitted some Triumph short-stem indicators which are both much brighter, making me far more visible to motorists.
Finally, the only other issue, common to all naked bikes, is that you can’t help but be somewhat envious of the fairings on big touring bikes while blasting down the motorway! But I suppose those are the choices we make and I wouldn’t swap my bike for anything.
So it sounds like you’re pretty pleased with your purchase then!
Yes – it’s perfect for me and the type of riding I want to do. So, whilst it wouldn’t suit everyone, I absolutely love this bike!!
Nick Tasker was talking to Jono Wiles earlier this summer.
First published in Slipstream November 2018