internal gearing remains unchanged, although the final drive ratio was raised
slightly to reduce rpm and create a more relaxed riding manner. The 35mm carbs
were given slightly revised jetting, but retain the anti-icing electric heaters
and throttle-position sensors used on the standard Bonneville. With this revised
270-degree firing order the America greets you with a more ‘lumpy’ cruiser style
note, unfortunately the standard slash-cut twin pipes don't do it justice,
investing in a set of Triumphs 'not for road use' silencers will definitely
increase the tempo though!
Like any purpose-built, dedicated cruiser, the America is an unashamed offensive
on the Stateside cruiser market, it wouldn't be the real thing if it didn't come
with a huge range of accessories. Prospective owners will not only have the
choice of four custom paint schemes, but also three different screens, three
seats, nine luggage options, loud silencers, 11 chroming extras, footboards and
14 'other' products! Our test bike seemed to have all of these already fitted,
what it does for the overall weight of the America is unknown, but the
construction of some of these accessories can only be put as substantial, I
don't think that they would break in a hurry!!
The Bonneville America starts life at a not so light 226kg, with the accessories
on our test bike I would estimate that it came in at around 245kg, yet riding it
at any speed from traffic crawls to cruisin' down the highway it always felt
agile and easy to manoeuvre. Left foot forward (it's a long reach!), light pull
on the smooth cable-operated clutch lever, select the first of five gears and
off we go. With a seat height of only 700mm you sit very low in the bike, and
with the semi pull-back bars at 875mm wide the riding position gives you total
control of this rather large motorcycle.
With a 33.3-degree rake and long 1655mm wheelbase, the ride on the America is as
you'd expect - very casual. Add that to the light controls, and this is one bike
that's not going to test you too much, although I was impressed with the ground
clearance and the occasional margin for some slightly more spirited riding. If
the mood takes you, you can make full use of the rear tyre and scrape of the
footboards on some corners. The suspension is traditional cruiser, with 41mm
front forks and chromed twin rear shocks in charge of the bumps. The feedback
from the rear was a bit vague and almost felt like the front wasn't connected to
the rear, but after checking the rear shocks and finding out that they were on
their lowest setting (soft) I wound them up on the preload by three notches (5
available) and it improved the overall feel enormously. Braking is more than
adequate for cruising duties with the same setup found on the Bonneville. A
310mm single front and a 285mm at the back both having Nissin two piston
Cruisers nowadays have an amazing range of wheel and tyre combinations, and the
America has added to this with its own unique combination. On the rear we find a
wide 170/80-15 Bridgestone touring tyre, and up front is a skinny 110/80-18,
again a Bridgestone. Though the tyres are unimpressive, they do provide
reasonable traction and grip in the dry, if you ride when its wet then I would
recommend some better tyres to provide peace of mind.
Sat on the side stand, the Bonneville America is a particularly good looking
bike. It stands out from the usual Japanese V-twin clone with its distinctive
parallel twin engine. The large 17lt tank with its traditional ‘Bonneville’
two-tone paint and large Triumph badge, comes with a deep-chromed console on
top. This is a direct throwback to the Triumph motorcycles of the 30’s and 40’s,
but nowadays this console is used to house the warning lights and the fuel cap.
Other nice touches are the chrome air filter covers, and the replica toolboxes
behind the passenger pegs. The headlight and large faced white speedometer are
finished in deep chrome, it unfortunately does not come with a tachometer. The
exhaust pipes are all new, double skinned to combat the “blueing” of the
original Bonneville pipes. These are attached to long slash cut silencers to
suit the 80dba limits of the USA, very quiet indeed. As I mentioned earlier
there are some Triumph pipes available which are shorter and louder, install a
jet kit at the same time and you will no doubt get some healthy horsepower and
torque gains as well.
Some British bike traditions, like oil leaks, strange electrics and big
vibration problems have been left to the past. The smoothness and build quality
of the new Bonnevilles, and in particular the America make it a much more viable
alternative to the somewhat similar looking Japanese mid-range cruisers. British
bikes have always been keen on turning corners, and just because this one looks,
and is a serious cruiser, and it's named after a country where they speak rather
'odd' English, that doesn't mean that it's forgotten its heritage though. The
America quite easily outclasses all other 800 cruisers when the road starts to
twist and turn. The steering is light, it turns in more quickly when you ask it
to, and there's a lot of room under the America to lean over than any other 800
cruiser on the market. Quite simply it probably has the best chassis performance
in its class.
Buyers attracted to British handling qualities, or riders who simply want to be
different will love the Bonneville America, it turns heads in a way that no
other Japanese cruiser will do, it has style and heritage and is undoutedly a
true piece of British iron.
Second Opinion from our guest writer and GSXR1000 rider Jocke Selin
You have to congratulate the people at Triumph when it comes to the Bonneville
America – it does exactly what it’s meant to do. This bike is magic on the
streets, and I don’t mean handling-wise. If you look at the handling from a
performance point of view, you’ve got it all wrong. This bike is far from
performance, it’s all about presence, the presence on the streets.
Get on it and you feel that this bike is big, the first time I had to put first
gear in, I had to move forward on the seat. When you start her up, she sounds
just right, not refined like a new highly tuned Japanese bike, but still not
“old enough” to frighten you off with unwanted rattles and shakes. The right
vibrations, the right sounds.
Pull the clutch and “clonk-in” the first gear and again, you feel what this bike
is all about. Triumph has made it do the right thing at the right points.
When you ride this bike around town, people really look at it, it is an amazing
bike and few people can resist staring at it. I’m surprised that nobody got
hurt, either injuring their neck or walking into something (like a lamp post, or
their own jaw).
Cruising at 30mph in the top gear down the high street is an experience. Open up
the throttle and she tugs away steadily, just like she is meant to do. In
standard form the pipes are a bit quiet and don’t let the true spirit out
enough. I’m sure that most owners will cure this. Out of town, she will happily
do 70mph in an easy one-hand-at-the-bar-all-American-outlaw-biker kind of way.
When you pull up and turn the engine off, you’ll be greeted with that
“right-stuff” again, she huffs-and-puffs a bit when you switch the ignition off
– and the key is, of course, situated under your bum, not at some modern place
like the handlebars.
Many bikes attract people when parked, but this one is in a league of its own.
People come into the car park and see you preparing to leave, and the stick
around till you’ve gone tug-tug-tug away. At one point an older gentleman almost
fell into tears when he saw the America, he just kept stuttering, “It’s so
beautiful” and “I used to own a Bonneville”.
If you are after a cruiser and you want “the right stuff”, but you’re a bit fed
up with that “Harley-is-the-only-real-bike” gang, then I think you have a
definitive winner in the Bonneville America. It could have a bit more grunt, and
this and that, but that is really missing the point of this bike.
It’s all about the presence – it is impossible to not look.