Blue Collar Comparison: 2010 Bonneville vs. Sportster XL883L


Every working man with a taste for two wheels has faced the same dilemma: you want a motorcycle that's fun, fast and affordable, but it's got to have soul. Budgetary constraints add further complexity to the conundrum--you can't spend a dime over eight grand. You've considered the used market, but prefer buying new to keep cards like maintenance history and warranty stacked in your favor. You looked at metric cruisers based solely on their reputation for reliability, but a lack of heritage scratched the best of these machines off your short list immediately. Where then can a blue-collar biker turn to find the machine of his dreams?


Soul Searching

Two motorcycles with over a century of history between them come to mind: the Triumph Bonneville and the Harley-Davidson Sportster. In their prime these machines owned the field in their respective arenas: Triumph in the deserts of Baja, and Harley on America's dirt tracks. In the '60s and '70s, both bikes were willing donors for the chopper scene. Today both models have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity on the back of some very targeted niche marketing, with Triumph attracting the ton-up crowd and Harley staking its claim with aging skate punks. Metaphorically speaking these bikes are firing on both cylinders, and with base stickers in the 8,500 range, it's obvious who each manufacturer sees as their main competition.




Full disclosure is in order. We love Sportsters. Billdozer and I have owned four of them in six years: two mostly stock, and two ground-up customs. My partner in crime also has plenty of experience with Triumphs: a '60s unit-powered chopper and an '06 Bonneville with a bonanza of aftermarket mods. Bill rode the latter machine the long way on EDR III, a 3,500 mile adventure over some of the most unforgiving highways in the western hemisphere. Although we haven't ridden a 2010 example of either machine (hey Triumph and H-D media services, are you listening?), we're confident enough with our experience on prior models to share our opinions in this comparison.


Triumph Bonneville

The first machine we looked at was the 2010 Bonneville. Triumph has broadened their Bonneville series to three models this year: The base Bonnie pictured above, the SE and the T-100 Classic. All three models feature the same 865cc DOHC parallel twin engine, frame/fork and foot/hand controls, but boast different wheel and spec packages. The base Bonnie and SE roll on new-for-2010 17-inch alloy mags and showcase new reverse megaphone exhaust pipes. The T-100 retains last year's 17/19 spoked steel rim package and cigar-shaped mufflers. All three models have their charms, but I prefer the unadorned elegance of the new base model. I know Triumph's chrome tank badge is steeped in tradition, but I can't look at it without seeing George Michael's crotch in the "I Want Your Sex" video. Thankfully, the new Bonneville is built to a pricepoint that precludes such ornamentation.




When it was time to haggle on price, Billdozer took the reins. Things sounded promising between he and our salesman until the manager got involved, and that's when we hit a roadblock. After firm negotiating by both parties, Bill reached an impasse at $8,400 OTD--5% higher than our self-imposed max. We thanked the floor guy for his time and drove to the Harley dealership down the street.

Comment with Facebook


Comment with Chopcult (42)

Commented on 8-28-2009 At 09:33 pm

I just like the way they look sitting side by side. I owned a 07 bonnie and I loved that bike. I wish I woulda kept it. I put some 1st generation keystones on it. Good article. Thanks

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 02:07 am

Having worked for a Triumph dealer for 4 years now, I must say the new Bonnie is the funnest, fastest, most flickable bonnie to come out of Hinckley. Drop a set of pipes and a new map into it and they sound great and do sick wheelies!

Having never owned an HD, I've had Sporty fever since joining this here web site!

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 03:59 am

Owning a heavily chopped/modified Sporty I do agree with your article, but you just gotta be a little more creative with the Bonnie to make it look right instead of just stupid. Makes me wanna buy a Bonnie now. Damn you!

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 04:47 am

The new bonnie's nice, especially with a nice fastback seat.

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 05:38 am

Well written, not a lot of fluff, just to the point.

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 06:19 am

If I'm in the market to chop a bike up, it aint gonna be a new triumph, its gonna be an old one, or ANY sporty! The iron 883 is one hell of a bang for your buck and easy to chop, parts are everywhere!

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 08:45 am

great write up, its makin me wanna trade one of my sportys for a bonnie even more now.

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 09:06 am

I agree. Buy a used sportster.

