Choosing Triumph

The key players in this drama; Triumph Bonneville (aka "Bonnie") and Triumph Thruxton.

The key players in this drama; Triumph Bonneville (aka "Bonnie") and Triumph Thruxton.

A spike in the stock market coincided with my graceful slip into the second "half" of my life and that was the justification I needed to fill a Triumph motorcycle-shaped hole in my garage. Another option I considered for marking my 50th birthday was to fly to Vegas and rent a Harley and two 25-year-olds but I'm not much into Harleys right now, although I can see a Softail Deluxe or Road King in my future. But a beer gut must come first and, as I don't drink much beer and I exercise often, that won't come easily. I've side tracked...

There was no question the Triumph for me was the Bonneville T100 (seriously, have you seen one? “Dayum,” as my friend, Nichole, would say). No question, at least, until I cast eyes on a Thruxton. Discounting the first time I stared at a Starbucks menu, I've never faced a more difficult decision. I resolved the Starbucks decision by turning and walking out. This decision would not resolve as easily. 

Aggressive street fighter vs. family man.

Aggressive street fighter vs. family man.

I sat and stared. I straddled. I touched. I sat and stared some more. I measured, I paced, I Googled. I took photos that I studied carefully each night before bed. Netflix had the police do a welfare check on me, as I hadn't logged in for days. I lit incense, plucked chicken feathers, and drew symbols on ancient parchment with a severed crow's foot and stage blood. I tossed bones. I flipped a quarter but it kept landing on its edge. Damn the bad luck! No clear winner emerged. 

The geek in me shoved his way through my many personalities and organized a spreadsheet. Each bike was given a column, and the desired features were listed in a third. Each bike was awarded an "X" if it possessed one of the features. 

  • Paint: Bonnie gets the "X"
  • Headlight Mount: Thruxton
  • Bar end mirrors: Thruxton
  • Fork gators: Bonneville

And on it went for 21 lines of a college-ruled notebook page.

The list.

The list.

The final tally didn't break the tie. It looked bleak for a quick resolution to the standoff. No hanging chad to count or discount. No missing ballots. No votes bussed in from another district.

For the second tiebreaker, I determined the cost to add each desired feature to a bike that did not already possess it. Where cosmetics failed, surely dollars could negotiate a settlement.

  • Café seat: $299.00
  • White-faced gauges: $620.00
  • Fork gaiters: $69.00
  • Peg set-backs: $420.00
  • Café bars: $59.00

And on, and on…

Bugger! Another deadlock. I had Chinese food delivered as the floor around me grew white with crumpled notes.

The Thruxton screams "There's a Rumble in Brighton! Let's go!" while the Bonneville politely asks, "I say old chap, fancy a ride before tea?"

The Thruxton screams "There's a Rumble in Brighton! Let's go!" while the Bonneville politely asks, "I say old chap, fancy a ride before tea?"

Triple overtime, after a bathroom break and a quick shave, weighed the labor needs to morph each bike into the bike I envisioned a man self-named Danger would ride. The Thruxton's green paint was not my favorite: advantage Black Bonnie. The Bonnie had a full rear fender, not the bobbed café fender: advantage Thruxton. The Thruxton had a shortened front fender, but I liked the Bonneville's full fender and chrome stays.

And so it went until another impasse was reached. It seemed peace in the Middle East might erupt before I'd make a decision. In the meantime, I had earned a Starbucks Gold Card embossed with my name. 

The opportunity to ride each model back-to-back, on the same roads, was certain to blow the fog of indecision away and expose a clear winner. For starters, the riding position was vastly different between the bikes and the Thruxton possessed slightly more power. Yes, this was sudden death. Well, as reported in an earlier post (No One Can Accuse Me of Not Filling My Days, April 8, 2014), it certainly proved to be sudden death for the Bonneville demo bike, but that bike more than impressed me right up to the moment it quit.

I longed for a cafe to race back to before Elvis Presley’s “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” faded from the Wurlitzer, the grease on my cheeseburger jelled, and my best girl ate all the fries.

The Thruxton has a boy-racer feel and its own brand of curb appeal, but any extra horsepower it develops was imperceptible to this rider. The café riding position, which I feared would be uncomfortable for day-to-day riding, proved more comfortable than anticipated. The large, bar-end mirrors provided a panoramic vista of where I'd been and the white-faced gauges (the Bonneville's are black) whispered "vintage cool." The only downside I could find to the Thruxton was a bloated turning radius for a small bike that grew up on the narrow, twisty roads of England. A decision was made; I would think about it and come back another day. 

Shit. 

I returned to the dealer two days later, no closer to a decision. They rolled a Thruxton outside - more to get me out of the showroom than anything - and I took the bait. I ran the Thruxton up the frontage road, knees gripping the fuel tank as I leaned in to a decreasing radius turn on brand new, slippery tires. The bike felt solid and planted beneath me. The small fly screen, enveloping the large headlight, deflected the wind over my hunched riding position and framed the white-faced gauges which also huddled behind it. Yes, vintage cool. I longed for a cafe to race back to before Elvis Presley’s “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” faded from the Wurlitzer, the grease on my cheeseburger jelled, and my best girl ate all the fries.

Cosmetic differences abound, but the Thruxton's dropped bars and set-back foot pegs are what change the riding style.

Cosmetic differences abound, but the Thruxton's dropped bars and set-back foot pegs are what change the riding style.

The Thruxton looked so cool and was such a joy to ride that my decision was easy; I would get the Bonneville. It occurred to me during the ride that the Thruxton is Triumph's interpretation of a Bonneville in café clothing, but I wanted my interpretation of a café racer. So the purist in me went old school, embracing both the bike and the art, and I wrote the check for a black Bonneville T100 with cranberry red stripes. She's a joy to ride, a treat for the eyes, and a canvas for my creativity.

Pure Bonneville. The blank canvass for my brush.

Pure Bonneville. The blank canvass for my brush.

She's flippy, baby, reeeaal flippy.

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