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My 2012 Triumph Bonneville - A Bit Shit

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by QuarterWit, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. So a few months ago my life is set to change a little bit. I'm going from full-time at work to part-time and upping my classes at uni so I'll be doing four units until I finish my Bachelor of Nothing. I've got a customised DR650 and an SR400(or SR530R as I oh-so-creatively dubbed it) in the garage and while both were kickarse bikes, neither were practical for long distance riding or even storing shopping on while heading around town.

    So I start to look around for something dead reliable that will last me the next two years at uni only doing scheduled servicing. Something that looks nice, which for me is a naked, traditional looking bike, can sit comfortably on the freeway and has a good reputation for reliability.

    After considering a few bikes and a test riding a few I ended up going with a 2012 Bonneville.

    Which may have been a mistake.


    I've done around 4,000k's on it now in the last two months. Not a huge amount of k's but I figure I'm more qualified to talk about the bike than most professional reviewers in magazines. Interestingly, a lot of the problems I've encountered aren't really mentioned anywhere in the press.

    So, here's my problems with the Bonnie.

    Fuel Injection
    It is, without doubt, shithouse. Higher in the RPM band it's fine but down low, and at under 40k's and low throttle opening the o2 sensors cause the bike to jump, dig into the ground and generally act like a bastard. It feels unpredictable and very, very snatchy. This makes negotiating carparks and footpaths a royal pain in the arse that makes you look like you've got no throttle control at all.

    On my few days away on the bike over the weekend I'd forgotten about this, beginning to love the way it behaves when swinging through turns, especially fast, open sweepers. But then I got in Canberra and negotiating crawling traffic was agonizing. Started cursing the bike again, after thinking that I was -finally- starting to love it.

    There's solutions to this - and the most succesful one that people swear by online is removing the airbox baffle, o2 sensors and uploading an aftermarket tune. I am planning on doing this but regardless, the thing is damned near unrideable at times. I shouldn't have to pull the guts of the bike out, silicon things up, stick in an aftermarket filter and stuff around with a tuning program just to MAKE THE DAMN THING RIDEABLE.

    The worst stock suspension of any bike I've ever owned or ridden ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. I was fully prepared for the spongey, wallowey suspension that usually comes with the retro classic style bikes but this was unrideable. It was ridiculously over sprung and under dampened.

    I didn't even really notice it for a while, plodding around well sealed roads but the first time I hit a less-than-perfectly paved segment of tarmac it felt like I was being bashed up by a big Muay Thai Bonneville fighter* who was punching me in the kidneys and kicking my jaw over every bump. I slowed to a crawl and dealt with the fuel injection trying to buck me off the thing and dry retched in my helmet.

    I have been punched and bashed before. (I'm from Parramatta, you see) This bike hurt more. I've never ridden something that has made me feel physically ill. For this, my bike truly is remarkable.

    BUT it is relatively easily solved. I went out on the net and got some valving, new front fork springs, oil and Ohlins rear shocks and it is a completely different bike. A little too stiff, but some tweaking could fix that easily. So it's not a real problem, other owners have told me. Well, yes it ****ing is. You should not have to spend money on any car or bike to stop it from making you feel sick. Remarkable engineering, Triumph.

    Stupid Design Tidbits

    This will be more nitpicky than other sections but hey, it all adds up. Some things about the bike really shit me and make me wonder what the hell the Triumph engineers were thinking.

    Removal of the seat is one of the most clumsy, awkward designs I've seen in a while. You need to get two long allen keys under the rear of the seat which is very hard to see in the dark and awkward to do generally. While I can understand with some bikes it can be a pain, when you look at this bikes opposition, chiefly the W800, that's a key and the seat pops right off. And Kawasaki owners get storage space too. There's no room at all on the Bonnie. And there's no tool kit at all provided with the Triumph.

    The ignition isn't waterproof. "WHAT THE ****?" I hear you say! But alas, it's true. Triumph recommend during a good wash you cover the ignition, which is on the headlight mounting ears with something. Christ knows what. But that doesn't fill me full of confidence.

    As standard, there are virtually no tie down points and it is very, very hard to mount luggage to easily. The frame rails sit too far inside the seat to get a cargo net on unless you want it pulling at the stitching of your seat. Once again, this can be fixed with a myriad of aftermarket grab bars rails, racks and bag combos etc. But it doesn't stop it from being irritating.

    There's also no helmet lock. Not a problem if you own an RSV4 or something really track oriented but the Bonnie is supposed to be an everyday riding option. It's a minor quibble but when I'm walking into a shopping centre, uni or a rub and tug joint, holding the helmet is a pain. I know I can use a bike lock or whatever but really, I shouldn't have to.

    It doesn't have a locking fuel cap. This is an option from Triumph that makes you carry a spare key just for the fuel cap which will tink and rattle against the pressed steal headlight ears when you ride down the road. I shouldn't have to pay $80 for a locking fuel cap. Jesus.