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 12:10 pm

do they have the bolt on hard tails for the newer bonnies?

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 03:21 pm

checkout the lowbrow customs david bird shit!i think they have a bolt-on for new triumphs.

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 03:17 pm

well they don't make any thing like they used too,but a new stock 883 looks and sounds way more badass than a new bonnie.i test rode a new scrambler about a year ago"those side pipes are rad"to my dismay the stiff riding stance and the absense of any vibration or roar from turning the throttle made me fell like i was riding a scooter-guess thats why i don't see any on the rode around here.i've never rode a new sporty but whenever my friend pulls in the driveway on his 883 the shit sounds badass and it looks like a blast to ride!everyone i know that has a sporty loves there sporty!

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 04:19 pm

I hear you on the new Bonnie's lack of throatiness in stock trim, but Billdozer's '06 sounds like a goddamned rocket ship. Trumpnut Nick and Bill breathed on her for a weekend and it made all the difference. I love the sound of tweaked modern trumpet, I just can't tell you what it takes to make 'em sound so sweet. Hey Nick, care the share the magic?

Commented on 8-29-2009 At 08:39 pm

My 04 Bonnie is going in tomorrow for new "sleeper" pipes and a wide open intake. Can't wait to get it back and hear/feel the difference.

Next up, new "super" bars and lose the stock fenders and signals.

Commented on 8-30-2009 At 01:11 am

I have to agree with your conclusions - I really like Hinckley Bonnevilles, but long term there's so much you can do to a Sportster without fucking it up too much, you can change your mind and go with a different style every year if you get bored.
The Bonnies do handle surprisingly well in the twisties though, that could swing it for some people.

Commented on 8-30-2009 At 11:15 am

The sporters has quite a few more years of custom parts development put tword it. The bonnie is a great bike for customization, though you have to be much more creative and specific in the touches you put on it. With the current rise in popularity of street trackers, Bratstyle, and bikes such as the Erwin SR, both these bikes could be great candidates for a the new style of customs coming our way. In the end, i am extreemly bias towards the Triumph, (cuz i own one) but the Sportster is starting to grow on me, specifically a street track or cafe racer set up. In fact, the sporster is the ONLY model HD currently puts out that i would want to buy.

Commented on 8-30-2009 At 06:14 pm

The bonnie America I had was pretty sick sounding with straight pipes.Changed the bikes attitude completely.

Commented on 8-30-2009 At 08:28 pm

Jets, air box removal, air induction removal and stainless Bub's megaphones. It's annoyingly loud, but made a huge difference. Stock pipes on the modern bonnies are whisper quiet, couldn't stand em. Some day I'll get around to some suspension mods, that's what mine needs badly.

Commented on 8-31-2009 At 11:03 am

Seriously, I would sport the Bonnie for a stock daily rider way before I would the Sportster. In fact, I would never recommend buying a new Sportster. If you're going to teach yourself mods on a bike, neither is for you.

Commented on 8-31-2009 At 01:43 pm

If your looking for a bolt on hardtail for a new Bonnie check out Low Brow Customs. Tyler will hook you up!

Commented on 9-1-2009 At 02:47 am

the name says it all

Commented on 9-1-2009 At 12:32 pm

check out choppahead. they are making hardtail frames for triumphs.

Commented on 9-2-2009 At 05:59 am

I picked up a used 08 XL1200N last year for not a whole lot of cash. The guy I bought it from won it in a raffle (wish I had that kind of luck). It has been tons of fun transforming it what I want it to be. Mods on the modern sportys are definitely weekend mechanic friendly.
As for it being "the wife's" bike... I am 6'2" and 170# and don't feel odd on the thing at all. Although I will say though that adding Biltwell Keystones as I just did gave it the prefect reach for my monkey ass arms. Those stock bars are for the birds.

Commented on 9-3-2009 At 06:45 am

I've got a jetted and piped Bonnie and love it. Though I do have an itch to add a sporty to the stable, too. One of these days.

