Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1970's

Cycle News 1972 05 16

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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N "g o. N .... en ::;; ~ w Z W ..J U >U ROAD TEST: TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE T120R When we p icked up th e T riump h T120R, it already h ad over 2 ,0 00 m ile s of me rcil ess floggin g u n de r its valve covers, m o st of w hich was d elive red by an ad m ittedly m erci less gro up o f magazin e researchers. A lthough the Bon neville see med a b it weary of the a buse, p rimarily in the gearbox, it never let us down. Way -b ac k-w h en , the Triumph was the original superbike. I t would beat anything a red light co u ld stack against it , cru ise all day at speeds .o n ly legal in Nevada, and it sounded tuff. In short, it was the American male 's answer to his neve r-ending search for Badass Superstud Identity. With the advent of the super-smooth Ho n da Four, the less ex pensive Kawasaki Mach 3 rocketship , and the copycat Ya maha XS I, the prominence of the Bonneville seemed to fade . So lit t le was being do ne to make Triumph co mpetitive with the new Orientals, that it see me d des tined to die . Wh y does the Bo nneville sti ll exist then ? Well , e motional as it may see m, th er e is n oth in g qui te li ke it. Afte r pick in g up th e bi ke, a half-hour ja u n t wi ll a llow you to adapt to the old-sty le shifting . Re me m ber when yo u were sweet 16 an d talked a friend in to lettin g you ride hi s Bo nneville on the freeway? A m indblowe r , it went so fast . We cracked the throttle a cou ple of times in third gea r in 1972. It accelerated nicely, b u t not wi th the same thrill as the '65s. A well-tuned 350 two-stroke twin seems to go better. After riding it for awhile we got off to watch it leak . For the past few years every British twin test h as read, "h otd og! England finally h as it all together. Our bi ke didn't leak a bit, u nlike last year's." Year afte r year they say th a t. Well,ours di d n ' t lea k , b ut it wept like crazy , an d n o d oub t it w ill leave a p u ddle w ith time. First thing , the right fo rk seal wept: Then th e left one joined in . T h en a b it trickled down th e oil reserv oi r in the fra me . A fte r topping u p , th e gas cap lea ked . Even tu all y all the se ams o n th e cases be came c o ve red wi th dirt-coll ec tin g oil. G rease we p t o ut of the wh eel b earin gs. Bu t, li ke a h ouse-broken p uppy , it n ever stained the carp e t. Gi ve it time an d it w ill , though . If o il le ak age b oth ers yo u, you haven't en ough soul to o wn a Triumph. The w orst thing ab out this p articular Bonneville . by far, was the transmission. T his w as the grumpiest transmission in the w orld. Pull in the clutch and drop it in fir st . Crunch. Shi ft in to second. Grind. T ry third . Grin d , crun ch. N ow fo u rth . Varo oooom ! O op s, mi ssed a sh if t. T he Triumph me ch an ic s said th e bum trans w as cause d by o ne magazin e gu y wh o liked to run it fo r h o urs on en d on a road racing cou rse and an oth er like d to cook it do wn th e quarte r ga wd - knows - how-many-t imes. T he trann y w as n ot bu ilt for speedsh ifting of an y sort, and afte r all th at ab u se it we n t on strike comp lete ly. Now you h ave to shift b efore yo u get to 4,0 00 rpm, use a good deal of p ressu re, an d m a k e sure that suc ker is in gear. On ce we stuck it into a comer at 50 wh ile tapp ing it into second , Halfway through th e tu m it b acked o ut of gea r wh ile the side stand w as scrap in g, nearly pu tting us to rest. Af te r th a t in cid en t we r u dely stamped it in to gear, fo r keeps. Here a re so me o ther thin gs that went wrong. T h e electri cs we n t off like fireworks. T he speedo ligh t neve r worked and th e t ach ligh t sort o f bl inked a