    Fuel Economy

    Shithouse. And that was before I put the aftermarket cans on and changed the pipes. It's still shithouse. Averaging at 7-8 litres per 100km. Sometimes it's better but sometimes it's worse.


    It has a very strange clutch pull with take up, even adjusted as close as possible to the bars, at the very end of my fingers reach. So feathering the clutch or being all that precise with the thing is quite tricky. I'm much more used to the clutch take up at around half an inch from the grip. But narp, it's alllll the way out there. I'm getting used to it now, but after 4,000k's I bloody should be.


    The Good

    With a set of Staintunes on mine it sounds absolutely beautiful. It's more of a compliment for Staintune Australia but regardless, under acceleration it's the most handsome-sounding bike I've owned, ridden or heard. Just gorgeous.

    And handles bloody well. Like seriously, seriously well. On paper it shouldn't, being a fat pig of a thing but it corners beautifully and feels very sure footed and responsive.

    That being said it should be a reliable and hassle free bike for the next 2-3k's and I probably won't lose that much in the scheme of things when I go to sell it - certainly not compared to many other options out there. Retro classics tend to hold their value well, so this isn't a compliment leveled at the Bonnie in particular. But the wealth of information available about it online is. There is so much collective knowledge available about the bike it's very reassuring if I have any problems of if things go wrong - I can just hop on the net and speak to all manner of overweight white middle Americans about the best fix for the problem.

    In Conclusion, your honour...

    So there are a few problems with the new Bonneville you might not have heard about. Am I glad I bought the bike? For sure. I've wanted a new Triumph for the last ten years when I first saw them released. So I'm quite glad I've got it out of my system. Would I buy another?

    At this stage, nah...

    It's pitched as a $12,xxx bike. But in reality it isn't. By the time you faff about and get the suspension to a passable standard, sort the fuel injection issues and organized some tie-down points and extended bolts to remove the seat easily you've spent a bit more cash and some time.

    Many of the things I'm complaining about are just minor foibles. But when you add them all up owning a Bonneville can be plain out irritating.


    *You see, the new Bonneville's aren't made in England. They're Thaiumphs and no matter what the often Harley-esque owners say when they puff out their chests and say "It's a Triumph mate!" it is a completely different company manufacturing the bike in a different country. I bought this bike because I thought I liked it, not due to any bullshit claim to lineage that people might claim.
    • Like Like x 14
  2. Thanks for the well written and comprehensive review, QW - just what I was looking for.
    [MENTION=14831]Roderz[/MENTION] and I have been thinking about getting a bike 'to share' that is a little different from our everyday rides and the Bonnie is 'on the list' (I'm on a Street Triple and he is on a Yamaha FZ6N).

    Interestingly, I found my Street Triple was also very snatchy at low revs, especially in first gear with strong clutch pull...it made commuting in peak hour traffic, splitting etc. a little tiresome. However, since I got the remap as part of the upgrade to the Arrows 3 into 1 pipes, it has felt like a completely different bike to ride. Smooth throughout the rev range at all gears. No complaints now...except that it really should have ridden like this out of the factory!
  3. Wow, I am surprised that you are only getting 7-8L/100km, it doesn't make that much power so should be getting more.

    Fuelly says 5.5 seems to be average (though that is always low I think because of self selection) I would have thought that you should get better. http://www.fuelly.com/motorcycle/triumph/bonneville

    Have you flashed your ecu?

    One thing I have noticed is that when you ride slow bikes too fast they will start drinking, when I try to ride the Shadow like the Ninja it gets terrible economy. The suspension also does all the things you state that the Bonny did.

    I would also look for an aftermarket solution for the petrol cap, it won't fix the second key issue but will fix the $80 rip off.
  4. tried taking it to a dealer and getting them to run the diagnostics? might be a remap available?
  5. Huge thumbs up on the write up QW. I'm sorry you're having this sort of experience with it, but I'm grateful to you for sharing it.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Wowsers, talk about a dissenting report :shock:.

    I agree, though, you shouldn't have to spend EXTRA money to make a bike up to the standard it should have been for the purchase price!

    Maybe you would have ben better off buying a low-mileage second-hand model that someone else had already paid for the extra stuff?????
  7. Well you were right with a 2012 Triumph, its after that you went wrong...

    Street Triple ;)

    Then you'd be loving life.

    Not sure why you're winging about handling and suspension, I mean you got a bike that's primarily designed to look like an old antique and cash in on flavour of the month douche (not a spelling mistake) ex machina cafe "racers".

    I could tell from the other side of the store while buying all 3 of my recent Triumphs that those things would be sh!t to ride
  8. Bad fuel economy and bad throttle response reads like something is wrong.

    Then again, for a long time testers always complained that FI didn't work well on big twins.

    The other thing I've found with Triumphs is they still do Friday Afternoon Specials. Most modern Triumphs are good, but occasionally you find someone who has a step-change more trouble.

    Also the FI on Triumphs does wander. I recently had to go through a procedure of tapping my head, whilst rubbing my tummy, to get rid of a high idle speed. No good reason for it.

    so yeah, I'd say go and see a Triumph stealer.

