Road Test Shootout: 2012 Triumph Bonneville T100 vs 2012 Harley-Davidson 48


Welcome to ChopCult's first new bike shootout. For this battle, we selected the 2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight and the Triumph Bonneville T100. Totally different looking bikes, but both on a similar mission; reliable two-wheeled fun for about ten grand. We'll do this feature in three parts: Triumph, Harley and the Conclusion. We only spent a couple weeks with the machines, but during that time we took them through the paces, from canyon carving to highway cruising and the daily commute, we lived with the bikes and swapped them amongst a diverse group of riders to assemble real-world opinions and feedback. Here's part one, the 2012 Triumph Bonneville T100.


Triumph Bonneville T100 Road Test Review_02


Triumph introduced the New Bonneville in 2001 and followed up in subsequent model years with different iterations on the same basic chassis and motor platform. These once esoteric street machines for the retro set grew in popularity, pulling a burgeoning aftermarket support system along with them. Today a rider can customize his Bonneville, Scrambler or Thruxton Hinckley Triumph with a rash of cool parts and accessories from British Customs, Speed Merchant and others. For this road test we obtained a Bonneville T100 model in Cranberry and New England White two-tone paint with a hand-laid coach stripe in metallic gold. The look is classic Triumph in every sense of the word.


Nothing says "I didn't want a Harley" like a Triumph. I personally bought one new in 2006 and rode the piss out of it until my friend Nitro augured it into a mountainside and took over the payments. That bike had carbs and took a jet kit, air box removal and pipes to make it feel like something more than a sewing machine. Six years later, the new Bonnie features a fuel injection system that looks like carbs, but act much differently. I like the visceral connection between the throttle and engine on carbureted bikes, but in stock trim this 2012’s fuel injection is crisper and more forgiving. It starts right up and immediately feels less anemic than its older brothers. One negative aspect of the fuel injection is the slightly larger, more bulbous gas tank. While still attractive, it's not as nice as the carbureted models because it has to accommodate the fuel pump. Having said that, the larger 4.2-gallon size is practical on long trips.


Triumph Bonneville T100 Road Test Review_14


When I picked this unit up it had been a few years since I piloted a modern Bonnie. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I nearly forgot how good a motorcycle this Hinckley Triumph was and is. Classic two-wheeled transportation in every way, the T100 is a machine every motorcycle company should emulate. It's just a regular old motorbike, and that’s totally OK. It's not particularly fast or sporty, but for the average rider it's the perfect tool for the job. Triumph figured out ergonomics for daily riding decades ago, and today’s T100 takes them all into consideration. My short, 5-foot-9 frame was just as comfortable as Black Rob at six-three. This we were convinced this was due to the bike’s mid-controls and a long, flat seat. Bars and risers are traditional and easy to change to further dial in ergonomics, and the rear passenger pegs make a comfy second position for feet during long hauls.


Triumph Bonneville T100 Road Test Review_04


Clutch pull, brake modulation and steering are all quicker and lighter than comparably priced or sized Harleys. Both novices and more experienced bikeriders can acclimate to the T100's ergonomics and controls. Twisties are fun as long as you have reasonable goals; it’s certainly not a sport bike. The suspension feels nearly as old as the paint scheme looks. It's 1970's technology with cheap shocks in the back and simple sprung/damped forks up front—no adjustments other than preload in the rear, invented when, 1960? Better suspension is easily available through the aftermarket if a rider wants to increase handling performance, but the econo spec keeps the price down for anyone who just needs a motorcycle and isn't concerned with track times and knee dragging. As bad as we make it sound, in stock trim the suspension is adequate and comfortable, but decidedly antiquated.


Triumph Bonneville T100 Road Test Review_29


Chassis woes aside, the T100’s 865cc twin-cylinder engine feels far from antique. It starts easily and idles quietly, a little too docile perhaps, but some good slip-on exhaust tips will change that quickly. Gearing is smartly spaced and hitting the ton is not a problem, even hauling my lard ass around. Snicks through the gears are not quite modern Japanese light, but far from the clunky Harley shifts. Highway cruising is a relaxed affair and the bike doesn't feel stressed at all when keeping up with the insane drivers on California freeways. The quicker steering and higher revs are a change for anyone used to an American V-twin, but to someone like Black Rob who rides a vintage CB750, it felt familiar but with far more power and much longer pulls between gears. Triumph spent the money in the right places. This powerplant is proven to be reliable and modern in every way except looks, and that’s a good thing.