t wil l. (Th is was b ecaus e of a p oorly-design ed con nec tion th at cou ld be easily fixed.) First n igh t th e lo w beam o f th e h eadligh t pun ched o u t, and a fe w nights later. while on the freeway , the high b eam foll owed su i t. A tu m indicator bulb blew. The trip meter stopped w orking and at one poin t eve n went backwards. T he oil pre ssure id io t light didn 't w ork when th e oil w as low. Boo. In fairness, it cost less than a good break fast to repair these i te ms, except for the o il p ressure light an d trip meter. The clutch cab le b roke , a com mon m al ad y for Triump h . Wh en we bought a ne w o ne there was a guy stan ding in line with the same probl e m. A n d the dealer h ad plen ty in stock, at a reason able p rice. C h an gin g the clutch ca b le is a ten-min ute o peration , if you take y our tim e . That's th ou gh tf ul engineering..... One more bitch . Some joker wi th a poor sense of h umor d eci d ed to give th e stu d ly Bonneville a feeble-sounding h om . Bleet, bl eet, A nd you have to take your h an d off the th ro ttl e to work it. Heart and soul: the twin carb 650cc Tr iumph engine. Note that tr ick exhaust balancer . We ll, why gripe any mo re about the electrics. We'll j ust say they're Lucas and let it go at th a t. We p u t over 18 0 0 miles on th e Bonneville and never had to fool with the motor o nce . In fact, all we ever did to it was add two q uarts of oi l, adjust and lu b e th e chain a couple of times, ( there's n o auto matic oil e r), synch the ca rbs occasio n ally , an d p u ll the ai r cleaners o nce just to see wh at it was like to pull th e a ir cleane rs. It was easy. . T h e p ower ban d is sp ot on . Once the Bonneville came on the cam it was a blessed j oy. The surge of power made y our voi ce d eeper a n d you r c hes t h airier. Freudians, take n ote. T he b ro ad torque c urve made wh ee lies and din slide s ea sy . Fireroading is a gas o n th e Bonneville. It's j us t th e bike to ride h ome fro m a half mile. Handlin g w as very 11:00d wh ich sh o u ld co me as ~o surprise. Although inherently heav the Bonneville could y be thrown deeply into comers with pl enty of confidence . The bike could be driven hard er on righ t turns, un til the foorpeg and mu ffl e rs touched down simultaneously. On left tu rns, th e going was spookier since the cen terstand kicker-downer would get in the way before yo u could start having fu n. A Pa ul S mart let-it-hang-off corneri ng sty le helps. With two up , the ce nter stand touches down on even moderate tur ns, as our wh ite-kn uc kled p illion -wo rt hy teste r San dra wi ll tell you . Whil e co rnering hard , th e fro nt en d w ill try to sha ke it s head under ce rtain con d it ions. It is an noying . We cou ld allevi a te part o f th e problem b y inc reasing th e p rel o ad on th e rea r shoc ks. Playing with fo r k o ils m igh t cu re the rest . Trium p h has b een u sin g Du nlop K 70s on bo th fro n t an d rear for so me time. We we re wa ry of this at firs t b u t they wo-rked ou t b e tte r th an w e h ad anticipated. T he compound on th e English Du nl ops is superior to tha t of the Japanese, b y th e way, w hic h is one thing to take in to consideration . On e advan ta ge of the univers al tread d esign becomes ap parent on th e Cali fornia freeways, wh ere th o se n ew- fan gled rain grooves ca n be found. O ne tes t rid er fo llo we d a m o torcy cle with ribbed-type tires and watched it sha ke and sh im m y all ov er the lanes. The T riu mp h was un-fazed by the gr ooves. Frame geometry h elped, too . Wonder why th ey d on't have dis c brakes for it. C'mon, Triumph, if y ou're gonna win races with tern put 'em on the bikes yo u sel l. A t low speeds the brakes that com e w ith the Bonneville are adequate , The old Bonn ie loves the swe rvies.

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