    [edit] I should add the staintunes may have thrown it out of whack. I put the original can back on mine at one stage and it ran like a pig. The FI needs to be tuned for the pipe.
  9. or maybe, just buy a W800 and get what the Triumph should have been :LOL:???
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. Sounds like you didn't take it for much of a test ride before parting with, not a lot of cash really.

    I reckon most of you fueling issues are to do with the Staintunes and not remapping. FI is far more sensitive than carbs and are tuned not only to return good fuel economy but meet stringent EPA rules.

    Do some research, buy an ecu cable and download a free tune.
  11. Thanks for the replies!

    Vertical C, yep, flashed the ECU. I know fuelly says it should be better but it's just flat out not. I keep reading some people saying they have fantastic fuel economy but mine is shit and has been shit since the day I rode it away bog stock. There's plenty of people out there who complain of the same problem with their EFI'd bikes. I don't think they want to go to fuelly and have that sinking feeling when they punch in their MPG.

    IBast, Cazzo, I'm all over the changing of maps etc. No problems with playing with this stuff myself. I tried a few different tunes myself with the new exhausts (TuneECU is bloody easy to use) and the best results I've had is what Staintune recommend themselves - the Arrow 2-1 exhaust map. I did 1200k's on it with the stock exhausts and if anything, the jerkiness was worse. It feels like it is spot on air/fuel mix wise. From what I understand the o2 sensors are the problem on the Bonnie. When I get around to fixing that I'll be sure to come back and report.

    Fennell, I was looking at the street triple. Not into that sort of thing just yet. I've ridden plenty of quick bikes and keep finding myself loving the slow (Well, in the bike scheme of things) traditional looking ones. To me a motorcycle has twin shocks, single down tube on the frame etc. I've ridden a fair few sports bikes (CBR1000, ZX6R's, ZX10, R1 etc) but they just don't do it for me. Regardless of what it is supposed to look like aesthetically it should have better shocks and springs than standard. Every other bike does, regardless of set up. The handling, for its style, is actually bloody good. No real flex, corners beautifully and turns in quite sharply. Quite like the handling now.

    At the end of it all, I think Hornet is right. The W800 would probably have been a better buy. But I never, ever, ever want to clean a set of spokes again.

    And my hope is, at the end of all this faffing about with maps, trying to sort out luggage options/tie down points I'll have a bike that I can love. But I will have got it there, and it won't be riding the bike that Triumph built.. Which I suppose is what my problem is.
  12. Then don't! I know I don't! :) Who cleans spokes?
  13. I know you don't Matt. Or any other part of your bikes!
  14. Was chatting to a Harley owner a while back, he told me it took him 5 hours to clean and check the spoked wheels. Not sure when he found the time to ride.
  15. He was a bit 'slow' evidently.
  16. Harley introduced the Sportster in an effort to compete with (among others) Triumph twins for performance and handling. Yes, really :shock:.

    Now it looks like the wheel has come full circle and Triumph have introduced the Bonneville in an effort to compete with the Sportster in the sale of a bike that requires you to spend half the purchase price again on aftermarket bits to make it actually work properly :D.

    Sorry to hear of the faults and niggles. When you spend $12k on a bike I think it's reasonable to expect it to at least function in a reasonable manner. Even the bloody Russians can do that these days. If you want a bike that doesn't work straight from the showroom, there are any number of Chinese manufacturers who can oblige at aquarter of the price.
  17. 12K is a lot of money for a simple bike, I can understand the frustation.

    Still, when are we going for a ride? :)
  18. There is a reason I sold my 2012 Thruxton and bought a Street Triple r.

    I thought the thruxton had terrible handling + suspension!!!! My old bike (GS500) had way better steering and handling. The thruxton was great to look at, not great to ride.

    Great review QW - thumbs up! I would be interested to see what you thought of the Kawsaki w800 and Moto Guzzi v7
  19. Great write up, Puts my mind to rest now,

    I rode a Genuine, Brand new, 1968, 650 Bonnieville for 17 years, every 10 thousand I put a new top end in the thing, pistons rings and a rebore,
    It wore out the top of the bore and lifted the crowns off the pistons, Thats the only thing that ever went wrong with it, Many hundreds of thousands of miles on it in the years I had it,

    Honda 750 fours were getting 80,000 kays out of a thrashed one, Before you even waved a spanner at them, There suspension was a rubber band, but you could still ride them bloody quick, The Bonnie outhandled them with ease,

    Since I bought my Blackbird, I always had doubts that I did the wrong thing by buying it instead of a new Triumph, As there was no info on the longeveity of the new Triumphs,

    But I am a happy Camper now, Knowing I did the right thing buying my Super Chook,
    It has magnificent handling, The motor lasts for over 200,000 Kays easily,
    And very few Bikes will come close to it when the wick is turned up,

    I have done just over 60,000 kays in just over 3 years, Dissapointed, I am NOT,

    But I am glad I didnt buy a new Triumph,
  20. How can you say that after one bad review?