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Broken Bonneville – Part 1

posted by on 1 February 2010 in Project

It’s said that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. No more certain example exists than the case of our latest project vehicle, a 2001 Triumph Bonneville. Without going into excruciating detail, the former owner had the bike for sale and prospective buyer wiped out on a test ride. His insurance refused to cover the damage caused by the uninsured prospect, and the cost to repair it would have potentially exceeded its value, so he let it go for…well, let’s just say it was a pretty sweet deal for the right kind of buyer.

The bulk of the damage was superficial; mostly scrapes, but also a few bent and/or broken pieces. Now nestled away in the Kilometer Garage, it’s getting a healthy dose of shadetree-mechanic attention (and copious bits of eBay-sourced parts) over the long Chicago winter, with hopes of putting it all together in time for the rites of spring. So far the work has involved changing a couple turn signals, both handlebar ends, the headlight bezel, and a mirror. The scuffed shift levers were updated with chrome replacements from the Triumph accessories catalog; the damaged exhaust was converted to a Triumph off-road system acquired second-hand with the carbs re-jetted to match.

Now the bike is at least looking pretty again, save for the minor dent in the tank. We can live with that for now, especially considering that as a 2001, it came from the factory with two-tone paint divided by a hand-laid gold pinstripe. While we could certainly have the paint job replicated on a new tank, we feel the factory paint and minor scar give the modern classic a bit more character than a fresh replacement tank would.

Part of the appeal of this particular bike is its vintage; 2001 represents the first year of the “new Bonneville” from the reconstituted company that began shipping motorcycles to the US again in 1995, after a twelve-year absence from the market. It’s special in that regard, but also because it was one of the few modern classics that were actually built at the “new” Triumph’s original factory in Hinckley, in the midlands of England. A fire at the factory in early 2002 shut down the line for six months, and for Triumph loyalists there is something special about the early Hinckley bikes.

Where we go from here remains to be seen. We’ve contemplated going full-on café racer with it, but more than likely we’ll dress it for commuter duty and the occasional weekend ride. We do know this though – with only 4000 miles on our Bonnie’s clock, we’re just eager for the weather to break so we can log some seat time.

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