Triumph Bonneville T100 Road Test Review_09


Speaking of looks, the two-tone paint is a complete old-dude magnet. You have been warned. I got so sick of answering "what year is that?" on my 2006 T100 that I swapped to a solid black tank. That killed the comments from most geriatric cagers who insisted on regaling me with stories of their misspent youth on a Bonneville. Nothing against them, but I'd rather just pump gas and get on with it. I did however, always ask inquisitive codgers if they still had their old machines squirreled away somewhere. You never know where cool old bikes are hiding. Bottom line: the 2012’s livery positively screams "Free Viagra" so be careful—it may not generate the kind of attention you’re looking for.


Triumph Bonneville T100 Road Test Review_18


Being the most expensive Bonnie at a suggested $9,000 this bike is still quite a good value. An SE model at $7,699 with 17-inch mags front and rear is an even better choice. Most riders buy way more motorcycle than they really need or can handle, but the modern Bonneville line up is a much more realistic solution–plenty of manageable power, predictable handling, comfortable riding position, authentic heritage and looks unlike anything else you can buy brand new.






Engine and Transmission: Air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin, 360º firing interval, 865cc

Bore/Stroke: 90 x 68mm

Fuel System: Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection with SAI

Exhaust: Stainless steel headers, twin chromed silencers.

Final Drive: X ring chain

Clutch: Wet, multi-plate

Gearbox: 5-speed

Oil Capacity: 4.5 litres (1.2 US gals)      

Frame: Tubular steel cradle

Swingarm: Twin-sided, tubular steel

Front Wheel: 36-spoke 19 x 2.5in

Rear Wheel: 40-spoke 17 x 3.5in

Front Tire: 100/90 R19

Rear Tire: 130/80 R17

Front Suspension: Kayaba 41mm forks, 120mm travel

Rear Suspension: Kayaba chromed spring twin shocks with adjustable preload, 106mm rear wheel travel

Front Brakes: Single 310mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper

Rear Brakes: Single 255mm disc, Nissin 2-piston floating caliper

Instrument Display/Functions: Analogue speedometer and tachometer with odometer and trip information

Length: 2230mm (87.7in)  

Width: (handlebars) 740mm (29.1in)      

Height without mirrors: 1100mm (43.3in)    

Seat Height: 775mm (30.5in)

Wheelbase: 1500mm (59.0in)  

Rake/Trail: 28º/110mm  

Fuel Tank Capacity: 16 litres (4.2 US gals)  

Wet Weight (ready to ride): 230 kg (506 lbs)   

Maximum Power: (measured at crankshaft to 95/1/EC) 68PS / 67bhp / 50kW @ 7500rpm

Maximum Torque: 68Nm / 50 ft.lbs @ 5800rpm    

Fuel Efficiency: 43 MPG City / 57 MPG Highway *Estimated from fuel economy tests on a sample motorcycle conducted under ideal laboratory conditions. Actual mileage may vary based upon personal riding habits, weather, vehicle condition, and other factors.

Price: $8,599 (All Black Model) / $9,099 (Two-tone Color) *Actual price determined by dealer. Price excludes taxes, license, options and $495 in destination/handling charges Prices and specifications subject to change without notice.

More info: Triumph Website

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Comment with Chopcult (24)

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 06:57 am

Chop Cult is the new motorcycle media! A well written new bike test on top of art deco HDs on top of the odd (non) fiction piece. Too legit to not give a shit!

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 07:44 am

this will be fun, are you going to test the 883 or 1200 Sportster? and are you going to do any performance comparisons ?

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 07:57 am

Torch, the H-D is a 1200 Forty Eight. We didn't do any track or dyno time, just put several hundred miles on them with riders of different sizes and abilities, then sat around the bar yapping about 'em.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 08:07 am

I don't normally comment on Chop Cult....Usually just listen quietly. But Damn! That is a excellent write-up. The right information to help someone (bikeriders) make an educated decision on their new machine.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 08:12 am

does the 2012 sportster 48 even come in a 883cc? this should be interesting, cant wait for the next segment of this story.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 08:13 am

Very cool write up! I'm excited to read about the 48. This is perfect for guys shopping for a new ride!

