Buying a Used Motorcycle: 2001-2003 Triumph Bonnevile/T100

The last option of a good, used commuting ride comes from Mark Zimmerman. His choice? The 2001-2003 Triumph Bonneville/T100

2001-2003 Triumph Bonneville/T100
2001-2003 Triumph Bonneville/T100Cruiser

In most of the world, commuter bikes typically are dull, drab, low-powered two strokes. Fortunately, those gray-porridge, go-to-work hacks have never been popular in the U.S. In this country, we ride to work on real motorcycles.

Back in the day, a lightweight sporting roadster was considered the hot tip as an "all-'rounder"—a bike that is equally at home dragging your butt to work, carrying you and your squeeze off to some romantic liaison or even sneaking some amateur racing on the weekends.

In my youth, the Triumph twin was considered the ultimate A-R, so I've always had affection for them. That being the case, my pick for a cruiser/commuter is (cue drumroll)…the Triumph Bonneville Standard or its slightly better-dressed sibling, the T100.

Here’s my reasoning: Although the Bonneville line incorporates seven styles and two displacements, I picked the standard/T100 variants because they’re time-honored all-’round motorcycles built with the traditional upright ergonomics I prefer for general-duty riding. More than that, these are stylish, comfortable and reliable motorcycles with tractable engines and well-chosen gearbox ratios. They’re light and narrow, which makes them a delight to thread through traffic and easy to muscle around in parking lots. With a gentle throttle hand, they can manage between 40 and 50 miles to the gallon (providing close to a 150-mile range before you hit reserve), and they’re easy on things like tires, brakes and chains. Best of all, they’re fun to ride and extremely versatile. Like the all-’rounders of the past, they’re the perfect way to get to work. They also work quite nicely as light touring bikes, and, yes, they can even be raced.

Prior to the 2006 model year, the only real differences between the two were the level of finish—the T100 having some extra sparkle and a tachometer standard, while the standard model was rather plain and equipped only with a speedometer. Both used the same 790cc motor, which, while not exactly a powerhouse, is sporting enough to make the ride interesting.

Beginning with the 2006 models, the T100 acquired the 865cc engine sourced from the hot-rod Thruxton Café Racer, while the standard continued along with the 790cc lump.

As delivered, both of these are pretty basic motorcycles, but there’s a ton of factory-supplied and aftermarket accessories available that’ll let you roll your own. Fancy a dresser? Order up bags and a windshield. More of a hot-rodder? How about a big-bore kit, pipes and cams? The factory catalog is comprehensive, which simplifies finding and installing lots of stuff, and if it can’t be found with a genuine Triumph sticker on it chances are good that the aftermarket makes it. Since the basic design hasn’t changed a whit since the Bonneville’s introduction back in 2001, finding the right accessory—even for a first-year model—shouldn’t be a problem.

Overall, the Bonnevilles have few inherent problems. Early ones tended to be a little cold-blooded, but most of those bikes were re-jetted by the dealers. If not, up the pilot jet a size or two and install a shim under the needle and you should be good to go. However, because the bikes are so easy to work on, they tend to attract inveterate tinkerers, so lots of them have been modified—often with pipes and airbox removal kits. This doesn't make them bad, but it may make them a less-desirable commuter. By the same token, Bonnevilles also draw lots of mature enthusiast owners (like yours truly), so used ones, even those that have been heavily modified, seem to be in better-than-average condition. On the downside, used Bonnies are scarce, so nice ones, regardless of year or model, command top dollar. That said, the '01–'03s tend to be more reasonably priced.

This article was originally published in the April 2007 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.