A Brief History of the Triumph Bonneville


As a British icon and modern classic the Triumph Bonneville stands for design, glamour and resilience. Today backed by modern technology the Triumph Bonneville is still in production after being called off twice in the last 56 years.  Named after the record breaking attempts on the Utah Bonneville salt flats the Triumph Bonneville T120 was revealed to the public in 1958 and was an instant hit.

The T120 was released as a high performance twin carburettor version of the Triumph Tiger T110 model; it combined a light weight chassis with added performance so create a real winner that lead the bike to be one of the most successful of that era.  Back in 1958 the Bonneville was a high performance sports bike and at the time dubbed as giving “the highest performance from a standard production motorcycle”. The T120 could reach north of 120 mph and managed to rack up numerous wins on the track.

Other than a racer the Triumph Bonneville became a motorcycling icon of the 1950’s while motorcycles were at the height of their popularity and gained global cult admiration from the motorbike community and also the likes of Steve McQueen Marlon Brando and James dean both on and off the big screen. Rolling into the 1960’s the Bonneville was at the heart of rock and roll culture and adored by British rockers, outside every rock and roll café in London would be modified Bonneville’s lined up as at the time it was adopted as the ultimate rock and roller motorcycle.

Despite its status in the industry Triumph and the Bonneville did hit some hard times coming into the 1970’s discontent in the factory workforce meant that in 1974 pretty much no bikes were produced during a strike. The T140’s continued to be produced into the 1980’s before the meridian factory was closed in 1983, at this point it looked as though the Bonneville was done for and had become a legend in the annals of history however in 2000 Triumph revealed a brand new modernised model…

The Triumph Bonneville 790 brought together an authentic classic style with modern manufacturing techniques and materials with a 790cc parallel-twin motor the 790 was another hit with Triumph fans and the Bonneville’s ability to keep moving forward with the times was shown with their updated 865cc capacity in 2004 as well as the introduction of fuel injection.

A year after the 790 was released was a centenary marking 100 years of the Triumph brand and the T100 Centennial edition was brought on to the scene to mark the occasion. Sadly only hands full of the special centennial limited editions in Lucifer Orange were built before yet more bad luck hit the Bonneville legacy when a fire broke out destroying the factory.  The T100 was launched as an uprated version of the 790 the design being based on the old T100 models that Triumph released from 1939 to the mid-70s. Although this model was very much up to date with the latest in motorbike technology they very cleverly hid a lot of the modern features behind a classic vintage exterior, the fuel injection remained hidden behind the throttle bodies that are designed to resemble carburettors.

From 1958 up to present day the Bonneville has remained a relevant and well-loved motorcycle as a simple authentic roadster with high performance features. The very cleverly designed bike manages to keep the authenticity this bike emits through every model up to present day.  The Bonneville is an undisputed icon of a motorbike that every biker can really appreciate.