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 08:15 am

Dig it! I am looking forward to the next parts. Thanks Chop Cult!

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 08:25 am

That was well written, Bill. It's almost like you're a legit bike reviewer!

I really wish the fuel injected Triumphs did not have the fuel tank hump. It sticks out like a genital wart.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 09:10 am

Should have used the more "premium" Thruxton model to compare to the bigger, better optioned Sporty. It has adjustable suspension, better tuned, stronger motor, better looks, etc. For the same $cratch as this bike.

Still a good write up. But I am betting the sporty comes out on top, people are inexplicably wooed by HD, even when they are inferior.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 09:19 am

Well writtten indeed. I have have a newer Sportster and i sometimes find myself wondering if i should have bought a Triumph instead.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 09:27 am

Makes me want to add one to the garage.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 09:38 am

In 2007 I bought a brand new Triumph Bonneville partly because I seen Bill's on the old Biltwell blog/website and fell in love with it. I remember riding it home for the first time just happy as a puppy with two peters. It was February in Wisconsin so needless to say it was cold as fuck! And I as well redid the whole works with the air box removal, TT pipes and new jetting. I gotta admit, I thought that son of a bitch hauled ass. I rode that thing everywhere and never had any issues. Sold it to some hipster in Milwaukee and sure wish I woulda kept it.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 10:02 am

If the test bike was Graphite and Phantom Black, that more bulbous fuel tank and seam underneath would be much less noticeable. Don't care for that frumpy cranberry/white color scheme. Tank should be cranberry over white, not white over cranberry. Looks like cool whip on cranberries. ;)

Incidently, my bud owned a 1973 Triumph T140RV Bonnie which was sleek looking and all that until he sailed over a cliff on Empire Grade Road in Santa Cruz.

He repaired and modified it by going with the larger 3.5 gallon '72 TR6R fuel tank in gloss black and 6" over forks. That bike looked badass to the core. In short, he transformed it from a dobie to a rottie.

Personally, I think the 2001 Bonnies look more like the old Royal Enfied 750 Interceptors based on the robust powerplant design.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 10:04 am

I mean to write "2001 and later Bonnies" ....

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 12:01 pm

I find the shifting on new Xls pretty smooth, clutch pull is pretty damn easy - and once you break a 1200xl in after 400-500 miles and thus find neutral easier...they will have much more power and greater suspension and handling (especially with the new fat front tire and wider forks on the 48) than any Bonnie - and at only 1k more - the 48 should easily win this shoot out. That said - they're both pretty lame bikes IMO unless it's your first buy ;)

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 12:52 pm

"Nothing says "I didn't want a Harley" like a Triumph"

Story of my life, Bill....Story of my life.

Great write up. I pondered picking up a Hinkley Bonnie but I have my sights set on a Street Triple R. You're on the money on the outdated suspension and lets face it, why would you want a new version of what you already have when you can get a 105bhp missile that cranks out 50 ft.lbs of torque from the factory?

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 01:49 pm

"I have my sights on a Street Triple R"

Story of my life, GreaserMike....Story of my life.

Very informative write up. Learned something new today.

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 02:21 pm

Oh yeah! X2 on the wonderful line; Nothing says "I didn't want a Harley" like a Triumph.

That's some Mark Twain shit right there.

Please don't use any clever sayings for the Sportster. The Triumph needs any edge it can get. Maybe put a HOG logo in the photos...

Commented on 5-7-2012 At 08:59 pm

Great write up guys. I enjoyed it. I'm already leaning towards the Triumph.. just looks fun

Commented on 5-8-2012 At 07:02 am

Really cool to see this.
Good stuff guys.

Commented on 5-8-2012 At 07:28 am

it would have been fun to take them both out to a little country road and done some side by side comparisons, but, comparing 865 c/c to 1200 c/c ? ...hmmm

Commented on 5-8-2012 At 11:25 am

I rode on of these, it seemed pretty sweet. The riding position seemed a little weird to me, but nothing I couldn't get used to. It just seemed a little anemic, not overall, but just not as torquey as a sporty. But, then again, my opinion and four-fifty will buy you an overpriced cup of coffee...

Commented on 5-8-2012 At 08:24 pm

Excellent right up.

Commented on 5-8-2012 At 08:49 pm

Awesome write up...informative and that it hits and misses as a conversation starter...

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