Commented on 9-22-2009 At 02:13 pm

i just helped my freind bump up his 883 carb sporty to 1250 and i cant hang with the speed that fuckin bike throws down. and he spent pocket change on it barley half what i spent on my dyna. luckly im too fat to ride a sporty so i dont feel to bad

Commented on 9-30-2009 At 01:39 am

From this side of the pond I made that same decision 13 yrs ago and went with the 883 sporty. Over the years she's gone to 1200cc been chopped stripped down, messed about sold come back cos she didn't like her new owner, now she's resting in boxes ready to "evolve" over this winter into a skinny no frills "daily" It'll be my only HD I'll get to own so it's a good job she's an "evolution"!
And I'm as fed up with the "oh it's only a Sportster" brigade as you lot. great simple truthful article thanks

Commented on 9-30-2009 At 06:52 am

It sounds like the old Ford Chevy argument, . I would like to have both.

Commented on 9-30-2009 At 09:39 pm

I have to say that i love my sporty. First bike ive ever ownend. Bought it used and probably never will buy a new one because of the price and the dealers. but this article is very interesting. good to see the 883 gettin some recognition.

Commented on 10-1-2009 At 05:58 am

do i have to choose?
okay i'll take smeach!

Commented on 10-20-2009 At 03:48 pm

the hardtail may be allright , but don't have them do any work for ya

Commented on 10-20-2009 At 03:49 pm

choppahead that is

Commented on 1-17-2010 At 05:54 pm

damm i want a bonnie now.

Commented on 1-22-2010 At 06:18 pm

i would have chosen the bonnie if i had known they were out there when i got my sporty

Commented on 1-22-2010 At 06:32 pm

Good article. I'll stick with my XL. Although I do want a Norton some day. But that is to build in memory of my father who rode one when he was a Bone Crusher in Phoenix back in his day. So I guess my motivation on that is different. But one thing to Lunchbox, I'm 6'5" and 250lbs. I ride a XL. Size is no excuse. Granted from what I can tell my hardtail is about 7"over. Ha ha ha. And no I don't look like a monkey trying to fuck a football sittin on it either. Ha ha ha.

Commented on 2-10-2010 At 11:38 am

Tough decission. I like them both and have ridden them both (nightster& the new Bonnie SE) but there are two things the harley has on the trump. First, there is something about the SOUND of a sportster that the brit scoot just lacks no matter what pipes it breathes through. Second, I like to make long runs to places I've never been and no matter where I have found myself there has been a HD dealership within a short distance which is comforting on the longhaul. Motoguru is gonna kill me but I'd go with the sporty too. A NOTE TO TALL PEOPLE REGARDING BOTH BIKES - I'm 6'1 and look like a goof ball on both of these bikes because of it - FYI.


Commented on 2-14-2010 At 03:55 am

Two distinct style machines. I'm in process of buying a new Bonnie over here, but I own a Sportster as well. Mine is staged-one and rides like the wind.

Its a question of taste, not notoriety...

Commented on 4-15-2010 At 01:30 pm

Great article. I've been choppin Sportsters since (1999) before it was cool to do.

Commented on 6-14-2010 At 02:48 pm

I agree, sick and tired of hearing people say " it's only a sportster" whenever I talk about the ironhead I'm building.
I'll ride my sportster to the grave!

Commented on 7-15-2010 At 05:06 pm

i got the 1200n, and am having a hard time finding kick ass parts for it. tired of it lookin like every other one out there. put the drag bars black pipes and a few other things here or there , sissy bar in the works. got any other ideas?

Commented on 3-1-2011 At 12:55 pm

If I was gonna ride it stock, the Bonnie; but since I wouldn't ride it stock, the Sporty...

Commented on 6-5-2011 At 09:34 pm

sporties are chops. bonnies are cafe racers. a lot of people my argue different, but i dont think they necessarily fall into the same category. great read though!

Commented on 7-28-2011 At 11:23 am

I'm going to have to test out a Bonnie to see what all the fuss is about. Love my Sportster though.

Commented on 9-10-2011 At 04:25 am

I think most of the ego maniacs saying that Sportsters are girls bikes are the same ones that ride their bikes only a couple times a month and weren't loved enough as children.

Please Login to Comment


ADVERTISE    |    CONTACT    |    ©2009 - 2017 ChopCult    |    REPORT ABUSE    |    CONDUCT

Chopcult on Instagram Chopcult on Pinterest Chopcult on Tumblr Chopcult on Facebook Chopcult on Twitter